Unless you’re planning to settle for a generic tie or pajamas, shopping for a Father’s Day gift entails matching the present to the man. Fortunately, the film gods have seen fit to provide a range of offerings that cover every base — whether your dad is tough or sensitive, helpful or aloof.

1. A man’s movie if ever there was one, the existential 1953 nail-biter The Wages of Fear is a deeply and unexpectedly profound contemplation of one’s place in the world. A fascinating character study that turns into an action flick in its breathless second half, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s forged-steel drama centers on four guys (two Frenchmen, a Dutchman and an Italian) stuck in their postwar malaise in a South American town. In a gesture that transforms their individual scarred histories into timeless archetypes, they take on the suicide mission of driving two trucks of nitroglycerine to a burning, faraway oil field. Maybe Dad fancies himself a desperate hero, too. The Wages of Fear plays June 8-14, 2012 at SFFS Cinema. For more information, visit SFFS Cinema.

Yellow Submarine

2. What kind of father would take his children to see an animated film inspired by a novelty hit by a band known for its groundbreaking experimentation with drugs? Is it better, or worse, if the kids take the old man? Either way, 40-plus years and the imprimatur of The Beatles make everything copacetic. John, George, Paul and Ringo were initially reluctant to participate in Yellow Submarine (1968) beyond granting the rights to a couple of B-sides, but were completely won over by the completed work. (“What were they smoking?” you might ask.) Newly restored, the trippiest family film this side of Fantasia screens June 8, 10, 11 and 12 at the Castro Theatre. For more information visit castrotheatre.com.

3. Father’s Day coincides with the weekend of Juneteenth, and the 14th annual San Francisco Black Film Festival (June 15-17) parlays the dual celebration into a Saturday focus on the family. Films by Kevin Epps (Fam Bam) and Jacquie Taliaferro (10-10 Gotta Win) anchor a day of games, music and discussion. The real attraction, we submit, is the presentation of the winning entries in the “My Dad is My Hero” video and essay contest. For more information visit sfbff.org.

Kim Novak in Vertigo

4. If your father is of a certain age, you can assume he harbored a secret lust for Kim Novak. (You thought Hitchcock was the only guy with a thing for blondes?) Dig deep and spring for a $500 ticket for Dad to attend the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society’s fifth Standing Ovations gala benefit on Thursday, June 14, including a cocktail reception, fancy dinner and a suitably irreverent interview with S.F. Cinematic Icon Award-winner Kim Novak. For five G’s, your dad should be able to get a paparazzi shot with Ms. Novak. The Stuff That Dreams Are Made of: San Francisco and the Movies, an exhibition of Bay Area-centric props and goodies augmented with a group of paintings by the actress, goes on view that night and is open to the public June 16-24, 2012 for a populist entrance fee of $10. For more information visit sfstandingovations.com.

New Skin for the Old Ceremony

5. The wizened and enlightened poet and singer Leonard Cohen is an uncommon fount of wisdom about fathers (and sons, and daughters, and lovers). On Thursday, June 21, SFMOMA’s largely overlooked and underrated film program screens New Skin for the Old Ceremony, a collection of 11 short works by next-generation filmmakers inspired by and paired with a different track on the bard’s 1974 album. Originally screened locally at last year’s S.F. International Film Festival, New Skin was, appropriately for our purposes, co-curated by Cohen’s daughter, Lorca. (The 35-minute video plays with Futurist Life Redux, a 2009 SFMOMA commission that reimagines a lost 1916 film.) We’re a long way from the show-no-mercy-or-fear world of Henri-Georges Clouzot, but we don’t think anyone — least of all Dad — will complain. For more information visit sfmoma.org.</


Michael Fox

Michael Fox has written about film for a variety of publications since 1987. He is the curator and host of the long-running Friday night CinemaLit film series at the Mechanics' Institute,  an instructor in the OLLI programs at U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State, and a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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