Founded in 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in the Americas. Held each spring for two weeks, the International is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in the country’s most beautiful city, featuring some 150 films and live events with more than 100 filmmakers in attendance and nearly two dozen awards presented for cinematic excellence. The Festival attracts an annual audience of more than 80,000. The San Francisco International Film Festival runs through May 6th.
We’ll be presenting capsule reviews for some of the movies currently playing while others will receive the standard review treatment.
Director: Joann Sfar
French singer Serge Gainsbourg was a major personality throughout the sixties, but like the best pop culture stars he’s known for a lot more than just his music. The movie follows him from his childhood in 1940’s Nazi-occupied Paris to the waning years of his life in Jamaica, but the focus is on his memorable song-writing years that saw him move from piano-lounge player to pop star. He romanced women, had scandalous affairs, and channeled controversy at every opportunity.
Most biographical films stick to a fairly straightforward format, but Gainsbourg follows the model set forth by last year’s Bronson. Factual incidents are presented traditionally, but they also throw in major twists of the fantastic and surreal. Young Serge finds himself followed home by a giant head with four arms, and as an adult part of his personality is presented as a well-dressed, very thin man with a highly stylized head. The first half of the film is fantastic and manages to be a humorous and insightful look into the man’s world, but the second hour seems to lose focus as it jumps between points in Gainsbourg’s life without explanation or detail. Even so, Gainsbourg is probably the most entertaining biopic you’ll see this year. And thanks to Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot, it’s definitely the sexiest.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Jeunet’s first film in almost six years is the story of Bazil (Danny Boon) and his quest to take down an evil corporate arms dealer. He loses his parents as a child to a forgotten landmine, and as an adult he’s shot in the head with a stray bullet. Jobless and homeless, he finds himself lost until an eccentric band of outcasts and oddballs takes him in as one of their own. He discovers a link between the two most catastrophic events in his life (the aforementioned corporate villains manufactured both the mine and the bullet) and sets out with his new friends to take revenge.
Jeunet is one of a handful of directors whose films can be readily identified as his from no more than a few seconds of footage. The world of Micmacs is as alive, elaborate, and beautifully constructed as the best of his work (Amelie, The City of Lost Children), and his myriad characters are quirky and entertaining. What’s missing from this film though is any semblance of heart. Bazil is neither endearing nor someone we can relate to, so we end up caring more about the contraptions and visuals then we do the people. The assorted supporting characters are equally lifeless and instead become memorable for their skills or quirks instead of for anything remotely humanizing. Still, any film from Jeunet is an event and well worth watching. Just don’t expect to give a hoot when it’s over.
Check out the official site for the San Francisco International Film Festival
for complete a schedule of showings and other special events. Click here to read more coverage of SFIFF.