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Arbor Vitae; Beneath the Banyan Trees filming; The Homeboy

Wednesday, Jan 31 2001
Summerwind Nathaniel Dorsky flips the switch and the hypnotic Arbor Vitae unspools in the basement screening room of his quiet Richmond District apartment. "Eighty percent of the film was shot within an hour and a half walk of my front door," he relates when I emerge refreshed 28 minutes later. Dorsky, whose avant-garde career dates to 1964, links unforced images -- a tadpole on a leaf, flowers waving, a woman awaiting a bus -- that suggest the maker of those images is discovering the qualities of movement, shadow, and reflection along with the viewer. "If you can present a selfless offering, there is direct communication between your best nature and the audience's best nature," Dorsky postulates.

Arbor Vitae completes a trilogy that began with Triste (1974-96) and Variations (1992-98). "Each is an attempt at the same instinct," Dorsky muses. "If you have three free throws, one might wobble in and one might not even touch the rim." Dorsky supports himself as a "film doctor," revered locally for re-editing and saving troubled documentaries, but his films are his obsession. S.F. Cinematheque screens his trilogy Monday, Feb. 5, at the S.F. Art Institute, with an encore Feb. 13 at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

Border Incident In two weeks, Matt Dillon starts shooting the screenplay he and East Bay author Barry Gifford wrote. "The original title is City of Ghosts," Gifford tells me on the phone from his East Bay gym, "and it may yet be the title, but while they're filming in Cambodia the working title is Beneath the Banyan Trees." On his way to the shoot, Gifford will stop in Mexico City for the Festival Centro Histórico screenings of Wild at Heart and Perdita Durango (both shot from scripts he adapted from his Sailor and Lula novels) and Lost Highway (an original screenplay he wrote with David Lynch).

In Perdita Durango (retitled Dance With the Devil for the U.S. video release), the hero completely identifies with Burt Lancaster in the 1954 action flick Vera Cruz. "It was my favorite film as a kid," Gifford explains. "I spent years after that pretending I was the Lancaster character." In support of a showing of Vera Cruz (on Sunday, Feb. 4, at the Pacific Film Archive), Gifford will read from Out of the Past, an expanded reissue of his hard-edged 1988 collection of film essays, The Devil Thumbs a Ride and Other Unforgettable Films. Gifford still hopes to make his directing debut with Sultans of Africa, another Sailor and Lula tale; Chris Isaak has committed to playing the lead.

Get On the Bus Dave Gebroe garnered some notoriety a few years back with a Super 8 short, 38 Geary, before moving to New Jersey. Now he returns to the Bay Area with a 35mm feature, The Homeboy, which he calls "a buddy comedy about an average white rapper and a horrible white rapper." It screens Saturday, Feb. 3, at 12:30 p.m. at the Victoria as part of the Filmjunkie Underground Film Festival. ... Terry Gelenter's Friday night "CinemaLit" series at the Mechanics' Institute Library kicks off its second season on Feb. 2 with S.F.-based film critic David Thomson riffing on Chinatown. ... The Wedding Planner marks the umpteenth movie set in S.F. since Mrs. Doubtfire to get a PG-13 (or lower) rating. Blame the Hollywood makeover for all the families planning their summer vacations in Sodom.

About The Author

Michael Fox


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