Short takes: SFIFF week two

Prince Avalanche, Computer Chess, The Strange Little Cat, Waxworks, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and more picks from the huge fest

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Computer Chess

Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green, US, 2012) It has been somewhat hard to connect the dots between David Gordon Green the abstract-narrative indie poet (2000's George Washington, 2003's All the Real Girls) and DGG the mainstream Hollywood comedy director (2008's Pineapple Express, yay; 2011's Your Highness and The Sitter, nay nay nay). But here he brings those seemingly irreconcilable personas together, and they make very sweet music indeed. Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play two men — one a fussy, married grown-up, another a short-attention-spanned man child — spending the summer in near-total isolation, painting yellow divider lines on recently fire-damaged Texas roads. Their very different personalities clash, and at first the tone seems more conventionally broad than that of the 2011 Icelandic minimalist-comedy (Either Way) this revamp is derived from. But Green has a great deal up his sleeve — gorgeous wide screen imagery, some inspired wordless montages, and a well-earned eventual warmth — that makes the very rare US remake that improves upon its European predecessor. Wed/1, 4pm, and Fri/3, 6:30pm, Kabuki. (Dennis Harvey)

Fill the Void (Rama Burshtein, Israel, 2012) Respectfully rendered and beautifully shot in warm hues, Fill the Void admirably fills the absence on many screens of stories from what might be considered a closed world: the Orthodox Hasidic community in Israel, where a complex web of family ties, duty, and obligation entangles pretty, accordion-playing Shira (Hada Yaron). An obedient daughter, she's about to agree to an arranged marriage to a young suitor when her much-loved sister (Renana Raz) dies in childbirth. When Shira's mother (Irit Sheleg) learns the widower Yochay (Yiftach Klein) might marry a woman abroad and take her only grandchild far away, she starts to make noises about fixing Shira up with her son-in-law. The journey the two must take, in possibly going from in-laws to newlyweds, is one that's simultaneously infuriating, understandable, and touching, made all the more intimate given director Rama Burshtein's preference for searching close-ups. Her affinity for the Orthodox world is obvious with each loving shot, ultimately infusing her debut feature with a beating heart of humanity. Wed/1, 6:30pm, and Thu/2, 4pm, Kabuki. (Kimberly Chun)

The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher, Germany, 2013) There's a strange music to this light-on-its-toes, rhythmic, and ultimately mesmerizing chamber piece by first-time feature director Ramon Zürcher — one seemingly informed by dance, Gerhard Richter, contemporary opera, and Jean-Luc Godard in a latter-day gimlet-eyed state. The arc of a banal yet odd day is traced, within mostly the close confines of a Berlin apartment, as family members enter, interact, and then retreat in a kind of call and response: the mother runs a kitchen machine, a girl cries out as if to mimic its roar, a cousin who looks as if he's straight out of a Dutch master painting soberly surveys the scene, while the eponymous feline weaves in and out of the action. In fact, that pet is the most domesticated of the lot populating this riveting domestic scene, all of which makes you want to see what Zürcher cooks up next. Wed/1, 9pm; Sun/5, 7pm; and May 8, 4pm, Kabuki. (Chun)

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