At mid point of the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival, the oldest in North America, films from European directors have been making the most impact. With its cosmopolitan air and its distinctive European ex-pat communities, San Francisco is not only a destination for European artists but also a place to sample the best of the new European cinema.
Most of the European films on display are congregated in the World Cinema section. Among the highlights from European talents: BULLET IN THE HEAD, Spanish director Jaime Rosales' political thriller about the assassination of French policemen by Basque terrorists; DELTA, Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo's provocaive story of the taboo relationship between a young man and his half sister; EASY VIRTUE, a veddy British all star cast (Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas) based on a Noel Coward play; HEAVEN'S HEART, a Bergman-esque exploration of marriage by Swedish director Himlens Hjarta; THE TIGER'S TAIL, an Irish satire on class warfare directed by John Boorman; TROUBLED WATER, an intense drama about a man's return to his former life after serving time in prison for murdering a child, by Norwegian director Erik Poppe; and WILD FIELD, Russian director Mikhail Kalatozishvili's beatifully filmed story of a doctor connecting with the inhabitants of the desolate Kazakh steppes.
As no great surprise, French cinema talents dominate the World Cinema section. Catherine Breillat, the provocateuse of contemporary French film, is represented by BLUEBEARD, an original take on the 17th century wife killer. Tunisian-born director Karim Dridi offers a neo-realist vision set in the Roma community on the outskirts of Marseilles in the evocative KHAMSA. Director Jean-Francois Richet won a Cesar Award for his direction of the nearly four-hour biopic MESRINE, the story of one of France's most notorious crime bosses (with Vincent Cassell in a career-defining role). The dynamic duo of Pierre Trividic and Patrick Mario Bernard team up for THE OTHER ONE, a feminist drama about a middle-aged woman's identity crisis when she is dumped by her younger love for a girlfriend his own age. Olivier Assayas, one of France's most prolific and controversial directors, is back at the Festival with his meditative SUMMER HOURS, about a family gathering where secrets and lies are revealed. The always provocative Claire Denis examines the tensions between a father and his rebellious daughter in the engaging 35 SHOTS OF RHUM.
New European talents figure in the Festival's New Directors Competition section. Turkish director Ozcan Alper has emerged as one of his country's newest talents to watch in the beautifully acted AUTUMN, about a political prisoner's return to his native village in order to find himself again. In her debut feature, Dutch director Esther Rots examines the psyche of a young Dutch woman who is shattered by a random act of violence in the penetrating CAN GO THROUGH SKIN. In another striking debut, Swiss director Ursula Meier cast French icon Isabelle Huppert as a woman who lives with her family outside of the mainstream in HOME. A co-screenwriter of the international arthouse hit GOMORRAH, Italian director Gianni Di Gregorio won a Best New Film Prize at the Venice Film Festival for the family drama MID-AUGUST LUNCH. Bosnian director Aida Begic has scored with her debut film SNOW, which earned the Grand Prix at the Cannes Critics Week and has been a success on the international film festival circuit.
Lucky San Franciscans are able to do a tour of Europe from the comfort of their own city as the San Francisco International Film Festival serves up a multi-course repas of outstanding European films. For more information on the Festival and the San Francisco Film Society, visit: http://www.sffs.org/.