By Nazeeh Alghazawneh
At least once a month an elderly woman approaches me and tells me that I remind her of her son, either in the way that I look or because of my demeanor or simply because of my age. They’re very sweet and a little bit sad but most of all, full of nostalgia, which is always more sweet than sad until you think about it too much. They love to tell me about them. These mothers love to tell me about the love they have for their sons - an unconditional, boundless love that’s familiar and intimate at the same time but mostly uncomfortable. However, I nod my head and I listen because a heart is speaking to me and that’s the best thing about mothers: they always speak with their hearts.
It’s 1979 and Japanese New Wave director Shohei Imamura releases his first feature-length fiction film, Vengeance is Mine (available on DVD and Blu-ray), after a decade of making documentaries. For 140 minutes we’re introduced to Iwao Enokizu (played by Ken Ogata), a textbook sociopath with a penchant for murdering innocent people for reasons he couldn’t explain. Based on the real life serial killer Akira Nishiguchi, the film depicts the 78-day killing spree with faithful objectivity; Enokizu’s exploits aren’t glorified or celebrated, but they are fully realized. Imamura’s camera hangs low and aloof behind our protagonist, following him with that lecherous sense of dread and paranoia that a hunted murderer on the run probably feels. Ogata’s performance finesses a presence on the screen that is volatile, dripping with an anxiety that ultimately makes you feel uneasy, but dedicated to him nonetheless. The worst part is just how charming he is. It’s a concoction of Kit’s (Martin Sheen) aimless nonchalance from Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Bronson’s (Tom Hardy) gleeful desire for violence from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. Enokizu lacks any regard for anyone in his life, including himself, which appears to fuel his desire to kill; he seems to be angry that he’s even alive.
By Nazeeh Alghazawneh
Noir City wants you to get dark for the holidays. On Wednesday, December 14th, our friends at the Film Noir Foundation present Noir City Xmas, their 7th annual holiday double feature, at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Tossing aside Christmas treacle for a headlong dive into a double bill of danger and darkness, this year's noir-stained noel flicks are Quentin Lawrence's Hammer Film Cash on Demand (1961) and Harold Ramis's neo-noir The Ice Harvest (2005).
In addition to the screenings, host Eddie Muller will reveal the theme and complete film schedule for the eagerly anticipated NOIR CITY 15 festival, coming to the Castro Theatre January 20-29, 2017. NOIR CITY 15 Passports (the all-access festival passes) will be available for sale that night as well on the Castro mezzanine.
They will also have collection bins for both the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program and the SF-Marin Food Bank at the event. The San Francisco Firefighters are looking for toys for kids (infants through 12 years old). Toys must be un-gift-wrapped. The SF-Marin Food Bank needs the following: peanut butter, low-sugar cereal, whole-grain rice, pasta, oats, low-sodium soups and stews, tuna and other canned meats, and canned fruits and vegetables. Please no glass, opened items, perishables, or items past their "use before" date.
From Kenneth Anger to anonymous YouTubers, film and moving pictures have maintained and nurtured a mutually beneficial relationship for eons. Sometimes it’s a documentary about a long-lost icon, or a legendary concert film, or a movie that uses music to hammer home what its trying to say – Music Monday at the New Mission Theater in SF is a weekly series here to bring you fun, rare, important, new, old, or otherwise kaleidoscopic films linked to the world of music. This December, catch two very special Music Monday titles: Medicine for Melancholy on December 5th at 9:15pm and Gimme Danger on December 12th at 10pm.
Medicine for Melancholy is the first feature film by Bay Area director Barry Jenkins, who made waves earlier this year in the indie film world with his latest work, Moonlight. Medicine for Melancholy explores issues such as race, identity, gentrification, and personal politics from the perspective of two San Francisco locals. From a drunken Soul Night at the Knockout to a heart-stoppingly apropos soundtrack by the likes of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, Au Revoir Simone, and more, Medicine for Melancholy is a visually and sonically powerful portrait of a city that doesn’t really exist anymore. Tickets available HERE.
By Kai Wada Roath
Ambassador of Confusion Hill and host of the Super Shangri-La Show
Did you ever try to hex your Algebra II teacher in high school the night before the final? Have you watched the "Salem Witches" episode of In Search Of while sipping red wine from a black Madonna Inn goblet? Is your email password Pyewacket13? If your answer is yes to any of these and you have not yet seen The Witch: A New England Folktale (out now on DVD & Blu-ray), see it. If your answer is no but supernatural historical period horror films are your “jam,” see it.
Normally, I’m more into old school witch flicks, like City of the Dead (1960), Night of the Eagle (1962), and The Witches (1966), but The Witch is well done…just like my King Henry VIII steak at the House of Prime Rib. By the beard of Black Phillip the billy goat, when you watch this you will soon find yourself in an eerie trance in front of your boob-tube, being pulled into the dark and mysterious New England woods in the 17th century. If M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (2004) and Avery Crounse's Eyes of Fire (1983) had a new little baby sister, it would be The Witch. (Eyes of Fire, if you can find on VHS somewhere, is totally spooksville too! View the trailer HERE.)
Launch into the holiday season with San Francisco Silent Film Festival's event A Day of Silents on Saturday, December 3rd at the glorious Castro Theatre. In one epic day, the SFSFF offers six amazing programs with live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra and Donald Sosin!
The silent hits just keep coming as the day kicks off at 10am with a program of Charlie Chaplin shorts made with the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company in 1915. Then at 12:15pm, Ernst Lubitsch’s 1926 comedy So This Is Paris roars across the screen to live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Sergei Eisenstein’s first full-length feature, Strike (1925), screens at 2:15pm with Alloy Orchestra providing powerful musical accompaniment. At 4:45pm, catch Different From the Others (1919), possibly the oldest surviving film with a homosexual protagonist, which has been restored by the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. Josef von Sternberg’s The Last Command (1928), about an exiled Russian general who "goes Hollywood," plays at 7pm with music by Alloy Orchestra. The last film of the night brings Gloria Swanson to the screen for Sadie Thompson, the 1928 drama about a San Franciscan prostitute on the island of Pago Pago, at 9:15pm.