By the time the assorted publications and critics in town publish their previews and picks for the S.F. International Film Festival (April 22-May 6), it may be too late to snap up tickets for some of the one-time-only events. Herewith is a quick hit list of those highlights, augmented with some regular screenings we think will sell out once the word gets out.
Enfant terrible-turned-middle-aged standard bearer Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) greets the opening-night crowd with Micmacs (Apr. 22), his latest Rube Goldbergian contraption on fate, war and capitalism. It will open theatrically in mid-June, but not at the Castro and without the director present for a Q&A.
Stephin Merritt (of Magnetic Fields) performs his original soundtrack alongside the 1916 silent film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (May 4 at the Castro). The fest's annual pairing of a contemporary musician or band with a vintage silent is always one of the hottest tickets, so jump on it. Now.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
The symbiotic relationship between music and film is explored in further depth in A Conversation With T Bone Burnett (Apr. 24 at the Sundance Kabuki). Fresh from his Oscar win for Best Original Song ("The Weary Kind," written with Ryan Bingham for Crazy Heart), Burnett discusses (and illustrates, through select clips) his work as a composer and music supervisor (for the Coens' O Brother, Where Art Thou?, among many other movies).
Poetry and nature harmonize in the world premiere of The Practice of the Wild (May 3 and 5 at the Kabuki), John J. Healey's soul-soothing study of Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison.
The Berkeley -- and social injustice -- connection ratchets the interest in Presumed Guilty (May 2, 3, 6), Roberto Hernandez and Geoffrey Smith's infuriating documentary about an innocent young Mexican man trying, with the assistance of a couple of stalwart Northern Californians, to beat a murder rap in the face of a corrupt, cynical and complacent justice system.
The plight of a Palestinian family propels Port of Memory (Apr. 26, 27, May 5), but moviegoers will leave talking as much about the tenuous line between documentary and fiction as politics and persecution.
Joshua Grannell, whose alter ego Peaches Christ reigned over the Bridge's Midnight Mass weekend extravaganzas for years, presents the world premiere of his horror comedy, All About Evil (May 1 at the Castro), complete with a live stage show and myriad guests, including the legendary Mink Stole. With apologies to Bette Davis (take another look at the film's title), fasten your seatbelts.
All About Evil
The acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Afterlife) makes a rare Bay Area visit with Air Doll (Apr. 30 and May 2 at the Kabuki).
The Midnight Awards (Apr. 24) salutes a pair of twenty- or thirty- something actors and always attracts a young, moneyed, fun-loving crowd. This year's honorees haven't been announced yet, but don't let that stop you from stepping up for tickets.
Co-directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg will take a bow closing night before their riveting doc, Joan Rivers -- A Piece of Work. But the Grande Dame of shameless self-assertion is also slated to be in the house, which makes this -- depending on how your blood pressure reacts to her -- either a do not miss or a must to avoid.
Joan Rivers -- A Piece of Work
Once more with feeling: These are by no means the only tough tickets or anticipated shows in the festival, so waste no time scouting the program and scoring tickets.
The San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 22-May 6, 2010. For tickets and information visit fest10.sffs.org.