Friday April 20 – Thursday April 26

Featured Film:

Abbas Kiarostami and Guy Maddin at the Northwest Film Forum

Once again the NWFF hosts the highlights of the film week, this time with the latest from Canadian weirdo Guy Maddin, The Green Fog, and the final film from the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, 24 Frames. Both are experiments: Maddin’s film reconstructs a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo using archival images of San Francisco; while Kiarostami’s imagines what happens before and after a series of 24 still images. Both are essential film events of this year, and you can only catch them this weekend.

Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950) Fri-Thurs
Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985) Fri-Mon, Weds-Thurs
Jewel’s Catch One (C. Fitz) Tues Only
The Nightmare Emporium Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz, 1986) Fri-Tues
Troll 2 (Claudio Fragasso, 1990) Fri-Tues Hecklevision

SIFF Egyptian:

Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs
Up in Smoke (Lou Adler, 1978) Fri Only

Century Federal Way:

Khido Khundi (Rohit Jugraj Chauhan) Fri-Thurs
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs
The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Grand Cinema:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs
Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz) Fri-Thurs
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Zack Snyder, 2010) Sat Only Free Screening
The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1927) Sat Only Our Podcast
Love & Bananas (Ashley Bell) Sun Only
Radio Dreams (Babak Jalali) Tues Only
Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan & Damon Davis) Weds Only
Soundtrack for a Revolution (Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman, 2009) Weds Only
An Inconvenient Sequel (Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk) Thurs Only Free Screening
Ivan (Alyona Davydova) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Borg vs. McEnroe (Janus Metz) Sat-Mon Only
Marrowbone (Sergio G. Sánchez) Fri-Thurs
Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike, 2003) Fri & Sun Only
The Black Gloves and Silken Sleeves (Maria Beatty, 1996 & 2006) Sat Only
Emulsion Manipulations II Tues Only
House of Tomorrow (Peter Livolsi) Thurs Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Beyond the Clouds (Majid Majidi) Fri-Thurs
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs
Krishnarjuna Yudham (Merlapaka Gandhi) Fri-Thurs
Rangasthalam (Sukumar) Fri-Thurs
October (Shoojit Sircar) Fri-Thurs
The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Regal Meridian:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Green Fog (Guy Maddin) Fri-Sun Only Our Review
24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami) Sat & Sun Only Our Review
The Cat o’Nine Tails (Dario Argento, 1971) Weds Only
Cadence: Cross Section Thurs Only
The Judge (Erika Cohn) Starts Thurs Director in Attendance

AMC Pacific Place:

Final Portrait (Stanley Tucci) Fri-Thurs
Dude’s Manual (Kevin Ko) Fri-Thurs

Paramount Theatre:

Little Annie Rooney (William Beaudine, 1925) Mon Only Live Score

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Never Not Love You (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Seattle Art Museum:

Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (Dave O’Leske) Fri-Sun Only
Outside In (Lynn Shelton) Fri-Sun Only Our Review

Regal Thornton Place:

The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Sun, Mon & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Varsity Theatre:

The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg) Our Review 
Isle of Dogs 
(Wes Anderson) Our Review
Annihilation (Alex Garland) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
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You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)

Joe in shadow

“Where are we going?”
“Wherever you want to go. . . . Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either.”

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film, Psycho, a past-haunted man cannot escape himself or the violence he has known and inflicted, and he preserves his own guilt and trauma, literally, in the body of his mother. He could not bear to live with her and the man she called her husband, and so he killed her. He could not bear to live without her, and so he keeps her, tucked in her bed, a “boy’s best friend.” It’s an impossible, stunted existence, an embalmed life, where the dead cannot be buried, and it is a life that splits Norman Bates’s identity in two. His body becomes a sort of prison, a site of ever-present struggle between two selves, between life and death, past and present. “We scratch and we claw,” Norman says, “but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.”

Lynne Ramsay’s newest film, You Were Never Really Here, beautifully recalls this earlier cinematic classic both overtly and obliquely.  Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a war veteran, a sort of walking dead man like Norman Bates. Joe carries the suffocating horror of his past around in his scarred body while violent images of that past crash, unbidden, into his mind, disrupting his path in any given moment. The voices of the dead, too, and of his younger self force themselves into his ears. His is a divided existence, and his body contains a mind that won’t obey him. “What am I doing?” he mutters to himself when one of these images or voices shatters his attention and a task at hand. He is often, then, cut off from the world around him, the trauma of his mind wrenching him towards itself and away from an exterior, Other reality.   Continue reading

The Green Fog (Maddin, Johnson, Johnson, 2017)

the green fog

“San Francisco’s changed. The things that spell San Francisco to me are disappearing fast.” — Gavin Elster, Vertigo, 1958

I’ve never seen Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho. I know the consensus opinion is one of distaste, if not disgust, but from afar I have always kind of respected what I think Van Sant was going for, the experiment behind the film. Can someone take the elements of a stone cold classic and manage to replicate its power? In their bizarre, Canadian way Guy Maddin and his collaborators, Galen and Evan Johnson, have taken the baton from Van Sant with their new film The Green Fog, which uses clips from a century of cinema and television shot entirely in San Francisco to retell the plot of another Hitchcock masterpiece, Vertigo.

And damn it, The Green Fog is Vertigo, albeit filtered through the manic Friday night-to-Saturday morning antics of Joe Dante’s Movie Orgy. (Dick Miller is even in it!) There are clips from ’40s film noir like Dark Passage and scenes from ’70s cop shows like The Streets of San Francisco. (Apparently one episode had Karl Malden dressed as a clown, which gets a surprising amount of mileage here.) Knowing Maddin’s house style there are not as many clips from silent films as one would expect but the filmmakers did include scenes from the mid-’90s David Caruso joint, Jade, so its a wash. However, the joy of The Green Fog comes less from playing I-Spy with the copious array of film clips–this is not Maddin’s Ready Player One–but from seeing how a bunch of disparate moments from all kinds of films can be repurposed to recount one of cinema’s most enduring mysteries.

The experiment could come off as tedious or pretentious in the hands of anyone else but thanks to a concise one-hour running time and the lowbrow high jinks of Messrs. Maddin, Johnson, and Johnson, The Green Fog is a piece of entertaining and hilarious art. A young and dashing Michael Douglas watches video footage of a naked, middle-aged Michael Douglas and nods approvingly. N*Sync shows up for an inexplicable musical interlude. Nicolas Cage screams. But the film is not a farce. It is not taking malicious aim at Vertigo. The filmmakers are playing deliriously with something they love.

The Green Fog works because it chooses to replicate Vertigo specifically. The consensus pick for THE GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME is perhaps the only choice that would make sense. Because of its placement atop the Sight and Sound poll, Vertigo is required viewing for all budding cinephiles. It has become homework. Like Citizen Kane before it, the distinction as cinema’s ideal makes viewing Vertigo on its own terms difficult. The film has so much baggage. It is getting harder to separate the movie from the accolades and analysis. The Green Fog gives us a new way of coming to Vertigo. It boils the film down to its essence and reminds us what was so intoxicating in the first place.

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont, 2017)

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Of all the world’s great folk heroes, Robin Hood and King Arthur, Wong Fei-hung and Sherlock Holmes, the Monkey King and Superman, none has been so well depicted in the cinema as Joan of Arc. Her brief, unbelievable yet true story (believing she’s been sent by God to relieve the siege of Orléans during the Hundred Years War and then install the Dauphin on the throne of France, uniting it against the English, she leaves home at the age of 17 and actually does it; then she’s captured, put on well-documented trial as a heretic, and burned at the stake) is a natural for motion pictures, full of war and violence  and androgyny and craziness and faith. The latest director to tackle the subject, following Dreyer and Rivettte, Bresson and Besson, is Bruno Dumont, and his approach is that of the stately rock opera.

We join Jeannette as she watches her sheep on the banks of the Meuse. She sings laments to God for the suffering of her people, wondering how He can let war happen and if the suffering will ever end. This she discusses, in song, with a friend, another girl of about 13, and a nun. The nun is weirdly played by twins, but only addressed as a singular being, one of the many off-hand oddities that are the film’s strongest point. The songs lack much in the way of melody or catchiness, and tend towards a bland kind of 80s European arena rock sound, which isn’t particularly pleasant, but does provide excellent material for one of Jeannette’s singular moves: in the throes of a religious ecstasy she bangs her head like a true Metallica fan. This and other dance moves, stiff and formal, derived as much from 60s dance crazes as medieval poses, are much more successful at conveying the primal weirdness of Jeannette’s belief and the visions that motivate her than the songs, which all kind of sound the same. The lyrics don’t offer much in the way of new answers to the problem of evil, but they do frame Jeanne’s quest as an essentially nationalistic one. On multiple occasions Jeanne rejects the idea that it would be OK if the English won the war, because then at least there would be peace and people would stop dying. This is unacceptable to Jeanne: God has promised France for the French, and anything less is an affront to Him. Nor does Dumont question the veracity of her visions: this Jeanne is absolutely the instrument of God, and the choreography of the dances, unnatural movements caused by non-diegetic and therefore literally otherworldly music, reinforce this idea of a humanity not in control of its actions, merely the tools of a higher, inexplicable, holy, and hard-rockin’ power.

The first two-thirds of the film, comprising Jeannette’s conversations and hopes for a warlord to rescue France, her vision of three saints anointing herself as that warlord, and her later coming to terms with the quest she must undertake, all take place in the same location, the sandy riverbank with sheep milling about in the background. After a break of three years, and a change of actresses, Jeannette, now Jeanne, convinces her uncle to accompany her to the local noble, from whence she will begin to fulfill her destiny. At this point we move to Jeanne’s house, and the shift in location is abrupt and jarring, as if Dumont couldn’t commit to the conceit of having the entire film set in a single location. Similarly his camera position seems only half-thought out, with Jeannette at times looking directly at us while importuning her God (which is therefore us, I guess), while at other times she addresses the sky, while we and the camera sink low to the ground, the sun behind her head giving her the expected halo: we move from God to worshipper for no apparent reason. It looks cool though.

I was extremely disappointed in the only other Bruno Dumont film I’ve seen, Camille Claudel 1915, which seemed to me to be deeply cruel and managed the remarkable feat of making a Juliette Binoche movie boring. This is much better than that, but I wonder what it might have been in the hands of a director with a more musical soul.

Ready Player One (2018, Steven Spielberg)

battle

A film’s (and its filmmakers’) sense of commitment to its premise and setting is often a tricky thing to fully deal with. On the one hand, the establishment of a milieu and a truly lived-in world is fairly important for the majority of films (certainly all commercial films) in order to draw the viewer into a more organic and visceral experience of the narratives developed. On the other hand, said milieu could very well feel toxic or put-on to a particular, simply by virtue of the events and figures it depicts.

Few films in the past few years have displayed this tenuous tendency as strongly as Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel-length paean to video games, ’80s pop culture, and fandoms in general. Set in the year 2045, it depicts two worlds: the “real world” of a decaying Earth, principally the impoverished slums of Columbus, Ohio, and the limitless, virtual reality of the OASIS, filled with innumerable worlds and areas to explore. Wade Watts/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) functions as the viewer’s medium between these realms. As might be implied by his avatar’s name, he is on a quest: following the clues of the virtual world’s deceased creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance), he aims to uncover an easter egg that grants the finder full control of the OASIS. Through this process, he discovers foes – the megacorporation IOI– and friends – most notably Samantha Cook/Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), member of an underground group opposed to IOI – alike.

Continue reading

Friday April 13 – Thursday April 19

Featured Film:

Oxhide II at the Northwest Film Forum

The NWFF’s killer month continues with a host of great film events this week. Setting aside the return of their giallo series with Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, a 35mm screening of The Murder of Fred Hampton, the fascinating sounding Crossroads and The Exploding Digital Inevitable, Bruno Dumont’s Joan of Arc movie Jeannette and the latest doc from sensory Ethnography Lab alum JP Sniadecki, El mar la mar, later in the week, this weekend they’ve got an exclusive of Hong Sangsoo’s utterly delightful Claire’s Camera (I’ll be seeing it for the fourth time). But my pick for the must-see movie of the week has got to be Liu Jiayin’s 2009 Oxhide II, one of the very best films of this century, playing for one show only on Saturday in what I believe is its first ever screening in the Seattle area. Made with only nine precisely timed and framed shots, each rotated laterally 45 degrees from the previous shot, it chronicles Liu and her parents at work in their kitchen as they make and eat dumplings for dinner. The set-ups are ingenious, and the film captures as fully as any verité documentary the pure joy of just watching people do stuff. It’s also a warm and funny portrait of a family, a lifetime of arguments and jokes and stories behind every (fully scripted) exchange.

Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (Robert Aldrich, 1962) Fri-Thurs
Friday the 13th Part IV (Joseph Zito, 1984) Fri Only
All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950) Sat-Weds
Imitation Girl (Natasha Kermani) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000) Fri-Tues Our Review
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) Fri-Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Subedar Joginder Singh (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs
Golak Bugni Bank Te Batua (Ksshitij Chaudhary) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs
Lowlife (Ryan Prows) Sat Only
Gook (Justin Chon) Sun Only Our Review
Out of State (Ciara Lacy) Tues Only
Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953) Weds Only
Ma’ Rosa (Brillante Mendoza) Thurs Only Our Review

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Borg vs. McEnroe (Janus Metz) Fri-Thurs
Submergence (Wim Wenders) Fri-Thurs
Rogers Park (Kyle Henry) Sun & Mon Only Director in Attendance

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Blackmail (Abhinay Deo) Fri-Thurs
Krishnarjuna Yudham (Merlapaka Gandhi) Fri-Thurs
Rangasthalam (Sukumar) Fri-Thurs
October (Shoojit Sircar) Fri-Thurs
Chal Mohan Ranga (Krishna Chaitanya) Fri-Thurs
Mercury (Karthik Subbaraj) Fri-Thurs

Regal Meridian:

Itzhak (Alison Chernick) Fri-Thurs
October (Shoojit Sircar) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Claire’s Camera (Hong Sangsoo) Fri-Sun Our Review Our Discussion
Dream Empire (David Borenstein) Fri Only
Tall: The American Skyscraper and Louis Sullivan (Manfred Kirchheimer) Sat Only
Oxhide II (Liu Jiayin, 2009) Sat Only
The Murder of Fred Hampton (Howard Alk, 1971) Sun Only 35mm
Crossroads and The Exploding Digital Inevitable (Bruce Connor, 1976/Ross Lipman) Tues Only
Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont) Weds & Thurs Only
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970) Weds Only
El mar la mar (Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki) Thurs Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs

Paramount Theatre:

Stage Struck (Allan Dwan, 1925) Mon Only Live Score

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Never Not Love You (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (Dave O’Leske) Fri-Weds

Regal Thornton Place:

Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) Sat Only

SIFF Uptown:

Outside In (Lynn Shelton) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Gemini (Aaron Katz) Fri-Weds
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
BoneBat “Comedy of Horrors” Film Fest 2018 Sat Only
The Rooted in Rights Storytellers Film Festival: Creating a Community of Inclusion Tues Only

Varsity Theatre:

A Ordinary Man (Brad Silberling) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson) Our Review
Annihilation (Alex Garland) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

Friday April 6 – Thursday April 12

Featured Film:

Sofia Bohdanowicz at the Northwest Film Forum

The centerpiece of the Film Forum’s series of highlights from the Vancouver Film Festival’s Future//Present program of new Canadian cinema is a pair of features and a trio of shorts by Sofia Bohdanowicz, all of which are playing on Saturday only (with the director in attendance). The shorts, collected together as The Last Poems Trilogy are a Chantal Akerman-esque tribute to her grandmother and her grandmother’s house. The first feature, Never Eat Alone, is a fictionalization of events in the life of her other grandmother, while the second, Maison du bonheur, is a kind of diary of a month Bohdanowicz spent living in Paris with a friend’s mother. Working with very little in the way of budget but a great deal of ingenuity, Bohdanowicz creates warm, fascinating films  that in their openness and depth mark her as one of the most interesting filmmakers to emerge in recent years.

Playing This Week:

Admiral Theater:

Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) Weds Only

AMC Alderwood:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984) Fri-Thurs
Purple Rain (Albert Magnoli, 1984) Fri-Thurs No Shows Sat Our Podcast
Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012) Tues Only

Central Cinema:

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Nimoy, 1986) Fri-Mon
12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995) Fri-Tues
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) Weds Only Shriek – A Women of Horror Film Class

SIFF Egyptian:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Subedar Joginder Singh (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs
Sajjan Singh Rangroot (Pankaj Batra) Fri-Thurs
Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
The Cured (David Freyne) Sat Only
The Insult (Ziad Doueiri) Tues Only
Wolf Warrior 2 (Wu Jing) Thurs Only Our Review

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Workshop (Laurent Cantet) Fri-Thurs
Pyewacket (Adam MacDonald) Fri-Sun
ACORN and the Firestorm (Reuben Atlas, Sam Pollard) Sat, Sun, Mon & Weds

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Blackmail (Abhinay Deo) Fri-Thurs
Baaghi 2 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs
Rangasthalam (Sukumar) Fri-Thurs
Hichki (Siddharth Malhotra) Fri-Thurs
Chal Mohan Ranga (Krishna Chaitanya) Fri-Thurs
Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Itzhak (Alison Chernick) Fri-Thurs
Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

The China Hustle (Jed Rothstein) Fri-Thurs
LA 92 (Dan Lindsay & TJ Martin) Sat Only Director in Attendance, Free Event
Never Eat Alone with The Last Poems Trilogy (Sofia Bohdanowicz) Sat Only Our Review Director in Attendance
Maison du bonheur (Sofia Bohdanowicz) Sat Only Our Review Director in Attendance
Mass for Shut-Ins with There Lived the Colliers (Winston DeGiobbi/Nelson MacDonald) Sun Only
In the Waves with La pesca (Jacquelyn Mills/Pablo Álvarez-Mesa) Sun Only
Werewolf (Ashley McKenzie) Sun Only Our Review
Best of the 44th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival Weds Only
Hacer Mucho con Poco (Do More with Less) (Katerina Kliwadenko & Mario Novas) Thurs Only

Paramount Theatre:

A Woman of the World (Malcolm St. Clair, 1925) Mon Only Live Score

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Never Not Love You (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs
Subedar Joginder Singh (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
My Perfect You (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Gemini (Aaron Katz) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Young and Innocent (Alfred Hitchcock, 1937) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (Dave O’Leske) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) Sun & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

Outside In (Lynn Shelton) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Ramen Heads (Koki Shigeno) Fri-Thurs
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Thurs Only Our Review
Distant Sky – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Live in Copenhagen (David Barnard) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Spinning Man (Simon Kaijser da Silva) Fri-Thurs
Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson) Our Review
Annihilation (Alex Garland) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

Fail to Appear (2017, Antoine Bourges)

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One of the highlights of last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (my first) was the Future//Present film series, curated by Adam Cook. While the films varied in subject matter and stylistic expression, they were united by a general sense of experimentation, delving into the complexities and possibilities offered by a particular, independent mode of filmmaking. Now, the Northwest Film Forum has brought together films from the series’s first two years, to be shown over the next half-week. It does not contain my favorite of the handful I’ve seen thus far, Blake William’s ambitious 3D experiment PROTOTYPE (which is likely beyond the projection capabilities of NWFF), but each movie in the Future//Present series promises to be distinctive and enlightening in its own way.

So it is with Antoine Bourges’s Fail to Appear, which showed at last year’s VIFF and will play at NWFF alongside Kazik Radwanski’s excellent short “Scaffold” (which I reviewed here). The short feature’s narrative is simple, verging on the ascetic: Isolde (Deragh Campbell), an entry-level social worker at a care center in Toronto, is assigned to Eric (Nathan Roder) a man with an unspecified condition who has been charged with petty theft. Divided rather neatly into thirds, the film first charts Isolde’s day-to-day work and interactions with both her clients and her colleagues (one of whom, in a delightful touch mirrored by Eric’s own private ambitions, is an aspiring musical artist). After an extended court hearing, Isolde and Eric have a few tentative conversations, before the film shifts in its final third towards a documentation of Eric’s own home life.

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All of this is carried out in a (perhaps necessarily) constricted style, one verging on the Bressonian, as Bourges carefully arranges his frames in a mostly straight-on, somewhat sterile fashion, with the occasional pan or single tracking shot registering with a singular forcefulness. Correspondingly, the performances are subdued; Campbell is especially adept at lingering on the pauses between words, as the imprecise nature of communicating with other people continually manifests itself in “flubbed” words or a momentary lapse in the flow of conversation. Even if Fail to Appear in some ways registers as primarily a success in commitment to an engaging aesthetic style, this is no demerit: much of the strength of the film lies in this interplay, as emotional beats are downplayed in favor of the awkwardness of the moment-to-moment interaction. Its purposeful lack of resolution is only the final gesture towards the ambiguity and unreadability of any particular person, and in that sense Fail to Appear registers with its own odd, unique force.

Friday March 30 – Thursday April 5

Featured Film:

Fail to Appear at the Northwest Film Forum

The Film Forum kicks off a month of amazing programming this week with a miniseries devoted to New Canadian cinema, some of the most exciting independent films being made anywhere in the world right now. We’ve been following the Future//Present series at the Vancouver International Film Festival since its inception, and the NWFF is playing several of its best films, starting this Wednesday with Fail to Appear, a fascinating drama about a young social worker and her client. It’s paired with the excellent short film Scaffold, which follows a pair of construction workers (or, more specifically their hands and feet) as they work on someone’s home. The series continues on Thursday with the off-beat and beguiling The Intestine, and runs through Sunday, April 8th.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Fri-Thurs
Vampire Hunter D (Toyoo Ashida, 1985) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Fri-Mon Subtitled Sat & Mon Only
Raising Arizona (The Coen Brothers, 1987) Fri-Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Sajjan Singh Rangroot (Pankaj Batra) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev) Fri-Thurs
Oh, Lucy! (Atsuko Hirayanagi) Fri-Thurs
The Big Lebowski (The Coen Brothers, 1998) Sat Only
The Rape of Recy Taylor (Nancy Buirski) Tues Only
Love (Doze Niu, 2012) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The General (Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman, 1926) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs
Steamboat Bill, Jr (Buster Keaton & Charles Reiser, 1928) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs
Three Ages (Buster Keaton & Eddie Cline, 1923) Sat, Sun, Mon & Weds
College (Buster Keaton & James W. Horne, 1927) Sat, Sun, Mon & Weds

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Baaghi 2 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs
Rangasthalam (Sukumar) Fri-Thurs
Hichki (Siddharth Malhotra) Fri-Thurs
Raid (Raj Kumar Gupta) Fri-Thurs
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea (Hayao Miyazaki, 2008) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Mon Only

Regal Meridian:

Flower (Max Winkler) Fri-Thurs
Goldstone (Ivan Sen) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Leaning into the Wind (Thomas Riedelsheimer) Fri Only
Fail to Appear (Antoine Bourges) with Scaffold (Kazik Radwanski) Weds Only Our Review/Our Review
The Intestine (Lev Lewis) Thurs Only Our Review Lead Actress in Attendance

AMC Pacific Place:

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

My Perfect You (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, 1935) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Beauty and the Dogs (Khaled Walid Barsaoui & Kaouther Ben Hania) Fri-Sun

Regal Thornton Place:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Uptown:

Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Ramen Heads (Koki Shigeno) Fri-Thurs
Ernest & Celestine (Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar & Benjamin Renner, 2012) Sat Only

In Wide Release:

Annihilation (Alex Garland) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review