A lifetime of loving film

Global but local: film critic David Thomson on Fillmore. Photograph by Lucy Gray.

“What should I see?”

It’s the question the eminent film critic and historian David Thomson is asked most often — sometimes even as he walks his dog in Alta Plaza Park or runs errands on Fillmore Street.

Now, more than three decades after he published his landmark Biographical Dictionary of Film, Thomson has responded to the question comprehensively in a new book published in October 2008 titled Have You Seen…? Its subtitle bills it as “A personal introduction to 1,000 films, including masterpieces, oddities, guilty pleasures and classics (with just a few disasters).”
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From Tony Duquette, a magical space

The Duquette Pavilion on Geary near Fillmore.

In the late 1980s, while driving down Geary Street in San Francisco, designer Tony Duquette discovered an abandoned and vandalized synagogue. He immediately purchased the building. After thoroughly remodeling and updating the structure [located on Geary near Fillmore where the post office now stands], Tony began creating a new exhibition named the Canticle of the Sun of Saint Francis of Assisi, after the patron saint of San Francisco.

The building itself was historic, and what Tony did with it architecturally was equally historic.
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Dosa on Fillmore: seriously sexy

Artwork abounds at Dosa.

Inside the double-height construction site with the massive windows opening onto the corner of Post and Fillmore, a team of craftsmen are grinding smooth the top of the expansive bar made of recycled glass, mirror and mother of pearl.

It’s immediately clear the dynamic young couple creating their dream restaurant here have fully embraced architect Jim Maxwell’s environmentally correct philosophy. It’s equally clear this is going to be a seriously sexy place.

Dosa on Fillmore is the full realization of ideas Anjan and Emily Mitra first expressed on a smaller scale in 2005 when they opened the first Dosa, their acclaimed South Indian restaurant on Valencia Street.

“We’re embracing the textures and colors, the warmth and the intimacy of the space on Valencia and elevating it to evoke a grand hotel lobby in India,” says Maxwell. “We’re making it exotically Indian, but contemporary — without it being the forbidden ‘something Anjan had growing up in India,’ which became one of our design edicts.”

There are nine-foot lotus petal light fixtures hanging in the huge front windows and bar lights dangling with red and amber jewels — “Emily’s earrings,” says Maxwell. Everywhere are shades of rusts and browns and golds, with wooden shutters made of coconut palm fiber behind the bar, softening the southern light.

Even the rest rooms are elegant, with tiles printed with red roses in the women’s room and a more manly mocha damask tile in the men’s room.

It’s a big place. The main dining room can seat 120, with room for 40 more up a sculptural antique gold metal staircase on the mezzanine. Plus there’s a communal dining table in the bar.

Almost from the day Dosa opened on Valencia, it has been in the top ranks of San Francisco restaurants — for its fresh and unusual food, its atmospheric decor and its stylish clientele. And the Mitras are upping the wattage considerably with their new place on Fillmore.

‘Thank God for Browser Books’

Browser Books: cozy

By Donna Gillespie

Book lovers discouraged by the proliferation of chain stores and websites deserve a leisurely afternoon at Browser Books.

It’s an old-fashioned bookstore that emanates warmth — wood paneling and music greet you as you enter, and there are lamp-lit nooks that beckon patrons to sit and read. Carefully chosen classics line the shelves, but better-quality popular books can be found here as well. If a staffer recommends a book, it’s likely some forgotten gem, not something everybody’s already reading.

At 2195 Fillmore, next door to Peet’s Coffee, Browser is a bright, inviting spot that offers a cozy respite hours after the other shops on the street have gone dark.

“We have more books per square inch than anyone around,” says owner Stephen Damon. Just don’t come in asking for a romance novel or a western — Browser doesn’t carry them. “We’re very selective, very literary,” says Damon. “I keep important books.”

Browser’s story is interwoven with the colorful history of the neighborhood. The store was founded in 1976 a block north of its present location, just beside the Clay Theater, where Carlos Santana’s band also recorded, Beat poets read their poems and a head shop once flourished.

“This is a great neighborhood for a literary bookstore,” Damon says. “We have a loyal clientele.” Damon treasures an in-person review he received from local author Alice Adams. “Thank God for Browser Books,” she told him. “I didn’t think bookstores like this still existed.”

Browser is open every day until 10 p.m. — even if it’s New Year’s Day. The store closes only on Thanksgiving and Christmas.