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[whitespace] Eleven Days in the Valley

Our critics talk up and run down the highs and lows of this year's Cinequest

By Richard von Busack

SUPPOSEDLY, there's a restaurant in Santa Clara where, if a customer finishes all of the four-pound steak, they'll get the second one for free right on the spot. Film fans will feel like the customers at that restaurant after a few days at the 12th-annual Cinequest: a loaded-up plate, and always more to come. Diehards will plunge ahead and see everything humanly possible. For the more casual cinema diner, the menu below offers an educated way to put together a satisfying meal without getting glutted.

There's a certain somberness in this year's festival, which used to feature its share of caper films--wacky bank robber/drug dealer/ film students turning to crime to finish their project. This year more serious analyses are available from the former Yugoslavia and Latin America. While the guests, the balloons, the champagne and special events are all here, the often downbeat subject matter shows this is a post--Sept. 11 festival.

However, one man's juicy charbroiled steak is another woman's revolting, dead piece of once-living creature. The selections at Cinequest are not going to please everyone. With that in mind, check the suggested courses below, allowing for traffic time and Visine breaks. The very best films have been marked with an arrow (--»).

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Special Mention: Not-to-be-missed and avoid-at-all-costs films screening at this year's festival.

Schedule Changes: Cinequest announces changes to the previously published program.

Frame Job: Cinequest gears up for 12th year of independent filmmaking--with a special emphasis on the medium's digital future.

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Vital Stuff

C1 is Camera One
366 S. First St., San Jose

C3 is Camera 3
South Second Street and San Carlos, San Jose

REP is the San José Repertory Theatre 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. This is a stage theater that has been wired up for digital film programs.

AMC is the AMC Saratoga 14
700 Paseo de Saratoga, a satellite site, some five miles south of downtown San Jose.

PA is the Aquarius Theatre
430 Emerson St., Palo Alto.

Tickets are $8 for most screenings, with special events and tributes running $8 to $55. For details, call the festival at 408.295.FEST or check the website at www.cinequest.org.

Full Disclosure: Metro is a sponsor of Cinequest.

Our tireless film critics: Michael S. Gant (MSG); Allie Gottlieb (AG); Todd Inoue (TI); Sarah Quelland (SQ); Traci Vogel (TV); Richard von Busack (RvB); and Heather Zimmerman (HZ)


Feb. 21, Opening Night

The Search for John Gissing
8pm, C3; 8:30pm, C1.
Janeane Garafolo and TV's Mike Binder star in this unpreviewed parable about a smug American efficiency expert who comes to London. When he arrives, he faces trouble from both a disgruntled employee (the one and only Alan Rickman) and the city of London itself--which, as Boris Karloff said of Chicago, is a city where the knife is really at your throat. Reception afterward at Paolo's restaurant.

Today's Tip: Visitors, Welcome to San Jose! The must-see attraction in our city is the highly regarded statue of Quetzelcoatl by Los Angeles artist Robert Graham, directly opposite the Hyatt Sainte Claire, where some of you downier birds will be roosting. This coiled and ready-to-strike deity has been known to hex the Silicon Valley--as in the spring of 2000, when he did a Stephen King on local stock portfolios. Rub his muzzle for good luck!

Today's Temptation to Resist: Going around claiming that the reason why Bay Area avant-garde filmmaker Rob Nilsson won the Camera d'Or at Cannes for his film Heat and Sunlight was because a doddering Jack Palance read the wrong cue card.

Feb. 22

Ge Ge
11:30am, C3.
A Hong Kong shot-on-digital opus about an urban kid heading into the Tibetan frontier to find his brother. Director Yan Yan Mak formerly collaborated with Wong Kar Wei on In the Mood for Love. 90 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 27, 9:15pm AMC; Feb. 28, 7pm, PA.)

The Compensation
1:30pm, C3.
I've never seen a bad Sri Lankan film; on the other hand, I've only seen two. This tale of a man's confession for a 50-year-old crime sounds like a combination of a rape-revenge film and Steinbeck's The Pearl. The director, a former math teacher, filmed this in the deepest part of the Sri Lankan jungle. 112 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 24, 2:15pm, AMC; Feb. 26, 9:30pm, AMC.)

Shorts Program 2: Comedy Favorites
3:45pm, C3.
Thirteen shorts, including the Academy Award--nominated Strange Invaders and Eli Alder and Jeff Eagle's slavishly Tim Burtonesque The Boogerman. Unpreviewed, but suggested on the grounds that it's easier to be funny for five minutes than it is for 1 1/2 hours. 107 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 25, 6:45pm, C3; Feb. 28, 4:45pm, C3.)

Shorts program 1: Mindbenders
10:45pm, C1.
This program of shorts, probably not named after the most obscure of British Invasion bands, is generally the most ambitious of short film programs at Cinequest. The program features the Oscar-nominated Copy Shop, plus Breeding Space by Laurens Van Carante, based on Patricia Highsmith's The Snailwatcher; two films about sinister artificial intelligences, Paul Bassett Davies' How Do You Feel? and Steve Wood's Racing Condition. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 27 at 4pm, C3, March 2, 11am, REP.)

Today's Tip: Locals will definitely want to check out the world premiere of Pizza Wars the Movie, the San Jose--made fantasy about pie wars in an alternate universe. (9:15pm, C3; also shows Feb. 26, 5pm, C3.)

Today's Temptation to Resist: The Last Supper (9:45pm, AMC). Just what the world needs: a Slovenian version of TV's Jackass.

Feb. 23

Missing Allen
1pm, C3.
After his frequent cameraman seemingly falls off the face of the earth, a documentary maker records his search for the vanished man. In 1995, Chicagoan Allen Ross, seemingly a well-connected urbanite artist, suddenly veered into the American cult landscape (next stop on the far right, Waco) when he married the head of a minor fringe group known as the Samaritan Foundation. Director Christian Bauer mixes affectionate remembrances of Ross with increasingly weird clues as he motors from Chicago to Oklahoma to Wyoming, but the film feels too much like a 15-minute segment of Unsolved Mysteries expanded to an hour and a half. 92 min. --MSG
(Also shows Feb. 24, 4pm, C1; Feb. 25, 2:45pm, C1.)

The Orphan of Anyang
2:45pm, AMC.
A scathing exposé of the kind of conditions that are driving thousands from the Chinese provinces into cities like Shanghai and Beijing. An unemployed factory worker, whose only payment consists of unusable lunch vouchers, decides to adopt a baby for mercenary reasons (the payment of 200 yuan a month will help his rations). What he doesn't know is that the child is the bastard son of a local thug. Wang Chao's sharp, unsentimental direction is welcome; his sense of pacing, though, makes this ordinarily important story all the tougher to take. 84 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 25, 9:30pm, AMC.)

Missing Young Woman
3:30pm, C3. See Feb. 27.

--» Livermore
4pm, C1.
To many, Livermore represents nothing more than a bleary stop on Interstate 580; for filmmakers Rachel Raney and David Murray, the city is a nexus for unusual events. Their marvelous documentary includes a lost time capsule, a woodcarving of a nuclear beaver and a totem pole guarded by a Chippewa curse--and examines such artifacts without comment. Shadowing the frivolity are a few interviews with Bill Owens, whose unforgettable photos of Diablo Valley became the book Suburbia and brought Owens temporary fame. Shows with Accidental Hero: Room 408. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 24, 6:30pm, C1; March 1, 3:15pm, REP.)

Accidental Hero: Room 408
4pm, C1.
A profile of a great man: Tommie Lindsey, the forensics teacher at James Logan High in Union City, has been taking students from that working-class school and helping them to find dignity and control. " It turns out that what one would have imagined forensics to be--debating teams arguing over "Resolved: It Is a Citizen's Duty to Recycle"--is today taught as what looks to the uninformed observer like an acting class. While these Logan students are often loaded with talent, directors Terri DeBon and Steve Rosen's extensive footage of the dramatic recitations and monologues here can be hard to sit through if you're not a teacher, a parent or a student. Billed with Livermore. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 24, 6:30pm, C3; Mar 1, 3:15pm, REP.)

Mr. In-between
5pm, AMC. See Feb. 25, under Today's Tip.

--» Chronicle of an American Suburb
5:45pm, C3.
After World War II, when young families faced a severe housing shortage, an astute developer named Phil Klutznick created Park Forest, a planned town outside of Chicago. The residents became known as Organization Men, after the book by William H. Whyte, but H. James Gilmore's skillful documentary discovers something more: a genuine community that provided a slice of the American dream, struggled with small-town democracy and worked hard at being integrated. The buildings are starting to look a little worn, and the shopping center is gone, but Park Forest's residents look back with pride on their home. Blessedly, Chronicle doesn't mock or condescend to its suburban subjects. Billed with Drive-In Movie Memories. --MSG
(Also shows Feb. 27, 6:30pm; C3.)

--» Drive-In Movie Memories
5:45pm, C3.
The future may be digital, but the filmgoing past wasn't about projection quality, it was about ... the great outdoors. With the burgeoning car culture, young families flocked to open-air movie palaces, where the sound system hung on the window sill and the snack bar was a healthy hike away. Kurt Kueene's documentary doesn't break any genre boundaries in its mix of interviews and period footage, but the subject is so steeped in childhood nostalgia that the film is irresistible. The talking heads range from the useful (Joe Bob Briggs) to the tedious (Leonard Maltin applying a balm of platitudes). Matched with Chronicle of an American Suburb, this is a standout double bill. --MSG
(Also shows Feb. 27, 6:30pm; C3.)

Manito
7:15pm, AMC.
In New York's Spanish-speaking Washington Heights, a random event turns graduation night into an escalating cycle of random and familial violence for two brothers. First-time director/screenwriter Eric Eason knows his community well, and the film's best scenes swirl with the color and light of daily life on the streets and in the bodegas of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the narrative turns to overwrought melodrama in the end. 78 min. --MSG
(Also shows Feb. 24, 4:45pm, AMC; Feb. 26, 5:15pm, AMC.)

Broken Hearts
9:15pm, AMC. See Feb. 25 listing.

--» The Devil's Tail
9:30pm, AMC.
This dry, wry and well-appointed Bulgarian film combines farce and speculative fiction. A slouchy, easily tempted jazz musician (Samuel Fintzi) believes that he's finally had a turn of good luck. Through bribery and connivance he's finished hurdling the ex-Soviet bureaucracy to reclaim his grandfather's house. However, the property is of interest to the Ultimate Landlord, identified here as "Mr. DeVille." And the cloven-hooved one doesn't mind using his girlfriend--a pert, dark-eyed androgyne played by Ana Papadopolou--to help him close the deal. Witty aphorisms abound--"My music teacher said, 'Less courage, more work' (an excellent motto for the young filmmaker)--and there is a fine passage about our hero stealing the sound of village bells for a movie soundtrack. The film remains unpredictable despite the fact that (through personal experience) we can guess who will triumph in the end. 87 min. --MSG
(Also shows Feb. 25, 5:15pm, AMC; Feb. 28, 4:30pm, REP.)

Today's Tip: Not all French films are created equal. In Being Light, a country hick (read, annoying escaped mental patient) comes to Paris and stumbles across a New Age American business man (insert lots of outdated jokes about crystals and chakras). Many supposedly hilarious mishaps ensue as the pair journey to India in search of Elodie Bouchez. If you must, it screens at 11:30am at C1, and again Feb. 24 at 1:45pm at C3. --MSG

Today's Temptation to Resist: Yelling "Get the lead out, Grandad!" during someone's too long evocative stationary-camera scene.

Feb. 24

Shorts Program 7
11am, C3.
A selection of 13 student shorts. Includes Peeping Tom . Although it starts out sorta creepy--with a prepubescent boy spying on his attractive next-door neighbor as she rubs ice on herself (her house is, apparently, located in a freak tropical zone)--Peeping Tom, directed by Jason Todd Ipson, takes a left turn into funny. The voyeuristic boy wishes on a wishbone that he could see his neighbor naked, but unexpected results make him sorry he ever met that turkey. A "revealing" short. --TV
(Also shows Feb. 26, 9:45pm, C3.)

A Rare World
3pm, AMC.
A Mexican TV comedy star is kidnapped by a street gang, one of whose members fancies himself a comedian. In return for letting the star go, the gang wants a shot a boob-tube fame. Director Armando Casas' media comedy moves at a frantic pace--like Mexican variety shows--and features a winsome female character (Ana Saradilla), but the story line is much too predictable. 95 min. --MSG
(Also shows Feb. 27,. 5:30pm, AMC; March 2, 9:45pm, AMC.)

Feb. 25

--» Broken Hearts
12:15pm, C1.
Dwellers in a pricey Mexico City condominium try uselessly to hide out from the pressures of life, devalued money and personal woes--and their neighbors (the latter all too audible through the thin walls). The characters are a young kid discovering that he's gay, a group of religious crackpots, a Marxist who hasn't given up on his politics, despite the fact that his wife is about to give up on him, and a mom turning tricks despite being a bit past the normal retirement age of prostitutes. Rafael Montero directs; while at times a soap opera, scandal always revives the tale when the pace flags. 120 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 23, 9:15pm, AMC.)

Laundry
4:15pm, C3.
In the remotest outskirts of Tokyo, a brain-damaged young man named Teru (Yosuke Kubozuka) hangs out at his grandmother's coin laundry, making sure that no one steals the female customers' underwear. There he runs into a troubled young woman named Mizue (the one-named actress Koyuki). The girl is coping with a broken heart by suicide attempts and compulsive shoplifting. When her life falls apart, she heads back to her small town, but Teru pursues her in the company of a gruff, rakish ex-salaryman (Takashi Naito) who has gone into an unusual business. A gentle, poignant film, but the length of the second half is fidget-inducing. 126 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 28, 9pm. AMC.)

Metamorphosis
7:15pm, AMC.
In an unnamed large Chinese city, a divorced cabbie takes up with two women: a sexy shoplifter and a kinky high-toned widow whose rich husband died under suspicious circumstances. A lot of quotes from Lao Tzu about ambiguity and vagueness cover up the fact that the narrative doesn't make all that much sense --MSG
(Also shows March 1, 5pm, AMC; March 2, noon, AMC.)

Female2 Seeks HappyEnd
9pm, C3.
This U.S. premiere is a sweet story about the parallel loneliness of a sexy chain-smoking radio show host and an adorable puppy of a woman who can't cry. It's also about the bonding power of email, which explains the geeky title and, probably, why Compaq made it into the film's credits. The film, written and directed by Edward Berger and set in Berlin, delivers all the best aspects of a city: bars, trains and record stores. The film's stars--Isabella Parkinson and Ben Becker--are great as Female2, a.k.a. Mai, and (the embarrassingly named) HappyEnd, a.k.a. Gregor. It's easy to miss pieces of the story line because the white subtitles are highly missable against the cool green back-lit images. But even if you miss subtleties, Female2 Seeks HappyEnd is absolutely worth watching. 97 min. --AG
(Also shows Feb. 27, 9:15pm, PA; March 1, 2:15pm, AMC)

--» Kaaterskill Falls
9:15pm, C1.
No relation to Allegra Goodman's novel. Certainly the grouchiest way to look at this film is as an indifferent redo of the themes of Polanski's Knife in the Water, but let's assume the ideas that came to directors Josh Apter and Peter Olsen weren't inspired by any other films. A deceptively calm couple, vacationing in their brand-new VW beetle in the Catskill mountains, pick up a scruffy hitchhiker. The intruder menaces the seemingly sturdy couple, exposing the doubts and pressure cracks in their relationship. Lovely upstate New York scenery, centering around the high waterfalls where two versions of a death take place. 102 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 26, 7:30pm, C3.)

--» Mr. In-Between
9:30pm, PA.
When cinematographers turn directors--Gordon Willis, Nicolas Roeg--they generally choose sensational material to break out of the pack. Paul Sarossy, Atom Egoyan's longtime photographer, is no exception. Jon, an efficient cockney hit man (Andrew Howard), starts to break down from the stresses of his job. As is the custom in the new British cinema, the crime boss here (David Calder) is under the impression that he's actually Alistair Crowley. He lives in catacombs, making ghoulish meals of fresh meat, and talks speculatively about the folly of those "who ignore the existence of eee-vill." Andrew Howard's gentle, understated performance can be taken more seriously than the film's philosophical arguments that we're all as bad as killers because we permit the existence of injustice and inequality. 97 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb 27, 5pm AMC.)

Today's Temptation to Resist: Vodka-fueled utterances such as "Scratch these so-called independent filmmakers and you'll find money from their parents."

Feb. 26

Pizza Wars the Movie
5pm, Cam 3.
See people you know in SJSU professor Babak Sarrafan and his students' film of an alternative universe where pizza is king. Billed with Cop Zone, the latest short by Almaden Film's own Shawn Flanagan; Flanagan claims it's a combination of Cops and Twilight Zone. 105 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 22, 9:15pm, C1.)

--» Absolute Hundred
7:30pm, AMC.
In Yugoslavian director Srdan Golubovic's extraordinary debut film, Sasha (Vuk Kostic), a young marksman with Olympic aspirations, finds himself faced with the disintegration of his beloved older brother, Igor (Srdjan Todorovic). A champion forced to use his skills in deadly earnest in Yugoslavia's civil war, Igor has been shooting junk instead of bullets ever since to dull his memory. When Igor is forced to sell his training range to a hoodlum to finance his habit, an angry Sasha turns his gun sight on real-life targets instead of paper ones. The sibling dynamic of admiration and disappointment might have been clichéd in other hands, but Absolute Hundred is focused and precise in both its compositions (especially the scenes filmed against the bleak concrete walls of Tito-era apartment buildings) and fierce acting. A definite must-see. 97 min. --MSG
(Also shows Feb. 28, 2:30pm, REP; March 3, 4:30pm, AMC.)

Shorts Program 3
7:30pm, C1.
Worth a look for I Shout Love, the directorial debut by Sarah Polley, the fascinating young actress who starred in The Sweet Hereafter, Guinevere and Go, here playing a girl on the brink of breaking up with her boyfriend. 112 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 24, 1:30pm, C1.)

Today's Tip: Track down Flanagan and say hi. He's one of San Jose's most faithfully independent filmmakers and the nicest guy in the world. Plus he did the best parody of the numberless parodies of Blair Witch: The Bald Witch Project.

Today's Temptation to Resist: Don't refer to the inevitable beef satay at those hotel receptions as "rat on a stick." Have you no couth?

Feb. 27

--» Missing Young Woman
7:30pm, Mexican Heritage Plaza.
Oscar-nominated San Francisco documentary maker Lourdes Portillo (Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo) unveils her newest nonfiction film, Missing Women, which was honored by the 2001 Sundance jury. The film offers a brave exploration of a Mexican national scandal. An unstoppable series of rape/murders in the maquiladora zone is complicated by incompetent police, who only muddy the waters when they arrest a suspect. 75 min. Portillo will appear at this screening. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 23, 3:30pm, C3; Feb. 25, 7:15pm, C1.)

--» Bullitt
9:15pm, C1.
Steve McQueen, the Mel Gibson of his day, as a San Francisco cop trying to track down the killer of a grand jury member, killed as a mutual deal between the Mafia and a crooked politician (Robert Vaughn). What makes Peter Yates' film memorable is a brutal muscle-car chase down some of the most precipitous urban hills in America (accompanied by music scored by guest and Maverick Spirit award winner Lalo Schifrin). If you live in San Francisco for any length of time, you'll have at least five different liquor stores pointed out to you as the spot where McQueen helped himself to a newspaper for free. --RvB

Written on the Body of the Night
9:15pm, AMC.
The statue of limitations should be up on Truffaut tributes. In Mexican director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo's standard coming-of-age tale, a young man who dreams of becoming a film director learns something about love, sex and maturity from his understanding granny, his flamboyant mother and the beautiful young girl (whose alias is Adela H., after Truffaut's The Story of Adele H, for no real reason) who rents a room in their cramped apartment. Some funny moments can't disguise the well-worn material, and strangely enough for a film that is supposedly paying homage to The 400 Blows, Hermosillo's work is extremely stagey. 130 min. --MSG
(Also shows March 3 at 4:30pm, AMC.)

Becoming Vex
9:30pm, C3.
Becoming Vex, written, directed, edited and starring Brent Sims, is about a suburban white boy and his white-boy friends who say "bitch" a lot and listen to rap music that also says "bitch" a lot. This film tries too hard to be controversial with repellent images of dog shit and ants. It also keeps shifting its style--possible an art-school tactic to make its audience uncomfortable. In exchange, Becoming Vex fails to provide any great lesson or sympathetic characters. Eventually the whole thing unravels into an abyss of really bad poetry and amateurish psych-out images, like in Easy Rider's New Orleans graveyard scene, but worse. 79 min. --AG
(Also shows March 3, 12:30pm, C3.)

Today's Tip: A rerun of Mindbenders shorts program at 4pm at C1. One of the shorts is a shoe-in for the Oscar for the Best Animated Short: Virgil Widrich's Copy Shop--more than 10,000 photocopies were used to animate it.

Feb. 28

--» The Execution of Wanda Jean
Noon, REP. (REP)
Wanda Jean Allen, who had previously served time for manslaughter, shot her girlfriend Gloria Leathers dead in a parking lot. A jury in Oklahoma City sentenced her to death. After Allen has served 13 years in prison, the execution machinery begins. A team of lawyers try frantically to shade in some of the details previously missing to the story. We learn that Wanda Jean was brain damaged and has an IQ of 69. Her original lawyer admits that he had no knowledge of how to defend a capital case. It's up to the viewer here to judge some other matters--whether anti-lesbian prejudice helped railroad Wanda Jean to the death house. To some, this film will prove the philosopher Proudhon's claim that the laws are chains for the poor and cobwebs for the rich. The facts of the case are simple, yes, but the execution of Wanda Jean Allen isn't an example you'd want to use to demonstrate that capital punishment is justice. 88 min. --RvB
(Also shows Feb. 23, 6:30pm, C1; Feb. 4, 6:15pm, C3.)

Lalo Schifrin Tribute
7pm, REP.
The composer who created the distinctive sounds of Mission Impossible, Bullitt and Dirty Harry is honored for his varied accomplishments. In addition to his work in movies and TV, Schifrin has also won a fistful of Grammy awards and played with a pantheon of jazz greats, from Dizzy Gillespie to Count Basie. Includes a screening of Cool Hand Luke.

--» Sumo East and West
7:15pm, C3.
A piercing look inside sumo's legacy, bound by tradition and ritual but slowly acquiescing to change. The film follows Hawaiian amateur Wayne Vierra as he trains in his backyard and around the world as he participates in bashos (tournaments) in Japan and Las Vegas. Present and former yokozunas Konishiki and Akebono are refreshingly frank about the way gaijin (outsider) wrestlers are treated, even when they ascend to the highest level. The question is posed: Could sumo wrestling--with its secrecy, pageantry and rituals--become a worldwide Olympic sport? If the Vegas tournament is any indication--with its beer sponsors, makeshift canvas stage, card girls, and participants wearing Lycra tights--the road will be a long and rocky one. Shows with Only a Turtle. 90 min. --TI
(Also shows March 1, 1pm, Rep; March 2, 12:30pm, C3.)

--» The Misanthrope
9:30pm, C3.
The title of this low-key comedy refers as much to Moliere's play, a central device in the film, as it does to protagonist Arthur Artemis (Ali Farahnakian), a sad-sack schoolteacher frustrated by unrealized theatrical aspirations. But writer/director Allen Colombo doesn't sneer at such a life of quiet desperation or even at the baser human instincts that Moliere's misanthrope, Alceste, laments--quite the opposite, in fact. Artemis' stubbornness and pride often land him in trouble--an obsession with a professional production of The Misanthrope in which he wasn't cast leads to numerous incidents--but Farahnakian's subtly sympathetic portrayal suggests such foibles are only human. At worst, Artemis is guilty, like Alceste, of becoming consumed by an ideal (in this case, of the theater) that presents an interesting challenge when he's recruited to direct the elementary school play. 85 min. --HZ
(Also shows March 2, 2:45pm, C3.)

Today's Tip: Try the unpreviewed Otila, 5pm, AMC, a Hawthornesque Mexican import about a beautiful, desirable woman disfigured by a birthmark.

Today's Temptation to Resist: "That movie wasn't very good. But at least it had sex in it. But the sex wasn't very good."

March 1

Digital by Digital
6pm, REP.
One of the festival's main interests has been the future of filmmaking, especially the opportunities presented by digital technology. The first of three special panels on the new frontier is titled Beyond 24P: Acquisitions and Applications. The discussion will concentrate on recent developments in 24-frame and variable-frame-rate technology in high-definition cameras. The proof is in the viewing, and there will be some digital film clips screened.

Grownups
7pm, AMC.
Two guys--best friends, 30s, married and midlife--who ponder wife-swapping as a last-minute recoup for being too young for the sexual revolution and hitting sexual prime during the AIDS crisis. John Stamos, in his best Rob Lowe imitation ever, plays a sharky ad man along for the Big Swap nervously proposed by his buddy, played by Daniel London. The guys' stab at youthful rebellion before submitting to beer guts and baby wipes is amoral, but the movie hits its marks, thoughtfully stepping through the minefield of male/female relationships. Though it's probably sacrilegious to be entertained by a movie starring John Stamos, Grownups adds a decadent twist on BCTA and is quite funny. 90 min. --TI
(Also shows March 2, 9pm, REP.)

David Strathairn Tribute
8pm, REP.
The San Francisco--born actor is the iron backbone of John Sayles' films. For years, he's put a vein of emotion into the work of the cerebral, polemical director. Note crucial roles like Sayles' fellow Man in Black in Brother from Another Planet, the no-bullshit portrayal of a Louisiana working man in Passion Fish and his excellence in Sayles' allegory of a postapocalyptic world, Limbo. Recall Strathairn's subtle embodiment of goodhearted weakness playing a city-raised man who thought he could go back to the land in A Map of the World, where he supported two of the best actors around: Julianne Moore and Sigourney Weaver. As handsome as Gary Cooper and a great deal better as an actor, Strathairn's career is a study in integrity. He's honored as one of Cinequest's Mavericks tonight, along with a screening of Beyond the Cell (replacing the withdrawn Blue Car). --RvB

The Hellstrom Chronicle
7:30pm, AMC.
Walon Green, best known as Clint Eastwood's favorite cinematographer, directed a unique documentary with fictional bookends. It's about the realm of insects--insects who, as this film surmises, are likely to become the masters of this planet before too long. The innovative soundtrack is by Lalo Schifrin. --RvB

Today's Tip: If you end up in the elevator with David Strathairn, remind him of how funny he was in Home for the Holidays as "Sad Sack" Terziak, a dolorous small-town heater repairman. Strathairn, a former circus clown, deserves more opportunities for comedy. (Would anyone else be more right starring in a biopic of Buster Keaton?)

Today's Temptation to Resist: Pressing upon him your script about a wacky hit man who's violently allergic to gunpowder. ("We have Chris Penn in the bag! Chris Penn!")

Tribute
9:15pm, C3.
Though it touts itself as a comedy rockumentary a la This Is Spinal Tap, Rich Fox and Kris Curry's film paints a rather grim picture of the sad, small lives the members of five hungry tribute bands lead when they're out of the spotlight. Blue-collar Joes by day, rock & roll star impersonators by night, these are the wannabes that never got to be. While chronicling the bickering, the inflated egos and the power struggles--as well as the fun and the glory--Fox and Curry capture some surprisingly candid moments, particularly with Judas Priest tribute band Bloodstone's K.K. Downing counterpart, guitarist Rich Sorensen, who spends his days toiling miserably in a grubby tire shop. Unfortunately the film jumps awkwardly from one band to the next without thoroughly exploring the deeper motivations behind its subjects. Luckily, the amateurish style mirrors the jumbled state of the bands, so it works. The most bizarre character is Queen tribute band Sheer Heart Attack's "Superfan," an extreme fanatic whose entire life's happiness seems to be centered around this band's live performances. The reality behind the illusion is depressing, but judging by any episode of VH1's Behind the Music, that can be said of even the most successful original bands. Shows with Crank Calls. 89 min. --SQ
(Also shows March 2, 7pm, AMC.)

The Rose Technique
9:15pm, AMC.
Jo Beth Williams plays Dr. Rose, a troubled therapist with a penchant for mayhem in a comedy about the high price of success. When things don't go her way, the good doctor--who counsels her patients to eliminate the deadwood--does just that by snipping off body parts from people who get in her way. There is some lowest-common-denominator fun in the sight of a fingerless masseur exhorted to shake hands, but the film suffers from some amateurish acting (much of the action takes place at a community college and looks drawn from the acting pool thereof) and incoherent scripting (Dr. Rose's sudden sexual interest in her leering landlord just doesn't parse). Worse is the troubling scene in which Rose talks a female student out of reporting a rape by one of the doctor's male patients. There's no way to make that funny. 98 min. --MSG
(Also shows March 2, 5:15pm, AMC)

March 2:

Digital by Digital Panels
11am and 2pm, REP.
The first half of the morning's seminar is on editing and delivery systems for microcinema, still on the horizon in an insufficiently DSL'd world; the second half features The Future Is Now, featuring moderator Laurence J. Thorpe, vice president of Acquisition Systems at Sony Electronics, introducing a panel of filmmakers who have found real-world uses for the highest-resolution digital motion picture making.

Dirty Harry
4:30pm, AMC.
One way to shake off the dust of a morning's worth of techno-geekery: watching this paranoid policier--"A fascist work of art," wrote Pauline Kael. It's the story of a San Francisco rogue cop who cuts through the messes created by the lily-livered courts and the murderers the system refuse to restrain. One aspect of the film can be enjoyed purely: Lalo Schifrin's urgent, much-imitated soundtrack.

West 47th Street
4:30pm, C3.
It's MTV's The Real World--but with mentally ill people who actually need a place to live. Bill Lichtenstein, who produced and directed this documentary with June Peoples, lost his job as an ABC news producer 10 years ago because of his manic depression. Now he's on a mission to show what mental illness is really all about. The film shadows four adults who are manic-depressive, schizophrenic or otherwise "incompetent" over three years in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. They wind up at a "mental-health clubhouse" (housing with counseling), on West 47th Street, called Fountain House. Intimate camera shots and an absence of narration create a sense that the audience is intruding on these people's lives. But they don't seem to notice. We follow Frances Olivero (a cross-dresser whose given name is Kenneth) to a state senator's office while he lobbies for mental-health legislation. We snoop in an elevator as loose-cannon Fitzroy Frederick (a schizophrenic Rastafarian) swears belligerently at fragile housemate Zeinab Wali (a woman who hears voices, cries a lot and cooks well). The film's lack of music makes it seem long, but if you get there, the final scene, starring veteran mental patient Tex Gordon, is a kitschy treat. Shows with Speechless. 109 min. --AG
(Also shows March 3, 4:15pm, C3.)

Come Together
5pm, REP.
Filmed like a Calvin Klein commercial intersected with sex, lies, & videotape, Canadian director Jeff Macpherson's Come Together tells the story of Ewan (Tygh Runyan), a boy/man trapped in a broken heart. When Ewan is invited back home for his ex-girlfriend's wedding--the cause of his broken heart--he decides he needs to go for "closure." But before he can find it, complication in the form of Amy (Eryn Collins), a high schooler with her own heartbreak, appears. A lot of tearjerking, a few laughs and more hand-held footage than you can shake a walking stick at later, Ewan and Amy have found, if not closure, at least some peace with their lots in life. A cute film, with some very cute actors. 78 min. --TV
(Also shows March 3, 2:30pm, C3.)

--» Yank Tanks
7pm, Rep.
Cinequest's Mike Rabehl refers to this film as "The Buena Vista Social Club for cars." This is of the two or three best films at the festival--an always-amusing but never patronizing narrative about how 1950s bulgemobiles in Havana are kept alive through the ingenuity of shade-tree mechanics. 132 min. --RvB
(Also shows March 3, 2pm.)

The Dogwalker
7:15pm, C3.
Dogs are cute. They're like women, according to The Dogwalker. Oh, ouch. Original and insightful. For the love of God, if you make a movie, don't use dogs as metaphors. Writer/director Jacques Thelemaque makes this miscalculation. His film examines the personal growth of Ellie (Diane Gaidry), a human punching bag who has to learn to express her anger. Dogwalker Betsy (familiar character actor Pamela Gordon) is refreshingly nasty in spite of the weak dialogue and serves as the film's high point. 107 min. --AG
(Also shows March 3, 11:45pm, REP.)

Today's Tip: Ask Yank Tank's director David Schendel about his and his brother's trips south to help bring medical aid to Cuba.

Today's Temptation to Resist: Saying, "Make my day," after seeing Dirty Harry. That phrase had its day, back in the day.

March 3

Lili Taylor Tribute
2pm, AMC. See story.

13 Moons
6:30pm, REP.
Closing-night gala and awards ceremony. The featured film is Alexandre Rockwell's 13 Moons, in which a mixed bag of Saroyanesque characters undergo redemption. The party follows at A. P. Stump's.

Today's Tip: A good question to ask Alexandre Rockwell: What's up with Tarantino these days? (Rockwell collaborated with QT on the anthology film Four Rooms.)

Today's Temptation to Avoid: Long acceptance speeches. You don't need to acknowledge your mom and dad. We know how much your parents helped you--you're an independent filmmaker, aren't you?

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From the February 21-27, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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