Long-distance locations, far-reaching flights of imagination, mind-altered states, and time and space travel make movies among the most transportive of storytelling mediums.
Whether the goal is to jump-start a staycation or whet the appetite for a real-world trip to an far-off location, Bay Area filmgoers have a multitude of escape routes to the outer limits in July.
The Poetry of Time: Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky has been dead nearly three decades, a disconcerting notion if you credit his 1970s milestones Solaris and Stalker with shattering your youthful perception of the world. The most important Russian filmmaker since Sergei Eisenstein and the antithesis of Eisenstein in style and philosophy, Tarkovsky conceived of cinema as “sculpting time” rather than amassing meaning through editing. A child of World War II, the director was more interested in probing the mysterious and ephemeral yearnings of human beings than in realism, plot and payoff. His original and altogether remarkable visions return in Pacific Film Archive’s heady retrospective, The Poetry of Time: Andrei Tarkovsky, running through July 25. More information and details here.
Where Tarkovsky was quietly disorienting, David Cronenberg was willfully disturbing. Pegged as a thinking person’s horror director after his run of 1980s chillers — Scanners, Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly and Dead Ringers — the Canadian writer-director veered into even more outré territory the following decade with Naked Lunch, Crash and eXistenZ. Cronenberg is the rare director whose work doesn’t become “softer” or easier to watch with the passage of time. Yerba Buena Center For the Arts has collected 10 of his most unnerving films in Hardcore Cronenberg, screening July 9 through September 6. More information and details here.
A Poem Is a Naked Person
Myth and allegory are central to roots rock, but few performers embraced the elusive, shape-shifting nature of the American character like Leon Russell. Still best known in some circles for his rousing performance at George Harrison’s 1971 benefit concerts for Bangladesh, Russell paired an endearing drawl with pounding piano chords. Shortly thereafter, the rocker enlisted up-and-coming Bay Area filmmaker Les Blank to make a documentary. Two years of on-and-off shooting in and around Russell’s Oklahoma studio, augmented by trips to gigs in New Orleans and Anaheim, resulted in arguably the most perversely offbeat portrait of a rock star ever made (well, until the Radiohead doc Meeting People Is Easy). Blank’s impressionistic, meandering ode to the laid-back ‘70s, down-home oddballs and shambling, off-the-grid freedom wasn’t what Russell expected, and the film was shelved. A Poem Is a Naked Person is finally seeing the light of a projector at the Opera Plaza in S.F. and the Shattuck in Berkeley beginning July 10 and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael the following Friday, July 17. A ticket or two may still be available for the July 9 shows in S.F. with Russell, Blank’s sound recordist and assistant editor Maureen Gosling, and executive producer Harrod Blank (the late filmmaker’s son) on hand. More information and details here.
The San Francisco Symphony's Film Series
Soundtracks are a key element in the success of most films, whether or not we consciously notice the music. It's easy to track down the score to a favorite film online or via other media, and re-experience the emotion anytime on MUNI, in your car or at home. And if you’re really lucky, the San Francisco Symphony will provide a live accompaniment to your favorite flick as part of its ongoing film series. This month’s treats are Star Trek (2009) on July 16, 17 and 20, and Back to the Future (1985) on July 18 and 19. If you can live without the images, the Symphony, together with vocalists Sheena Easton and Scott Coulter, perform the themes from the James Bond movies and other spy pictures. The fun happens at Davies Symphony Hall, which may have even better acoustics than your car. More information and details here.
Frozen Film Festival
The Frozen Film Festival (at the Roxie July 17-20) has the buzz of discovery, with the program devoted primarily to short-form filmmakers working in every genre (doc, narrative, animation, experimental, comedy, environmental). For those with longer attention spans, Zoe Kravitz stars in the Canadian romantic comedy Pretend We’re Kissing (pictured, Friday, July 17) and punk saves the world in the concert doc NOFX: Backstage Passport (Saturday, July 18). More information and details here.