SF International Fest Starts Today; "Factotum," "Romance," "Companion" and More!

by | April 20, 2006 | Comments

Bay Area RTers, get yourselves to San Francisco this weekend for the annual SF International Film Festival for your chance to see flicks like "Factotum," "Art School Confidential," and John Turturro‘s "Romance & Cigarettes" (if you missed their earlier festival runs).

SFIFF boasts a mixture of international and American films, including sneak peeks at a handful of flicks slated for release in the coming months and films from Terry Zwigoff, Bent Hamer, Robert Altman, Anders Thomas Jensen, Seijun Suzuki, Hsiao-hsien Hou and more. Read on for a rundown of the festival highlights.

Fans of John Turturro will be glad to see his third directorial effort, "Romance & Cigarettes," on the slate for SFIFF, especially since the all-star project doesn’t yet have an American release scheduled. The "down-and-dirty" musical stars James Gandolfini as a working class man torn between his wife (Susan Sarandon) and his sultry mistress (Kate Winslet), and also features Steve Buscemi, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, and Christopher Walken. Turturro buds Joel and Ethan Coen are also in as executive producers.

Bent Hamer‘s "Factotum" has enjoyed critical praise since last year’s Cannes, but was notoriously dropped by distributor Picturehouse and went back on market at Sundance. Luckily for us, IFC Films snapped it up and set an August 2006 U.S. release; with 12 reviews in, this Bukowski semi-biographical adaptation is sitting pretty at 100% on the Tomatometer.

Also making an appearance at SFIFF is Neil Marshall‘s all-girl horror flick, "The Descent." With a story that follows a group of women on a caving expedition that, of course, goes horribly wrong, this flick is earning high praise among horror fans — and also boasts an early Tomatometer of 100%, with 10 reviews.

Honorary Oscar-winner Robert Altman‘s latest star-studded pic, "A Prairie Home Companion," will hit theaters this June — but why wait? With only 5 reviews in, it’s hard to tell if "Prairie"’s 100% Tomatometer will stay, but the trades loved it. Altman’s cast includes Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, and John C. Reilly.

"Art School Confidential" will open in limited release May 5, but you can catch an early peek during the fest. It currently sits at 38% on the Tomatometer with 8 reviews from the Sundance crowd, who rest divided on the latest Terry ZwigoffDan Clowes collaboration.

"Half Nelson," the newest pic from filmmaking team Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, is one for the Ryan Gosling-loving crowd. The August release stars Gosling as an inner-city teacher who strikes up a friendship with one of his students, and currently has a Tomatometer of 83%.

Also slated is a panel with Tommy Pallota, producer of Richard Linklater‘s hyper-visual excursions "A Scanner Darkly" and "Waking Life." If you didn’t catch the secret SXSW screening of "Scanner," show up to see a 20-minute preview clip presented by Pallota.

Since this is an international festival, a slew of Asian and European films flesh out the rest of the festival. Tonight’s opening night film will be Peter Chan‘s pan-Asian backstage musical, "Perhaps Love," starring pop sensation Jacky Cheung and Takeshi Kaneshiro. With lensmen Chris Doyle and Peter Pau (the respective cinematographers of "2046" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") both contributing, and Bollywood choreographer Farah Khan on board for the musical-within-a-musical, this inter-era story is being called a lavish, moving tribute to the magic of cinema and of love.

More treats for Asian cinephiles include Seijun Suzuki‘s "Princess Raccoon," a Japanese folktale-esque pop opera starring Zhang Ziyi as a mystical raccoon-like creature (in beautiful woman form) who falls in love with a prince; and Hsiaio-hsien Hou‘s "Three Times," a love story set in three different eras.

Representing the European contingent are filmmakers like Denmark’s Anders Thomas Jensen (with his neo-Nazi comic character study, "Adam’s Apples"), dance filmmaker Carlos Saura (chronicling Spanish gypsy dances in "Iberia"), and Phillippe Garrel (whose "Regular Lovers" stars son Louis Garrel as a poet in 1968 Paris — raise your hand if you liked "The Dreamers!").

For more films and a schedule of the SFFIF, head over to their official site.

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