Friday November 24 – Thursday November 30

Featured Film:

Lady Bird in Limited Release

I still haven’t seen any of the big art house movies, including Lady Bird. And I’m running late this week because of the holiday, so I’m going to stick with this, now expanded to a few more theatres around the Sound. Although it should be noted that Takashi Miike’s Blade of the Immortal is now in its fourth week at the venerable single-screen theatre, so you should probably check it out. Here’s Ryan on Lady Bird: A24 continues their remarkable streak of films that played at the New York Film Festival and focus on young people with Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird. While it has clear strands of DNA from Gerwig’s prior great films co-written with Noah Baumbach, the movie possesses a easy sprightliness all its own. Starring Saoirse Ronan as the eponymous high school student over her senior year as she navigates filial, romantic, and platonic relationships in the staid environs of Sacramento, it is one of the sweetest and most deeply felt films of the year.

Playing This Week:

 

AMC Loews Alderwood:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Central Cinema:

The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940) Fri-Tues
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday
Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Jane (Brett Morgen) Fri-Thurs
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Bugs (Andreas Johnsen) Tues Only
Of Race and Reconciliation Thurs Only Free Screening
Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life (Bill Finnegan) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs
The Light of the Moon (Jessica M. Thompson) Fri-Thurs
Wheels of Terror (Christopher Cain) Sat Only VHS

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Tumhari Sulu (Suresh Triveni) Fri-Thurs
Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru (Vinoth) Fri-Thurs
Mental Madhilo (Vivek Athreya) Fri-Thurs
Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday
Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Explosion (Chang Zheng) Fri-Thurs
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Novitiate (Margaret Betts) Fri-Thurs
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
My Friend Dahmer (Marc Meyers) Fri-Thurs
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Northwest Film Forum:

We the Workers (Wenhai Huang) Fri-Sun
Escapes (Michael Almereyda) Fri-Sun Our Review
Brimstone & Glory (Viktor Jakovleski) Sat Only
Shadowman (Oren Jacoby) Weds & Thurs Only
Don’t Torture a Duckling (Lucio Fulci, 1972) Weds Only
The Illinois Parables (Deborah Stratman) Thurs Only 16mm

AMC Oak Tree:

Tumhari Sulu (Suresh Triveni) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Tumhari Sulu (Suresh Triveni) Fri-Thurs

 

Seattle Art Museum:

Pretty Poison (Noel Black, 1968) Thurs Only

AMC Seattle:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Film Center:

Hook (Steven Spielberg, 1991) Fri-Sun
Bill Nye: Science Guy (David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg) Thurs Only

AMC Southcenter:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Thornton Place:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

SIFF Uptown:

The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey) Fri-Thurs
The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Square (Ruben Östlund) Fri-Thurs
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Novitiate (Margaret Betts) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review
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The 2017 Seattle Romanian Film Festival [TWO LOTTERY TICKETS, SIERANEVADA, SCARRED HEARTS]

car

The unexpected programming highlight of the fall 2017 slate in Seattle for me has been the fourth edition of the Romanian Film Festival at Seattle, which took place this past weekend at SIFF Uptown. This perhaps isn’t the biggest surprise in the world, as the Romanian New Wave has been one of the most exciting, motivated filmmaking movements of this century, but as far as I can tell, last year’s selection was roughly on the same level as most other country-specific festivals in this city. But with this year, the festival managed to gather, among other movies, three immensely exciting and worthwhile films, all without stateside distribution and from three directors that span the gamut, from Romanian New Wave old guard to venerated festival regular to even semi-subversive newcomer.

The latter filmmaker is Paul Negoescu, who has a small but passionate following on the basis of his extraordinary, incredibly low-key debut A Month in Thailand from 2012. His follow-up is the opening gala selection Two Lottery Tickets, a straightforward and totally hilarious comedy. While the previous film side-stepped much of the conventions that have codified the Romanian New Wave – the crushing nature of bureaucracy and the police, a single-minded pursuit of a goal, the need for money – this one manages to take on many of these DNA strands without sacrificing the wry warmness that suffused his first film, even as it moves from a late Dardennes-esque door-to-door approach to the road movie. Concerning a group of three hapless friends who lose a lottery ticket worth six million euros and embark upon a farcical journey to take it back from two thugs they believe have stolen it, Negoescu’s film manages to interweave in genuine emotional subplots that augment rather than distract from the humor. And there is a great deal of comedy here, including a handful of totally sublime setpieces and even more deadpan one-liners, all pulled off in well-composed static shots.

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Last Flag Flying (2017, Richard Linklater)

NYC

Richard Linklater has cultivated a career based on two slightly clashing recurring interests: continual experimentation with the passing of time on film, and a love for the outsider and wanderer. As a result, Last Flag Flying is something of an anomaly because of its deceptively straightforward nature in the context of his oeuvre. A spiritual to Hal Ashby’s seminal The Last Detail co-written by the original novelist, the movie is at first glance a standard Iraq War drama. But this is first-and-foremost a Richard Linklater film, and through the lengthy, considered conversations that form its backbone the catharsis is generated naturally and truthfully.

I should note at this point that I haven’t seen the ostensible predecessor to Last Flag Flying, and while there are many seeming allusions to events that would logically have happened in The Last Detail, most of the references are apparently fashioned for the film or the novel it’s based on, and not the prior sources: the character names have been changed, their military branch has been altered from the Navy to the Marines, etc.

restaurant

Suffice it to say, then, that Last Flag Flying is a film founded upon memory, and indeed the film itself has the semblance of memory. Set in December 2003, at the height of the Iraq War, it follows three former Marines – Sal (Bryan Cranston), Larry (Steve Carell), and Richard (Laurence Fishburne) – as they journey together to bury Larry’s only son, who has been killed in combat. Along the way, Larry Jr.’s death is revealed to be in considerably more ignoble circumstances than officially stated, setting in a strong anti-government, and, indeed, an anti-war streak that characterizes much of the second half, as the men decide to bury the soldier at home rather than at Arlington.

But Last Flag Flying is, first and foremost, a film wholly dedicated to its characters, to the point of being almost hermetically sealed into the bubble of three, maybe four characters. Their personalities, and the performances that guide them, run the gamut: Sal is a hard-drinking bar owner with a plate in his head, constantly provoking and bragging; Larry, slightly younger and less committed to the military than his friends is immensely quiet and recessive; Richard, formerly a legend with the bottle and the women, is now a committed Baptist pastor. The three meld surprisingly well, a testament to both their easy-going, never too insistent lines of patter and Linklater’s ability to juggle a variety of running “subplots” while retaining an essential subject of camaraderie.

Last Flag Flying is what might be called a film for old men, with its frequent evocations of the brotherhood of the military, the obsession with duty, if not a source of rampant jingoism – Larry’s quiet pain is compared with Saddam Hussein’s capture and the death of his own sons, and he holds no small amount of sympathy for the despot. This last detail, in conjunction with the odd fascination that Sal holds with the burgeoning Internet and cellular phones, points to something vital to the film: it couldn’t have been made at the time in which it is set. Much of the sadness and soberness, especially that which is barely masked in Sal’s character, comes from the retrospective look that cools many of the flaming passions that might have engulfed a more hastily made film. These are old men, something which Linklater’s steady, only occasionally energetic camera captures with just the right sense of weariness, and their mission is one done out of love rather than duty.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017, Martin McDonagh)

sheriff

Discussing a film’s “timeliness,” regardless of what cultural and political climate it was conceived and produced under, is typically a foolhardy errand, prone to improperly deconstructing its complexities into a simple, digestible message or moral. And while these issues with the approach are only slightly less problematic when applied to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, it’s hard to ignore the litany of long-delayed outrages that have arisen in between the movie’s premiere and release, beginning with the well-judged withdrawal from Fantastic Fest and continuing with the (at least temporary) downfalls of Weinstein, Spacey, etc. With these events in mind, it’s tempting to take the movie as a straightforward condemnation of sexual assault and the indifference with which it was too long received. However, for better and for worse, the film is concerned with a more all-encompassing and thorny critique of American heartland culture, with equal parts finesse and head-thumping obviousness.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri‘s premise is relatively simple, concerning Mildred Hayes’s (Frances McDormand) attempts to find the man who raped and murdered her daughter seven months prior. At the moment the film begins, the efforts on the part of the town and the police department have come to a standstill. In a ploy to draw attention to the case, Mildred rents the eponymous billboards that point the finger, in bold black text surrounded by red, at Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), the head sheriff in a losing battle with pancreatic cancer. This in turn sets off a torrent of outrage directed at Mildred, triggering a shocking spiral of seething hatred and scorn in the small town.

billboards

McDonagh’s tone in his films thus far has lied squarely in the black comedy, and while I can’t speak to the subject and tone of his prior work, the mix of this sober subject matter and black comedy is somewhat uneasy, if not unproductive. Much of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is shockingly angry and nigh self-righteous, and arguably if it were anchored in a less vigorous or forceful presence than McDormand’s it would fall apart. Yet this is her movie, in narrative construction (at least for most of the film) and in general impact, and her indomitable toughness obscuring a more quiet self-doubt smooths over some of the rougher patches.

And there are a surprising number of rough patches, even when factoring in the general expected trajectory of violence and escalation that does take place. Many of the few and far between comedic moments land, but the complicating factors and figures often come across as messy in a way that distracts from the narrative arc, including Mildred’s ex-husband (John Hawkes). The character transformation that the racist, absentminded police officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) undergoes is drastic, but it points to a more troubling display of the possibility of redemption that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri seems to want to evoke only at the most opportune moments. Oddly, for a film so seemingly focused at the outset, it is the smaller moments, the lingering on certain faces, that feel more effective than the broiling atmosphere of hatred that McDonagh and his collaborators work so hard to create.

Friday November 17 – Thursday November 23

Featured Film:

Lady Bird in Limited Release

I haven’t seen any of the big new movies out this week (Last Flag Flying, Three Billboards, Thirst Street, The Work), but the one I most want to see is Lady Bird. Ryan’s seen it though, and here’s what he has to say: A24 continues their remarkable streak of films that played at the New York Film Festival and focus on young people with Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird. While it has clear strands of DNA from Gerwig’s prior great films co-written with Noah Baumbach, the movie possesses a easy sprightliness all its own. Starring Saoirse Ronan as the eponymous high school student over her senior year as she navigates filial, romantic, and platonic relationships in the staid environs of Sacramento, it is one of the sweetest and most deeply felt films of the year. It’s playing now at the Egyptian, Lincoln Square, Thornton Place and the Seattle 10, which used to be the Metro and probably should be again.

Playing This Week:

Central Cinema:

Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984) Fri-Tues
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Rudy (David Anspaugh, 1993) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Jane (Brett Morgen) Fri-Thurs
Rise of the Guardians (Peter Ramsey, 2012) Sat Only Free Screening
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) Sat Only
Trophy (Shaul Schwarz & Christina Clusiau) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike) Fri-Mon
Bobbi Jene (Elvira Lind) Fri-Weds

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Tumhari Sulu (Suresh Triveni) Fri-Thurs
Khakee/Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru (Vinoth) Fri-Thurs In Tamil or Telugu, Check Listings

Regal Meridian:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Novitiate (Margaret Betts) Fri-Thurs
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
My Friend Dahmer (Marc Meyers) Fri-Thurs
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Thirst Street (Nathan Silver) Fri-Sun
KINOFEST Seattle 2017 Fri-Sun Full Program
Brimstone & Glory (Viktor Jakovleski) Sat & Sun Only
The Problem with Apu (Michael Melamedoff) Sun Only Creator & Star in Attendance
The Work (Jairus McLeary & Gethin Aldous) Weds Only
The Laughing Woman (Piero Schivazappa, 1969) Weds Only 35mm

AMC Oak Tree:

Tumhari Sulu (Suresh Triveni) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Qarib Qarib Single (Tanuja Chandra) Fri-Thurs
Tumhari Sulu (Suresh Triveni) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Novitiate (Margaret Betts) Fri-Thurs
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Film Center:

Bill Nye: Science Guy (David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg) Fri-Thurs
Magic Mike XXL (gregory Jacobs, 2015) Sat Only Dissection w/Courtney Sheehan

Regal Thornton Place:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Uptown:

Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Square (Ruben Östlund) Fri-Thurs
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Romanian Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program 
Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Friday November 10 – Thursday November 16

Featured Film:

120 Beats per Minute at the AMC Seattle and Faces Places at the SIFF Film Center

Two of the very best movies of 2017 open this week on single screens in Seattle. Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats per Minute (BPM) is the story of the Paris branch of ACT UP during the early 90s, an expert melding of suspenseful political filmmaking with personal romance and tragedy. Faces Places, by venerable New Wave icon Agnès Varda and ambiguous photographer JR is the year’s best best buddy comedy and probably the nicest movie of the year too, as the two travel around France making large pictures of the people they meet. It’s also the 2017 movie most likely to make you want to punch Jean-Luc Godard in the nose. Taken together, these two French films make a compelling argument that European Cinema is not, in fact, dead. On the other hand, Palme d’Or winner The Square opens too this week at the Uptown and the Lincoln Square.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

This is Spinal Tap (Marty DiBergi, 1984) Sat Only Our Review

Central Cinema:

Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999) Fri, Sat & Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Sardar Mohammad (Harry Bhatti) Fri-Thurs
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Sun & Weds Only Our Review

Grand Cinema:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Jane (Brett Morgen) Fri-Thurs
78/52 (Alexandre O. Philippe) Sat Only
Boston (Jon Dunham) Tues Only
The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963) Weds Only
Demain (Cyril Dion & Melanie Laurent) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike) Fri-Mon, Weds-Thurs
Mansfield 66/67 (Todd Hughes & P. David Ebersole) Fri-Thurs
Alternative Views (John Behrens, 2014) Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
The Square (Ruben Östlund) Fri-Thurs
Golmaal Again!!! (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs
Secret Superstar (Advait Chandan) Fri-Thurs
PSV Garuda Vega 126.18M (Praveen Sattaru) Fri-Thurs
Qarib Qarib Single (Tanuja Chandra) Fri-Thurs
C/O Surya (Suseenthiran) Fri-Thurs
Ittefaq (Abhay Chopra) Fri-Thurs
Dayavittu Gamanisi (Rohit Padaki) Sun Only
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Sun & Weds Only Our Review

Regal Meridian:

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
My Friend Dahmer (Marc Meyers) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Don’t Break Down: A Film about Jawbreaker (Keith Schieron & Tim Irwin) Fri Only Bassist in Attendance
Signature Move (Jennifer Reeder) Fri & Sat Only
Brimstone & Glory (Viktor Jakovleski) Sat & Thurs Only
Kékszakállú (Gastón Solnicki) Sun Only
Almost Sunrise (Michael Collins) Sun Only
Moving History – Sound & Color Sun Only
Time to Die (Arturo Ripstein, 1966) Weds & Thurs Only
Short Night of Glass Dolls (Aldo Lado, 1971) Weds Only

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Qarib Qarib Single (Tanuja Chandra) Fri-Thurs
Seven Sundays (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

BPM (120 Beats per Minute) (Robin Campillo) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Seattle Art Museum:

The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925) Weds Only Our Podcast
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Thornton Place:

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Sun & Weds Only Our Review

SIFF Uptown:

Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Square (Ruben Östlund) Fri-Thurs
Cinema Italian Style 2017 Fri-Thurs Full Program

Varsity Theatre:

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Weds Only Our Review
The Truth About Lies (Phil Allocco, 2015) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Lady Bird (2017, Greta Gerwig)

mother

Over the past decade, Greta Gerwig has become one of the most vital and vibrant stars of the independent film scene. In doing so, she has established an artistic identity apart from her acting: she co-directed Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg, and has cultivated a strong creative and personal partnership with Noah Baumbach, co-writing two of the most attuned comedies of the decade together. So it was only a matter of time before Gerwig made a film all her own, and with Lady Bird comes something expected yet totally delightful: a work of both nostalgia and anti-nostalgia, something both fleeting and grounded, all anchored in an utterly indelible character.

That character is Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), nicknamed (by herself) Lady Bird, a young woman in her senior year of high school literally living on “the wrong side of the tracks” in Sacramento circa 2002. An underachieving yet passionate student, she wishes nothing more than to go to a college on the East Coast in a city that, unlike her perception of her hometown, has culture and heritage. Sensibly, Lady Bird is effectively split into two stories: the more dominant portion, dramatically speaking, deals with Lady Bird’s tenuous relationship with her family, including her tough, loving mother (Laurie Metcalf) and her kindly but suffering father (Tracy Letts); and the second, more lighthearted but never lightweight one portrays her life at her Catholic private school, negotiating popularity, drama, poor math grades, and the college application process.

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Daguerrotype (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016)

le-secret-de-la-chambre-noire

Halloween may have passed but it’s always a good time to watch a creepy movie by a great director, and that exactly what Daguerrotype, by Kiyoshi Kurosawa is. The artiest of the filmmakers to emerge in the J-Horror boom of the late 90s, or at least the one most likely to win awards at Cannes, Kurosawa’s formal precision and methodical rhythms have earned him comparisons to the usual suspects (Kubrick, Tarkovsky), and films like Cure and Pulse are indeed a far cry from the free-wheeling genre hysterics of Takashi Miike and Sion Sono. This isn’t his latest film (that would be Before We Vanish, which premiered this year, at Cannes), but rather the one that premiered last year, at Cannes, around the same time his other 2016 film, Creepy, was playing here at SIFF. It’s not getting a local release here in Seattle, but will be available on-demand starting on November 7.

Daguerrotype finds the director working in France, in French and with an all European cast (the French title, Le secret de la chambre noir gives a much better sense of the film’s eerie vibe). Tahar Rahim plays a young man who gets a job assisting a photographer (Dardennes regular Olivier Gourmet) at his suburban mansion (or “old house with some land”). The photographer uses 19th century equipment and techniques to create life-sized and disturbingly like-like photographs of his daughter (Constance Rousseau), which require dressing her in old dresses and locking her into place using a terrifying brace so that she can remain totally immobilized for the inordinately long exposure times the daguerrotype process requires (they start at an hour and get longer as the film goes along). He previously used the process on his wife, now deceased and possibly haunting the house. The young man falls in love with the daughter, who wants to be a gardener, and so a real estate scam begins. The movie is essentially a film noir, except instead of Lana Turner seducing a working class guy into murdering her husband, it’s a ghost (or two) doing the seducing. Call it “The Ghost-man Always Rings Twice”.

But, like any film noir or horror film, to reduce it to its plot is to highlight its essential absurdity. Daguerrotype is far more mysterious an object than that, a black hole of a movie that sucks you in with the gravity of its deliberate movements, then revels in the terror that is the absence of explanation. Possible interpretations of the facts of the film abound (perhaps too many), but mostly it seems to come down to an act of revenge against the impulse to freeze things in time place, to stop the gradual process of change, both men ultimately driven by an obsolete patriarchal desire to lock women down, as wives, daughters, lovers, subjects. The entropic destruction of the father is inverted in the panicked scheming of the worker, both leading to their inevitable and not especially surprising doom. But perhaps most upsetting is that there’s no satisfaction to be found in this revenge, no cathartic joy at the destruction of an immoral system. The ghosts seem to be just as scared as we are.

Friday November 3 – Thursday November 9

Featured Film:

Wonderstruck in Limited Release

On its surface, Todd Haynes’s latest appears to have little in common with prior works by the director of Carol, I’m Not There, Safe and Far From Heaven. But his adaptation of an illustrated novel by Hugo author Brian Selznick, about a deaf boy and a deaf girl, separated by 50 years who run away to New York’s Natural History museum epitomizes a lot of what makes me uneasy about his work, while also being a very satisfying family adventure film. Ryan and I talked about it across several emails over the past week, which you can read here.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Central Cinema:

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) Fri-Mon
Clue (Jonathan Lynn, 1985) Fri-Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Weds Our Review Our Other Review

Century Federal Way:

Sardar Mohammad (Harry Bhatti) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Goodbye Christopher Robin (Simon Curtis) Fri-Thurs
Okja (Bong Joonho) Sat Only
Sidemen: Long Road to Glory (Scott D. Rosenbaum) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Golmaal Again!!! (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs
Secret Superstar (Advait Chandan) Fri-Thurs
PSV Garuda Vega 126.18M (Praveen Sattaru) Fri-Thurs
Next Nuvve (Prabhakar) Fri-Thurs
Ittefaq (Abhay Chopra) Fri-Thurs
Faster Fene (Aditya Sarpotdar) Sat & Sun Only

Regal Meridian:

Golmaal Again!!! (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Tragedy Girls (Tyler MacIntyre) Fri-Thurs
A Silent Voice (Naoko Yamada) Tues & Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Spettacolo (Jeff Malmberg & Chris Shellen) Fri & Weds Only
The Divine Order (Petra Biondina Volpe) Sat-Mon Only
The Resistance Saga Parts 1-3 (Pamela Yates, 1983, 2011, 2017) Sat Only Director & Producer in Attendance
Chavela (Catherine Gund & Daresha Kyi) Weds & Thurs Only
All the Rage (Michael Galinsky, Suki Hawley & David Beilinson) Weds & Thurs Only
Death Laid an Egg (Giulio Questi, 1968) Weds Only
Don’t Break Down: A Film about Jawbreaker (Keith Schieron & Tim Irwin) Thurs & Fri Only Bassist in Attendance
Gilbert (Neil Berkeley) Thurs Only

Paramount Theatre:

The Unknown (Tod Browning, 1927) Mon Only Live Score

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Golmaal Again!!! (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs
Seven Sundays (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Seattle Art Museum:

Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

2017 Seattle Turkish Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program 
Mozart’s Sister 
(René Féret, 2010) Weds Only
Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future (Peter Rosen) Thurs Only

Regal Thornton Place:

A Silent Voice (Naoko Yamada) Tues & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
God’s Own Country (Francis Lee) Fri-Thurs
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs Our Review

In Wide Release:

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review

Dead or Alive (Takashi Miike, 1999)

doa-opening

No filmmaker in the world has more fun that Takashi Miike. That’s evident from a late career masterpiece like 2012’s Ace Attorney, or from the last of the prolific director’s films to play here in Seattle, Yakuza Apocalypse. But even going back to 1999’s Dead or Alive, playing one night only Thursday at the Grand Illusion, you find that streak of absurd humor and perversity electrifying even the grimmest of bloody gangster sagas. The movie opens with a music video of destruction, rapidly cutting between locations as nameless gangsters live their good lives (prostitutes and strippers, cocaine and ramen) only to be cut down by a coordinated assault by ruthless assassins. The killers turn out to be a gang of immigrants from Taiwan led by Ryūichi, a pompadoured man in black, who are trying to instigate a gang fight between the local yakuza and Japanese Triads and take control of the heroin importation racket. On their trail is a reasonably honest cop named Jojima, who comes complete with a wife who’s endlessly worried about their ability to pay for a life-saving operation for their sullen teenage daughter. The plot careens wildly from one generic scene to another, enlivened at every turn by Miike’s eye for over-the-top grotesquerie, manic framing, and apocalyptic greens and yellows (not to mention random dudes in giant bird costumes). Sidelong glances at political relevance (a barely attended lecture on the future of communism in the post-Soviet era, the social pressures that allow an underground economy (and thus the gang warfare that goes with it) to flourish) are smash cut with the most appalling violence and cruelty, daring theory to account for our demented world. In the end, even genre itself cannot contain the depravity and contradictions at the heart of the cop/gangster drama, from The Big Heat to Battles without Honor and Humanity, the lunatic cycles of violence escalate beyond all reason, and cop and gangster burning the world and all to red dust.