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S.F. International Film Festival: Still Singing and Dancing at 60

April 3, 2017

The oldest film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM) opens its 60th season on Wednesday, and will present 181 films in numerous San Francisco and Berkeley venues through April 19. There is a dizzying variety of subjects in narrative features, documentaries, and shorts from 51 countries. Naturally enough, we’ll focus on works notable for music and dance here, listing just a few of the dozen-plus in the schedule:

THE PARIS OPERA, 2017 documentary from France, directed by Jean-Stéphane Bron. Backstage and front office bustle revealed from the old Palais Garnier and the new Opéra Bastille, where the great Opéra National de Paris continues a heritage, which includes being the birthplace of classical ballet. (April 7, 8, 9)

THE GREEN FOG is the festival’s closing selection in San Francisco, screened in the Castro Theater on April 16. With a score by San Francisco musician/composer FSJacob Garchik and the participation of the Kronos Quartet, it is described as a remake of Vertigo but without footage from the Hitchcock classic. The intent of the visual collage by Guy Maddin and co-directors Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson is to create a “parallel-universe version,” including footage from “studio classics, ’50s noir, experimental films, and ’70s prime-time TV.”

SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY, 2016 U.S. film, directed by Matt Schrader. The music of the silver screen, a huge and fascinating subject, is what Score examines, demonstrates, illustrates, and explains. The documentary brings some of Hollywood’s premier composers - including Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams — together to give viewers a look inside the musical challenges and creative secrecy of the world’s most widely known music genre: the film score.

CITIZEN KANE, Orson Welles’s 1941 masterpiece is greatly enhanced by Bernard Herrmann’s glorious score, and the film can be seen and heard at a special screening on April 6, in the YBCA Theater, to be followed by an onstage conversation with William Randolph Hearst III (whose grandfather inspired the title character) and film historian David Thomson about the film’s legacy.

The festival’s special events include awards to be presented to Eleanor Coppola, Tom Luddy, and Lynn Hershman Leeson. Tributes will be presented to Ethan Hawke (including a screening of his new film Maudie), James Ivory (with a 30th-anniversary screening of Maurice), John Ridley (with an early look at his new SHOWTIME series Guerilla), and Gordon Gund (profiled in the short documentary The Illumination).

The film for opening night, in the Castro Theater on Thursday, will be Gillian Robespierre’s Landline, with Jenny Slate, Edie Falco, John Turturro, and Jay Duplass. The film portrays a teenager, living with her family in Manhattan in 1995, dealing with her discovery that her father is having an affair. Robespierre has directed similar family dramas before, including Obvious Child, also featuring Slate. 

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].