The fourth annual Mostly British Film Festival gets rolling today, with neonoir dramas, an apocalyptic romance, a horror thriller, a dark sex comedy and documentaries new, old and very old on the bill. A wealth of English, Scottish, Irish and Australian styles, stories and talent is covered in 28 films screening over eight days.
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Selections from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and South Africa screen at the 2012 Mostly British celebration, presented by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation and the California Film Institute. Most shows run through Feb. 9 at the Vogue Theatre in San Francisco and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
British cinema is foreign cinema, and even being subtitle-free and sporting recognizable faces won’t ensure that a British film will receive adequate promotion or be released at all on U.S. shores, says Jack Bair, co-founder of Mostly British and co-founder of the SFNTF.
Among foreign artists, “unless you’re an Almodovar, you aren’t guaranteed a space in theaters here,” Bair says. Mostly British, he adds, helps remedy that situation by bringing audiences a diverse quantity of movies “packaged as a festival.”
Theater-bound releases, notable oldies and acclaimed films without U.S. distribution share the slate.
“Perfect Sense” opens the festival at 8 p.m. at the Vogue. Directed by David Mackenzie, the Glascow, Scotland-set drama stars Ewan McGregor and Eva Green as lovers struggling to hold on to their feelings for each other during a horrifying plague.
Friday is “British Noir Night,” curated by SFNTF board member and mystery-novel author (“The Smoke”) Tony Broadbent. He has chosen Stephen Frears’ “Gumshoe” (7:30 p.m.) and Mike Figgis’ “Stormy Monday” (9:30 p.m. ) — the directorial debuts of both now-accoladed filmmakers — as 2012’s selections.
Both films are “very British,” says Broadbent, who describes “Gumshoe” as an entertaining noir and kitchen-sink-style film featuring an early-career Albert Finney. He describes “Stormy Monday,” whose cast includes Sting, as a “wonderful hit at Thatcher’s England.”
Australian selections include “33 Postcards,” Pauline Chan’s drama about a Chinese orphan and her mysterious Australian sponsor. Guy Pearce stars in the film, which screens at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Vogue.
From South Africa, screening at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Vogue, comes “Black Butterflies” — a biodrama about poet Ingrid Jonker.
Documentary highlights include Michael Apted’s entire “Up” series, beginning Saturday at the Vogue and continuing Feb. 18 and Feb. 25 at the Balboa. Apted follows a group of Brits by catching up with them every seven years.
“Knuckle,” at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Vogue, explores the world of Irish travelers who carry out family feuds via bareknuckle fights.
Ken Loach’s “Route Irish” closes the festival at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Vogue. Centering on a professional mercenary, this antiwar thriller contains the veteran British director’s trademark blend of politics and humanism.
And lots more — from a restored 1924 silent documentary to Nicolas Roeg’s “Performance” to two new releases featuring rising star Felicity Jones.
IF YOU GO
Mostly British Film Festival
Where: Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento St., S.F.; Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael; Balboa Theater (portion of “Up” series only), 3630 Balboa St., S.F.
When: Today through Feb. 9
Tickets: $10 to $30 per screening; $75 to $99 for pass
Contact: www.mostlybritish.org; www.cafilm.org