April Film Options are Expansive, Diverse

by Sura Wood

The San Francisco International Film Festival, BAMPFA and a five-film Michelangelo Antonioni marathon take top billing this month.

 Literature has long been an important resource for movies. “Auteur, Author,” an engaging series opening this month at BAMPFA, underscores the point with a range of intriguing films inspired by or adapted from the written word. The smart, iconoclastic filmmaker Errol Morris was drawn to the writings of British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, whose sense of wonder and iconoclasm is well suited to the director’s unconventional storytelling techniques.

He based his 1991 documentary, “A Brief History of Time,” on Hawking’s acclaimed exploration of the origins of the universe and the nature of time. Richard Condon’s novel “The Manchurian Candidate” was adapted for the screen twice; John Frankenheimer’s definitive 1962 version, shown here, is a wily satire in which a returning Korean War veteran (Laurence Harvey), brainwashed by his Communist captors, has been programmed to assassinate his stepfather, a presidential candidate. The whimsical “The Fabulous Baron Munchausen,” drawn from Rudolf Erich Raspe’s novel, chronicles the fantastic adventures of a grandiose fictional German nobleman, which include meeting the Man in the Moon, battling a sultan’s armies and riding horses in space.

Master Czech animator Karel Zeman’s translation of the colorful 18th-century tale melds puppetry, matte paintings, live action and cartoon and stop-motion animation, with illustrated sets that owe a debt to engraver Gustave Dore. Jennifer Kroot’s “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin” is an adulatory profile of the “Tales of the City” author, who has been called the “Charles Dickens of San Francisco.” A tribute to the city’s diverse inhabitants, “Tales,” adapted for television in the 1990s, was initially serialized in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1976. The film traces Maupin’s journey from conservative Southern political operative and roguishly handsome youth to gay rights activist and adored storyteller with friends such as Neil Gaiman, Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Amy Tan contributing insight and anecdotes.

April 25 → 29;
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