Seattle Screen Scene Update

As all the theatres in town continue to be closed for the foreseeable future, a couple have taken to the internet. Both the Northwest Film Forum and the Grand Illusion are hosting online screenings of films they had been planning to play before the quarantine hit. The NWFF has Bacurau and Vitalina Varela along with some Local Sightings selections and more, while the Grand Illusion has Wild Goose Lake and Saint Frances. Check ’em out and help support the theatres we love.

In other news, I don’t know if Seattle Screen Scene will be returning in its old form once the quarantine ends. When we started five years ago, it was significantly harder to find information or listings about specialty releases (art house, repertory, and Chinese/Korean/Indian movies) in the city than it is now. In that sense, the weekly listings on the site have become obsolete. We’ll still keep the site going, if nothing else for its list of links to all the theatres in town. And we’ll still have the occasional review and festival coverage (SIFF has been cancelled this year but we still have hopes for VIFF). But as a regular source of coverage of what’s playing in the area every week, the site has been slowing down for a long time and it’s time to pull the plug.

On a more positive note, here’s this scene from Om Shanti Om (which played at the Beacon a couple weeks ago).

 

 

Sound! Euphonium: The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day (Ishihara Tatsuya, 2019)

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Liz and the Blue Bird was one of the great films of 2018. A spin-off of the slice of life anime series Sound! Euphonium, it focused exclusively on two of the show’s supporting characters, digging into their psychology and relationship as the band prepared the eponymous performance piece for a competition. It’s the strongest work yet by Yamada Naoko, one of the guiding directorial voices of the Kyoto Animation studio that was devastated last year by a deadly arson attack. This new movie, originally released here for one single show last summer but now playing at the Grand Illusion as one of their virtual cinema offerings, is not like Liz and the Blue Bird at all. Instead it is a direct extension of the series, picking up right where it left off, following the same primary characters over the next school year, but squeezed into a hundred minutes rather than patiently unfolding over the course of two dozen episodes.

It’s a curious decision, one that skims over the things that made the show so great, the small moments of human connection realized through the playing of music, in favor of a whole lot of teen melodrama plotting, mostly among new characters that we don’t much care about. The Sound! Euphonium series, like any slice of life story, anime or otherwise, is about detail, the accumulation of small, everyday moments that in the aggregate coalesce into a kind of epiphany or catharsis that can be overwhelmingly emotional. This effect isn’t unique to anime or dependent on the extended length of a TV series, by the way, two of my favorite films from last year’s VIFF, Mikhaël Hers’s Amanda and Dan Sallitt’s Fourteen (which will be getting a virtual release in the next few weeks) achieve the same kind of epiphanies in much the same way, in running times of less than two hours. A Brand New Day picks up where Sound! Euphonium left off, with the show’s main character Kumiko, a euphonium player in her high school’s concert band, moving to her onto second year. The movie follows the whole year, from the initial meeting with the incoming freshman, several of whom will have interpersonal problems which Kumiko will end up helping to solve (in keeping with the structure of the series), and culminating in the band’s performance at the regional finals, where they hope to earn a spot at the national competition.

Everything about the movie is consistent with the original series. The show’s director, Ishihara Tatsuya, is in charge, and he keeps the visual style exactly the same, where in Liz and the Blue Bird, Yamada had slightly altered it, elongating the characters and muting the color palette to give the film a somewhat less cartoonishly anime appearance. The show is structured around a series of little interpersonal mysteries where Kumiko finds herself in the position of needing to figure out why Girl A is upset at Girl B so that they can both play better and the band can improve. This works in the series not because of the stories (which are mostly generic and not all that interesting) but because they merely form the structure around which hang smaller moments of beauty and because each little story ends up illuminating some aspect of Kumiko, a character who is revealed (to herself as much as to us) only through her interactions with other people and, perhaps more so, through the music she plays. A Brand New Day still does that, but because the stories are all so compressed, they have no weight. Moments that would have been incredibly powerful in the series (Kumiko’s tentative relationship with the trombone-playing boy next door Shuichi, and her much more romantic one with star trumpeter Reina are the highlights) move by too quickly, and would be all but incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t seen the series. By the end of the movie, Kumiko doesn’t seem to be all that different from when it began.

The film’s highlight, in fact, is the final concert, which is also its only extended musical sequence. And its power comes not through any of the characters we’ve focused on for the previous hour and a half, but rather in the oboe solo that was the primary focus of Liz and the Blue BirdLiz takes place somewhere in the middle of the school year depicted in A Brand New Day, and while we see the shy but brilliant oboist Mizore in the background a few times, she doesn’t, as far as I could tell, have a single line (just as Kumiko and the series’ other primary characters were sidelined in Liz). The concert in fact doesn’t feel like the accumulation of Kumiko’s story at all, or any of the other primary characters from the movie. It’s the epilogue to Mizore’s story, the only one from this school year that really seems to matter.

Friday March 13 – Thursday March 19

Sonia Braga as Domingas - Victor Jucá
Featured Film:

Bacurau at the SIFF Uptown

Things are changing fast around Seattle as theatres decide whether or not to remain open, or remain partially open, or just close altogether. The Grand Illusion is closed until April beginning on Friday, as are the Seattle Art Museum’s film programs, but more are sure to follow if (when) things get worse. We encourage you to support your local theatres by buying gift cards if you’re able to. Independent movie theatres operate on a slim margin to begin with, so this pandemic could mean serious trouble. We have a lot of great independent theatres here (the Grand Illusion, The Northwest Film Forum, The Beacon, The Ark Lodge, etc) and it would be a disaster for the community were we to lose any of them.

Edit: And now (Friday afternoon) SIFF has announced that all three of its theatres (the Egyptian, the Uptown and the SIFF Film Center) are closed as well and will remain so for the foreseeable future. And the Grand Cinema will be closed but for a handful of special shows for at least the next two weeks.
On Saturday the Northwest Film Forum announced that they too were closing. The various chains and other theatres are all upping their theatre cleaning procedures and most are reducing to 50% capacity to help with social distancing.
And now (Monday) the Beacon, the Ark Lodge, the Central Cinema, all Faraway Entertainment Theatres (The Admiral, the Varsity, etc) and all Regal Cinemas are closed as well.
As of Tuesday morning, AMC, Landmark, and Cinemark have closed as well. So that’s it. There will be no Seattle Screen Scene for the foreseeable future.

I Was at Home, But… (Angela Schanelec, 2019)

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The German director Angela Schanelec has had, with the exception of Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the most circuitous path to arthouse prominence of any director in the past decade. As part of the loose collective known as the Berlin School, which has produced some of the most interesting and skilled directors working today (Maren Ade, Christian Petzold, Ulrich Köhler), Schanelec has struck her own path, pursuing a more elliptical and rigorous approach to narrative and filmmaking than her peers. Correspondingly, she has had a low profile for a director of her stature, making six features before her breakout in 2016 with The Dreamed Path, perhaps her most narratively complex and productively opaque work yet.

Her follow-up, I Was at Home, But… takes a more “conventional” and discernible approach, but in doing so accesses both the emotional and the inexplicable, taking detours and narrative strands while burrowing deep into its central character. That person is Astrid, a single mother, played by regular Schanelec actor Maren Eggert, living in Berlin; the film begins just after her teenage son has returned from running away for undisclosed reasons. In essence, the film deals more or less solely with her, her son’s, and her young daughter’s daily lives after this brief rupture, and yet all attempts at simplification are nigh pointless. For one, there are significant corollary threads: a teacher (the ascendant Franz Rogowski) at the son’s school embarking on a tentative romance with one of his colleagues; Astrid’s relationship with her lover; the ongoing, particularly uninflected rehearsal of a translation of Hamlet. Overshadowing all of this is the death of Astrid’s partner some years before, a crucial piece of narrative information that, like most else in the film, is only parceled out slowly, communicated strongest in the loveliest detour: a brief montage of dance and nature scored to an acoustic cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”

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One of the most peculiar and gratifying qualities of Schanelec’s film is her ability to draw these disparate moments into an ever-shifting whole, capturing the unsettled but quietly fortified existence of these characters. It’s difficult, for instance, to exactly settle on the tone of many scenes: the petulance of Astrid as she tries to hash out the status of the bike she bought from a man who speaks via a tinny electro-larynx is both maddening and truthful, just as the acting of the schoolchildren is both stilted and affecting. This applies in the interweaving of scenes as well: there are as many “random” moments introduced and dropped as there are narrative throughlines, and the viewer is left to determine the relative import of each for themselves in the course of the film, extending to the bookends, which feature a donkey, a dog, and a rabbit in the forest.

Of course, none of these are ultimately random or tossed-off; I Was at Home, But… is too intelligent for deliberate sabotage, something evident in the visual scheme, which typically foregoes the Bressonian close-ups of The Dreamed Path for long shots and long takes, the better to capture the full range of motion that the actors possess. This is captured in the film’s signal scene, a ten-minute tracking shot that follows Astrid and a filmmaker friend of hers (played by filmmaker Dane Komljen) as she lambasts his film for featuring an actor and a real sick person alongside each other. Where Schanelec ultimately falls on this spectrum is unresolved, but one of the lines that the filmmaker feels pertinent: “When you’re working on a film with other people, then it does become important how the work affects those people. What it means to them.” Affect and meaning go hand in hand, mysterious processes that nevertheless carry a personal truth that, in the right hands, can be overwhelming.

Friday March 6 – Thursday March 12

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Featured Film:

Slumber Party Massacre at the Beacon Cinema

I’m not someone who grew up on horror movies; I’m an 80s kid who basically missed the entire slasher film era when it was happening. So for the last couple of Halloweens I’ve been trying to catch up with the classics I didn’t see when I was young. This past year my favorite was Amy Holden Jones’s Slumber Party Massacre, at once a exceptionally well-made suspense thriller and engrossing hang out film, a pointed feminist critique of and tribute to the slasher genre. The Beacon is playing it this Friday night as part of their excellent Haunted Light horror film series. And next week they’ve got another of the ones I watched last Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, a bold, and arguably quite offensive, film that’s surely one of the strangest and most unsettling movies of the 1980s.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaromir Jireš, 1970) Fri-Sun 
Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Holden Jones, 1982) Fri Only 
Aparajito (Satyajit Ray, 1956) Sat, Mon, & Tues 
Brewster McCloud (Robert Altman, 1970) Sat & Sun Only 
Shaolin Temple (Chang Cheh, 1976) Sat Only Our Review
Leda – The Fantastic Adventures of Yohko (Yuyama Kunihiko, 1985) Sun Only 
Prison on Fire (Ringo Lam, 1987) Mon & Weds Only Our Review 
Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki (Lam Nai-choi, 1991) Tues & Thurs Only 
The World of Apu (Satyajit Ray, 1959) Weds & Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) Fri-Weds 
Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990) Fri-Weds 
Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011) Thurs Only 

Century Federal Way:

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
You Beautify My Life (Yan Qingxu & Yu De’an) Fri-Thurs 
Ik Sandhu Hunda Si (Rakesh Mehta) Fri-Thurs 

Grand Cinema:

Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 
Cat Video Fest 2020 Fri-Thurs 
63 Up (Michael Apted) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs 
Run this Town (Ricky Tollman) Fri-Sun, Mon & Weds 
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 
Same God (Linda Midgett) Sun Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Burden (Andrew Heckler) Fri-Thurs 
Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 
Gypsy (Raju Murugan) Fri-Thurs 
HIT (Sailesh Kolanu) Fri-Thurs 
Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal (Desingh Periyasamy) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 
Thappad (Anubhav Sinha) Fri-Thurs 
Mayabazar 2016 (Radhakrishna Reddy) Fri-Thurs 
Trance (Anwar Rasheed) Fri-Sun 
Forensic (Anas Khan & Akhil Paul) Sat & Sun Only 

Regal Meridian:

Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 
Mayabazar 2016 (Radhakrishna Reddy) Fri-Thurs 
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 
Ordinary Love (Lisa Barros D’Sa) Fri-Thurs 
Tokyo Godfathers (Kon Satoshi, 2003) Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Northwest Film Forum:

Children’s Film Festival 2020 Fri-Sun  Full Program
Flamenco Syndrome (Bijoyini Chatterjee) Sun Only 
The Hidden People of the Shadowy Rocks (Róska & Manrico Povolettino, 1982) Sun Only 
I Was at Home, But. . . (Angela Schanelec) Weds, Thurs & Next Sat & Sun Only Our Review 
The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981) Thurs Only 

AMC Oak Tree:

Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Burden (Andrew Heckler) Fri-Thurs 
Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Baaghi 3 (Ahmed Khan) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

A Tale of Summer (Eric Rohmer, 1996) Thurs Only 

AMC Seattle:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

Premature (Rashaad Ernesto Green) Fri-Sun 

AMC Southcenter:

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs 
Beneath Us (Max Pachman) Fri-Thurs 
Las Pildoras de Mi Novio (Diego Kaplan) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

Regal Thornton Place:

My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (Kenji Nagasaki) Fri-Thurs Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Tokyo Godfathers (Kon Satoshi, 2003) Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

SIFF Uptown:

Wendy (Benh Zeitlin) Fri-Thurs 
The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio) Fri-Thurs 

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings
Becoming (Omar Naim) Fri-Thurs 
Final Kill (Justin Lee) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday February 28 – Thursday March 5

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Featured Film:

Vitalina Varela at the SIFF Film Center

Pedro Costa’s latest is another in his story of the Fontainhas, the Lisbon neighborhood of Cape Verdean immigrants, following In Vanda’s Room, Ossos, Colossal Youth and Horse Money. It’s about a woman who is finally able to fly to Lisbon to see her husband, but arrives shortly after his funeral. I haven’t seen it yet, but Evan caught it at the Toronto Film Festival last year at wrote about it at The Georgia Straight. He was mixed on the film, but noted that Costa’s “images are as striking as any in contemporary cinema; they are incredible things to witness on a movie screen”.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Woman who Loves Giraffes (Alison Reid) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975) Fri & Sat Only 
Day of the Dead (George Romero, 1985) Fri Only 
Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955) Sat, Sun, Tues & Thurs 
The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, 1972) Sat-Mon 
The Church (Michele Soavi, 1989) Sat Only Pre-movie Live Set from Mortiferum
Megazone 23 (Ishiguro Noboru, 1985) Sun Only 
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) Sun, Mon & Weds Director’s Cut
Penitentiary (Jamaa Fanaka, 1979) Tues & Thurs Only 
The Zodiac Killer (Tom Hanson, 1971) Weds Only 

Central Cinema:

The Last Starfighter (Nick Castle, 1984) Fri-Tues 
Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995) Fri-Weds 

Century Federal Way:

Ik Sandhu Hunda Si (Rakesh Mehta) Fri-Thurs 
Sufna (Jagdeep Sidhu) Fri-Thurs 

Grand Cinema:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov) Fri-Thurs 
The Assistant (Kitty Green) Fri-Thurs 
Cat Video Fest 2020 Fri-Thurs 
Tales from the Hood (Rusty Cundieff, 1995) Sat Only 
Recorder: the Marion Stokes Project (Matt Wolf) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Olympic Dreams (Jeremy Teicher) Fri-Thurs 
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Doordarshan (Gagan Puri) Fri-Thurs 
HIT (Sailesh Kolanu) Fri-Thurs 
Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal (Desingh Periyasamy) Fri-Thurs 
Thappad (Anubhav Sinha) Fri-Thurs 
Bheeshma (Venky Kudumula) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 
Forensic (Anas Khan & Akhil Paul) Sat & Sun Only 

Regal Meridian:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 
Ordinary Love (Lisa Barros D’Sa) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

Children’s Film Festival 2020 Starts Thurs  Full Program
The 3rd Seattle BPP Film Festival featuring Mama C Weds & Thurs Only  

AMC Oak Tree:

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Daniel Roher) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa) Fri-Sun
Election (Alexander Payne, 1999) Weds Only 

AMC Southcenter:

Las Pildoras de Mi Novio (Diego Kaplan) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

Regal Thornton Place:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Seberg (Benedict Andrews) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Uptown:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
63 Up (Michael Apted) Fri-Thurs 
Nordic Lights Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program 
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926) Sat Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday February 21 – Thursday February 27

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Featured Film:

Celine and Julie and Susan at the Beacon Cinema

The Beacon this week has Jacques Rivette’s masterpiece Celine and Julie Go Boating, about two French women who meet and become friends and with the help of a magic candy become witnesses to, and ultimately deconstructors of, a Henry James-ish melodrama. They’ve paired it with a film it inspired, Susan Seidelman’s classic Desperately Seeking Susan, along with another 80s film that has a similar screwball energy, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. But if a more classic screwball is your thing, check out the SIFF Film Center on Saturday, where our pal Kathy Fennessy is dissecting Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday. Or if you want a wholly different Celine entirely, the Egyptian and the Lincoln Square have the long-awaited release of Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974) Fri-Sun, Thurs 
Shock Waves (Ken Wiederhorn, 1977) Fri Only 
Journey Into a Burning Brain: A Tangerine Dream Mystery Triple Feature Sat Only 
Project A-Ko (Katsuhiko Nishijima, 1986) Sun Only 
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) Sun Only 
Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seildelman, 1985) Mon, Tues & Thurs Only 
Something Wild (Jonathan Demme, 1986) Mon, Tues & Weds Only 
Gaza Fights for Freedom (Abby Martin) Weds Only 

Central Cinema:

Bring It On (Peyton Reed, 2000) Fri-Weds 
Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) Fri-Weds 

SIFF Egyptian:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 

Century Federal Way:

Sufna (Jagdeep Sidhu) Fri-Thurs 
The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

Grand Cinema:

The Assistant (Kitty Green) Fri-Thurs 
Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968) Sat Only 
Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Goldie (Sam de Jong) Fri-Thurs  
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 
Olympic Dreams (Jeremy Teicher) Sat-Thurs 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) Fri-Thurs 
Love Aaj Kal (Imtiaz Ali) Fri-Thurs 
Bheeshma (Venky Kudumula) Fri-Thurs 
Bhoot – Part One: The Haunted Ship (Bhanu Pratap Singh) Fri-Thurs 
Mafia – Chapter 1 (Karthick Naren) Fri-Thurs 
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 
The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

Northwest Film Forum:

Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Earth (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) Sun Only  
We Believe in Dinosaurs (Monica Long Ross & Clayton Brown) Sun Only  
Heedless into Night (Nifemi Madarikan) Weds Only  
Children’s Film Festival 2020 Starts Thurs  Full Program

AMC Pacific Place:

The Assistant (Kitty Green) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Boyfriends and Girlfriends (Eric Rohmer, 1987) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

The Cordillera of Dreams (Patricio Guzmán) Fri-Sun
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940) Sat Only Dissection with Kathy Fennessy 

AMC Southcenter:

Las Pildoras de Mi Novio (Diego Kaplan) Fri-Thurs In Spanish with No Subtitles

Regal Thornton Place:

The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

SIFF Uptown:

Corpus Christi (Jan Komasa) Fri-Thurs 
63 Up (Michael Apted) Fri-Thurs 
Cat Video Fest 2020 Sat & Sun Only

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings
Standing Up, Falling Down (Matt Ratner) Fri-Thurs 
Manou the Swift (Andrea Block & Christian Haas) Fri-Thurs 
The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1985) Sun Only 

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday February 14 – Thursday February 20

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Featured Film:

Noir City at the SIFF Egyptian

Always a major highlight of the movie year is Eddie Muller’s Noir City Festival, the 2020 version of which plays all this week at the Egyptian. The theme this time is international noir, and Muller has brought with him a wide swath of films from around the world, none of which I’ve seen. Sunday’s all-Japanese program in particular looks amazing, with Suzuki Seijun’s Branded to Kill (starring the late Joe Shishido) along with A Colt is My Passport, Pale Flower and Rusty Knife. Elsewhere around town, the Beacon has a Seattle repertory rarity in that they’re playing Indian movies. Two of them: Mani Kaul’s 1973 Duvidha and Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om, from 2007. Both look amazing. But if new Indian cinema is what you’re looking for, the Lincoln Square has Imtiaz Ali’s latest, Love Aaj Kal. It’s apparently neither a sequel to nor a remake of his 2009 film, also called Love Aaj Kal, but it does star the daughter of one of the stars of the first film. The 2009 version is pretty good, odds are this one will be too.

Playing This Week:

The Beacon Cinema:

Matt Christman’s Guide to Springfield Fri Only 
Burial Ground – The Nights of Terror (Andrea Bianchi, 1981) Fri Only 
Duvidha (Mani Kaul, 1973) Sat & Tues Only 
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1947) Sat-Tues Only 
Jupiter Ascending (Lilly & Lana Wachowski, 2015) Sat-Mon Only 
Five Element Ninjas (Chang Cheh, 1982) Sat Only 
Andromeda Stories (Sasaki Masamitsu, 1982) Sun Only 
Song to the Siren: The Beacon Guide to 4AD Sun Only 
Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan, 2007) Weds Only 
Birth (Jonathan Glazer, 2004) Weds & Thurs Only 
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (Itô Shunya, 1973) Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

Joe vs. the Volcano (John Patrick Shanley, 1990) Fri-Tues 
Sleepless in Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993) Fri-Weds 
Midsommar (Ari Aster) Weds & Thurs Only Director’s Cut

SIFF Egyptian:

Noir City Festival Fri-Thurs Full Program

Century Federal Way:

Sufna (Jagdeep Sidhu) Fri-Thurs 

Grand Cinema:

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Sat Only Free Screening
Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) Sat Only 
Purple Rain (Albert Magnoli, 1984) Tues Only Our Podcast 
Downtown 81 (Edo Bertoglio, 2000) Weds Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Buffaloed (Tanya Wexler) Fri-Thurs  
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 
Dark Romances: Bleeding Hearts Sat Only VHS
Paris Is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990) Mon Only 
The Sensually Liberated Female (Matt Cimber, 1970) Weds Only  

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Love Aaj Kal (Imtiaz Ali) Fri-Thurs 
Oh My Kadavule (Ashwath Marimuthu) Fri-Thurs 
World Famous Lover (Kranthi Madhav) Fri-Thurs 
Jaanu (C. Prem Kumar) Fri-Thurs 
Malang (Mohit Suri) Fri-Thurs 
Varane Aavashyamundu (Anoop Sathyan) Sat & Sun Only 

Regal Meridian:

Ride Your Wave (Yuasa Masaaki) Weds Only 

Northwest Film Forum:

Eros + Massacre (Yoshida Yoshishige, 1969) Sat & Sun Only  
Heroic Purgatory (Yoshida Yoshishige, 1970) Sat & Sun Only  
Perfect Revolution (Matsumoto Junpei) Weds Only  
Blood Quantum (Jeff Barnaby) Weds Only  
The Great Communist Robbery (Alexandru Solomon, 2004) Thurs Only  

AMC Pacific Place:

The Assistant (Kitty Green) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao (Karim Aïnouz) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle (Eric Rohmer, 1987) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

After Midnight (Jeremy Gardner & Christian Stella) Fri-Tues
Matewan (John Sayles, 1987) Weds Only Our Podcast  

Regal Thornton Place:

Ride Your Wave (Yuasa Masaaki) Weds Only 

SIFF Uptown:

2020 Oscar Shorts Fri-Weds Animated 
Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov) Fri-Thurs 
And Then We Danced (Levan Akin) Fri-Thurs 
Bird (Clint Eastwood, 1988) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings
Spy Intervention (Drew Mylrea) Fri-Thurs 
Camp Cold Brook (Andy Palmer) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review Our Other Review 

Enter the Fat Dragon (Wong Jing & Tanigaki Kenji, 2020)

 

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Things have been tough in Hong Kong lately. Months of protests over the lack of democracy and transparency in the Special Administrative Region sparked violent reprisals by police, with fears of the coronavirus outbreak on the Mainland only making things worse. The protests have split the entertainment community, with many stars and other figures, who thanks to the integration of the Hong Kong film industry with the Mainland market are pressured to literally toe the party line, coming out as pro-cop and anti-protestor. Even as likable a figure as Donnie Yen is not immune from the controversy, as some recent pro-Beijing comments inspired HK protestors to boycott his Christmas film, Ip Man 4. I don’t know if anyone is planning to boycott Enter the Fat Dragon as well, its Mainland release was cancelled because of the virus, though apparently it was a hit in Singapore over Lunar New Year. But those hoping for Yen to pivot to a more Hong Kong specific message, as opposed to the PRC-friendly pan-Chineseness of Ip Man 4 are going to be disappointed. Not really for any political reason, outside of a generic “all Japanese people are yakuza” vibe, there isn’t a political message to be found in it, but nor is there any distinct Hong Kongness that you’d find in Donnie Yen and Wong Jing movies of old.

Bearing absolutely no relation to the 1978 Sammo Hung classic of the same name, Donnie stars as a hero cop who is constantly breaking stuff with his badassery. He smashes cars, buses, people, a police headquarters, etc, and misses a photography appointment with his finacée, all because he’s so darn dedicated to stopping crimes. So the girlfriend dumps him and he gets transferred to the evidence room, where he eats for six months and doubles his weight (though this appears to cause him no other physical difficulties). Then he gets sent to Japan escorting a witness and gets involved with a ring of yakuza smuggling cocaine inside of fish, leading to more action scenes. It’s Donnie Yen, so these scenes are pretty entertaining, but the whole reason for the movie to exist seems to be that Donnie and Wong think it’d be hilarious to see Donnie in a prosthetic fat suit. Spoiler: it is not.

That’s not to say that the fat suit movie can’t be good. Johnnie To’s Love on a Diet, for example, has the prospect of icons Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng in fat suits as its primary draw, but ends up being an actually pretty moving comedy about friendship and depression. Sammo Hung’s Enter the Fat Dragon too relies for many of its jokes on Sammo’s rotundity, and the incongruity between his size and his speed and agility, but it’s also, as its title indicates, a showcase for Sammo’s uncanny Bruce Lee impression, as well as being the kind of low-budget, independent street-level contemporary genre film that would be a hallmark of the Hong Kong New Wave. That Enter the Fat Dragon was grimy; it had the feel of a bunch of people coming together to make a movie just for the hell of it, to show off what they could do. There’s a similar anarchic quality in Wong Jing’s best work: the freest man in 1980s and 90s Hong Kong, he would throw together movie stars and special effects and lowest common denominator slapstick and puns and highly dangerous action sequences all without the slightest regard for plot coherence or moral sensibility. At its best, it was glorious.

But that was all a long time ago. In recent years Wong has been cashing checks with Chow Yun-fat in the From Vegas to Macau series (a pale reminder of the greatness that was his God of Gamblers films) and making silly, overblown gangster pictures like the Chasing the Dragon movies. Enter the Fat Dragon, one would think, would be an opportunity for Wong to indulge his crude side, maybe even out-joking the occasionally funny Fat Buddies, a modest hit from 2018. But alas, it seems that in his advanced age, Wong had no chance of withstanding the sheer, wholesome niceness of Donnie Yen.

In this movie whose entire premise is “Donnie Yen in a fat-suit” there’s nary a fat joke. Hardly a moment of crudeness or poor taste. Instead we get a story about how Donnie is just so great that he drives everyone around him nuts. Not because he’s actually annoying or anything, but because everyone else is too selfish to realize just how unselfish Donnie really is. It makes the Razor’s Edge-lite can-do optimism of his Big Brother seem downright edgy by comparison. The supporting cast is occasionally fun, with Wong himself playing the even fatter sidekick Donnie finds in Japan, and flashbacks to earlier Yen pictures Flash Point and SPL are almost inspired, though the jokes don’t really land. But the fights are the only thing memorable about it: leaps around a Japanese street set recall last years’ Master Z and a finale in a tall tower is a fun fight marred by a nonsensical bit with a helicopter (why is the charmingly silly police translator played by Jessica Jann piloting the helicopter? Who knows, it’s Wong Jing!). Wong as the sidekick doesn’t get to do much, and his one set-piece, when his character accidentally ingests a bunch of cocaine and drives a forklift around like a maniac doesn’t make any sense. He doesn’t act at all like a person high on coke. Now, I can believe that Donnie Yen has never done a drug in his life, but there’s no way Wong Jing isn’t intimately familiar with the physiological effects of cocaine on the human mind and body.

Because of the coronavirus, Lunar New Year movie season, traditionally the biggest and most crowd-pleasing time of year in the Chinese cinema calendar got cancelled. I’m not sure if Enter the Fat Dragon counts as a New Year movie (as best as I can tell it was originally scheduled for a Valentine’s Day release in China, but that may have simply been an earlier rescheduling), but so far in the US at least, it’s all we’ve got. Hopefully there are better times and movies ahead.

Friday February 7 – Thursday February 13

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Featured Film:

Ugetsu at the Beacon Cinema

Bertrand Bonello’s latest, Zombi Child, playing this weekend only at the SIFF Film Center, probably should get the spotlight this week, but I haven’t seen it yet. Bonello’s always an interesting filmmaker though and I’ve heard some good buzz on it I think. Instead, I’ve gotta stick with the Beacon and their presentation of one of my all-time favorite movies, Mizoguchi Kenji’s Ugetsu. A ghost story about two men who go off in search of war and riches and the miserable wives they leave behind, it weaves Mizoguchi’s favorite theme (the plight of women throughout history) with eerie and gorgeous images and brilliant performances from iconic actors like Kyō Machiko and Mori Masayuki (who starred together a few years earlier in Kurosawa Akira’s Rashomon), along with Tanaka Kinuyo. Yes I’m going to start writing Japanese names in the correct order and yes it sounds extremely strange to my ears, long accustomed as they are to reversing them into the Western order.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Man Standing Next (Woo Minho) Fri-Thurs 

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska & Ljubo Stefanov) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Ugetsu (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1953) Fri-Sun 
Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando de Ossorio, 1972) Fri Only 
Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle, 1948) Sat, Tues & Weds Only 
Withnail & I (Bruce Robinson, 1987) Sat, Mon & Tues Only 
Crippled Avengers (Chang Cheh, 1978) Sat Only 
Takemiya Keiko Boys Love Double Feature Sun Only 
On Cinema at the Cinema Oscar Special Sun Only 
Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970) Mon & Weds Only 
Matt Christman’s Guide to Springfield Thurs & Next Fri Only 
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (Itô Shunya, 1972) Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992) Fri-Weds 
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Fri-Weds 

Century Federal Way:

The Man Standing Next (Woo Minho) Fri-Thurs 
2020 Oscar Shorts Fri-Sun Animated, Documentary and Live Action
Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970) Weds & Sun Only 

Grand Cinema:

The Song of Names (François Girard) Fri-Thurs 
2020 Oscar Shorts Fri, Sat & Weds Only Live Action
Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992) Sat Only 
Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, 2008) Tues Only 
After Parkland (Jake Lefferman & Emily Taguchi) Weds Only 
Horror noire (Xavier Burgin) Thurs Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska & Ljubo Stefanov) Fri-Thurs 
Citizen K (Alex Gibney) Fri-Thurs 
The Cave (Feras Fayyad) Sat & Sun Only  
Saturday Secret Matinees Sat Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

2020 Oscar Shorts Fri-Sun Animated, Documentary and Live Action 
Jaanu (C. Prem Kumar) Fri-Thurs 
Malang (Mohit Suri) Fri-Thurs 
Savaari (Saahith Mothkuri) Fri-Thurs 
Vaanam Kottattum (Dhana Sekaran) Fri-Thurs 
Jawaani Jaaneman (Nitin Kakkar) Fri-Thurs
Panga (Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Ayyappanum Koshiyum (Sachy) Sat & Sun Only 
Shylock (Ajai Vasudev) Sat & Sun Only 
Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970) Weds & Sun Only 

Northwest Film Forum:

We Believe in Dinosaurs (Monica Long Ross & Clayton Brown) Fri-Sun  
Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Earth (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) Sat-Thurs   
2019 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour Sun Only  
Berlin Bouncer (David Dietl) Thurs Only  

Regal Parkway Plaza:

2020 Oscar Shorts Fri-Thurs Animated and Live Action, Check Listings
Street Dancer 3 (Remo D’Souza) Fri-Thurs 
Pain & Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon (Chris Johnson) Weds Only Q&A with Director & Produceer
The Green Ray (Eric Rohmer, 1986) Thurs Only Our Podcast 

SIFF Film Center:

Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello) Fri-Sun 

AMC Southcenter:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled

Regal Thornton Place:

Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970) Weds & Sun Only 

SIFF Uptown:

2020 Oscar Shorts Fri-Sun, Tues-Thurs Animated and Live Action, Check Listings
Fantastic Fungi (Louie Schwartzberg) Fri-Sun, Tues-Thurs 
Cunningham (Alla Kovgan) Fri-Sun, Tues-Thurs 
Color Out of Space (Richard Stanley) Fri-Sun, Weds & Thurs 
Foosballers (Joe Heslinga) Tues Only  
After Parkland (Jake Lefferman & Emily Taguchi) Weds Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Weathering with You (Shinkai Makoto) Fri-Thurs Subtitled or Dubbed, Check Listings
2020 Oscar Shorts Fri-Sun Live Action & Animated, Check Listings 
Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

The Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams) Our Review 
Little Women (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review Our Other Review