Tenderloin Times 

Rob Nilsson's 9 @ Night film series takes a walk on the improvised side.

All the world's a Tenderloin to Rob Nilsson. The Berkeley-based independent filmmaker — whose first movie, Northern Lights, was a docudrama about North Dakota grassroots organizing — turned to San Francisco's Tenderloin and the down-and-outers who live there for inspiration in the mid-'90s. Nilsson founded the "Tenderloin yGroup," a combination acting/writing workshop and halfway house, for his Bay Area pool hustler drama Chalk (1996). Chalk's terse, improvised dialogue and handheld camera reminded some viewers of the films of John Cassavetes and Mike Leigh. Cassavetes was in fact an early admirer, as were actors Peter Coyote (a fellow San Franciscan) and Karen Black. Nilsson refined his Direct Action technique — a precursor of Lars Von Trier's Dogme concept — and began work on what would become the 9 @ Night films, a series of spare, nervous, interlocking narratives of the sort of people you might step over as they lay sprawled on the street, the urban losers no one else listens to.

Now Nilsson has lined up the 9 @ Night films (actually shot on video) for a retrospective at SF's Roxie Film Center, San Rafael's Smith Film Center, and the two Speakeasy cinemas in the East Bay, where three of the titles have one-night stands this week. Scheme C6 (2001), the tale of a drifter named Bid (Cory Duval) who sleeps in alleys chained to his motorcycle, plays Thursday, September 4 (9:15 p.m.) at Speakeasy's Cerrito Theater. We're introduced not only to Bid but to his SF cop father Qually (Bruce Marovich) and his girlfriend Yve, played by Monica Cortés Viharo — known to Cerrito and Parkway regulars as Monica Tiki Goddess.

It gets thicker. Ms. Cortés Viharo's father-in-law, Robert Viharo, is one of the recurring principals in the 9 @ Night series in his role as Malafide, a convicted counterfeiter who ends up in the 'Loin after getting out of prison. Malafide plays key parts in Stroke (2000) and Go Together (2007), both of which screen Sunday, September 7 at the Speakeasy Parkway. Stroke is the pick of the litter, a delirious tale of two SRO hotel denizens, Johnnie (the late Edwin Johnson) and Phil (Teddy Weiler), and their lives on the street. Just to make it a family affair, Will "The Thrill" Viharo, son of Robert and husband of Monica, joins them in the cast of Go Together, which was shot at ... the Parkway. Sort it all out by visiting RobNilsson.com and SpeakeasyTheaters.com

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