Cage, Chen among honorees

SAN FRANCISCO — Nicolas Cage, Im Kwon-Taek, Joan Chen and veteran U.S. directors Robert Frank and John Berry are among the prime guests and tributees expected at this year’s San Francisco Intl. Film Festival, it was announced at a press conference Tuesday. Event’s 41st sked will unspool April 23 through May 7 at S.F.’s Kabuki 8 and Castro Theatres, as well as the Lark in Larkspur and Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

In contrast to recent years in which up to four opening-night flicks ran simultaneously at the Kabuki complex, 1998 fete kicks off with a sole feature — Brian Gilbert’s biopic “Wilde,” with Stephen Fry, Jude Law and Vanessa Redgrave — at the 1,550-seat Castro. A party follows on the sound stages of Custer Avenue Stages, each of which will take on a decadent Wildean decorative theme. Gilbert, Fry and fellow cast member Tom Wilkinson are anticipated guests.

Celebrating Cage’s work

The previous night, locally residing star Cage will be honored at a pre-opening black-tie gala. His public receipt of this year’s Peter J. Owens award (for “an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity”) takes place April 26, with clips, a Q&A sesh, and screening of the thesp’s Alan Parker-directed 1984 vehicle “Birdy.”

Also being feted with retrospective screenings and in-person events are U.S. photographer/filmmaker Robert Frank (Persistence of Vision Award), ’50s Hollywood blacklist survivor John Frank (the “Unvanquished” nod, given to “salute filmmakers whose careers have been interrupted or aborted for political reasons”), and veteran South Korean helmer Im Kwon-Taek (the Akira Kurosawa Lifetime Achievement Award).

The Mel Novikoff prize for furthering appreciation of world cinema is presented April 26 to NYC Museum of Modern Art film curator Adrienne Mancia, followed by the doc “Marcello Mastroianni: I Remember, Yes I Remember.” Also in a retro vein is a tribute to both late S.F. experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert and the preservation-oriented Estate Project for Artists with AIDS.

Picking favorites

Returning is a scaled-down version of last year’s “Indelible Images” sidebar, in which area film types choose favorite features from past SFIFF rosters. As before, the matchups are intriguing: Sean Penn will introduce the ’85 Sovpic “Come and See,” docmeisters Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman “My Beautiful Laundrette,” thesp Joan Chen her erstwhile director Bernardo Bertolucci’s early “The Spider’s Stratagem,” and Wayne Wang “WR: Mysteries of the Organism,” whose Yugo helmer, Dusan Makavejev, is also expected.

Closing ‘Box’

Wang’s Jeremy Irons/Gong Li/Maggie Cheung “Chinese Box,” set in current transitional Hong Kong, provides the fest with its official closer on May 7 at the Castro. A closing-night party follows in the lobby of the new 14-screen AMC Kabuki 1000, which otherwise won’t be open for business until mid-July.

Among other high-profile features are local resident Chen’s directorial debut “Xiu Xiu,” the Bosnian-shot drama “Perfect Circle,” Taiwan helmer Lin Cheng-sheng’s “Sweet Degeneration” and Heddy Honigmann’s acclaimed docu “The Underground Orchestra.” World preems are scarce this year, repped by Christopher Nolan’s U.K. drama “Following” and U.S. doc “Forgotten Fires,” which is among 112 winners in 31 feature/short/film/vid, et al., categories already jury-selected for the fest’s Golden Gate Awards. Fifteen features by first-time directors will compete for the second annual Skyy Prize, a $10,000 honorar-ium.

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