Jenni Olson: The Royal Road
presented in association with the San Francisco International Film Festival
Admission: $15 General Admission/$14 Cinematheque Members, Students and Seniors
RUSH tickets only available at door.
please note: This program also screens on April 29.
San Francisco director Jenni Olson’s second feature-length film solidifies her standing as a major voice in personal essay filmmaking. Primarily composed of only two elements—Olson’s self-conscious butch voiceover narration and long takes of beautifully composed urban landscapes—the film’s spare approach belies a sly and bountiful complexity as it burrows into the endlessly mineable terrains of history and memory. At turns humorous and tragic, The Royal Road brilliantly disentangles and recombines Olson’s personal identity with California’s cultural development by focusing on the real and metaphoric ground of the El Camino Real, the road Jesuit and Franciscan monks established in the late 17th century to connect missionary outposts. Olson’s wry narration disarmingly recounts personal stories of unrequited romance, loving analysis of classic Hollywood movie plots and histories of pre-Gold Rush California. Echoing the work of Chris Marker, W.G. Sebald and Walter Benjamin, The Royal Road insistently circles the tenuous ties between memory and identity by surveying the very paths one takes. Shot entirely on vibrant 16mm film, the movie presents a sublime portrait of San Francisco as a city steeped in nostalgia and of California as a place whose fantastical ties to the Gold Rush and Hollywood belies its status as a contested site. —Sean Uyehara