Category Archives: Showcase Series

The Return of the Showcase #SBIFF

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The long-awaited return of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s (SBIFF) Showcase Film Series is upon us. Here’s what leading outlets have to say about the opening film at the newly retrofitted Lynda and Bruce’s (named for recently named SBIFF Board President and founder of festival sponsor, Lynda Weinman and her husband, Bruce Heavin, co-founder of Riviera Theater, LE TROU:

The New York Times


The Lynda and Bruce’s Riviera Theater features new seating and state-of-the-art Dolby sound and projection. A newly designed concession stand will be offering designer-made candies, fresh popcorn and a variety of sundries.  And if that isn’t already enough, here comes LE TROU, a 1960 classic film, where four men in La Santé Prison, staring down the barrel at hard time, decide to execute a prison break and are forced to bring on a fifth member, Claude Gaspard (Marc Michel), when he is assigned to their cell. The particulars of the escape, based on actual events, are rendered in painstaking detail as the five men dream of freedom.

*To note, today is the “soft opening” of Lynda and Bruce’s Riviera Theater. Nevertheless, what a “soft opening” film!

Le Trou

Get Tickets Here

Friday, September 8 – 14


Directed by Jacques Becker
Written by Jacques Becker, José Giovanni, Jean Aurel
Starring Marc Michel, Raymond Meunier, Jean Keraudy, Michel Constantin, Philippe Leroy
Country of Origin: France/Italy
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 132 minutes



See you there!



(Media materials provided by


Note from Roger – Neruda

Posted by Larry Gleeson

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

NERUDA is an extraordinary film about the extraordinary poet Pablo Neruda.  It makes the beautiful connection that film owes a lot to poetry.  It’s one of the best films of the year, and I would encourage you not to miss it.  I’m attaching the New York Times review below. See… its last showing…(Wednesday) at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Get Tickets Here


‘Neruda’ Pursues the Poet as Fugitive
By A. O. Scott – New York Times

“Neruda,” Pablo Larraín’s semifantastical biopic, is a warmhearted film about a hot-blooded man that is nonetheless troubled by a subtle, perceptible chill. Blending fact with invention, it tells the story of a confrontation between an artist (the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda) and an emerging dictatorship, and more generally illuminates the endless struggle between political authority and the creative imagination. For anyone who believes that poetry and democracy spring from the same source and provoke the same enemies, this movie provides both encouragement and warning.

It starts, cameras whirling and swooping, in 1948, with Neruda (Luis Gnecco), a prominent leftist politician as well as a literary celebrity, in a rhetorical war with Chile’s president, Gabriel González Videla, an erstwhile ally in the process of moving from left to right. When Videla bans the Communist Party, Neruda — who represents that party in the Chilean Senate — goes from opposition figure to outlaw. Much of “Neruda” is a shaggy-dog cat-and-mouse game, as Neruda and his wife, Delia (Mercedes Morán), are pursued by Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal), a preening police inspector who stakes his professional honor on his ability to track down the country’s most famous fugitive.

Peluchonneau is an invented character, a creature conjured from crime fiction and touched with philosophical melancholy as well as ruthlessness. Whippet-thin and strait-laced, he stands in dour contrast to Neruda, a plump sensualist with a robust sense of mischief and an inexhaustible appetite for pleasure. With and without Delia, the poet manages to stay one step ahead of his nemesis, executing a series of escapes that seem equally inspired by Hitchcock and those old Peter Sellers “Pink Panther” movies.

Neruda also composes “Canto General,” his great, Whitmanesque work on the glories and miseries of Latin America. Pages are distributed clandestinely, and committed to memory by workers and peasants. Their popularity, and Neruda’s easygoing populism, are a rebuke to the arrogance of the ruling class and the Chilean state. And Mr. Larraín’s eye for the rugged beauty of Chile’s protean landscapes implies a similar argument. The poet is open to nature and humanity. The policeman is consumed by rules, tactics and procedures.

Peluchonneau is a tragically constricted soul, but not an entirely unsympathetic character. Neruda is a heroic figure — comic and Dionysian, brilliant and naughty — but his personal Javert is in some ways the film’s protagonist. Neruda is annoyed and sometimes amused by the detective’s doggedness, but Peluchonneau is haunted by the poet’s mystique, and by a growing sense of his own incompleteness. A curious symbiosis develops between them, a dynamic more complex and strange than the simple conflict of good and evil.

Mr. Larraín is a master of moral ambiguity. His previous films about Chile — “Tony Manero,” “No” (which also starred Mr. Bernal) and “The Club” — are interested in collaboration as well as resistance, in the inner lives of the corrupt as well as the actions of the virtuous. Those movies, in particular “Tony Manero,” set during the military dictatorship in the 1970s, and “The Club,” about a group of disgraced priests, are studies in claustrophobia, with cloudy cinematography and grubby behavior.

“Neruda” has a looser story, richer colors and a more buoyant spirit. It is less abrasive than Mr. Larraín’s Chilean trilogy, and less intensely focused than “Jackie,” his new English-language film about Jacqueline Kennedy in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination. But like that unorthodox foray into history, this one approaches political issues from an oblique angle, looking for the idiosyncrasies and ironies that humanize the pursuit of ideals and the exercise of power.

The period details cast a romantic glow over Neruda’s flight, which feels more swashbuckling than desperate. But the film casts a shadow forward in time, into the darkness of Chile’s later, bloodier period of military rule, and beyond that into the political uncertainties of the present, in Latin America and elsewhere. Mr. Larraín invites us to believe that history is on the side of the poets and the humanists, and that art will make fools of politicians and policemen. But he is also aware, as Pablo Neruda was, that history sometimes has other plans.


#SBIFF The Showcase – Neruda

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Exclusively screening in Los Angeles, New York, and Santa Barbara

The eventful and unorthodox life of the Nobel Prize–winning poet, politician, committed communist, unapologetic hedonist, and Chilean cultural icon Pablo Neruda provides plentiful territory for cinematic exploration. The poet’s early-1950s exile in Procida previously inspired Michael Radford’s Il Postino, a fictionalized story about Neruda’s relationship with a local postman that left few cinemagoers dry-eyed. Now, Pablo Larraín, Chile’s most inventive and provocative contemporary filmmaker, takes a wholly unique approach to his famous countryman’s life and work with Neruda, which is set during the poet’s sojourn underground in the late 1940s.


Joe Morgenstern – The Wall Street Journal

“Grade A – brilliant. Riffs on Neruda’s life in a near-frenzy of visual and narrative inventiveness. Gael Garcia Bernal is outstanding.”
Jessica Kiang – The Playlist

“Thoughtful and provocative. A very beautiful made film.”
Kenneth Turan – LA Times

“An Inventive, incredibly entertaining drama.”
Benjamin Lee – the guardian


Friday, December 30 @ 11:00am
Saturday, December 31 @ 11:00am
Sunday, January 1 @ 2:00pm
Monday, January 2 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, January 3 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, January 4 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra

Get Tickets Here

Directed by Pablo Larraín
Written by Guillermo Calderón
Starring Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Alfredo Castro, Michael Silva,  Mercedes Morán,  Pablo Derqui
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Rated R (for sexuality/nudity and some language)


SBIFF’s Year in Review – Roger Durling

Posted  by Larry Gleeson

From SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling

As we head into a New Year and pave our way forward in 2017, I’d like to take pause to recognize our successes of 2016, including our decision to acquire the Riviera Theatre – a major turning point for SBIFF.  Our new home will allow us to expand and to further engage, enrich, and inspire people through the power of film on a year-round basis.


The first quarter of 2016 marked one of the most unforgettable Festivals. SBIFF continues to be an incredible education platform where Oscar-winning and nominated industry leaders, independent filmmakers, fans, and students gather to celebrate and learn.  All of us at SBIFF are honored to provide a world-class festival where thousands of visitors and local residents of all ages participate, right here in our hometown.

We expanded our film series The Showcase, and launched two new education programs: (1) Film Camp – a partnership with the United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County that teaches filmmaking and film appreciation to middle and high school students; and (2) Programs for Seniors – a partnership with Easy Lift Transportation that provides a fun movie-going experience for transit dependent seniors.


We also had another tremendous year of Cinema Society and treated our community to the latest Hollywood films, and welcomed some of the world’s most talented filmmakers working today: Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals; Damien Chazelle – La La Land; Jeff Nichols – Loving; Kevin Costner – Hidden Figures; Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water; Pablo Larraín – Jackie, Neruda; and Denis Villeneuve – Arrival.

The 11th Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film was the most successful in our history.  We honored legend Warren Beatty and celebrated Kirk Douglas’ 100th Birthday – raising more money than ever to benefit our education programs.


2016’s highlight is undoubtedly SBIFF’s acquisition of the Riviera Theatre in the form of a 30-year lease, to build a 24/7 cultural hub for all things film.  SBIFF’s capital campaign – The Riviera Project – was launched in September to raise the necessary funds to support theatre renovations and expansion of our programs.  Thanks to our generous supporters – in just a few months – we’ve raised $3.7 million of our $5 million goal to be raised by March 2017.

In the coming year, we’re further expanding our many education programs that currently serve 20,000 individuals, families and children – many from vulnerable and underserved populations. The renovation of the Riviera Theatre will enable SBIFF to increase participation in nearly all of our education programs so that they are offered on a year-round basis.

  • Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies will operate year-found and increasing participation by 87% to reach 7,500 Title 1 schools.
  • The Rosebud Program will increase participation by 150%.
  • The AppleBox Family Films will also operate year-round, increasing participation by 43% to 11,500 children and families.
  • The new Programs for Seniors will serve 1,200.
  • To ensure that we fulfill our important educational mission, a full time Education Director will come on board.  Amanda Graves is starting the first week of 2017.


There are many ways to support SBIFF and the Riviera Project – all donations are 100% tax deductible:

– Contact Cindy Chyr, Director of Advancement, at or 805-963-0023 x809.
– View our brochure and opportunities for giving, click here.
– To name a seat, click here.
– Make a general donation to SBIFF programs, click here.

We are so grateful for our community’s support during this transformational time in SBIFF history. Thank you for being a part of our community. We can’t wait to do more together in 2017!

See you at the movies,



Roger Durling
Executive Director

#SBIFF The Showcase – Neruda

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The eventful and unorthodox life of the Nobel Prize–winning poet, politician, committed communist, unapologetic hedonist, and Chilean cultural icon Pablo Neruda provides plentiful territory for cinematic exploration. The poet’s early-1950s exile in Procida previously inspired Michael Radford’s Il Postino, a fictionalized story about Neruda’s relationship with a local postman that left few cinemagoers dry-eyed. Now, Pablo Larraín, Chile’s most inventive and provocative contemporary filmmaker, takes a wholly unique approach to his famous countryman’s life and work with Neruda, which is set during the poet’s sojourn underground in the late 1940s.


“A captivating original literary chase thriller.”
Justin Chang – LA Times

“Stunningly inventive… A work of cleverness, beauty and power.”
Jay Weissberg – Variety

“Neruda is a warmhearted film about a hot-blooded man that is nonetheless troubled by a subtle, perceptible chill.”
A.O. Scott – NY Times

Get tickets here

Friday, December 23 @ 11:00am
Saturday, December 24 @ 11:00am
Sunday, December 25 @ 2:00pm
Monday, December 26 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, December 27 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, December 28 @ 7:30pm
Thursday, December 29 @ 11:00am
Friday, December 30 @ 11:00am
Saturday, December 31 @ 11:00am
Sunday, January 1 @ 2:00pm
Monday, January 2 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, January 3 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, January 4 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra

Directed by Pablo Larraín
Written by Guillermo Calderón
Starring Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco, Alfredo Castro, Michael Silva,  Mercedes Morán,  Pablo Derqui
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Rated R (for sexuality/nudity and some language)

Check out the trailer below:


Note from Roger – Daughters of the Dust

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Dear Cinephiles,

Julie Dash’s DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is one of the most important indie films.  It was the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a wide release 25 years ago.  The film is beautiful, haunting and a true work of art.  Beyonce’s groundbreaking feature length music film “Lemonade” pays homage to “Daughters of the Dust”.

Below is an article about the film from the Los Angeles Times. Come check out the 25th Restoration of this masterpiece tonight (Thursday) at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling


‘Daughters of the Dust,’ Julie Dash’s 1991 triumph, makes a welcome return
By Justin Chang

“Daughters of the Dust,” Julie Dash’s magical 1991 debut feature, captures a sad, thrilling moment of transformation for a community of Gullahs, who are the descendants of African slaves who lived on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. On an August day in 1902, several generations of the Peazant family are preparing to move to the U.S. mainland, bidding farewell to their island home and the vibrant, uniquely African-influenced culture they’ve succeeded in keeping alive.

All good period pieces achieve and sustain a sense of immersion in a different time and place. “Daughters of the Dust,” which Dash spent many years researching, producing, writing and directing, goes further than most. Its examination of a bygone way of life is so patient and evocative, so beholden to its own storytelling conventions and rhythms, that watching it is a bit like submitting to a form of time travel. You emerge from the experience feeling slightly dazed and disoriented, but also deeply and thoroughly ravished.

This is partly due to the hypnotic pull of Arthur Jafa’s cinematography (which won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival) and the atmospheric drumbeats of John Barnes’ score, which conspire to establish an enveloping, dreamlike mood at the outset. But it is also because of the strong, vividly detailed personalities of the women at the film’s center, each one representing a different voice in a timeless tug of war between tradition and modernity, assimilation and isolation.

There is the family’s octogenarian matriarch, Nana Peazant (Cora Lee Day), who is determined to remain on the island with her rituals and herbal potions to the chagrin of her embittered granddaughter-in-law, Haagar (Kaycee Moore), who looks forward to the prosperity that she hopes awaits them on the mainland.

Two other women have returned for the Peazants’ final island gathering after leaving home years ago, though their experiences could scarcely have been more different. Viola (Cheryl Lynn Bruce) has become an outspokenly devout Baptist while Yellow Mary (Barbara O.), who returns with her girlfriend (Trula Hoosier) in tow, is ostracized by her family members for being a prostitute.

One of the few who openly embraces Yellow Mary is the spirited Eula (Alva Rogers), who was raped by a white man on the mainland and may be carrying his child, to the horror of her husband, Eli (Adisa Anderson). It is Eula who becomes the film’s wrenching voice of conscience and sanity when she cries, “Let’s live our lives without living in the fold of old wounds!” — a plea that, even for ears unaccustomed to the thick, West African-inflected creole of the region, cuts to the bone.

Viola has brought a photographer (Tommy Redmond Hicks) to the island to document the occasion. He’s something of a stand-in for Dash, whose father was a Gullah, and whose film becomes its own striking act of witness. The manner of that witness — including the use of voice-over narration from the perspective of Eula’s unborn child — shows a remarkable integrity.

Rather than telling her story via clean, linear strokes and manufactured crises, Dash lingers on the sights and sounds of Sea Island life, from the unforgettable images of women on the beach in floor-length white dresses to the close-ups of fresh-cooked prawns, hard-boiled eggs and other dishes served at the Peazants’ feast. These moments are not incidental to the narrative; they are essential to it, as Dash seeks to convey the very look, feel and texture of something that is about to be lost forever.

When “Daughters of the Dust” premiered in the dramatic competition at Sundance in 1991, the field included two other major indie breakthroughs: Todd Haynes’ “Poison” (which won the grand jury prize) and Richard Linklater’s “Slacker.” That their directors have gone on to become prominent auteurs on the independent scene is an undeniable testament to their genius.

But it also speaks to the cultural and gender-based norms that kept a singular talent like Dash from the filmmaking career she deserved — in part because “Daughters of the Dust,” one of the most striking American independent movies ever made, didn’t conform to any studio executive’s ideal of what a “black” movie should look and sound like. (The year 1991 saw a mini-renaissance for African American commercial cinema, including “Boyz n the Hood,” “New Jack City,” “Jungle Fever” and “A Rage in Harlem.”)

Even still, “Daughters of the Dust” hasn’t exactly languished in obscurity. Although it struggled to find a distributor post-Sundance, it did become the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a wide theatrical release (courtesy of Kino International). Its reemergence in theaters is timely for any number of reasons, a widely spotted shout-out in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” not least among them.

The present-day resonance of a movie about an immigrant community caught between a traumatic past and an uncertain future can largely speak for itself. But it’s especially meaningful in a year marked by a remarkable range of serious new works from black filmmakers, from Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” and Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” to Denzel Washington’s forthcoming “Fences” — each one offering a different vision of African American families trying to rise above a deeply entrenched legacy of oppression.

As an example of how to realize that vision without compromise, “Daughters of the Dust” remains a pioneering work of art — a vibrant dispatch from our historical and cinematic past that continues to look ahead to a more hopeful future.



#SBIFF The Showcase – Daughters of the Dust


daughtersAt the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors’ Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots.

Cohen Media Group is proud to present the 25th anniversary restoration of director Julie Dash’s landmark film “Daughters of the Dust.” The first wide release by a black female filmmaker, “Daughters of the Dust” was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991. Casting a long legacy, “Daughters of the Dust” still resonates today, most recently as a major in influence on Beyonce’s video album “Lemonade.” Restored (in conjunction with UCLA) for the first time with proper color grading overseen by cinematographer AJ Jafa, audiences will finally see the film exactly as Julie Dash intended.

Written and Directed by Julie Dash
Starring Alva Rogers, Bahni Turpin, Barbara-O, Cheryl Lynn Bruce,
Cora Lee Day, Tony King, Trula Hoosier
Country of Origin: USA, UK
Running Time: 112 min

Get Tickets Here

Sunday, December 18 @ 2:00pm
Monday, December 19 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, December 20 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, December 21 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra

“A film of spellbinding visual beauty.”
Stephen Holden – NY Times

“Dash’s boldly imaginative, ecstatically visionary drama … is one of the best of all American independent films; she turns one family’s experience of the Great Migration into a vast mythopoetic adventure.”
Richard Brody – New Yorker

“It is an astonishing, vivid portrait not only of a time and place, but of an era’s spirit.”
Rita Kempley – Washington Post


Note from Roger – On The Map

Almost any basketball fan from the 1970’s, especially UCLA Bruin fans, is sure to enjoy and appreciate On The Map. – HollywoodGlee

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

ON THE MAP is everything you want an underdog story to be: suspenseful, inspirational, heartfelt and, ultimately, uplifting. It will make you stand up and cheer! A slam dunk!

Attached is a rave review from the LA Times. It plays tonight (Tuesday) at 5:00pm and tomorrow at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Click Here for Tickets


‘On the Map’ reveals the basketball contest that gave Israel a sense of sporting and national pride
By Kenneth Turan – Los Angeles Times

Sport, it’s been said, is the toy department of our culture, but even diversions can have their moment of unforeseen socio-political relevance.

That’s what happened in 1980, when a young U.S. Olympic ice hockey team surprised the mighty Soviets and won the gold medal in a contest that’s been described as the Miracle on Ice.

In a different sport three years earlier, and as detailed in the genial documentary “On The Map,” Israel experienced a similar epochal moment that shifted the national culture.

That was when the country’s Maccabi Tel Aviv team, with six Americans led by the charismatic Tal Brody, won the European Cup basketball championship in a tournament that had resonance above and beyond the final victory.

For it was after Maccabi’s miraculous semi-final win over CSKA Moscow, the fearsome Red Army team, that the over-the-moon Brody told a television interviewer, “We are on the map. And we are staying on the map — not only in sports but in everything.”

Israeli director Dani Menkin has been especially thorough in telling this classic against-all-odds sports story. He interviews Brody and his teammates, Israeli sports figures and American basketball luminaries like coach Digger Phelps, former NBA Commissioner David Stern and an enthusiastic Bill Walton, a former teammate of Brody’s on America’s 1970 national team.

Menkin also helps us understand why that casually uttered Brody phrase became a sensation, resonating in Israel for decades in a way that is fascinating from a historical perspective but also leads to some reflections about what is different in the world today.

The key figure in “On the Map” is obviously Brody, a fluid 6-foot-1 point guard from Trenton, N.J., who had the skills to be drafted 12th by the then-Baltimore Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) in 1965.

But before the NBA season began, Brody went to Israel to compete in the Maccabiah Games, and that experience turned him in a completely different direction. Encouraged by the owners of the Maccabi Tel Aviv team and the celebrated Gen. Moshe Dayan, he decided he wanted to be part of something bigger than the NBA, he wanted to take basketball in Israel to another level.

This idea took firmer shape in the early 1970s, when other American players, some Jewish, some not, were persuaded to join Brody. The last piece of the puzzle, 6-foot-10 center Aulcie Perry, was signed after a competing center ate so much at a team banquet that the coach was afraid he would hog the ball.

No Israeli team had ever gotten past the first round in the European Cup tourney, but “On the Map” focuses in a game-by-game way on why the 1977 event turned out to be different.

Each contest had its own drama, and we both hear about it through memories and watch chunks of the contests themselves via game footage and home movies shot by rabid fans.

That semi-final game against the U.S.S.R. was problematic for several reasons, starting with the fact that the Soviets did not recognize Israel at the time and initially refused to even play before a neutral court was found in the tiny Belgian town of Virton.

Given that CSKA Moscow had several players from the national team that had beaten the U.S. in the 1972 Olympics, the Tel Aviv team shouldn’t have had a chance, which gave Israel’s victory so much resonance that former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, also interviewed here, says it helped sustain him during nine years in a Siberian prison camp.

While the final game against an Italian team was so watched in Israel that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin postponed the announcement of his resignation until it ended, Brody’s quote became the memory that lasted.

It was, in its exuberance, perfect for a time when Israel was seen and saw itself as a plucky underdog on the world stage. Whether justifiably or not, that perception has changed, and without really meaning to, “On the Map” brings today’s situation into sharper focus.


SBIFF The Showcase Film Series – On The Map

ON THE MAP tells the against-all- odds story of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 1977 European Championship, which took place at a time when the Middle East was still reeling from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1972 Olympic massacre at Munich, and the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv. Through the of lens of sports, ON THE MAP presents a much broader story of how one team captured the heart of a nation amidst domestic turmoil and the global machinations of the Cold War.


Written and Directed by Dani Menkin
Starring Tal Brody, David Stern, Bill Walton
Country of Origin: USA
Running Time: 85 min

Sunday, December 11 @ 2:00pm
Monday, December 12 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, December 13 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, December 14 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra

Click here for tickets.

“There’s no surer ingredient for a feel-good documentary than an inspirational sports story, and filmmaker Dani Menkin delivers one in spades with his recounting of the 1979 European Cup victory by the national Israeli basketball team.”
Frank Scheck – Hollywood Reporter

“On the Map, a documentary about Maccabi Tel Aviv’s improbable success in the 1977 edition of the tourney, is a feel-good Cinderella story, the real-life details are at least apropo of this kind of athletic fairy tale.”
Michael Nordine – Village Voice/L.A.Weekly

“Menkin has been especially thorough in telling
this classic against-all-odds sports story.”
Kenneth Turan – LA Times


Note from Roger – Last chance to see The Handmaiden

Dear Cinephiles,

Tonight is the last chance to see the spectacular film THE HANDMAIDEN which just won Best Foreign Film and Production Design from The Los Angeles Film Critics.  This is a sexy and extraordinary film.

We are attaching the review from The Atlantic and the headline says it all.

It plays tonight (Wednesday) at 7:30pm at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling


Click here for tickets

The Handmaiden Is a Cinematic Masterpiece
Park Chan-wook’s new romantic thriller is a sumptuous tale of shifting identities, forbidden love, and colonialism.
By David Sims – The Atlantic

The Handmaiden contains multitudes: It’s a sumptuous romantic period piece, as well as a sexy spy thriller, replete with secret identities and triple-crosses. It’s an extended commentary on Japan’s occupation of Korea in the 1930s, and it’s an intense piece of psychological horror from one of the masters of the genre, Park Chan-wook. But more than anything, The Handmaiden is just pure cinema, a dizzying, disturbing fable of love and betrayal that piles on luxurious imagery, while never losing track of its story’s human core. For Park, the Korean director of crossover genre hits like Old Boy and Thirst, the movie feels like an evolutionary leap forward in an already brilliant career.

The film is, surprisingly enough, an adaptation of Sarah Waters’s 2002 novel Fingersmith, a Victorian crime novel about a petty thief who gets entangled in a long con against a noblewoman, with whom she then falls in love (after that, many further twists ensue). Park and his co-writer Chung Seo-kyung have taken Waters’s investigation of Victorian repression and its limits on female empowerment, and translated it into a tale that delves into the dynamics of Korean culture during Japan’s pre-war occupation. This is a movie about the costumes people wear, both literal and psychological, and that focus extends outward to its setting, a peculiar mansion that mashes up Japanese and Victorian architecture. Park’s film is one where every gesture or period detail is loaded with double meaning, and where his heroines have to wrap their feelings in layers of deception just to try and survive.

The plot plays out the same way that Fingersmith does, following a a three-part structure where each successive chapter sheds new light on the last, and a series of three grand cons bound up into a larger, swooning tale of misandry, romance, and liberation. Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri, making her film debut) is a crafty young pickpocket plucked from a den of orphans to be the new handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee). She’s part of an elaborate scheme cooked up by the conman Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo), who plans to marry the emotionally fragile Hideko for her money and then swiftly have her committed. Sook-hee is hired to facilitate his deception, manipulating Hideko into the Count’s arms, but of course, things don’t go exactly as expected.

Hideko is a prisoner in a gilded cage, a manse designed to reflect the culture of Korea’s occupying power, of which she is a prized example. In interviews, Park has said what fascinated him most about transposing Fingersmith to 1930s Korea was the opportunity to comment on the occupation. The chief villain of the piece, Hideko’s uncle-by-marriage, Kozuki, is a Korean intellectual who fetishizes Japanese culture—but he’s also keeping the Japanese Hideko under his thumb as some petty act of supremacy. While he delves into a budding romance between Hideko and Sook-hee, Park burrows into the twisted relationship between the two countries, and the foolishness of the Korean characters gunning for social ascendency by imitating the Japanese way of life.

The film’s dialogue is subtitled in two colors (Korean in white, Japanese in yellow) to underline the disguises the characters are constantly donning in their efforts to blend in. Park has never been a subtle director, which is why he’s worked so well with more lurid genres (most of his movies fall in the thriller or horror category). With The Handmaiden, he makes use of a smorgasbord of tropes and somehow gets away with it. It’s not every film that can feature astute historical commentary, explicit lesbian sex, prolonged bouts of torture, and a giant foreboding octopus without seeming ridiculous. But in The Handmaiden, each of these elements is as wonderfully surprising as the plot itself, which never lets the viewer guess what’s coming next.

The first part of the film charts Sook-hee’s manipulation of Hideko, a con job that turns into a seduction, and then, a seemingly authentic romance; the power dynamic is clearly tilted against the timid heiress. After 45 minutes, the story is abruptly inverted, then re-told through the eyes of Hideko, revealed as far more self-aware than initially imagined; for its third act, the film upends itself again, each time layering a deeper understanding of its four major characters. You might see each twist coming in isolation, but when they’re all knitted together, the effect is stupefying.

The Handmaiden’s identity shifts as much as its sinuous ensemble; it’s as exciting to watch Park keep his grasp on its changing tone as it is to watch the characters double-cross each other. To say much more would spoil a dazzling climax, but this is at its core a tale of liberation, of costumes being thrown off, and of the delight (and terror) that comes with embracing one’s true self. The Handmaiden is long, occasionally demented, and intense enough that it won’t suit everyone. But it’s moviemaking that demands to be enjoyed, a thrill ride in service something far grander and more important.