Best cuts: The Butcher Brothers' The Violent Kind plays SFIFF's opening weekend.

SFIFF53 Reports: The Butcher Block; Opening Night

SF360 April 24, 2010

Making an indie bloodbath takes guts
To be from the Bay Area and to be called The Butcher Brothers might mean you get mixed up with purveyors of grass fed meats. But Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores, aka The Butcher Brothers, don’t find themselves on foodie fan sites. Instead, they tap into an equally deep Northern California tradition: indie filmmaking. Their new feature The Violent Kind, is a nightmare-with-bikers-in-the-woods fantasy that was shot in Petaluma, Cotati and surrounding areas (as was their vampiric first feature, The Hamiltons), and definitely fits their collaborative moniker. The film is among the San Francisco International Film Festival’s ‘Late Show’ selections and plays Saturday, April 24, at 11 p.m., and Tuesday, April 27, 9:45 p.m. at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.

The Violent Kind premiered at Sundance, and that festival’s notes called it “gleeful, insane exploitation,” a description that sounds irresistible to filmgoers with grindhouses in their psyches. I interviewed them via email as they prepared for that festival outing in January. "We took this film to a place where…I honestly don’t know that there exists a raw comparison,” says Mitchell Altieri, one of the two Butchers (who are not related by family blood). “And I hope that’s what people understand with our filmmaking, as both writers and directors, that we want to push everything beyond its comfort zone. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say that it’s classic ’70s horror meets David Lynch."

The latter mention comes through in their use of vintage American music–1950s and 60s–as well as indelibly freakish characters. "The comparison to Lynch definitely speaks to where we are as filmmakers. He is one of our biggest influences, which is to say that he inspires us–and by ‘us’ I mean a number of filmmakers, both established and new–to push our material outside of the norm.” There are other thinking persons’ horror meisters in their inspiration file: David Cronenberg, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher.

“It’s great directors like these who have successfully broken down the walls of defining a film to a point where it’s indefinable. That’s what pushes us to want to create great films from a vision that is uniquely The Butcher Brothers," Altieri admits. Unique enough to attract producers with recent Hollywood horror pedigrees, with figures who had their hands in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Halloween.

Says Altieri, "With The Violent Kind, we wanted to go back to the ’70s when people were doing films from their own vision, from Easy Rider to other genre films. [We want] to push the boundaries of filmmaking." (Glen Helfand)

Opening night blasts off with ‘Micmacs’
Film lovers filled the Castro Theatre nearly to capacity when Executive Director Graham Leggat took to the stage to officially launch the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival Thursday. “I can’t tell you how proud and happy I am to be on the stage in front of you all,” he said, beaming. “A fifth year in charge is something of a professional milestone,” Leggat continued. “When I came here in 2005, I was convinced that my life had been leading up to this moment. I felt that this job was the chance of a lifetime, and my time here has only confirmed this opinion. These have been the best five years of my life, and I have all of you to thank for this. I feel supremely lucky to have had this opportunity, and I only hope that it will go on for many years to come.”

Following the screening of Micmacs, Director of Programming Rachel Rosen characterized Jean-Pierre Jeunet as “one of the most innovative, imaginative and versatile filmmakers working today. He’s an absolute master of mise-en-scŠne, and his films are both unclassifiable and unforgettable.” Jeunet (Am‚lie, City of Lost Children) took the stage with his iPhone in hand, grinning as he made a snapshot of the Castro audience. “Maybe you don’t know what ‘micmacs’ means?” he said playfully. “Micmacs is not a Big Mac. Micmacs is shenanigans. I learned this new word and I love it. Shenanigan. It’s a stupid word, but so much fun to say.” Rosen inquired about the casting process, and Jeunet told the story of how the brilliant actor/director Dany Boon signed on to the project at the last minute, much as Audrey Tautou filled the role of Am‚lie just before filming commenced. Jeunet sang the praises of actress Julie Ferrier, who pleased the audience with her portrayal of a boyishly insouciant contortionist. Many were disappointed to hear that unlike her character, Ferrier is not a contortionist. “We hired a Russian girl who plays some sort of erotic show in Germany,” Jeunet reported. “My Japanese director of photography was very moved by her work.” Asked whether his films are received differently in the U.S. than they are in France, Jeunet responded that American audiences “laugh much more,” adding, “In France, they love to hate what they loved before.” (Michael Read)

  • Nov 3, 2011

    Essential SF: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

    With riveting characters, cascading revelations and momentous breakthroughs, Epstein and Friedman’s work paved the way for contemporary documentary practice.

  • Nov 2, 2011

    Essential SF: Susan Gerhard

    Susan Gerhard talks copy, critics and the 'there' we have here.

  • Nov 1, 2011

    Essential SF: Joshua Grannell

    Since its first event in 1998, Midnight Mass has become an SF institution, and Peaches Christ, well, she's its peerless warden and cult leader.

  • Oct 31, 2011

    Essential SF: Karen Larsen

    Universally warm sentiment is attached to the Bay Area's hardest working indie/art film publicist.

  • Oct 28, 2011

    Joshua Moore, on Location

    Filmmaker and programmer Moore talks process, offers perspective on his debut feature and Cinema by the Bay opener, ‘I Think It’s Raining.’

  • Oct 26, 2011

    Essential SF: Canyon Cinema

    For 50 years, Canyon Cinema has provided crucial support for a fertile avant-garde film scene.

  • Oct 24, 2011

    Signs of the Times

    Director Mina T. Son talks about the creation of ‘Making Noise in Silence,’ screening the United Nations Association Film Festival this week.

  • Oct 21, 2011

    In Orbit with ‘An Injury to One’

    Accompanied by a program of solar system shorts, Travis Wilkerson’s 2003 look at ruthless union-busting and the rise and fall of Butte, Montana, offers eerie resonance.