The San Francisco International Film Festival starts this week and there really is something for everyone.
The festival, which runs from April 23-May 7, has tributes to big Hollywood stars like Richard Gere to great talents behind the screen such as writer Paul Schrader and director Guillermo del Toro, both Oscar winners.
In addition, audiences are treated to a diverse array of movies with everything from documentaries about Steve Jobs to a scripted behind the scenes view of the lives of Brian Wilson and of Yves Saint Laurent.
Movies with the most GLBT appeal do include “Saint Laurent,” which plays the festival April 26, and then actually enjoys a theatrical release in May at Landmark Theatres.
“Saint Laurent” is interesting in many ways. First off, it shows the rise of one of the world’s premiere fashion designer, who was one of the first designers to use persons of color as models. While the movie shows his (homo) sexual life, it also shows Saint Laurent’s desire to keep his life private, wanting people to focus on his designs.
An interesting aside on this film is it is not the first narrative feature on Saint Laurent. There was another movie a few years back and then another released around the same time as this one. This happens quite a bit in Hollywood – one film usually backs off. But it’s been nicknamed “twin movies” and there’s kind of a funny post about it on Wikipedia. But with these movies, to confuse people more between this film “Saint Laurent” and the other film “Yves Saint Laurent,” both films did very well at last year’s Cesar Awards, the French Academy Awards.
Other movies at SFIFF of GLBT interest include:
“54,” screening April 24, is based upon the true story of the famous New York disco of the same name, was to be a giant hit when it came out in 1998. Alas, the movie with a $13 million budget only made about that much in its theatrical release. It did spawn two hit CDs filled with dance classics, but the movie received mostly bad reviews and was supposed to be the springboard for the career of Ryan Phillippe, who did survive this film more than Elizabeth Berkley in “Showgirls.”
Seeing this again, in its new cut, might actually be a good thing. Some of the reviewers during the film’s original release said it was too superficial and skimmed over a lot of the story and grit of the club. Director Mark Christopher is given a second chance to get his movie seen with this new version screening at SFIFF so it might find an audience yet.
The festival’s international flavor is certainly evident in two movies that are joint ventures from several countries.
“Sworn Virgin,” showing May 2, is a Italy/Switzerland/German/Albania/Kosovo production, focuses on a young Albanian woman, chafing against her culture’s strict stance on women’s behavior and makes the decision to follow the local tradition of living as a man before questioning her choices and leaving it all behind to join her sister in Italy.
“Sand Dollars,” screening April 25, connects Dominican Republic/Argentina/Mexico, tells of a Dominican Republic woman in her early 20s navigates a complicated romance with a wealthy, much older woman, whose drifting from place-to-place forms a counterpoint to her young lover’s daily hustle.
There’s also a film by GLBT filmmaker Jenni Olson, who shares her voice in a personal documentary entitled “Royal Road,” screening April 29 and 30.
Not one to take the road less travelled, Olson offers an insight in the El Camino Real, which was said to be the road that connected Jesuit and Franciscan monks in the late 17th century and Olson somehow is able to tie this in with personal stories of unrequited love, Hollywood movie plots and pre-Gold Rush California.
San Francisco is represented in the short film “The Lexington,” included in “Boomtown: Remaking San Francisco” shorts program on April 30.
The Lexington Club is one of the last lesbian bar in San Francisco and announced months ago about it closing and the date now seems to be the end of this month. Its story, as well as the others in this collection, focus on reshaping SF. By the way, while the doors close April 30, they are having a big closing party April 24: www.lexingtonclub.com.
The festival also features movies of general interest that star Kristen Wiig (“Welcome to Me”), Olympia Dukakis (“7 Chinese Brothers”) and Ian McKellen (“Mr. Holmes”).
Learn all about the movies coming to SFIFF – gay and straight – at www.sffs.org.