When people ask me ‘Do you miss New York,’ I always answer yes and no. Of course, I miss what the city has to offer, but at the same time, my New York, the one I loved, is really not their anymore. For better or worse, the New York City now is very different from the one I knew, and I am sure even if I were there, I would still miss the one I had.
The message we get in ‘The Black Man in San Francisco’ is similar. It is a love letter to the city, and at the same time, it is an acknowledgement of how things have changed, as it is now inhabited by people who do not know the city. ‘You cannot hate San Francisco if you don’t love it,’ a character says, and those words resonate. It’s the same feeling when someone talks crap about a friend of yours. I can do it, but I sure hell will defend him if you say the same thing about him.
There’s not much narrative in the film, about friends who squat in a house in the city. Jimmie Fails stars as Jimmie Fails, who claim a house that he says was built by his grandfather in 1946. We learn a lot more about that house and the character, but in obtuse ways. Things are said and revealed but not directly told int he story telling. The scenes work like some sort of a puzzle. Int he beginning they kind of make little sense, but I was in my Uber on my way home when I realized how everything kind of fit. This is a film and a story that stays with you more as you think about it. Director Joe Talbot sets the film with such poetic shots – the city has never looked more beautiful, even as it shows what is bleak about it. I bet the film will benefit more from a second viewing, as I am sure there are details I missed. It’s an art piece, one that should be framed in a museum.