'Life in a Day,' which opened in the Bay Area this past weekend, received strong reviews nationwide.

In Theaters: 'Life in a Day,' 'The Tree,' 'Cameraman'

Jackson Scarlett August 2, 2011

Critics from the Bay Area and beyond weigh in on the weekend's openings.

The Ridley Scott Associates-produced global doc Life in a Day received a belated release in the Bay Area, but garnered an enthusiastic reception here. The Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle called the film “a neat, engaging 90 minute package . . . ambitious in its global reach and modest in its simplicity.” Outside of the City, the YouTube-sponsored doc has mostly been praised for its “time capsule” qualities (Noel Murray, Onion AV Club, among others), but got mixed responses on its verité approach. Toronto Star's Peter Howell wrote that it was “undeniably real and incredibly inspiring;” New York Post's V.A. Musetto derided its vignettes as “a whole lot of nothing.”

Despite initial positive reviews for The Tree, the newest from former Kieslowski AD Julie Bertuccelli (director of the acclaimed Since Otar Left), the film’s leaving critics divided now. The Chron’s LaSalle found the drama “depleted midway” and its approach to the title metaphor “simply vagueness,” while East Bay Express’s Kelly Vance championed it as “one of the best films of 2011.” In an earlier review, Film Comment’s Laura Kern praised the film’s “exquisitely composed” shots, ultimately resolving the film “would be much easier to write off as silly and self-serious, if it weren’t so involving.”

Strand Releasing's Cameraman: The Life and Death of Jack Cardiff, a 17-years-in-the-making documentary by Craig McCall on the storied career of legendary lensman Cardiff, was the highest rated San Francisco release of the week. Critics here and elsewhere were unilateral in their regard for its transparent and heartfelt approach. Boston Globe's Ty Burr lusted after the film's “luscious” clips, while SF Weekly's Nick Pinkerton proposed that it was "a rebuke to style-versus-substance segregationists." And the Chron's Leba Hertz noted that "Although we never really learn much about his life outside the movies, by the end of the film we are in awe of his work accomplishments."

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