Friday, May 06, 2016
Traditionally, each edition of SFIFF spotlights welcome restorations and, for their 59th, SFIFF programmed Lewis Gilbert's Cast A Dark Shadow (1955). Gilbert, better known for securing star status for Michael Caine in Alfie (1966), likewise directed three James Bond films, as well as arthouse favorites Educating Rita (1983) and Shirley Valentine (1989). Cast A Dark Shadow features a youthful Dirk Bogarde as an unhinged homme fatale marrying (and murdering) elderly women for their money. He meets his match, however, in the equally calculating Margaret Lockwood, whose performance—considered at the time "over the hill" by no less than Gilbert himself—can now be seen for its remarkable acuity in this immaculate black-and-white restoration.
Also representing a coming-of-age, is Michel Gondry's fanciful, engaging and above all tender film Microbe & Gasoline (2015), wherein newcomers Ange Dargent and Theophile Baquet confirm their misfit bond as they seek love and adventure in their makeshift house on wheels (with potted geraniums no less!). Microbe's haircut in a Korean whorehouse is not to be missed! Soon to be parking at a theater near you.
Contrary to the surface plot of Federico Vieroj's wry The Apostate (2015), it's not really a religious movie, or merely a critique of the Catholic Church. As Vieroj stated to me in an interview conducted earlier: "To apostatize is not something that you do just with religion. You can do it with your life. It's about embarking on life's journey on your own terms." In Vieroj's epistolary fable, his protagonist Gonzalo (played by first-time actor and co-scenarist Álvaro Ogalla, who accompanied the film to SFIFF) reveals through his defiant gesture that we are all fighting, as José Teodoro has written, "with forces that have for some people replaced religion: the monitoring of everything, the erosion of privacy, and so forth." Indeed, the Catholic Church stands in for Big Data in The Apostate, which inspires richly-layered interpretations.
Georgian cinema has been well-represented in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recently, Pacific Film Archive curator Susan Oxtoby organized a year-long retrospective that is now touring the country. SFIFF59 has followed her lead by featuring Vano Burduli's The Summer of Frozen Fountains (2015) in its Global Visions sidebar. Tbilisi has, perhaps, never looked as beautiful as filmed here by cinematographer Goga Devdariani, who evokes a romantic aura from balcony views of the city's intimate neighborhoods and their cobbled streets. Something of an ethnographic imaginary is constructed, where the multiple perspectives of a large ensemble of characters crisscross the narratives of their lives in such a way that the viewer gets a spatial feel for the city and its inhabitants. Burduli's desultory narrative is interlaced, delicately braiding such timeless subjects as longing, love, and a flawed yet tender humanity.