SFIFF Spotlights #3: Young and Beautiful/Tonnere/No No: A Dockumentary/Chinese Puzzle

by Carrie Kahn on April 28, 2014

Coverage of the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) continues at Spinning Platters with four more film spotlights. Program notes and tickets available here.

Young and Beautiful
(France 2013, 93 min; French with English subtitles)

Isabelle est jeune et jolie.

Isabelle est jeune et belle.

French actress Marine Vacth is riveting in François Ozon’s drama about Isabelle, a 17-year-old high school student who loses her virginity during the summer and is working as a call girl by fall. Isabelle’s story unfolds over the course of four seasons, and we see the effect her choices have on her, her family, and her older male clients. Is Isabelle naively experimenting, working out unresolved father issues, or shrewdly and coldly wielding her newly discovered sexual power almost sociopathically? Is Isabelle even capable of forming real emotional bonds? Ozon’s intense psychological exploration of Isabelle’s choices and motivations isn’t always easy to watch – and Isabelle isn’t always a sympathetic character – but her story is deeply affecting, and you’ll be mulling over the answers to the questions the film raises long after it ends.


  • Monday, April 28th, 9:30pm, Kabuki
  • Thursday, May 1st, 3:45pm, Kabuki
  • Also opens at Landmark’s Opera Plaza and Shattuck Theaters on May 9th

Tickets available here.

(France 2013, 106 min; French with English subtitles)

Love - or maybe obsession - blossoms in the frigid French countryside.

Love – or maybe obsession – blossoms in the frigid French countryside.

French writer/director Guillaume Brac’s modern day noir tale of obsessive love plays out against the stark backdrop of a chilly winter in small-town northern France. Vincent Macaigne’s Maxime is an aging former rock star with a creeping bald spot (Macaigne is like a French version of Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine) whose infatuation with a much-younger local newspaper reporter (Solène Rigot, stellar) becomes increasingly desperate and extreme. A complementary father-son story underscores the picture’s themes of the irrational, yet always powerful, bonds of love, longing, and regret. Gripping and suspenseful, this film is an outstanding nuanced psychological drama.


  • Thursday, May 1st, 6:45pm, Kabuki
  • Saturday, May 3rd, 6:30pm, Kabuki

Tickets available here.

No No: A Dockumentary
(USA 2014, 100 min; with 10 min short The High Five)

Dock Ellis readies the pitch.

Dock Ellis readies the pitch.

Just in time for baseball season comes Jeffrey Radice’s terrific picture about former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who, in 1970, threw a “no no” (a no-hitter) while high on LSD. Radice paints a vivid portrait of a great ballplayer who emerged from the depths of addiction to successfully reinvent himself as a substance abuse counselor. Ellis’s story is compelling enough, but the film also works well as a social history of the 1970s and 1980s, with its examination of baseball, culture, and race (a scene where Ellis breaks down while reading a letter of support from Jackie Robinson is particularly moving). The film’s discussion of performance enhancing substance use is also timely. Preceded by Mike Jacobs’s short film The High Five, about both the advent of the ubiquitous high five celebratory hand slap and former A’s player Glenn Burke, No No is must-see festival viewing.


  • Sunday, May 4th, 9:15pm, Kabuki

Tickets available here.

Chinese Puzzle
(France/USA 2013, 117 min; English, French, Chinese, and Spanish with English subtitles )

Romain Duris's Xavier feeds his kids a quintessential American meal much to their delight - McDonald's.

In New York City, Romain Duris’s Xavier feeds his kids a quintessential American meal much to their delight – McDonald’s.

The third in French director Cédric Klapish’s trilogy about a group of international friends and their personal and professional upheavals, Chinese Puzzle stands on its own as a charming romantic comedy, and can be appreciated even without seeing the prior films. Exceptionally warm and witty (a running gag in which famous philosophers appear to Romain Duris’s Xavier to advise him is especially funny), Chinese Puzzle brings us appealing characters facing the complications of modern life, including relocation, divorce, parenting, blended and non-traditional families, and, of course, the ups and downs of romantic relationships. Beautifully shot in New York City, this picture will make you want to book a flight to the Big Apple as soon as the credits roll, and you’ll wish you could find friends there as smart and engaging as Klapish’s diverse and likable characters.


  • Opens at Landmark’s Embarcadero and Shattuck Theaters on May 23rd



Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll. Proud new member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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