SFIFF 58 – The Festival continues with babes, blowhards and “B” movies…

Hello there, readers.  Thanks for joining me for my coverage of Day #4 of the San Francisco International Film Festival.  It was another day filled with phenomenally enjoyable entertainment, thanks to a film from France, a documentary about the old-school political landscape and another documentary about a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart: bad movies.  Let’s delve into what I experienced on Sunday, shall we?
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First up was The New Girlfriend, a very clever little title from Francois Ozon, whose entry in last year’s festival, Young & Beautiful was one of its highlights in my opinion.  I’ve never seen his 2002 film Swimming Pool, which gained him a great deal of notoriety in the states, but I am certainly tempted after the two of his that I’ve seen now.  The New Girlfriend is one of those films that even the press materials seems to have kept quiet on about the story and there really isn’t much I can say without getting into what some may consider spoiler territory.  I feel comfortable saying that the film deals with cross-dressing and does so in an often rather comedic way.  Anyone looking for a deeper exploration of why certain people experience the desire of this practice will probably not find much they don’t already know, but the story still goes in places I didn’t expect and provides insights that I hadn’t previously thought of.  It’s very funny at times, when dealing with how society looks at this practice, and the film is careful not to make the humor at anyone’s expense.  It just allows us to laugh at the surprises and the uncomfortable nature of people’s reactions to such a thing.  When I think about how Adam Sandler would have handled material like this, I can’t help but shudder a little.  The New Girlfriend is nothing spectacular, but it’s solid and has plenty of good performances.
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Next up at the long-standing Clay Theater, down the street from the usual Sundance Cinemas, was the documentary Best Of Enemies which told the story of an unforgettable series of debates between a liberal Gore Vidal and a conservative William F. Buckley Jr. during the Presidential Campaigns of 1968.  The debates were televised by the then struggling network ABC who felt like they had to do something different from the others in order to be taken at all seriously.  It was a risk that paid off, and paved the way for the 24 hour news cycle with talking heads consistently shouting at each other that we all know today.  Both Vidal and Buckley come across as truly pompous individuals in this day and age, as I feel most Americans today prefer to watch people who they feel they’re on the same level with.  When they battle back and forth with the finishing school candor of classic Disney villains, it feels delightfully old-school and a refreshing reminder of when intelligence was valued a little more highly in America.  As much fun as it is to watch these two together, one can’t shake the feeling that this was the beginning of the end for the news media.  This led to all of the shouting matches that we’re bombarded with today.  People rarely listen to each other anymore.  People rarely are allowed to form full, coherent thoughts.  They have their own opinions and will stay inside of that box without letting any new perspectives in.  It’s a shame.  And this documentary, in addition to being wildly entertaining, also gives some real perspective.  It’s probably my favorite film at the festival so far.
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Finally we have another spectacularly entertaining documentary about something completely different.  Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films.  Here we get the inside story about a pair of Tommy Wiseaus named Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who successfully managed to get hundreds of the most ridiculous ideas on the big screen.  These two producers worked with small budgets, cheap special effects, incessant amounts of nudity and violence, and they relished in every moment of it.  For better or for worse, they kind of set the template for the way movies are made today.  Or if they didn’t set it, they definitely made it more visible than anyone else.  Whenever there was a successful movie out there, they came in and made their own version of it.  Sometimes they’d combine multiple successful formulas into one film whether it made any sense or not.  And they managed to get some really big names involved.  Brooke Shields, Bo Derek, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Reeve and their go-to staples Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson.  Anyone who’s a fan of “so-bad-it’s-good” when it comes to filmgoing will have plenty to find super entertaining here.  The 107 minute doc is filled to the brim with some of the most bonkers film clips I’ve ever seen, and the multiple incredulous accounts of the actors and crewmembers who were there and saw it all happen all make for one of the funniest movies I’ve seen this year.  The documentary doesn’t shy away from the occasional serious issue.  Things turn quite somber when the issue of the excessive rape scenes in a handful of their films comes up, an issue which they are right to examine.  But overall, this documentary is as upbeat as any other that I’ve seen.  I had a blast.  I may have to see some of their films now.

Well, there was no soul-shattering experience like Entertainment today, which is probably good.  I think one of those a year is enough.  So I was able to be treated with three very entertaining, mostly very funny, films that I may not have noticed if not for the San Francisco International Film Festival.  I recommend all three of these and I hope you check them out.

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