by Fernando Quintero
For 40 years, the San Francisco International Film Festival-the oldest international film event in the country-has provided Bay Area audiences with a common celluloid bond linking lives near and far.
And since the early '80s, the Pacific Film Archive has served as an official venue for the annual international showcase.
On Thursday, April 24 , the first of 39 features and 19 short films will be shown as part of this year's festival. Through May 8, PFA will present narrative and documentary films from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Australia.
"PFA's festival selections emphasize films that are not in distribution in the United States, giving viewers a chance to enjoy works that may not be available for future screenings in this country," said Edith Kramer, PFA film curator.
This year's festival includes films by such internationally acclaimed directors as Ingmar Bergman, Jacques Tati, Ken Loach, Aki Kaurismaki, Werner Schroeter and Raul Ruiz.
PFA screenings will include personal appearances by some of the filmmakers, who will discuss their work with the audience.
Kramer said PFA has long had an informal relationship with the San Francisco film festival, providing a first-class venue as well as expertise in foreign films. Today, PFA is an active participant in the annual festival, participating in the research, selection of films and preparation of the event.
"The festival promotes diversity, shows audiences what is happening worldwide in cinema, and overall presents a unique and rewarding experience," Kramer said.
In addition to a wealth of recent films, festival screenings at PFA this year include a revival of the French comedy, "Jour de Fête," starring and directed by one of France's favorite fête-ers, Jacques Tati. In his first feature, Tati plays a bicycle-riding village postman who tries, with hilarious results, to emulate the super-efficient service he sees in a newsreel about U. S. mail delivery.
"Jour de Fête" was shot in 1947 using an experimental color process, but was released in black and white. This restored print offers the first chance to see how Tati intended to use color as an element of visual comedy.
Ingmar Bergman pays homage to an excellent, and now neglected, Swedish silent film director, Georg af Klercker, in his filmed play, "The Last Gasp." It depicts a fictional encounter between Klercker and Charles Magnusson, the entertainment mogul who destroyed his career."
In "Love's Debris," German director Werner Schroeter seeks the emotional source that inspires great singers. Three legendary divas-Anita Cerquetti, Martha Modl and Rita Gorr-gather at an abandoned abbey to demonstrate their art, offering reflections on opera, love, aging and remembrance.
Six rather ordinary residents of Prague are obsessed with amassing props for elaborate sexual fantasies in a new film by surrealist master Jan Svankmajer. "Conspirators of Pleasure" combines live action and classic animation in a perverse comedy, flavored by the spirits of the Marquis de Sade, Luis Buñuel and Max Ernst.
From the United States, "The Delta" explores a romantic liaison between two very different young men, a wealthy teenager and a working-class Vietnamese-American immigrant. Set on the Mississippi River near Memphis, the debut feature by Ira Sachs is a sensitive, complex depiction of a brief but indelible relationship.
Programs will be shown in the George Gund Theater of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. General admission is $8 per program; advance tickets for PFA screenings only are on sale at the PFA Box Office, or can be charged to Visa or Mastercard by calling (510) 642-5249.
Tickets for screenings at PFA and at all other Festival venues can be purchased at the Festival Box Office just east of the AMC Kabuki 8 Theater in San Francisco or by calling (415) 441-7373. For additional information on PFA Festival programs, call 642-1412. For recorded Film Festival information, call (415) 931-FILM.