Friday, September 02, 2011

Godard's 'Film Socialisme'
Inaugurates SF's New People Cinema

Rejoice, Bay Area movie lovers! Today marks the first day of daily programming at the New People Cinema in Japantown since the venue was leased to the San Francisco Film Society, the wonderful enterprise that hosts the annual spring international film festival among other year-round offerings.

The inaugural selection is the latest work from French master provocateur Jean-Luc Godard called "Film Socialisme", and it carries a reputation of being intellectually challenging and confounding, with sections gorgeous to look at. Many critics and audiences have given up on Godard and his recent films, but I still find his work well-worth viewing even when there's little or no narrative to follow.
What's his latest about? The society's site provides a few clues:

Godard required that his latest film be presented with subtitles that only suggest the welter of language(s) spoken. It’s an appropriate gambit as the film addresses the decline of Western civilization—and its Babel-like confluence of languages—within the contexts of a polyglot cruise liner traversing the Mediterranean and, more intimately, an intellectual, loving family that runs a service station in provincial France.

"Film Socialisme" screens from today through September 8 and is an inspired and risky choice to launch the film society's programming at the New People Cinema, and whets the appetite for other serious movies this fall at the venue.

Coming soon are two films I plan to catch, "Aurora" from Romania's Cristi Puiu who dazzled art house audiences with his "Death of Mr. Lazarescu" in 2005, playing September 16 - 21, and a new documentary from actor/writer/director John Turturro, "Passione", showing September 30 - October 14.

"Aurora" is about an impassive man slowly preparing to commit murder, that is beautifully composed in a spare style capturing the killer's emotional vacuousness, and I saw about half of it at the international film festival's screening. Unfortunately, the film broke causing technical problems that couldn't be solved, leaving everyone in the theater disappointed, so I'm pleased to have a second chance to see it in full.

The latest film from Turturro is a valentine to various musical genres of Naples, Italy, where his forebears are from. "Passione" has been playing for two-months in New York City and generating excellent reviews and word-of-mouth. It should enjoy a healthy run here, as did Turturro's earlier musical blue-collar dramedy "Romance & Cigarettes" when it played at the Clay.

Do your part to support the San Francisco Film Society's new venture. Keep movie-watching in theaters alive and well. Go soon to the New People Cinema and see what's playing on the big screen.

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