The San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival reaches year 30 this summer with a giant-sized, better-than-ever lineup of films from all over the map.
The festival opens tonight with "Puccini for Beginners" from director Maria Maggenti ("The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love"), co-starring Gretchen Mol. Closing night will feature the Spanish comedy "Queens."
In a centerpiece performance, the festival will pay tribute to the outrageous, indefinable French filmmaker Francois Ozon. Four of his best films — "Sitcom" (1998), "Criminal Lovers" (1999), "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" (2000) and "8 Women" (2002) will screen — as well as his new "Time to Leave." Spinning the story of a young gay man (Melvil Poupaud) with cancer, the film is a surprising dud, hitting all the most routine notes, with the notable exception of a strikingly beautiful sequence co-starring Jeanne Moreau as the young man’s grandmother.
A definite festival highlight is the new romantic comedy "The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green," a snappy, clever twist on the old story of a would-be lover unable to commit to a relationship. Based on a comic strip, the film uses its quick, witty banter to blast through the expected conventions.
Another winner is the audience-participation film "Bad Girls Behind Bars," a kind of remix of four different "women in prison" films from four decades. Filmmaker Sharon Zurek edits the old scenes for maximum innuendo, with little animated cues for audiences to chime in.
And, based on an Internet cartoon, the hilarious — if clunky — animated film "Queer Duck" follows the title character as he contemplates marriage and undergoes a radical "cure."
Two documentaries, "Pick Up the Mic" and "Camp Out" explore unusual subjects, but in a fairly routine manner. The first looks at gay and lesbian hip-hop artists and the second, a religious summer camp for gay/lesbian youths.
Another doc, "George Michael: A Different Story," focuses on the popular singer and his early 1990s coming out; it sometimes comes across as advertising, but it’s oddly captivating. Likewise, "Jack Smith & the Destruction of Atlantis," a look at the infamous New York underground filmmaker, with generous clips from his masterpiece "Flaming Creatures" (1963).
Finally, "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" (1977) will show in a kiddie-friendly matinee. No reason, other than everyone loves Pooh Bear.