Reversal of Fortune
The UC Theater has been granted a reprieve until Dec. 31, so a new rep calendar is hurriedly being assembled and rushed to the printer. You'll recall that a six-figure seismic retrofit bill is the blade at the UC's throat. But Silver Cinemas -- the chain that owns Landmark Theaters, which, in turn, operates the UC -- has some wiggle room because it's in Chapter 11. "You have to accept or reject each of your leases before you come out of bankruptcy," Silver Senior Vice President Mike Mullen explained on the phone from his office in the Dallas suburb of Addison. "With the seismic retrofit, it makes the financial analysis pretty tough."
Mullen couldn't substantiate the rumors that Berkeley politicos will designate the theater a landmark, clearing the way for tax credits that would partially offset the retrofit expenses. But while Silver and the landlord thumb-wrestle over the bill, the UC marquee will stay lit. "We're in the midst of negotiations, so it would be premature to make any move at this point," Mullen said. "I can tell you nobody gets up in the morning wanting to close theaters."
Manhattan filmmaker Susan Korda was at Skywalker Sound earlier this month editing and mixing Sandi DuBowski's Trembling Before G-d, a John Zorn-scored documentary about being born homosexual in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community. "The safe and respectable place in Orthodoxy is the closet, so we use a lot of silhouettes," Korda says. "We're sending up a prayer to God and the community: There's got to be more tolerance." How does a New York documentary end up at the dreamy facilities on Lucas' ranch? Gay connections, I hear.
Meanwhile, Korda's unblinkingly personal documentary, One of Us, which climaxes with her meeting the sister with Down's syndrome who was given away at birth, has its West Coast premiere Sept. 27 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. "It's a weeper," Korda confesses. "It's one of those train compartment stories, where you know someone intimately in a short period of time."
Through the Olive Trees
"My first movie required a 7-year-old boy with a stray dog, and I couldn't find a 7-year-old professional dog actor in Iran. So this style started with three nonprofessionals: a kid, myself, and a dog. It became my method." That's Abbas Kiarostami, of course, describing the root of his naturalistic yet deceptively complex approach during his April visit to accept the S.F. Film Fest's Kurosawa Award.
I asked Kiarostami, behind his Kurosawa-like tinted glasses, if he saw his influence in intimate, no-frills films like The Dreamlife of Angels. "I believe [that] cinema, technically, has reached an apex, and just like fashion or any other form, it tends to look back," he said. "There may be small inklings of neo-realism that start to appear in the works of various filmmakers. I think this is a return to the needs of a public to see human elements, human need." Kiarostami's latest exercise in low-key profundity, The Wind Will Carry Us, opens Sept. 29.