Time and again, you hold your breath during two hours of cinematic brilliance. What will emerge from the dark? What are those strange shapes in the searchlight? Will the camel bite? Will the bees stint?
Alice Rohrwacher’s “The Wonders” (Le meraviglie) offers surprise after surprise, beginning with the dilemma of deciding whether to see it or not. One one hand, it has a sleep-inducing plot summary (life with a German-Italian beekeeper’s large family in the Tuscan countryside); on the other, it’s last year’s Cannes Grand Prix winner.
Go with the Cannes jury, and do your best to catch the only remaining festival screening on April 29 in Berkeley (http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program/the-wonders)… or wait until the film’s commercial release (when a full review can be published).
For now, here is this much: “Wonders” has the inexplicable, rare-in-Hollywood quality of taking viewers away to another world, of people you come to care about. Brilliant camerawork, five astonishing child actors, Sam Louwyck as the scary head of the family, and the director’s drop-dead gorgeous sister, Alba Rohrwacher, as the believable maternal heroine, the glamorous presence of Monica Bellucci make it all come to life, and stay with you long after the film’s wondrously ambiguous finale.
This is just one of the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival’s 181 offerings (http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58) over two weeks, which include two world, five North American, and five U.S. premieres. The country’s oldest film festival also has the distinction of presenting the work of 59 women directors.
Of special interest:
* Presentation of the Kanbar Award to Paul Schrader, and screening of his “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters” (with Philip Glass’ score), April 28 (http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program/kanbar-award-paul-schrader-mishima-a…
* “Boomtown: the Remaking of San Francisco,” April 30 (http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program/boomtown-remaking-san-francisco) – a variety program about the city, including documentary films
* Tsui Hark’s “The Taking of Tiger Mountain,” April 30 (http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program/the-taking-of-tiger-mountain) – the story of the battle between Communist and Nationalist forces at the end of World War II, told in the style of a Mao-era Chinese opera]
* “Bota” is the name of a cafe, meaning “life” in Albanian, a feature about contemporary life in that country,
May 3 and 7 (http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program/bota)
* Bill Condon’s “Mr. Holmes,” May 5 (http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program/mr-holmes) – Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes in his 90s, embarking on his last case