The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival wraps up this week after 14 days, and though I've seen some wonderful things, it's a real pleasure to rest my brain with a little Iron Man 2 this week. Among some of the gems I saw was the gentle Cairo Time (see my longer review), with its luminous performance by Patricia Clarkson. I also liked the new one from Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues, To Die Like a Man. Rodrigues' style is so blunt and frank that his filmmaking can be seen (and has been seen) as both clumsy and bold. He ventures into some unusual territory, like drag queens snipe hunting in a forest, but for all that, the film manages to find a steady heartbeat within its bizarre structure.
The outstanding Alamar won the New Directors Award for filmmaker Pedro González-Rubio; it's truly beautiful, almost incidental portrait of a boy spending some time with his father after his parents have split. The father is a fisherman on a huge choral reef near Mexico, and they spend nearly wordless days together learning about fish and befriending birds. This remarkable blend of fiction and non-fiction uses real people and real relationships, but creates its own story from these elements. I also loved Claire Denis' newest masterwork White Material (see my longer review), which is arguably her most plot-based, but also grimmest, movie in years.