San Francisco International Film Festival - Day Two

Sunday April 29 2007 After a satisfying Japanese brunch with Cindi's old friend Gretjen Clausing from the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia, Cindi and I saw just two films before I had to go home to spend quality time with family. The two films:

Chand rooz ba'd / A Few Days Later... (2006, Niki Karimi) IMDb

Karimi was assistant to Abbas Kiarostami on The Wind Will Carry Us and is an accomplished actress and filmmaker in her own right. This, her second feature, recalls a number of Kiarostamian elements, not the least being wide shots of cars driving along winding suburban roads. One moment where two women converse inside a car had me thinking of Ten, and from there my thoughts were centered on how this film was being told from a point of view different from Kiarostami's, or rather, at the risk of sounding simplistic, a woman's point of view. With the long silences and the willful passivity of the protagonist, a graphic designer who's at a crossroads with her job, her friends and her disabled child, it reminded me most of all of Barbara Loden's Wanda. A tense, quiet film that seems as seems to consider its audience as but another potential intrusion into the space it seeks to carve for its beleaguered heroine. Fu zi / After This Our Exile (2006, Patrick Tam)

Winner of five Hong Kong Film Awards including Best Picture, Director and Actor, this is the first film in 17 years directed by Tam, who has made his living since by editing the films of Wong Kar-Wai, Johnnie To and others. It was a grueling film to watch, with pop superstar Aaron Kwok testing the limits of his charisma by playing the worst kind of father imaginable, mentally abusing his 10 year old son into becoming a pickpocket. There are some brilliant setpieces involving the father's harebrained schemes to make money (he even pimps out his girlfriend!) and it's shot beautifully as usual by Mark Lee Pin Bing. It takes a while to get started -- the first third of the film, involving the mother's protracted abandonment of her family, could be whittled down in order to get to the real heart of the story between father and son. Also there are two hot and heavy sex scenes involving Kwok, first with Charlie Yeung and then Kelly Lin - that seem to belong to another film. I discovered afterwards that I had watched a directors cut of the film that's longer than the version that was released in Hong Kong. This blog has an informed comparison of the two versions. Here in SF a couple of news items have taken front and center. First, the astounding truck explosion that destroyed part of the MacArthur Maze in the East Bay, potentially causing a massive traffic nightmare for weeks to come.

The second item being the Warriors' stunning upset-in-progress of the Dallas Mavericks, the top team in the NBA. It's been 13 years since the Warriors were in the playoffs, and they've got the Bay Area pumped with their scrappy, high energy underdog play. It's been a long time since they had a player with as much charisma and guts as Baron Davis (left).

For some reason my mom decided to have a guest come over for my first night back home, so my bro and I went to a nearby bowling alley to check out the game since we don't have cable at home. At the bowling alley bar, surrounded by Chinese and Filipinos sporting wrist braces on their bowling hands, we cheered the Warriors on to a last minute victory and a commanding 3-1 lead of the series. Outside of Houston, Golden State must have the highest population of Asian fans in the NBA.