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Week 2 of the 41st S.F. International Film Festival 

Wednesday, Apr 29 1998
Animated by Dr. Freud (Various)
Jim Trainor's peculiar The Fetishist is clearly the centerpiece of this program of animation for grown-ups, devoting 38 minutes to its deadpan tale of a deeply disturbed adolescent, drawn from an actual 1947 case study. The boy's features in this hand-drawn instant classic mutate shot-to-shot from unhappy and freckled to Beavis and Butt-head to twisted and sad, reflecting the way the character's own soul is racked and roiled. Of the remaining films, Richard Reeves' Linear Dreams and Jeff Scher's Yours are delightful abstractions, Pixar's cutesy Geri's Game quite out of place, and the Bolex Brothers' Keep in a Dry Place and Away from Children is quite similar to what the nasty kid in Pixar's Toy Story might have directed had he taken up animation. The program's last half-hour, Lewis Klahr's Calendar the Siamese, is a modern fable, not to all tastes, with really ugly cutout animation. (Gregg Rickman)

Monday, May 4, 9:45 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 7, 7:15 p.m., Kabuki

Chile, Obstinate Memory (Canada, 1997)
Pure in focus and vigorous in attack, this 58-minute documentary achieves poetic intensity with spare, unmannered means. Returning to his homeland with his long-banned epic The Battle of Chile (1976) under his arm, Patricio Guzman sets out to explore the import -- and the fragility -- of memory in politics. He jars loose painful recollections of Salvador Allende's "Popular Unity" government and the bloody coup that toppled it, and ends up asking (like Langston Hughes): What happens to a dream deferred? This film combines heartbreaking reminiscences and provocative confrontations with eerie visitations to the scene of political crimes, like the Santiago stadium that became a post-coup torture center and prison camp. In the most extraordinary sequence, Guzman films the reactions of men and women in the street to hearing the Unidad Popular anthem. We seem to witness nothing less than the awkward rebirth of collective memory. (Michael Sragow)

Sunday, May 3, 9:30 p.m., Kabuki; Monday, May 4, 1 p.m., Kabuki

Cocksucker Blues (U.S.A., 1972)
The Rolling Stones tried to suppress Robert Frank's documentary of the band's 1972 Exile on Main St tour, supposedly because it made them look like disgusting rock stars consumed by drugs and surrounded by cheap groupies and a debaucherous crew of ancillary creeps. The film unquestionably does that, but it's really threatening to the Stones in a different and more insidious way: It makes rock 'n' roll look boring. The transient spaces -- the hotel suites, the private jets, the dressing rooms -- are all cold blue lights and distant, echoey audio. The concert footage, '70s arena sound systems heard through a transistor radio, consists of brief coke-fueled color-saturated episodes coming between shots of "juicy pussy" and the Stones' traveling shooting gallery. Mick Jagger sidesteps interview questions. Keith Richards nods. Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, and Tina Turner blow through but never say anything. Yawn. Don DeLillo, who titled a 100-plus-page section of Underworld "Cocksucker Blues," nailed the often-bootlegged film in one sentence: "It's the same show, the same city, the same motherfucking band of emaciated millionaire pricks and their Negro bodyguards." (Jeff Stark)

Wednesday, April 29, 9:45 p.m., Castro

The Disappearance of TiSoeur: Haiti After Duvalier & short (U.S.A., 1997)
For the average citizen, the name "Duvalier" in pre-Aristide Haiti inspired the same kind of terror that "Marcos" did during his heyday in the Philippines. Loyalist troops and spies were everywhere, waiting to exact the ultimate penalty on anyone who dared to complain about the Duvalier dynasty's looting and near-destruction of the country. Using interviews and news clips, Harriet Hirshorn's 1997 documentary paints a grimly effective picture of how an imperialist legacy can outlast individual despots, but also offers grounds for hope in its bracing scenes of masses of Haitians taking back their streets. (Gary Morris)

Monday, May 4, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki

Every Little Thing & short (France, 1996)
Keeping his camera at a respectful distance from his subjects, filmmaker Nicolas Philibert tracks the patients of a French psychiatric hospital as they prepare to stage a surreal operetta that in some ways mirrors the minor daily dramas of their own lives. "The lines are completely illogical," says one patient-turned-actor of the production. "It comforts me." This disarmingly sweet documentary captures the essence of hospital life in the slightest of details, like the hearty laughter that erupts in the forested clearing where rehearsals are held, or the very French attendant who doles out pills with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Plays with Egypt, a fascinating black-and-white short on deaf Austrian children and adults who tell stories in sign language. (Heather Wisner)

Monday, May 4, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki; Tuesday, May 5, 4 p.m., Kabuki

The Farm: Angola, USA (U.S.A., 1998)
The most disturbing image of this 1998 documentary, directed by Jonathan Stack and Elizabeth Garbus, is also its most pervasive one: the picture of black men incarcerated at a Louisiana prison, America's largest, that was once a slave plantation. Shots of these men working the fields suggest there's little difference for them between 19th-century slavery and its present-day counterpart. "Everybody at Angola works," says the smug white warden; one of the guards brags that this minicity, which employs thousands, is "the safest place in America." The haunted faces of the six men the film focuses on -- most too poor to mount an appeal -- are as eloquent as their words on the subject of a society that seems hellbent on their destruction. (Gary Morris)

Saturday, May 2, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki; Monday, May 4, 1:30 p.m., Kabuki

Fragments * Jerusalem (Israel, 1997)
One of the festival's major events, Ron Havilio's six-hour personal history of the mysterious and mythic Holy City is fascinatingly hallucinatory and frustratingly slippery. A secular Israeli Jew who spent five pivotal childhood years in Paris, the filmmaker pokes and probes for Jerusalem's soul (and, perhaps, his own) by tracing the threads of his family history through old drawings and photographs, newsreel footage, and anecdotes. Havilio's is a search for his roots, rather than an all-encompassing account of the city's evolution from backwater mecca to international battleground. Riveting chronological narratives -- such as his mother's ancestors' 1812 journey from Poland to Jerusalem -- occupy long chunks of the film, but Havilio is too peripatetic and too concerned with the present to surrender completely to linear storytelling. A jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces omitted, this is a marvelous film in which to get lost -- a meditation, a daydream. Havilio's Jerusalem exists as much in memory as in reality, and as such is timeless, distant, and forever elusive. (Michael Fox)


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