Saturday, April 30, 2016

SFIFF59: Highly Entertaining 'Five Nights' & 'Chevalier' 

As the first week of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival concluded yesterday, I've seen my share of hits and misses and continue to completely enjoy having the events taking place in my Mission District neighborhood.

The festival has made an inviting and low-key, but nicely noticeable, mark on the streets and at the Alamo Drafthouse, the Castro, Roxie and Victoria Theaters and the film lounge on Valencia Street.

My sense is that there are only positive comments to say about the San Francisco Film Society moving out of the Sundance Kabuki complex. Haven't heard a single negative remark since the festival's reboot in the Mission.

Check out the remaining programs, catch a few flicks, and for info on tickets, click here. My first report is here and let's get to my second.

The writer and director of "Five Nights In Maine", Maris Curran, told the audience it was okay to laugh during the film about a tragic auto accident's aftermath in her remarks before the film unspooled at the Alamo Drafthouse.

A terrific cast includes David Oyelowo as grieving husband who's lost his wife, who visits his mother-in-law played by Dianne Wiest and Rosie Perez at her perky-wounded best as a life-affirming home health aide. They alone are reason enough to check out this film.

I was engaged with the story, rode the emotional roller-coaster of tears and hilarity, but found the consistent use of tight and intense close ups, of everything from faces to hands washing dishes, annoying to my eye. "Pull back on the camera," I thought, give scenes a chance to breathe. No such luck.

Oyelowo's marriage was an interracial one but it wasn't an element in the narrative, keeping the focus focused in very welcomed way on honoring the dead and keeping on with living.

Be sure to catch this film if it plays in theaters or streams on TV or anther platform. The snappy editing and just-right running time should help it find an appreciative audience.

From Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari hails "Chevalier" and taking place on a luxury yacht, as six wealthy male friends on a sailing tour of the Aegean Sea play a game of alcohol- and testosterone-fueled competition, determining who's more alpha-than-thou.

Ultra sleek set design, mucked up with wine and bodily fluids, and lush scenery contrast well with the brutish behavior and score-settling truth-telling, gently illustrating how civilized men are still at odds with each other and the environment, comfortable living standards and education be damned.

At our screening, enthusiastic howls of laughter from the audience greeted many of the scenes including the highlight where a handsome chubby bear does an outstanding cover, with elastic dance moves too, of Minnie Riperton's classic "Lovin' You" sung to his chief competitor.

The plot was swift and the large cast of men as the friends and the assorted workers on the yacht, secretly engaging in their own macho-man competition and placing bets against each other, delivered sublime ensemble acting.

It says something about the quality and entertainment values of these two movies that I stayed till the conclusion because I've exited a higher-than-usual number of films at this year's festival.

(Photos courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.)

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