Single shots, the building blocks of film, mass into palaces or collapse into rubble depending on the mortaring skills of the filmmaker/ architect. San Francisco's Jay Rosenblatt practices the homelier art of collage, in which he assembles bricks from older pieces (educational documentaries, home movies, Hollywood features) into postmodern playgrounds or arenas of sadness. In Friend Good, Rosenblatt reworks James Whale's classic Frankenstein to amplify the creature's loneliness. Prayer is a post-9/11 plea for tolerance comprised of ancient films of pilgrims with their heads bowed. In his latest piece, Phantom Limb, Rosenblatt repurposes hospital scenes of amputees to illustrate the pain he still feels over a lost kid brother, while the autobiographical Worm mingles new and old footage to relay a childhood memory of the creatures in the rain.
A nine-movie collection of new work, "Matters of Life and Death: Recent Films by Jay Rosenblatt," also includes four diarylike shorts mixed through digital-video technology. Three of them, consisting of a daddy doting on his tiny daughter, may seem sugary, but they contribute to the strength of the collection by balancing out the melancholy. The fourth, A Pregnant Moment, captures episodes during Rosenblatt's dog's pregnancy, with the puppies being reared and then given away. It may sound trivial, but the desolate look on the pooch's face after her last pup is gone speaks volumes. Irrevocable loss is Rosenblatt's great theme.
"Matters of Life and Death" plays at 2, 4, 7, and 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday and at 7 and 8:45 p.m. on Thursday at the Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $4-8; call 863-1087 or visit www.roxie.com.
-- Gregg Rickman
As a busker, writer, and filmmaker, Sonny Smith is no stranger to tinkering with genres, but it's his musical storytelling about real-life oddballs that gets him the most gigs around town. Now he's funneled that creativity into a play -- though he's quick to note that Stranger Danger is "anti-musical and anti-thespian." It does, however, have all the trappings of the form, outfitted as it is with sets, props, a live band, and, curiously, ghosts. Smith acts in it, too, playing the part of a cabdriver motoring through a rainy night, singing songs and telling tales about his many fine adventures. Stranger plays at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Lab, 2948 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is $7-15; call 864-8855 or visit www.thelab.org.
-- Michael Leaverton
On a Mission
Shot on location
Deep roots in creative work and a fierce love of the Mission District characterize the filmmakers in "The Reel Mission: The Films and Videos of Lourdes Portillo and Son." Portillo, an Oscar-nominated documentary director, brings her seldom-seen first film, Después del terremoto/After the Earthquake, to be projected in glorious 16mm. Another offering is her My McQueen, which the evening's curator, Sergio de la Mora, says is "an interesting reflection on fantasy and masculinity [in which the filmmaker] imagines what a Latino Steve McQueen would be like. I think it's also a sharp comment on the way the city has been transformed since Bullitt was shot." Screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $5-8; call 978-2787 or visit www.ybca.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Gatewood's dirtiest pictures?
Photographer Charles Gatewood established himself as a chronicler of the sexual underground in the 1960s. Blood play, naked food fights, and serious sadomasochism existed in his oeuvre long before extreme fetish practices became common gallery fare. The same candor can be found in his "Wall Street" series, gritty black-and-white photos from the 1970s, showing in the Mission for the next couple of months. Lone figures dwarfed by colossal skyscrapers and frosty metropolitan plazas abound in Gatewood's strangely ethereal pictures, suggesting that perversion lies not only in the sexual realm, but also in the iron-fisted world of high finance. The images are included in the exhibit "Rags to Riches," which features works from sculptor Nuala Creed and photographer Cindy Bennett as well. The opening reception starts at 5 p.m. on Saturday (and the exhibit continues through Jan. 21, 2006) at the Lola Gallery, 2517 Mission (at 21st Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 401-6800 or visit www.lolabrown.com.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Conservatives used to say it stood for "I won't work," but the IWW, with its "One Big Union" credo, has meant much more than that over its 100-year history. The group has inspired birth control activists, fighters for the eight-hour workday, and rabble-rousers of many other stripes. Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World celebrates the political cartoons, songs, and artwork produced by the organization. No less an authority than Zippy creator Bill Griffith says the book is "chock full of great images." Jay Kinney, Spain Rodriguez, and Trina Robbins read from and discuss their contributions at 7:30 p.m. at the Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary (at Larkin), S.F. Admission is free; call 885-4074 or visit www.castlenews.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser