The words are plain and white on a black screen: "On October 23, 1969, a band of radicals disrupted the opening night of the San Francisco International Film Festival." The music is solemn, twitchy. A moment prior, there was a snippet of a TV news interview with a man in a suit. He looked shaken, sounded angry. He'd been spattered with something dark and viscous. Also: was that a smiling nun being hauled away by the police? Just what sort of madness is this?
Why, it's Pie Fight '69, of course: the short historical documentary by Christian Bruno and Sam Green, in which is recounted how the Bay Area's Grand Central Station film collective brought off what it described at the time as "a soft bomb tossed in protest at everything that restricts energy, spunk, originality and wit in American cinema." Where but San Francisco, right?
You can watch it on YouTube, where "meatwadXcore" was the first to comment, noting, "this is amazing, i love living in such a great city." Then you can spend Thursday evening at the Red Vic Movie House, where the filmmakers themselves will be present to elaborate, cinematically, on the city's greatness.
Cinematic San Francisco is a rich topic for any multimedia event, and especially for a fundraiser to benefit the 30-year-old Red Vic, whose endangered but continued existence shows what a damn fine city this really is for the lost (and found) art of moviegoing.
It has as much to do with the movies made here as with the unique culture of how we relate to them. The cartographers of the culture have been busy lately. For instance, Bruno's current work-in-progress documentary, Strand: A Natural History of Cinema, reveals how, as he once put it, "the rise of the art-film culture really begins in the Bay Area." Logically enough, the making of Bruno's film inspired Julie Lindow to assemble her recent book Left in the Dark: Portraits of San Francisco Movie Theaters, which in turn inspired Rebecca Solnit to include an essential cinema-related map in her recent Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas.
Lindow and Solnit both will be part of the evening's presentation, too, along with Ant Farm collective co-founder Chip Lord, whose short film Movie Map amusingly plays car chase scenes from Vertigo and Bullitt against each other in just such a way as to imply that the characters were driving from one San Francisco moviehouse to the next.
Any would-be pie-throwers, meanwhile, might consider decamping for L.A. to get ready for Sunday's Oscars. As regards current levels of energy, spunk, originality and wit, we're all set here.
The Cinematic San Francisco fundraiser event begins with a reception at 7pm, show starts at 7:30pm, TONIGHT, Thursday, February 24, 2011, at the Red Vic Movie House in San Francisco. For tickets and more information visit redvicmoviehouse.com.