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The King of Comedy 

Local sightings of a no-budget comedy about cutthroat pet-supply salesmen

Wednesday, May 14 2003
"It was like Bigfoot sightings," jokes filmmaker Brien Burroughs. The chef at the Slow Club, where the local director buys his morning brew, was the first to say something: "I saw your DVD at Four Star Videos" in Bernal Heights. Another pal spotted it at Le Video in the Inner Sunset. Finally, Burroughs trekked downtown to Borders and nabbed his own copy of Suckerfish, his no-budget improvised comedy about cutthroat pet-supply salesmen. Released April 29 by Vanguard Cinema -- "It's nice to see that flying corporate logo at the head of your movie, with the 5.1 surround sound that the movie doesn't have," the dreadlocked Burroughs observes wryly -- the DVD has a single bonus track consisting of alternate takes of several scenes. "It's the tape we [showed] at the improvisation seminar we used to bribe festivals into giving us a few extra hotel nights or flying out an actor," he confides.

Burroughs' second improvised feature with most of the same cast, Security [Reel World, March 20, 2002], was well received at its March premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin and has been submitted to the major fall festivals. (The 35mm picture debuted locally as a work-in-progress last fall at the Film Arts Festival.) Meanwhile, Burroughs and actress Regina Saisi are discussing a December start for their third collaboration, Souvenir. "This promises to be a darker story," he says. "It's subtitled Bad Things Sometimes Happen to Good People. We have to figure out what the funny thing about it is, since we need it to be funny for the first hour and 15 minutes before it gets sad for the last 15."

By Hook or By Crook A trio of lesbian-themed features by Bay Area directors unspools at the upcoming S.F. International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which announces its program next week. A French thief seduces a black social worker in Sara Millman's Robin's Hood [Reel World, Sept. 11, 2002), while Luane Beck's Intentions charts the entangled passions of a woman, her girlfriend, and a professor. Jennifer Kroot's hyperenergetic post-feminist satire Sirens of the 23rd Century follows the escapades of a band of rebels in a country where beauty and cosmetics have been banned. The lineup also features a 21st birthday party for Whatever Happened to Susan Jane?, Marc Huestis' cult fave about two buddies running around pre-AIDS San Francisco. The festival begins June 12.

Kiss and Tell Mark Decena and Tim Breitbach's Dopamine, the closing-night attraction of the just-wrapped S.F. International Film Festival, opens in theaters come September as part of the four-flick, 10-city "Sundance Film Series." Locally, the quartet is booked into the Metreon. Although Sundance generally implies "art house" -- the series also includes Michael Winterbottom's gritty Afghan refugee drama In This World -- the multiplex venue gives Dopamine an infinitely better shot at reaching the mainstream date crowd. For a romantic comedy without stars, even one filmed in San Francisco, that's all you can ask for.

The Big City Lourdes Portillo's Señorita Extraviada won the Ariel (the Mexican Oscar) for best documentary from La Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas. ... The 43rd annual Film Finals Gala Screening, featuring the best recent work of S.F. State's cinema department students, lights up the campus' McKenna Theatre this Friday night, May 16. Call 338-2467 for tickets. ... The touring program of the Ann Arbor Film Festival, hosted at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills by KFJC-FM for the 10th year, screens May 17 and 18. The four-hour (!) bill of experimental and documentary shorts includes S.F. artist Frances Nkara's Downpour Resurfacing, Kristin Pichaske's Teatro Roots, and Jay Rosenblatt's latest, Friend Good. ... Stephen Parr of the city's Oddball Films culled 90 minutes of ear-bending educational movies and commercials from his archive for "Sonic Oddities," an Other Cinema show this Saturday, May 17, at ATA, 992 Valencia. Tune in to for the lowdown.

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Michael Fox


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