If you’ve seen the trailers for the new Canadian film “Monsieur Lazhar,” you might be tempted to characterize it as just another “Dead Poets Society” or “To Sir With Love – that is to say, a film about some perfect teacher who changes the lives of troubled children. Though “Monsieur Lazhar” is about a teacher and his middle school students, it’s a film that involves complicated characters in difficult situations and is neither as dire nor as simple as it may seem. It’s a film about the things we can’t (but desperately need to) talk about. There are no overwhelmingly significant moments, just a series of small ones that eventually build to help the characters grow, grieve and start anew. And it’s absolutely moving and affecting: tears were shed, but they were every bit earned.
On April 30, the San Francisco Film Festival held its major Centerpiece screening of Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister,” starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass. The Centerpiece screening is, unsurprisingly, held right in the middle of the festival and showcases a promising new independent film. Past Centerpiece screenings include “Happythankyoumoreplease,” “500 Days of Summer” and “Terri.”
Each year, the San Francisco International Film Festival chooses a director to honor with the Founder’s Directing Award, and this year’s was bestowed upon the great actor-director Kenneth Branagh. With past winners like Clint Eastwood, Akira Kurosawa, Werner Herzog and Mike Leigh, Branagh finds himself in good company. He came to San Francisco this week to accept the award and to participate in a special on-stage event at the Castro Theatre on Friday with a screening of his second film, “Dead Again.”
The San Francisco International Film Festival kicked off last Thursday, and the crowds haven’t waned since. The main festival headquarters in Japantown at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and the San Francisco Film Society Cinema are full of excited cinephiles young and old, there to take in films from all around the world the way they were meant to be seen: on the big screen, with beautiful, crisp, clean, digital projection.
The production design at the SF Playhouse has been consistently remarkable this year, and “The Aliens” is no exception. The intimate space, where every facial expression is visible to the entire audience, proves the perfect venue for this slice-of-life play in which nothing really happens and yet every detail gains significance as the play unfolds.
Next week, the San Francisco International Film Festival will celebrate its 55th year. Running from April 19 to May 20, the festival will showcase hundreds of films in over forty languages and offer prizes hitting the $70,000 mark. With such a cinematic smorgasbord, such little time to wade through so many reels and a major chunk of change on the line, here are three of Intermission’s top picks you should be sure to hit up.
The first time I saw a Mark Rothko painting up close was at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I liked it, though I’m pretty sure that half of my eagerness to approve was to be contrary about conventional art tastes. I’ve got a poster of one his paintings now, and the more I stare at it, the more calming I find it; it’s not just an aesthetically pleasing color swatch. But are his abstract expressionist paintings really art? This is one of the central questions of John Logan’s new play, “Red,” which introduces us to a fictitious version of Mark Rothko, born Marcus Rothkowitz, the famous Jewish-American Abstract Expressionist painter.