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By Richard von Busack

Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street
Plays Nov. 11-12 at the Roxie Theater.

Steven Okazaki's frightening documentary focuses on San Francisco's thriving junk scene, newly blighted with chiva (cheap Mexican black tar heroin). The film follows the lives of five addicts, none over the age of 25. Director Okazaki spent two years interviewing the heroin addicts in shooting galleries, squats and SROs using available light and camping lanterns.

N.I.C.E. (New Italian Cinema Events)
Nov. 15-21 at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theatres.

A week-long series of films beyond Benigni. Offerings include the Nov. 15 opening-night feature, The Wet Nurse (La Balia), directed by Marco Bellocchio, based on a story by Pirandello about an illiterate woman hired by a well-off couple to nurse their child. The Nov. 18 screening is The Price (Il prezzo), in which an amateur hash smuggler recruits an old girlfriend to pose as his lover during the trip back to Amsterdam. On Nov. 19, the feature is The First Time (La prima volta), a fictional story of six different adolescents and their first sexual experience. Three Stories (shows Nov. 20) is a documentarylike romance of drug addicts in rehab. On Nov. 21, the festival closes with a new print of Mamma Roma, Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1962 drama about a reformed prostitute (Anna Magnani) and her teenage son.

Princess Mononoke (1997)
Plays at selected theaters.

At last, some effort's been made to work out the English translation of a Japanese anime. Disney, who brought this full-length Japanese cartoon to America, hired fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and a cast of talented vocal actors to supplement the lush and remarkable visuals. Director Hayao Miyazaki (who created the sweet My Friend Tortoro) directed this ambitious and often astonishing story set in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The film tells of a war between forest gods and the workers of a mountain iron foundry. The struggle is embodied in the troubled friendship between a cursed prince and the title character, a feral girl who rides with wolves. The film's complex, moving plot is anti-violence without being simplistic; it's anti-aristocracy (pointing out that today's samurai was yesterday's thug) and it's pro-environment, without presuming that Nature is our friend.

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From the November 8, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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