We interrupt our previously scheduled report on SFIFF for this brief message about another local cinematic celebration, the first annual Oakland International Cat Video Festival, held at the Great Wall of Oakland. The event was curated and originally screened by the Walker Art Center, with proceeds benefitting the SPCA.
As you might guess, the daylight festivities often tipped toward the corny side. There weren’t as many vendors as I would have liked, and the beer had run out when we arrived at 7 pm. But once the videos started, I found myself in tears, and the night turned out to be worthwhile, ending in clips of some Internet legends like Keyboard Cat, Henri, and my favorite feline, Maru. I had seen many of the clips before, but not this bizarre and mesmerizing animated piece called Welcome to Kitty City, by Cyriak.
The show will be traveling to other cities, as well. Here’s looking at you, Brooklyn.
I just finished up a full day of screenings at the 56th annual San Francisco International Film Festival. Though the festival is now in its final days, there are plenty of films and events yet to come.
The festival is a great opportunity to catch films that might never appear in your local theater, so I usually skip anything that is on track for wide distribution. Earlier this week I caught three films that I would recommend, but to entirely different viewers.
My first film viewing was In the Fog, a WWII-era character piece about a Bellorussian man mistakenly accused of collaborating with Nazis and how that label affects not only others’ treatment of him, but his perception of himself. Atmospheric and compelling, but I also knew where it was going the whole time.
I typically seek out downbeat films at the festival, so it was nice to include a comedy this year, Key of Life, which I hear was quite popular with audiences. It’s a quirky screwball comedy that reminded me of A Taxing Woman with its cultural observations and wacky plot about a professional woman who gets involved with an amnesiac hitman and the actor who assumes the criminal’s identity. I’d recommend this film to anyone who enjoys the films of Jûzô Itami.
On the artier side was Leviathan, an often-disturbing, dialogue-free documentation of a New Bedford fishing boat’s work at sea. I felt like I was watching a David Lynch adaptation of The Perfect Storm. The audio, in particular, was an unsettling mix of clanking industrial noise and swishing, water-roars. The first twenty minutes were downright scary in tone. I knew it wasn’t actually a horror film and therefore theoretically “safe,” yet the whole thing had a Paranormal Activity-like sense of evils lurking in the darkness. (Hence the title.) On the other hand, it was also beautiful—if at times bloody, and even sad. But I highly recommend Leviathan if you think an experimental, grinding, visual-nightmare poem about fishing sounds appealing. There’s another screening on Thursday, May 9th.
I had nice long break between films today, which gave me a chance to write up these notes and have a cocktail at one of the Kabuki lounges. Little did I know when I ordered my drink that it would coordinate with this year’s program.
Next up, a rundown of the films I saw today: Chaika, The Cleaner, and They’ll Come Back.