Actresses (2007)

Posted in Film Reviews, San Francisco Film Society on October 25, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

The most frustrating aspect of San Francisco Film Society’s (SFFS) French Cinema Now was that I couldn’t see all of the films.  In fact, I did not even make it into the film that I was originally trying to see because the Blue Angels filled the busses down Fillmore.  I have almost forgiven the plane shows for all the disruptions they have caused this past week due to how much I loved Actresses (2007), the film I ended up seeing, which I would not have seen otherwise.  Of course, I do not think that I would have seen a bad film this weekend since SFFS made a point to show award-winning material; most of it from the past two years but two were from the nineties and one from 1965. Regardless, although I would like to see some of the other films, I am still very glad that I got to see the one that I did.

Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi is the director/co-writer/star powerhouse behind Actresses.  In this movie Bruni-Tedeschi plays Marcelline, a fairly successful actress going through, effectively, a mid-life crisis.  Marcelline is in her early forties but has started going into menopause and realizes very suddenly that all she wants is a child and, since she has no husband, or even a boyfriend at the time, this dream will probably not come true.  Much of her neurosis stem from this idea of having a child, but she is also plagued with visions of her dead father, fiancé, and the embodiment of the character she is playing in the play A Month in the Country that she is rehearsing for and eventually performs throughout the movie.  The play adds to Marcelline’s difficulties because she is so entrenched in confusion about her own person and then playing a character that is very different from her and ultimately she gives a performance that audiences love but those who know her very well know to be less than her best.  One of the indicators to her mother and aunt is that Marcelline cannot genuinely laugh in the play – which she tries to solve several different ways.  To add to everything she also finds herself having feelings for a much younger man in the play but does not know how to react to these feelings.  One thing continually builds on another throughout the movie and Bruni-Tedeschi shows the increasing neurosis of an actress. 

Actresses is not Bruni-Tedeschi’s first time playing a neurotic character, in fact, “[she] is so much at ease in this sort of context that she has [played many] borderline characters…neurotic girls who are victim to all sorts of phobias, caught up in a living hell” (Murat).  Pierre Murat classified her as part of a new generation of French actresses in his article and although this is the only movie of hers that I have seen, I would believe that she has earned her place there.   Actresses was directed and co-written by Bruni-Tedeschi, so she cannot claim that she is purely typecast as these chronically upset women but, “As she herself puts it: ‘There are actresses who want to become stars and those who see acting as a sort of confession. I belong to the second category’” (Murat).  In fact, according to a review by Boyd van Hoeij from Cannes, where Actresses won a Special Jury Prize, “Actresses is at least partially autobiographical, though this time around the dramatic comedy set in the rich, bourgeois, and vaguely intellectual Parisian bubble of Bruni-Tedeschi’s alter ego veers more towards comedy as the film progresses, earning good-hearted laughs as well as, well, whatever one may feel towards this particular milieu.”  

Throughout Actresses there are several moments which are particularly brilliant or endearing.  Two of the moments are related to Marcelline’s obsession with having a child. At one point she desperately asks a priest if he will have a child with her because, “Christianity is all about giving.”  Near the end of the movie while Marcelline is at the theatre trying to laugh she hears a baby crying, and lo and behold her dreams are answered by a baby in a laundry basket.  She takes the baby into a dressing room and begins playing with it until the real mother appears, the extremely jealous and slightly unsettled stage manager for the play, who explodes at Marcelline and also crushes her dreams.  Another brilliant moment is set up earlier in the movie by a swimming instructor who works at the pool where Marcelline swims; to give power to her stroke, he tells her of a famous swimmer who would listen to Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” immediately before competing and would swim to the beat of the song.  At the end of the movie when Marcelline attempts to kill herself by jumping into the river she is seen shortly thereafter swimming madly to the bank, underscored by “In the Mood.”  It’s moments like these that truly made Actresses so enjoyable – Bruni-Tedeschi’s character is made so much more real by these intimate scenes of humanness. 

After having watched Actresses and enjoying it so much, as well as knowing of many other French films that have delighted me in their ability to show new stories (Audrey Tatou’s Amelie comes to mind) I find myself wanting to watch as many films as I can from France.  I can’t wait to see what else the country has to offer that I have yet to discover.  SFFS’s French Cinema Now has proven itself as the perfect starting guide.


Neighborhood Update: The Mission at 16th & Valencia

Posted in San Francisco Neighborhoods, SF on October 24, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

The Roxie Theater

Established in 1909 The Roxie Movie theatre is the oldest continually operating theatre in San Francisco. Known as “provocative and risk-taking” the Roxie shows more documentaries than any other theatre in the country. In my opinion, the Roxie’s mission statement most thoroughly describes the theatre: “Through exhibition of diverse films, film festivals and special events, the Center seeks to be the premiere community resource and venue for San Francisco’s diverse Bay Area film community, and a model for the future of independent film exhibition in the United States” ( I attended 13 Going On at the Roxie and American Teen at the little Roxie, a smaller cozier screen attached, and must say that both film provided an eye-opening look into the teen world. The theatre certainly seems to be fulfilling its mission… in the mission.

After digesting a movie as provocative and inspiring as those shown at the Roxie, you might get hungry. And after all the brain processing you definitely need some protein, like in sushi! However, in the block surrounding the Roxie there are plenty of options, but I do have some advice…

Sushi: Try and Avoid…

We Be Sushi. I stopped in there one night fairly early. The cute sign advertising the bar and sushi drew me in. Oh the powers of marketing. I was beyond disappointed. The sushi was bland and uninspiring. The staff was rude, which is something I have rarely experienced anywhere, especially in San Francisco. And in fact the green tea, which of all things should be easy, was actually disgusting. It really was sushi like my mom would make, but that is anything but a compliment.

Instead, I would recommend…

Yoyo sushi. Caddy-corner from the Roxie, the neon signs of Yoyo sushi caught my attention. I was looking from an improvement from We Be and I found it. While the sushi was nothing special and a bit more expensive, it was a lot better. They had a wide selection of rolls, both traditional and not. While the sushi was not up to par of something I would expect from the mission, it was definitely an improvement.

If anyone has any recommendations on where to get better sushi in this neighborhood, please share! In the mean time…

If you just want a latte before the show…

I would recommend Ritual Coffee Roasters. A bit farther up Valencia, Ritual Roasters is a great hip coffee shop that offers a great atmosphere for studying. The coffee is Ritual’s claim to fame though, so make sure to check it out if you’re the espresso connoisseur.

The Roxie Theatre
3117 16th Street
San Francisco, CA

We Be Sushi
538 Valencia Street (Between 16th and 17th)
San Francisco, CA

Yo-Yo Restaurant
3092 16th Street
San Francisco, CA

Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia
San Francisco, CA



Posted in Individual Intros with tags , , on October 22, 2008 by foggyfirstframes


My name is Emily Ballaine, newly transplanted to the city from Sonoma county. I’m not planning on going into film as a career, but I’m loving exploring the city through movies and venturing out to different venues. I’m not entirely sure what I should say in this intro. Let’s see, I enjoy long walks on the beach… I guess I’m just excited to be living in such an amazing place like San Francisco. Coming from a small town it’s been a bit of shock, but in a good way…

Explore Away…

Posted in Exploratorium, SF on October 20, 2008 by foggyfirstframes
Inside the kaleidoscope room!

Inside the kaleidoscope room!

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the Exploratorium. As a child I remember coming here with my parents, my favorite part being the music section with crazy instruments you’d never find anywhere else. I’d learn about the inside of my ear, and what frequency meant and how to put together a melody.

That’s the beauty of the Exploratorium, really. It gives kids a chance to learn without really realizing that they’re learning (which is the best way, in my opinion). When my film class went last Friday, I got the chance to revisit my childhood (for free!) and revel in all the same exhibits I loved as a child, as well as explore (no pun intended) the new sections that have recently been added.

One thing in particular that I got to see for the first time was this secret screening room directly to the left of the entrance. I had no idea this cozy little theater existed! My class was lucky enough to get the chance to watch several 16mm independent short films and one digital short. My favorite of these films was a 5 minute stop-motion short, Things I’d Say If I Were Pope (1993). In this homage to artist and poet Dean Snyder, directors Marion Wallace and Michael Rudnick illustrate one of Snyder’s poems using a pin screen and stream-of-consciousness stop-motion animation. I loved its eloquence and its honesty.

Out of the entire Exploratorium, though, I think my favorite part was a small room of mirrors that made me feel like I was inside a kaleidoscope. When my friends and I all stuffed ourselves inside, it was overwhelming!

Haley Smith

Experimental Films at the ExplOratorium

Posted in Exploratorium on October 20, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

By Lukas

The Exploratorium is a hands-on science museum that was founded in 1969. Since it began, the Exploratorium has become one of the most popular museums in San Francisco. Its exhibits are hands-on and focus mostly on human perspective: both visual and auditory. They trick your mind and confuse your senses. The experience is so unique and engaging that parents enjoy the museum as much as their children. 

When we visited the museum with class, however, we did not come to mess around with the exhibits. Upon arrival, the class was led into a screening room where we had the privilege of viewing some of the experimental films from the museum’s archive. Each film utilizes unusual cinematography techniques such as stop motion animation and time lapse photography in order to turn images of mundane reality into works of art. Films like Michael Rudnick’s “Panorama” allows us to see the sun float across the sky over the city and shadows dance swiftly across a dark apartment room. “Zea”, a several minute long close-up clip of a popcorn kernel popping, is a stunningly beautiful display of color and light. It isn’t even possible to tell what is happening in the film until the very end when the camera zooms out to show the popped kernel. 

So what do these experimental films have to do with the Exploratorium? Both aim to show us the world as we do not normally see it. While the exhibits at the museum are based in science, the films make use of an artistic medium to achieve the same purpose. By incorporating experimental film into its program, the Exploratorium provides a new angle from which to study the world around us. Our visit opened my eyes to the possibilities of experimental film.

para explorar

Posted in Exploratorium with tags , on October 20, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

Last week, i was fortunate enough to go to the exploratorium for the first time.  As a class we saw many short films in 16mm, that were made by local filmmakers.  I was not especially impressed by these films.  I appreciated them for what they were (independent filmmakers using their creative ability), and would encourage people to pursue this type of filmmaking if it was their passion.  I really enjoyed this new experience with a different type of filmmaking.

The best part of this excursion was getting into the exploritorium for absolutely nothing.  This place is like the epitomy of every childs dream times 1000000000.  I had to resist the urge to run around and touch everything at once.  God forbid a child should have ADD and go there, i think they might explode from sensory overload.  If anyone is making the excursion to the exploritorium i will be happy to accompany you.




Is this thing on?…

Posted in Individual Intros on October 20, 2008 by foggyfirstframes

Hello all!

My name’s Jordan Beall, straight out of Nor Cal’s Napa Valley from the tiny, one stoplight, grape-growing town of Calistoga. To give an example of exactly how small my town is: Graduating class = 39 people, school 7th grade to 12th grade = 360 people. It’s not exactly the most exciting place which is one reason San Francisco interested me so much. I love this city and have grown up driving down here on the weekends and exploring the more well known areas. Coming to this school was pretty much a given although I have no idea what I’m doing now that I’m here. I’m a psychology major, soon to change to International Studies. I want to try to double major in Art and minor in business but I’ll settle for at least graduating on time. My two passions are ART and TRAVELING. I love to draw, paint and especially use charcoal. I love to make movies with my friends, very very amateur films of course, usually making fun of well know Hollywood films, but that is as far as my film experience goes. My favorite movies include The Breakfast Club, Amelie, Fight Club, Donnie Darko, Juno, Into The Wild, Dazed and Confused, Requiem For A Dream, Ghost World, Garden State, Knocked Up, The Virgin Suicides, The Labrinth (david bowie!), American Beauty, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist and many many more. I also love music (although my piano lessons were a failure)and I love love love going to shows. Seeing a band live is by far my favorite pass time. Going back to what I said earlier, I love traveling. I spent a year living in Denmark from 2006-07 and it was the best time of my life. I’ve traveled all over Europe and really gained an appreciation for our small world. But now I’m here, at USF, chillin in Gillson Hall. Hope you all found my life/interests some what intriguing.