Friday December 9 – Thursday December 15

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Featured Film:

It’s a Wonderful Life at the Grand Illusion

This Christmas a venerable Seattle tradition continues as the Grand Illusion plays, on 35 millimeter film and for the next three weeks, Frank Capra’s greatest film, the grim, bleak, heart-warming holiday classic from 1946. James Stewart plays a suicidal banker reliving the agonies of his small town, small-time life of thwarted dreams with the help of a bumbling guardian angel. Donna Reed plays the gorgeous girl next door for whom he lassos not the moon but a mortgage and a passel of toothless moochers. As densely-packed with post-war anxiety and shadowy fears as any film noir, it’s desperately cheerful.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs
Befikre (Aditya Chopra) Fri-Thurs

 

Central Cinema:

Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989) Fri-Tues
Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992) Fri-Tues

 

Century Federal Way:

Dhruva (Surender Reddy) Fri-Thurs
The Bounce Back (Youssef Delara) Fri-Thurs
Man Down (Dito Montiel) Fri-Thurs
From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman, 1953) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs
Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs
White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954) Sun, Mon, Weds & Thurs Only Sing-along
Seed: The Untold Story (Jon Betz, Taggart Siegel) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) Fri-Thurs Tues Show is Free
The Passions of Carol (Shaun Costello, 1975) Sat Only
Dead West (Jeff Ferrell)  Sun Only Director Q & A

Landmark Guild 45th:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs
Befikre (Aditya Chopra) Fri-Thurs
The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis, 2004) Fri-Thurs
Kahaani 2 (Sujoy Ghosh) Fri-Thurs
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
Dhruva (Surender Reddy) Fri-Thurs
From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman, 1953) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs
Befikre (Aditya Chopra) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi) Fri-Sun
Movement Material (Jeremy Moss & Pamela Vail) Sun Only Artists in Attendance
Peter and the Farm (Tony Stone) Tues & Weds Only
The Eyes of My Mother (Nicolas Pesce) Weds-Sun
Oyster Factory (Kazuhiro Soda) Thurs-Sat

AMC Pacific Place:

Sword Master (Derek Yee) Fri-Thurs
I am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Befikre (Aditya Chopra) Fri-Thurs
The Bounce Back (Youssef Delara) Fri-Thurs
The Super Parental Guardians (Joyce E. Bernal) Fri-Thurs
Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur  (Harry Baweja) Fri-Tues
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs

 

Seven Gables:

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Fri-Sun Quote-along
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Fri-Sun In Smell-O-Vision

AMC Southcenter:

The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis, 2004) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs
Burn Country (Ian Olds) Fri-Thurs
From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman, 1953) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)  Our Review
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Coming Soon:

La La Land (Damien Chazelle)  Our Review

The Sword Master (Derek Yee, 2016)

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In 1977, at the age of twenty and making only his third film, Derek Yee got the starring role in Death Duel, a film by prolific Shaw Brothers director Chor Yuen. After helping spark a revitalization of Cantonese language language cinema with his hit ensemble comedy The House of 72 Tenants in 1973, Chor had settled into his own little corner of the Shaw Brothers universe, making a series of lavishly ornate studio-bound wuxias, usually adaptations of novels by popular author Gu Long. The stories are intricate fantasy tales of swordsmen who travel the jianghu, the chivalric world that runs alongside but separate from the everyday reality of the Chinese peasantry, a world with its own hierarchical structures (usually based on swordsmanship) and complex rivalries and feuds. Unlike the Shaolin films that Shaws directors Chang Cheh and Lau Kau-leung were making at the same time, Chor’s movies are relentlessly ahistorical, existing entirely in a world of their own making (even the geography is fictional). The fights scenes are acrobatic and wire-aided and make occasional use of magic but more usually bizarre weaponry and poisons are featured. Chor fills his brightly colored sets with beautiful decorations, gorgeously landscaped backdrops and ornamentations that block  and frame our view of the scene: it’s the closest Shaw Brothers ever came to replicating Josef von Sternberg’s aesthetic. After the success of Death Duel, Derek Yee went on to star in several more Chor Yuen films over the next decade, the final days of the Shaws’ studio, joining Alexander Fu Sheng and Ti Lung as Chor’s primary stars in films like Heroes Shed No Tears, the Sentimental Swordsman movies, and Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre Part I & II. But with Shaws in decline, wuxia work dried up and Hong Kong action cinema went in new directions: Fu Sheng died tragically young, and Ti Lung found himself overshadowed by his younger costar in A Better Tomorrow, Chow Yun-fat. Derek Yee turned to screenwriting and directing.

Never as prolific as many of his Hong Kong contemporaries, Yee has nonetheless had a productive and somewhat acclaimed career as a director. He won the Hong Kong Film Award for Best director for C’est la via, mon cheri in 1993 and One Night in Mongkok in 2004, and has been nominated for that award five other times. His 1996 film Viva Erotica, with Shu Qi and Leslie Cheung is one of the very best films I’ve seen in 2016. Cheung plays a young director with artistic aspirations who can only find work making a cheap soft-core porn movie. Shu Qi plays his star, a woman who comes to learn that she in fact has more to offer to art than her physical assets. Lau Ching-wan has a brief cameo as a successful director named “Derek Yee” who chats with Cheung and then runs and jumps off a pier, killing himself. Its the kind of weird, beautiful, romantic paean to art that one rarely finds among the work of martial arts actor/directors. Yee has made a handful of action movies over the years, along with comedies and romances, but now, with The Sword Master, he’s made his first period martial arts film. He’s gone all the way back to his beginning, remaking Death Duel in the style of 21st century digital wuxia.

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The story is about two swordsmen who have grown disillusioned with the cutthroat world of the jianghu, where all anyone cares about is celebrity and power. One, Yen Shi-san, cloaked in black with his face tattooed to look like a diseased skull, learns that he’s dying and retreats to a cemetery, where he works as a gravedigger. The other, the Third Master of Sword Manor, abandons his clan’s estate and finds work as an errand boy in a brothel, where he is known as Useless Chi. After defending a young prostitute (allowing himself to be stabbed multiple times by a pair of irate customers without flinching), he flees the brothel, knowing his identity will soon be discovered. He takes up with a friendly young man in a nearby village, who just happens to be the brother of the prostitute he saved and also happens to be located near to Yen’s cemetery. Eventually, all the forces of the jianghu descend on Chi and Yen and the village, led by the woman Chi was supposed to marry, the daughter of another powerful clan, along with a mysterious group of warriors in skull masks armed with nasty poisoned weapons. Everyone fights everyone while Yen resolves to defend the weak and Chi attempts to defend his new family from the psychotic woman who loves him without actually doing any fighting himself. It ends in a battle, followed by the inevitable duel between the two heroes.

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In tone, the film is faithful to Chor Yuen’s works: while lacking the distinctive overcluttered visual style it faithfully reproduces his bright colors and fanciful locations (the setting for the final duel, a fog-enshrouded mountain-top crowned by an ancient, white-blossomed tree, is pure Chor). But Yee and his co-writer and co-producer Tsui Hark, have slightly shifted the emphasis of the original film, amplifying the emotions and the romances while cutting down on the characters and miscellaneous swordsmen who appear only to be cut down after an action sequence or two. The result is less a reflection of a cutthroat world where everyone is driven by ambition, the desire to be known as the best, to rise to the top of the jianghu, where the only way a swordsman’s life can have value is by being known as a great swordsman than it is a soap operatic entanglement of intersecting love triangles. Chor’s films reflect the decadence of Hong Kong in the 1970s and 1980s, a laissez-faire world disconnected from the mainland and from history, a ruthless capitalist paradise. The new film is from a different world entirely, and its characters are driven not by ambition but by thwarted desire. Everyone in the film loves someone who doesn’t love them back, the heroes manage to make peace with this, the villains are twisted into evil. But along the way, we’re treated with many a lush romantic interlude, including several momentum-killing flashbacks to the lifelong romance between Chi and his murderous girlfriend.

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For the fight sequences, Yee adopts the digitally-enhanced techniques of contemporary wuxias, with lots of slow-motion and computerized movements. It lacks weight and none of the performances or scenes are particularly exceptional, though neither are they ever bad. The fights are fluid and faithfully recreate the fantastical style of the Shaws movies, eschewing the rapid cuts of Tsui and Ching Siu-tung’s wire-fus of the late 80s and early 90s. The choreography is by Yuen Bun, who’s most famous for his work with Johnnie To, and while it lacks the virtuosity of the fights in this summer’s Call of Heroes (with Eddie Peng and Wu Jing choreographed by Sammo Hung), it’s a step above the action in Yuen Woo-ping’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. That film provides the best point of comparison, as an adaptation of wuxia literature harkening back to the 1970s, but reformulating the characters and motivations for an audience trained to accept personal melodrama as the only motivation for action heroics (see also: every Marvel movie). The Crouching Tiger sequel though gets the balance all wrong: the characters don’t make much sense and the action is too disconnected, even when it’s quite good (and Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh are certainly more charismatic and accomplished performers than the competent stars of Yee’s film: Lin Gengxin and Peter Ho). The Sword Master is the best version of what Sword of Destiny tried to be, a pulpy wuxia romantic melodrama. A throwback and a tribute to one of Hong Kong’s most distinctive filmmakers.

La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)

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It begins with a joke and ends with glances. Perhaps this is the best way to describe the odd maturation of La La Land that occurs before the viewer’s very eyes, a movement from flashy kitsch to a fount of true human emotion wrapped up in dreams, that most Hollywood of ideas. Damien Chazelle and company certainly can’t be accused of insincerity, but they only seem to catch fire in the last twenty minutes, leaving the rest of the film to wallow in a strange mixing pot of playful cynicism at modern society and faint stabs at a genuinely compelling romance.

La La Land wears his influences on its sleeve, from Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly to Jacques Demy, but the movie often struggles to even come close to the kind of magic that those triumphs exuded. This comes from a myriad of reasons—for one, the songs, catchy as they are, lack a strong sense of momentum—but perhaps most importantly, he uses the traditions of those movies without truly embodying them or conveying what made them sing. Much of this feeling is due to a certain semblence of grandstanding that begins from the opening number, a grandiose, celebratory affair set over an entire traffic-jammed highway, all done in a single hyperactive shot to boot. Chazelle rarely lets up from there, extensively using the Steadicam to add a swooping flair to even the most mundane scenes in a way that feels intrusive in a strange way. The aesthetic feels misapplied, hyper-concentrated and suffocating instead of free and lithe like the classics Chazelle tries to imitate.

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Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)

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The best science fiction films are often praised for what may seem like the antithesis of the genre: the essential humanity and drama in the face of spectacle and grandeur. So it is perhaps no surprise that Arrival, a film of no small ambition, takes as its subject nothing less than the human race, filtered through the unique perspective of expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams). It is an alien invasion movie without an invasion, and indeed it seems as if Denis Villeneuve is almost totally uninterested in the extraterrestrials except as vaguely benign, abstract concepts. Instead, he first focuses with minute detail on the great unknown of the potential threat of the pods (the twelve cavernous spaceships that land in seemingly random places around the globe) before lurching into grand displays of emotion that culminate in an entirely unexpected conclusion that radically recontextualizes practically the entire film.

Villeneuve’s strength is in his gift for immersive suspense, which he only truly gets to display in the first venture of Louise and her compatriots, including Ian Donnelly (a caring, amusing Jeremy Renner) and Colonel Weber (a stolid Forest Whitaker), into the pod. Elsewhere, his sensibility comes off as too dour, particularly in the opening scenes which lean too hard into the panicked yet muted reactions of the public at large. Adams provides a welcome counterpoint throughout, infusing Louise with equal parts sensitivity and determination and a dash of ingenuity that almost feels like a light in the darkness of the unknown.

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Old Stone (Johnny Ma, 2016)

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A year or two ago, reports began circulating chronicling a disturbing phenomenon in contemporary China. The nature of the insurance industry there was mangled such that people involved in car accidents where another person was injured had been incentivized to kill the accident victim, because if they lived the individual at fault for the accident would be responsible for their medical bills in perpetuity, and even if that person themselves died, the debt would pass on to their surviving family. The story of just such a murder opens Old Stone, the debut feature from Chinese-Canadian director Johnny Ma. It’s heard over a car radio, and the film opens with a man stalking a motorcyclist through crowded streets. His name is Lao Shi, which, as far as I can tell, translates to “old stone”, hence the title. “Laoshi” also means “teacher” and this is a film meant to teach us a lesson. (This is also where I point out that I don’t speak Chinese at all.) We flashback to three months earlier and Lao, a cab driver, has accidentally run over a motorcyclist. After calling an ambulance he decides to take the man to the hospital himself, urged on by a crowd of on-lookers, some of whom advise him not to do anything, others who insist the man will die if he isn’t hospitalized right away (a fact later confirmed by the emergency room doctor). This proves to be a mistake however, as in moving the victim, Lao has given his insurance company an excuse not to pay the man’s medical bills, leaving Lao and his family responsible. For most of the rest of the film, we follow Lao’s increasingly desperate attempts to navigate the legal system, raise money for the victim, and find anyone willing to take his side. In true noir fashion, it’s the story of a man who made a mistake, once, and must suffer the consequences.

Ma sticks close to Lao Shi throughout the film, the movie’s perspective becoming increasingly shallow and fuzzy as systemic torments drive our hero off the edge. Chen Gang is very strong in the role. Tall and angular, with beaten down shoulders and sad eyes, he is the embodiment of the everyman ground down by impersonal bureaucracy. An Nai as his wife, a day care operator hoping to expand whose dreams are ruined because of her husband’s foolish altruism is very good as well, and Jia Zhangke regular Wang Hongwei has a supporting role as one of Lao Shi’s not particularly supportive taxi driver friends. Ma has a good feel for the actuality of the Chinese city, its crowded streets, its small gestures of respect and camaraderie and indifference (often involving the sharing of cigarettes), it has all the specificity that Ringo Lam’s Sky on Fire (also opening this week) so frustratingly lacks. Unlike the bureaucratic satire of I am Not Madame Bovary, Ma doesn’t seem to find much humor in the absurdities of the system. As the film reaches its inevitable conclusion, the sense of accumulated doom is palpable: there’s no respite to be found, no outside perspective that might provide for some possibility of hope and change. We’re locked into the system with Lao Shi; all we can do is take a drink and face the on-coming headlights that, unmercifully, won’t ever arrive.

Friday December 2 – Thursday December 8

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Featured Film:

Michael Snow at the Northwest Film Forum

With seemingly every theatre in town inundated with awards-hopefuls and/or Christmas movies, I for one am thankful the Northwest Film Forum is presenting, on one night only, 16mm prints of two films from Canadian experimental filmmaker Michael Snow. Wavelength is his best known work, one of the most famous avant garde films ever made. From 1967, it consists essentially of one 45 minute zoom across a room (albeit with some slight edits and angle changes), while people come and go and one man, filmmaker Hollis Frampton, drops dead. We talked about it on The George Sanders Show back in 2014. Paired with that is Snow’s 1991 film To Lavoisier, Who Died in the Reign of Terror which I haven’t seen, but Fred Camper called it a masterpiece, and that’s good enough for me.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out) (Lewis Jackson, 1980) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Fri-Tues
Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 199o) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Man Down (Dito Montiel) Fri-Thurs
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun  Only English Language Version
Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs
Before the Sun Explodes (Debra Eisenstadt) Sat Only
Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Old Stone (Johnny Ma) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Smart Studios Story (Wendy Schneider) Fri & Sat Only
EXcinema: Group Show Tues Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs
Kahaani 2 (Sujoy Ghosh) Fri-Thurs
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
Bethaludu/Saithan (Prathi Krishnamurthy) Fri-Thurs Telugu/Tamil
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun  Only English Language Version
Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs
Sky on Fire (Ringo Lam) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Brothers (Aslaug Holm) Fri & Sat Only
Miss Sharon Jones (Barbara Kopple) Fri Only
Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967) Thurs Only 16mm Our Podcast
To Lavoisier, Who Died in the Reign of Terror (Michael Snow, 1991) Thurs Only 16mm
Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi) Thurs-Sun

AMC Pacific Place:

I am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur  (Harry Baweja) Fri-Tues
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
The Unmarried Wife (Maryo J. de los Reyes) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014) Thurs Only

Seven Gables:

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Fri-Sun Quote-along

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Fri-Thurs
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (Fisher Stevens & Alexis Bloom) Weds Only Free Screening, RSVP

Varsity Theatre:

The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs
Burn Country (Ian Olds) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)  Our Review
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)

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An enigmatic woman descends upon a town, drifting in like a sultry, slinking fog. She moves into a room in a Victorian mansion, where she cooks up home brews of potions and soaps, some of which she sells at the local hippie enclaves. Other mixtures end up in the bodies of lustful men who fall madly in love–or just simply go mad–for this femme fatale in knee high boots and miniskirts. This is Elaine. She’s the heroine of Anna Biller’s latest feminist phantasm, The Love Witch. It’s groovy and gaudy. It’s the second film of the year to track the doomed pursuit of love through the Tarot, the first being Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups. A wallop of a double feature these two would make.

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Friday November 25 – Thursday December 1

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Featured Film:

The Love Witch at the Grand Cinema and the SIFF Film Center

Samantha Robinson is just a simple, pretty young witch looking for a man to love her the right way in Anna Biller’s hilarious new film, playing this week only at Tacoma’s Grand Cinema and the SIFF Film Center. As one does, Biller has chosen a painstaking recreation of the underground cinema of the 1960s and 70s (sexploitation, Italian horror, and more) as the ideal form for her intricate, deeply subversive feminist tract, recreating the vibrant textures and colors of Technicolor and going so far as to shoot on actual 35mm film. And as she did in her last feature, 2007’s Viva, she not only directed, but also served as writer, producer, composer, costume designer and art director.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned (Um Tae-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Fri, Sat, & Mon Our Review
Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 1981) Fri-Mon
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) Tues & Weds Only

SIFF Egyptian:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Love Witch (Anna Biller) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse) Fri-Thurs
Equal Means Equal (Kamala Lopez) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Landmark Guild 45th:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada (Vi Anand) Fri-Mon Telugu
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) Sun & Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Boatman (Gianfranco Rosi, 1993) Fri Only
The Wanderers (Philip Kaufman, 1979) Fri-Weds
Below Sea Level (Gianfranco Rosi, 2009) Sat Only
For the Plasma (Bingham Bryant & Kyle Molzan, 2014) Sat Only
Sacro GRA (Gianfranco Rosi, 2013) Sun Only
Zona Intangible (Ann Hedreen & Rustin Thompson) Weds Only
Rainbow Time (Linas Phillips) Thurs Only Director in Attendance
Brothers (Aslaug Holm) Thurs-Sat

AMC Pacific Place:

I am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur  (Harry Baweja) Fri-Tues
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
The Unmarried Wife (Maryo J. de los Reyes) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) Thurs Only Our Podcast 35mm
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957) Thurs Only

Seven Gables:

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Love Witch (Anna Biller) Fri-Thurs 35mm Our Review
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Fri-Sun In Smell-O-Vision

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Mon
One More Time with Feeling (Andrew Dominik) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Harry & Snowman (Ron Davis) Fri-Thurs
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)  Our Review

Tower (Keith Maitland, 2016)

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Approaching the subject of one of the first mass shootings in American history is by nature a tricky undertaking. In the case of the UT Austin clock tower shooting, it seems even more so; compared to other, more recent shootings, which usually take place in confined spaces like a movie theater, a club, or a school campus, this one took place in the wide expanses of downtown Austin, where no one seemed safe during the prolonged, two-hour standoff. So Keith Maitland’s approach comes as somewhat of a surprise: instead of seeking to paint a comprehensive portrait of this shocking day, it is a story primarily in anecdotes, from people who in all likelihood would only connect in events as shattering as this.

The most striking aspect is, undoubtedly, the almost entirely rotoscoped aesthetic of Tower. It almost purposefully eschews photorealism for a more impressionistic, almost faded effect, exaggerating the expressions and emphasizing the details, like the beads of sweat in the summer Texan heat or the sudden flashes of light from bullets on the sides of buildings. Even more radical is the mixing of archival footage with this animation. Particularly in the opening—before the shooting occurs—Maitland splices in animation interacting directly with the footage, the bright colors of the cars pulling up to the curb or people walking through the UT campus contrasting with the monochrome photography. But after the shooting happens, in an admittedly spurious but incredibly effective creative choice, the colors bleed out of the animation. Each person gets their own “loss of innocence” moment as they learn about the shooting (no matter how far it is into the actual events), and crucially the color never returns after the fact; when recalling certain memories the color returns to only further accentuate this point.

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I Am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang, 2016)

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A comedy of bureaucracy like many a film of the Romanian New Wave, but rather than the drab and bleak institutional ironies of the Eastern Bloc, Feng Xiaogang’s satire is bright and sprightly, bouncing along its tunnel visions for two and a half hours of contradiction made irresolvable by a society’s fundamental lack of belief in the primacy of actuality over appearance. Fan Bingbing plays a rural peasant woman who wants to undo and then redo her divorce. She and her husband, she claims, only pretended to get divorced in order to qualify for an apartment near the factory where he works, while keeping her house in another town (a year later they would remarry and get both properties). But then her husband took up in that apartment with another woman, and claiming the divorce was real, kicked Fan out.

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