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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This week at SFC: Bread and Roses

Our screenings are free and all are welcome.

Feature film will commence at 8:15 pm this week....

Bread and Roses (Ken Loach/2001/UK/110’)

After surviving a perilous journey from Mexico to the US, Maya (Padilla) enlists the help of her hard-working sister Rosa (Carrillo) to secure a job among other immigrant cleaners with a non-union cleaning agency in a downtown office block. A fated meeting with Sam (Adrien Brody), a committed activist, leads to a guerrilla-style manoeuvre against their employers for standard union benefits. It is a fight which carries the risk of the loss of livelihoods and deportation from the US.
Based on the real life Justice For Janitors campaign in 1990, Ken Loach's first foray into American production (his shooting style remains relatively unaltered) is a typically committed, and politically and socially aware film about ordinary human dignity in the face of corporate might and indifference. As ever, the director draws naturalistic performances from a largely untried cast with Padilla - in her acting debut - revealing the spirit and defiance which characterised the workers' struggle and the plight of those eking out a living in a foreign and often hostile land.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This week at SFC: Black Cat, White Cat

Our screenings are FREE and all are welcome.
Feature film will commence at 8:15 pm this week....
We are back in the back studio!

Black Cat, White Cat (Emir Kusturica/Serbo-Croat/1998/124’)

From the acclaimed director of ‘Time of the Gypsies’ and ‘Underground’ this colourful, fast, and farcical comedy of Gypsy life on the Danube develops a wide cast of larger-than-life characters, built around two octagenarian friends and feuding rivals, Grga and Zarije, and their families. One is boss of the garbage dumps, the other is boss of the cement factories, but both have problems with their offspring. Zarije's good-for-nothing son Matko plans a train heist that will finally bring him respect and wealth but is forced to ask help from Grga. He loses all in a double-cross by his partner, the manic, coke-snorting "businessman-patriot" Dadan, who demands that he pay the debt by marrying off his son Zare to Dadan's headstrong sister, Afrodita. Complicating the plot further, the innocent Zare has fallen for comely barmaid Ida, who soon initiates him into the mysteries of love. Frenetically paced and hilariously funny, Black Cat, White Cat builds to its uproarious climax, the arranged wedding of Zare and Afrodita, through a slapstick sequence of wild chases, exuberant parties, fake deaths, skullduggery, double-crosses, mishaps, and pratfalls. Its cinematography, as rich as the action, includes Fellini-esque scenes of pigs eating cars and the obligatory flocks of geese. The rousing sound track of Gypsy music adds to the folklore and fun. Actor Srdan Todorovic as the wild Dadan returns from director Emir Kusturica's earlier somber work, Underground, accompanied by an excellent cast, including many Gypsy non- professionals, who display an uncanny family resembance. A ribald, buoyant comedy.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

This week at SFC: Sullivan's Travels

Our screenings are free and all are welcome.

Feature film will commence at 8:15 pm this week....


Preston Sturges was a writer-director the like of which we haven't seen since. He was a well-connected anarchist in a system that frowned on such tendencies - unless they made money. Directors such as Billy Wilder owed a great debt to him.
Sturges's America was cheerfully corrupt, absurd and frequently unaware of its own ridiculousness, and his films were so high on comic dynamism that you could readily forgive the wayward lip service to logic.
His glory days were brief. Within 10 years of his directorial debut, The Great McGinty (1940), he was worn out, and he died bankrupt in 1959. But in his heyday he made half a dozen comedies as subversive as any now, and a good deal funnier. Sullivan's Travels was probably his masterpiece.
It starts off with Joel McCrea's Sullivan, a director of farces who wants to get serious with a script called O Brother, Where Art Thou? (the Coen Brothers were inspired to entitle their movie thus), being berated by studio bosses because he doesn't know the meaning of the poverty that Brother talks about.
So he borrows a tramp's outfit from the wardrobe department andtakes to the road, with a studio bus full of doctors, bodyguards and secretaries a discreet distance behind him. The more he tries to break away from Hollywood, the faster it comes towards him. After picking up a failed actress who says things like "There's nothing like a deep-dish movie for driving you into the open", the rich man's search for poverty ends in a fight with a policeman that has him incarcerated in a chain-gang.
In a key scene, he and the other convicts go to a gospel church hall, where the minister instructs his congregation to welcome those less fortunate. And together everyone roars with laughter at a Disney cartoon. Sullivan may not have found seriousness but at last he has found how valuable true comedy is.
Unconvincing as this may seem - and certainly sentimental - it is an unforgettable moment, perhaps telling us that the high art Sturges despised is worthless if merely inspired by middle-class guilt. Even if you don't appreciate this defining sequence in the film, everything else gels perfectly: the ridiculous studio bus full of hangers-on trying to get Sullivan out of the scrapes he falls into, the butlers who object to the whole enterprise, the ghastly wife who thinks he's dead and lays flowers on his supposed grave like a fashionable zombie.
Is the film serious underneath its hilarity? Perhaps not entirely, since Sturges, like Sullivan, never quite knew how to do it. But the way his assemblage of characters so often seem to realise their own failings at least betokens a sophisticated, perhaps kindly cynic. People have tended to say that Sturges' films were as confused as he was. If that is so, long live abstracted directors, since they tend to see the world as it is rather than as we might wish it to be.