2014 has come to an end in San Francisco and there is much to be proud of (i.e. Burma Love) and reflect on (i.e. The destructive fandom of the Giants). One of the overarching narratives of the year has been the story of gentrification and change in San Francisco’s landscape.
Today in Pacific Heights, Juicy News SF, an independently run, family operated, & well patronized international newsagent, bookshop & stationary store on Filmore Street is being priced out. Juicy News SF has been operating in the same upper Pacific Heights neighborhood for the past 23 years but the influx of high-priced boutiques and rising rents has Juicy News against a wall and relocating.
This blogger in particular fondly remembers signing the petition to keep the beloved Clay Theatre from becoming a Crunch Gym monstrosity in 2010 and thankfully the Clay still stands! Unlike The Lumiere which is now a tragically overpriced Marine Layer off Polk St.
SIDE NOTE: Can someone please tell me when the batting cages taking over the shell of The Bridge Theatre will open if ever?!?
The story of Juicy News got me thinking of Pacific Heights in cinema and I quickly fell on a gem: Pacific Heights (1990) by Oscar winning filmmaker John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, 1969).
Unfortunately, any SF resident can sniff out Potrero Hill standing in for Pacific Heights but who can truly blame them? At least they actually filmed in San Francisco (looking at you Godzilla).
Pacific Heights is the perfect horror movie for non-horror movie watchers. Not at all scary, but hilariously ridiculous in it’s premise, Pacific Heights is the story of a young couple who feel the true horror of investing in property in San Francisco. For one, they’re in over their heads as they can barely make the mortgage payment without tenants. Secondly, they shun a black tenant based on a tinge of racism and classism for a slick white man in a Porsche Boxter. Thirdly, said Porsche owner turns out to be Michael Keaton, a sly villain hell bent on terrorizing them out of house and home.
They are “good” people who technically own their home, and the monster who wants to take it all away is a social parasite. The villain is a tenant who won’t pay the rent, and the moral is about the absolute sanctity of property ownership. Pretty right-wing when you review it in retrospect.
To quote another review:
“One of the most perceptive scenes exploring the couples class-discomfort comes later in the film when they realize that they need help from the police. Patty is brought into an office and who is sitting on the other side of the table but the same black guy (Carl Lumbly). Patty squirms, you can here her mind scream, “No! Really! I know I’m blonde haired and blue eyed, and we chose some arrogant white guy over you, but PLEASE, PLEASE , PLEASE, believe me we’re not a racists and help us!”
Either way, Pacific Heights is an ironic allegory to class warfare in San Francisco and the country. Referred to as “Fatal Attraction with mortgage payments”, the film is not great cinema (much of the film is rushed, obvious, and lifteime-esque in it’s exposition) but remains an entertaining watch for a glimpse of the city and a reminder of class issues that are neither new nor ignorable.