Friday December 6 – Thursday December 12

B0011EQBOS_WarGames_UXMG1._SX1080_
Featured Film:

Paranoid Data at the Northwest Film Forum

Despite the fact that Christmas films have already been sneaking on to Seattle Screens for the last week, it is still too early for that kind of thing. Thankfully, the Northwest Film Forum is headed in a different direction this weekend, with a bunch of sci-fi films from the 80s and 90s under the heading “Paranoid Data: Pre-Millennium Tension in Film“. Where else in town can you watch a Harun Farocki doc back-to-back with a 35m print of Johnny Mnemonic? The series also includes a 35 print of Kathryn Bigelow’s 1995 stealth classic Strange Days, David Cronenberg’s Scanners, and a movie I’ve loved since I was seven years old, John Badham’s WarGames. The Beacon has the best movie in town this week, with Night of the Hunter, which just might be the greatest movie ever, and shout out to the Grand, where on Saturday you can watch Marriage Story, The Irishman, Parasite, and Eyes Wide Shut all in a row.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Whistleblower (Xue Xiaolu) Fri-Thurs 
Pati Patni Aur Woh (Mudassar Aziz) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Marketa Lazarová (František Vláčil, 1967) Fri-Tues 
Female Trouble (John Waters, 1974) Fri & Sat Only 
The Snow Queen (Päivi Hartzell, 1986) Fri, Sun & Weds Only 
Tevya (Maurice Schwartz, 1939) Sat & Mon Only 
Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) Sun & Tues Only 
Comet in Moominland (Hiroshi Saitô, 1992) Sun Only 
Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindô, 1968) Mon Only 
Class of 1999 (Mark L. Lester, 1990) Weds Only 
Children Must Laugh (Alexander Ford, 1938) Thurs Only 
Last Action Hero (John McTiernan, 1993) Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Fri-Tues 
Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992) Fri-Weds 

Crest Cinema Centrer:

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese) Fri-Thurs 
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Egyptian:

Fantastic Fungi (Louie Schwartzberg) Fri-Thurs 

Century Federal Way:

Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Sun & Tues Only Dubbed Tues
Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944) Sun & Weds Only Our Podcast 

Grand Cinema:

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese) Fri-Thurs 
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach) Fri-Thurs 
Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs 
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999) Sat Only 
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins (Janice Engel) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Light from Light (Paul Harrill) Fri-Thurs   
Tammy & the T-Rex (Stewart Raffill, 1994) Fri, Tues & Next Fri Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Whistleblower (Xue Xiaolu) Fri-Thurs 
Pati Patni Aur Woh (Mudassar Aziz) Fri-Thurs 
Panipat (Ashutosh Gowariker) Fri-Thurs  
Madhanam (Ajay Sai Manikandan) Fri-Sun Only  
Helen (Mathukutty Xavier) Sat & Sun Only 
Irandan Ulagaporin Kadaisi Gundu (Athiyan Athirai) Sat & Sun Only 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Sun & Tues Only Dubbed Tues
Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944) Sun & Weds Only Our Podcast 

Regal Meridian:

Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Fri-Thurs  
The Whistleblower (Xue Xiaolu) Fri-Thurs 
Panipat (Ashutosh Gowariker) Fri-Thurs  
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Sun, Tues & Weds Only Subtitled Sun

Northwest Film Forum:

Unlikely (Adam Fenderson & Jaye Fenderson) Fri Only  
And with Him Came the West (Mike Plante) Fri Only Director in Attendance
Everybody’s Everything (Ramez Silyan & Sebastian Jones) Sat Only 
WarGames (John Badham, 1983) Sat Only 
Videograms of a Revolution (Harun Farocki & Andrei Ujică, 1992) Sat Only 
Johnny Mnemonic (Robert Longo, 1995) Sat Only 35mm
Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1981) Sun Only 
Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995) Sun Only 
Force of Nature Natalia (Gerald Fox) Sun Only 
Animation Next Weds & Thurs Only 
The Masque of the Red Death (Roger Corman, 1964) Thurs Only 

AMC Oak Tree:

Honey Boy (Alma Har’el) Fri-Thurs 
The Whistleblower (Xue Xiaolu) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Honey Boy (Alma Har’el) Fri-Thurs 
Two Tigers (Fei Li) Fri-Thurs 
The Whistleblower (Xue Xiaolu) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Pati Patni Aur Woh (Mudassar Aziz) Fri-Thurs 
Panipat (Ashutosh Gowariker) Fri-Thurs  

AMC Seattle:

The Whistleblower (Xue Xiaolu) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Fri-Sun Quote-along
No Dominion: The Ian Horvath Story (Margaret Mullin, Nel Shelby) Tues Only 

AMC Southcenter:

En Brazos De Un Asesino (Matías Moltrasio) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Thornton Place:

Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Fri-Thurs  
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Sun, Tues & Weds Only Subtitled Sun
Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944) Sun & Weds Only Our Podcast 

SIFF Uptown:

Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs 

Varsity Theatre:

Knives and Skin (Jennifer Reeder) Fri & Sat Only 
The Aeronauts (Tom Harper) Fri-Thurs 
A Million Little Pieces (Sam Taylor-Johnson) Fri-Thurs 
I See You (Adam Randall) Fri-Thurs 
The Mandela Effect (David Guy Levy) Fri-Thurs 
A New Christmas (Daniel Tenenbaum) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers) Our Review 
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday November 29 – Thursday December 5

SATANTANGO
Featured Film:

Sátántangó at the Northwest Film Forum

What better way to spend Thanksgiving weekend than with a six+ hour Hungarian slow cinema epic about the decay of society in the wake of the collapse of the Iron Curtain? I saw Sátántangó at the Film Forum 15 years ago or so, and it remains one of my favorite movie-going days. It’s a singular experience, and one that doesn’t come around often. Elsewhere around town, the Beacon has Umbrellas of Cherbourg (another of my favorite theatrical experiences), SAM wraps their noir series with David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., and the Crest has two Netflix movies that are two of the best American movies of 2019, with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Dark Waters (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs  

The Beacon Cinema:

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964) Fri, Sat, Tues & Weds 
Gremlins (Joe Dante, 1984) Fri-Sun, Weds 
Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988) Fri-Tues, Thurs 
Blast of Silence (Allen Baron, 1961) Sat & Sun Only 
Overture to Glory (Max Nosseck, 1940) Sat Only 
Sailor Moon S: Hearts in Ice (Hiroki Shibata, 1994) Sun Only 
Black Sunday (Mario Bava, 1960) Mon Only 

Central Cinema:

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Fri-Weds Our Review
Christmas Vacation (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989) Fri-Tues 

Crest Cinema Centrer:

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese) Fri-Thurs 
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Egyptian:

Waves (Trey Edward Shults) Fri-Thurs  

Century Federal Way:

When Harry Met Sally… (Rob Reiner, 1989) Sun Only 

Grand Cinema:

Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs 
Dolemite (D’Urville Martin, 1975) Sat Only 
Scandalous (Mark Landsman) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Kingmaker (Lauren Greenfield) Fri-Thurs   
Wallflower (Jagger Gravning) Sat-Tues 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Dark Waters (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs  
Waves (Trey Edward Shults) Fri-Thurs  
Honey Boy (Alma Har’el) Fri-Thurs 
Bala (Amar Kaushik) Fri-Thurs 
Arjun Suravaram (T. N. Santhosh) Fri-Thurs  
Commando 3 (Aditya Datt) Fri-Thurs 
Enai Noki Paayum Thota (Gautham Menon) Fri-Thurs 
Raja Varu Rani Garu (Ravi Kiran Kola) Fri-Thurs 
When Harry Met Sally… (Rob Reiner, 1989) Sun & Tues Only 

Regal Meridian:

Dark Waters (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs  
Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Sat Only  

Northwest Film Forum:

Sátántangó (Béla Tarr, 1994) Fri-Sun 
In My Room (Ulrich Köhler) Fri-Sun 
Everybody’s Everything (Ramez Silyan & Sebastian Jones) Weds Only 
Unlikely (Adam Fenderson & Jaye Fenderson) Weds-Next Fri 

AMC Pacific Place:

Honey Boy (Alma Har’el) Fri-Thurs 
Two Tigers (Fei Li) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Pagalpanti (Anees Bazmee) Fri-Thurs  
Unforgettable (Jun Lana & Percival Intalan) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

Honey Boy (Alma Har’el) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Mulholland Dr (David Lynch, 2001) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

The Muppet Movie (James Frawley, 1979) Fri-Sun Sing-along
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Brian Henson, 1992) Weds Only 

Regal Thornton Place:

Dark Waters (Todd Haynes) Fri-Thurs  
Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) Sat Only  
When Harry Met Sally… (Rob Reiner, 1989) Sun & Tues Only 

SIFF Uptown:

Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs
Moomins on the Riviera
\
(Xavier Picard, 2014) Sat Only  

Varsity Theatre:

American Dharma (Errol Morris) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers) Our Review 
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

VIFF 2019: A Short Film Survey

Usually, short film coverage for a festival is about recommendations: see this, it’s the only time it’ll play in a theatre, probably. (The only holdover from last year’s VIFF I’m aware of was Norm Li’s Under the Viaduct, which screened in front of Sébastien Pilote’s La disparition des lucioles at The Cinematheque way back in January.) But this comes too late for that. So, where does this all go? VIFF’s programming has come to Seattle before, and, I suppose, there’s always Vimeo, but this is the flipside to festival going: there’s this idea in film writing that a work is good if it does something “memorable,” but it’s very often the once-and-never-again live aspect of a film screening, or the act of searching and waiting and writing about a film that creates and allows us to retain our film-memories. A handful of these, I know for certain, will go online for viewing within the next year. For the rest, an uncertain fate to be, as Souvankham Thammavongsa puts it, stories “wide and lost and ever changing.” Before they change any further in memory then, a survey of what things looked like this year.

VIFF executive director Jacqueline Dupuis opening the festival’s centrepiece awards event (Credit: Stephen Morgan)

VIFF doesn’t do curation for its short films — it provides a roof. When the festival boasts of 300+ films each year, over 100 of those are shorts. It can look like equal footing then, except that there are disparities all over the place. I want to say that this was a good year for the shorts selection, as far as anything can be summarized about a selection so broad and unpredictable, but it’s more fair to say that anything qualitative has to do with the grouped filmmaking traditions that are represented each year. 

Like in the Canadian features landscape, short films from Quebec arrive with larger budgets, lengthier runtimes, and distribution deals already set up. In general, the longer films are the ones that garner awards and drive interest in their makers — one can see this kind of angling from the intense 20-minute familial disruptions of Chubby (from Ontario) or The Cut. The same goes for last year’s Academy Award-nominated Fauve. Perhaps the most interesting case in this year’s lineup is Theodore Ushev’s The Physics of Sorrow.

A still from Theodore Ushev's The Physics of Sorrow. A painted image, of a figure in a hallway.
The Physics of Sorrow (Theodore Ushev)

If Ushev’s film wasn’t narrated by Rossif Sutherland, its images would seem to lend itself to a polyphonic consciousness. “I have always been born,” its train and time-traversing opening declares, before tracing a mythology of existence, from before the dinosaurs to after the apocalypse. Without exaggeration, this comes across as a masterpiece of animation (and it seems to know it, too), a work of deep interiority and a reminder that while short films are often structured like twist-ending short stories, there are other traditions to pull from. 

In this case, Ushev, the only filmmaker with ties to Bulgaria to be nominated for an Academy Award, is drawing from one of the country’s foremost literary talents — the film is titled after Georgi Gospodinov’s novel, published earlier this decade. So there’s a lot of weight here, but Ushev tries to keep the pace of things light, in a modernist stream-of-consciousness kind of way. The NFB is marketing this as the first film entirely animated via encaustic painting (an impasto method involving beeswax) — one imagines, as the narrator strains to cover the experience of migration across eons (or minutes), the labour of the single animator, the cost of all that time, the dedication of building up a practice for a relatively obscure tradition, to the point of being able to reach toward the sublime. This isn’t really experimenting — Ushev is full-force applying himself, layering beauty upon beauty. Someone I know called it “undeniable.” Even as its memory monologue unspools, this is a film that charges forward, with no interest in looking back.

It isn’t a surprise that there’s a film like Ushev’s in the short film competition (it earned a runner-up Special Mention): there’s a Canadian entry in the Academy nominees every other year or so. If you’re looking for change, the main one this year had to do with VIFF’s first visible attempt to address its shorts programming’s lack of diversity. Amanda Strong, a Vancouver-based Michif filmmaker, was brought on as a programmer, and two programs of shorts from indigenous filmmakers were added to the usual five. This add-on approach is often, deservedly, criticized as a way for institutions to avoid real, lasting change; it keeps the films in question separate from the established programs. 

Without knowing what this first effort will lead to, for now it’s worth saying that the films that benefited from this expansion were consistent with what a lot of indigenous communities are trying to do in the broader art world. They’re carving out space, restoring the visibility of ceremonial practices, and passing on knowledge to the next generation. While this educational context means these films are rarely of interest to cinephiles, there was variety within the programs: a couple of the fiction highlights were Kelly Roulette’s Sometimes She Smiles, a haunted spirit story with a structure not dissimilar to a Méliès short, and Madeline Terbasket’s Q’sapi Times

A still from Madeline Terbasket's Q'sapi Times. A storyteller, arms in a gesturing pose, sits in front of a fireplace.
Q’sapi Times (Madeline Terbasket)

Film, with its institutional gatekeeping, high cost of entry, and need for technical training, tends to lag behind writing when it comes to who is telling the story. Terbasket’s film in particular seems to be accessing the sense of narrative play and wit characteristic of many indigenous writers who have gained prominence in the publishing world over the past two decades. This is a coyote story, with Terbasket playing two trickster roles and using every formal and theatrical disruption they can get their hands on. Terbasket, who has previously collaborated with David Diamond, isn’t above low-brow jokes and narrative impatience; like any good oral storyteller, they keep things close to their audience: not the targeted imaginary one of buyers and “movie-lovers,” but the real, physical one they’re connected to by the communities in which they’re known.

Still from Eliot Galán's When the Tide Goes out. Drone shot of tidal flats at the edge of a forest.
When the Tide Goes Out (Eliot Galán)

The closer one ties a festival to a community, the more it can bring up the question of what is meant by the filmmaking spotlights at major festivals, which tend to organize along national, rather than regional concerns. And, sure, that’s how the funding is split up. But when it comes to what is meant by local, the insistence of borders looks pretty arbitrary. As a speaker in When the Tide Goes Out puts it, “What society teaches us is to be disconnected.” Directed by Eliot Galán, this mid-length documentary shows a group from the Tsleil-Watuth nation re-enacting a clam harvest in Burrard Inlet, where pollution and municipal bylaws have made the actual practice impossible. “We’re up against over a century of industrial development,” says one interviewee — this isn’t a film of conflict, however; it’s about capturing the small increments of possible action in a community not far outside the doors of the theatre where the film would’ve screened. Taking place in the Salish Sea, Galán drew on records from around the whole region, including ones from Tacoma’s public library — it’s easy to imagine a similar portrait for Commencement Bay, or Elliott Bay, that would have just as much to dig into.

Still from Sandra Ignagni's Highway to Heaven. A room of religious devotees, arranged in even rows,  in prayer before a meal.
Highway to Heaven (Sandra Ignagni)

Sandra Ignagni’s Highway to Heaven doesn’t go investigative, but it’s notable among the entire class of shorts this year for a couple reasons. With the distinction between screens collapsing, filmmakers are, much like they did at the dawn of television, going for extremes in aspect ratio: you’re seeing more squares and snake-ready rectangles than usual. Ignagni’s film, an observational cross-section of Richmond’s No. 5 Road, is possibly the only short in the program that justifies its ‘scope framing (Andrew Coppin is the cinematographer). There’s a close dialogue between what Ignagni is doing here and Frederick Wiseman’s In Jackson Heights — with less access (all of the spots Ignagni visits have a religious affiliation) the focus has less to do with Wiseman’s insistence on public speech, more with images that put the lie to the idea of both the easy myths of cultural homogeneity and simple multiculturalism. In either case charting, without presumption, the sparks and complements of difference is still the aim. (And the name-director relations aren’t just theoretical: J.P. Sniadecki and Brett Story are credited as development mentors.)

That’s the thing about films, even the ones with incredibly small crews: the closer you zoom in, the more people there are; if it were possible to truly document every moment of a film’s production — the uncredited names, the undocumented set dynamics, the long hidden hours of editing and promotion and submission processes and travel after production wraps — you might never run out of material. This is true even of the handmade film, which made something of a comeback at VIFF this year. 

Still from Caroline So Jung Lee's At the Bottom of the Sea. A car, seen from head-on, drives down an alley, its headlights streaking across the frame in a vertical line.
At the Bottom of the Sea (Caroline So Jung Lee)

At the Bottom of the Sea, Caroline So Jung Lee’s abstract reckoning with the ripple effect of the Korean Women’s Movement social protests of 2018 (audio extracts from Gwanghwamun Square’s “Courage to Be Uncomfortable” gathering echo under the images), won the biggest short program prize of the festival. Its solarized film sections and bromide-streaked midnight photography came about from a close relation with Cineworks, the foremost film-maker collective in Vancouver. Other examples included Yen-Chao Lin’s The Spirit Keepers of Makuta’ay, Cameron Mackenzie and Suzanne Friesen’s Venusian, and Sheridan Tamayo-Henderson’s In Which Life Continues Without Time. It’s one year, and it’s a tiny fraction of the films here, but you wouldn’t be wrong for finding VIFF averse to the practice in recent history (these are the first I’ve seen in four years of covering the program) — it’s a small enough shift to be possibly unintentional, but if it were to stick, it’d be a welcome one. Of course, this hasn’t yet extended much to the digital side of things — I spoke to a critic who argued the two most significant Canadian shorts of the year weren’t anywhere to be found at the festival (Michael Snow’s Cityscape and Blake Williams’s 2008).

Family histories are never far from a young filmmaker’s reservoir of material — they’re often the ellipsis that demands explication, or the blind spot that dooms a sense of drama. “Dramatists,” Hilton Als writes, “it seems, are always cursed and blessed with a family member who is a hysteric, and who cannot not make drama.” The methods of the filmmaker often take a different tact: the camera tends to be more concerned with a generationally distant family member’s lack of presence, the mystery they leave behind, the filmable objects and relatives and, of course, the shadows and ghosts and ceremonies that cover up all that mystery. You can see this in the forced on-camera confessions of Carol Nguyen’s No Crying at the Dinner Table, and the forthright concision of Sophy Romvari’s Grandma’s House

A still from Aaron Zeghers's Memoirs. A woman's image is illuminated, as in a holograph, while streaks of light overlay the entire frame.
Memoirs (Aaron Zeghers)

But perhaps the single most moving and demystifying work of the lot was Aaron Zeghers’s Memoirs. It didn’t win an award (and neither did Zeghers’s Danny, a mid-length that screened elsewhere in the festival lineup, though it deserves some kind of recognition). But find me a work that more intelligently mixes together the aphorisms of elders, the footnotes of fiction, and brilliant, awe-inspiring special effects. Zeghers is pushing the oral history interview past its realistic limit, and finds something more artful and weightier on the other side. You can also tell he has a skill for listening, and for knowing when he has a good quote. “People who plot their lives are just horrible people,” says one voice, in a film that slips out of plot any chance it gets, voices washing over one another, formats switching from Super-8 to digital to 16mm. To offer an alternative, another quotes from Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, a truly great generational work of another kind, one that describes in a similar key how the stuff that accumulates into a life rapidly does so outside of intention, and is far harder to reckon with and more beautiful, in a hard-to-approach way, for it.

The world isn’t lacking for documentation — or documentaries, which increasingly organize around single figures; there’s a CELEBRITY: WHAT THEY’RE KNOWN FOR profile coming to a cinema near you, right now — nor is it lacking people who say they can sift through all those documents. What sticks out, in Memoirs, say, is a mix of liveliness and gentleness, a generosity of intelligence that has no interest in didacticism or overblown appraisement. Two more to single out in this vein: Jessica Johnson and Ryan Ermacora’s Labour/Leisure and Christopher Auchter’s Now Is the Time (full disclosure: Ermacora also works as a projectionist at the same theatre where I work). Johnson and Ermacora, having earned in the past year retrospectives and a sizable grant to shoot their first feature (titled Anyox, after the northern BC ghost town), are only growing in stature, career-wise. 

A still from Jessica Johnson and Ryan Ermacora's Labour/Leisure. Labourers on a cherry orchard carry large white ladders to a worksite, viewed from within a large warehouse door.
Labour/Leisure (Jessica Johnson, Ryan Ermacora)

Their latest, set in the Okanagan, is a portrait of workers, in the fields and processing facilities of Kelowna’s cherry orchards. The bookending shots, of precipitous divisions (a golf course, a mansion), make their political point clear, but what comes through most in their images is their directness: they establish a personal point of contact (the credits start their roll with, presumably, everyone they came to know over the shoot, a list of scores of names), then step back, and let the cycle tell its story. As the critic Jaclyn Bruneau has written of their work, “They don’t educate, but instead provide a reflexive space for information already possessed.” We already know BC’s agricultural industries are more unfair, complex, and fundamentally different from the version that rests on the edge of the usual message about buying local and “growing the province’s wealth.” So Johnson and Ermacora give us a brief but generative look that resembles none of our assumptions, and doesn’t make sport of our emotions. You could say that what their film really provides is a space to see a world where we meet people, rather than consume their stories.

A still from Christopher Auchter's Now Is the Time. Robert Davidson, as a young artist, works over his desk late at night, brushing an in-progress hand-size sculpture, the window open before him into the blue evening.
Now Is the Time (Christopher Auchter)

Auchter’s film, on the other hand, could be called inspirational. A re-framing of the early work of artist Robert Davidson, Auchter’s work responds to an earlier profile of Davidson (Eugene Boyko’s This Was the Time) in the manner of a lively, animated essay film. Not only does Auchter return to Davidson in the present to contextualize his work in the first person, he dislocates the quasi-propagandist tone (“This boy may be one of the last…”) of Boyko’s “well-intentioned” film. This is a rare encounter of two artists meeting as equals, each illuminating the others’ work, as in Claire Denis’s Vers Mathilde or Bruce Conner’s The White Rose. Auchter had the original footage restored, and so we see Davidson’s work returned to its contemporary prime: the autumnal reds and oranges and wallpaper as melodramatically brilliant as the communal environs of Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows

Out of this, Davidson emerges in quite a different way from the other profile of his work at this year’s VIFF — Charles Wilkinson’s Haida Modern. That film got all the press, but seeks mostly to explain and make easily understandable an artist’s completed works; Auchter creates a work of art in and of itself. Just as the totem pole Davidson makes (he says it was the first work of his on that large a scale) eventually called on the efforts of an entire community to see realized, Auchter collaborated with names seen elsewhere in this year’s shorts lineup: Asia Youngman (This Ink Runs Deep) is the director of photography, Alicia Eisen (Deady Freddy) contributed stop-motion animation. Wilkinson, operating from a settler perspective, can’t approach Davidson’s work as Auchter does: rather than an encapsulation, this is a true, overflowing encounter — he finds life in the past; he, in a warm, explosive, way, connects with it. Which is sometimes all that art needs to do to make a single encounter life-giving.

A still from Christopher Auchter's Now Is the Time. Robert Davidson, present-day, in his studio, full of wood and completed works.
Now Is the Time (Christopher Auchter)

Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

Screen-Shot-2019-10-24-at-8.20.47-AM

There was absolutely no need for another movie version of Little Women. Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version (with Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Trini Alvarado, Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis) was already pretty much perfect, and George Cukor’s 1933 version (with Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Francis Dee and Jean Parker) was pretty good too. I haven’t seen the 1949 Mervyn LeRoy version, but its cast (Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh June Allyson and Margaret O’Brien) sounds amazing. Greta Gerwig assembled an equally great cast for her adaptation (Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen), but rather than simply play the familiar story straight, she’s jumbled up the narrative and shifted emphasis away from its family melodrama elements to something more in line with her interests as evidenced by her previous work, both as a director (Lady Bird) and in her collaborations with Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha and Mistress America)–that is, the story of how a young woman becomes an artist. It’s now a story as much about its own creation (both the film and Louisa May Alcott’s novel) as it is about the emotional highs and lows of its ostensible subjects. As such, it bears as much relation to Whisper of the Heart or Paterson as it does to previous Alcott adaptations.

It begins with Jo March, aspiring writer, living in New York and selling short genre fiction pieces for quick cash. A handsome critic tells her she’s wasting her time writing trash, which annoys her and not just because it’s true. But she gets a message from home: her youngest sister Beth is sick, possibly dying, and so she returns to Concord, Massachusetts. Flashbacks fill in the episodes that come first in the book and previous movies: a Christmas visit to poor neighbors, Jo and her older sister Meg’s trip to a dance, third sister Amy falling in ice, Jo and the girls’ friendship with neighbor boy Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), etc. These are interspersed with present day events: Amy in Europe with her aunt and Laurie (after Jo has rejected his marriage proposal), Meg and her husband barely eking out a living, Jo depressed about her work. The back and forth between past and present builds a seductive rhythm, as events mirror and comment on each other with ever greater frequency, culminating in Beth’s two serious illnesses, which Gerwig freely cuts between, doubling the usual melodramatic effect.

The film reaches its height though not with death, or with love and marriage, but with work, as Jo finally realizes what she should write about and Gerwig shows the process in detail: spreading papers on the floor to organize ideas, switching from one hand to another as the apparently ambidextrous author cannot stop to rest her cramping, ink-stained fingers, finally the physical process of printing and binding the book itself. There’s even a neat meta-fictional twist as Jo and her editor debate the Jo character’s ending, opening up the possibility that all the flashbacks we’ve seen are scenes from the book Jo is writing, that the real Jo and her family are not exactly the same as the Marches we’ve always known. Just as, of course, the Marches are not the Alcotts, and Lady Bird and Frances are not Greta. Tracey Fishko turned her friends and family into literature in Mistress America, and they all hated her for it. Jo’s story ends much more happily. At least, that’s the way she wrote it.

Friday November 22 – Thursday November 28

bound_001
Featured Film:

Bound at the Beacon

The Wachowskis’ debut feature, wherein Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly scheme to steal a bunch of Joe Pantoliano’s money, immediately marked them as filmmakers to watch in coming years, and the Beacon is bringing it back this weekend as part of their on-going Sex Work is Work series, which this week also includes one of Max Ophuls’s masterpieces, his final film, Lola Montès, about the notorious woman whose romances covered a large swath of mid-19th century European history. The Beacon’s also got The Last Waltz this week, which is just about as perfect a Thanksgiving film as you’re likely to find.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Pagalpanti (Anees Bazmee) Fri-Tues  

The Beacon Cinema:

Bound (Lilly and Lana Wachowski, 1996) Fri & Sat Only 
Kinetta (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2005) Fri-Sun 
Uptight (Jules Dassin, 1968) Sat & Mon Only 
Lola Montès (Max Ophuls, 1955) Sat, Sun & Tues 
Patlabor: the Movie (Mamoru Oshii, 1989) Sun Only 
Burn! (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1969) Sun & Weds Only 
Opera (Dario Argento, 1987) Mon Only 
The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese, 1978) Tues & Weds Only 

Central Cinema:

Planes Trains and Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987) Fri-Weds 
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin, 2006) Fri-Tues 

Crest Cinema Centrer:

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Egyptian:

Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Sun, Tues 

Grand Cinema:

Girl on the Third Floor (Travis Stevens) Sat Only 
Weed the People (Abby Epstein) Mon Only 
Chained for Life (Aaron Schimberg) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Another Day of Life (Raúl De La Fuente & Damian Nenow) Fri-Weds  
Lost Angelas (William Wayne) Fri-Weds Director in Attendance Fri & Sat
The Age of Insects (Eric Marciano, 1990) Sat Only  VHS
Blood Rage (John Grissmer, 1987) Thurs Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Honey Boy (Alma Har’el) Fri-Thurs 
Pagalpanti (Anees Bazmee) Fri-Tues  
Adithya Varma (Gireesaaya) Fri-Tues 
George Reddy (B. Jeevan Reddy) Fri-Tues 

Northwest Film Forum:

Everybody’s Everything (Ramez Silyan & Sebastian Jones) Fri-Tues 
Unlikely (Adam Fenderson & Jaye Fenderson) Fri & Sat 
Sundance Indigenous Shorts Sun-Weds 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Sun & Weds Only 
The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers & Kathleen Hepburn) Weds Only 

AMC Pacific Place:

Honey Boy (Alma Har’el) Fri-Thurs 
The Divine Move 2: The Wrathful (Khan Lee) Fri-Tues 
Better Days (Derek Tsang) Fri-Tues Our Review 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Pagalpanti (Anees Bazmee) Fri-Tues  
Bala (Amar Kaushik) Fri-Tues 
Unforgettable (Jun Lana & Percival Intalan) Fri-Tues 

SIFF Film Center:

End of the Century (Lucio Castro) Fri-Sun
Fantastic Fungi (Louie Schwartzberg) Mon-Weds 

SIFF Uptown:

Seattle Turkish Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program 
Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man\(Lily Zepeda) Tues Only  
Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Weds-Thurs 

Varsity Theatre:

The Report (Scott Z. Burns) Fri-Thurs 
Return of the Fly (Edward Bernds, 1959) Sat Only 

In Wide Release:

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers) Our Review 
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday November 15 – Thursday November 21

190927-schager-irishmen-tease_2_mfqyoz
Featured Film:

The Irishman at the Cinerama and the Crest

Martin Scorsese’s new superhero movie about an Irish guy who fights crime opens this week at the Cinerama and the Crest (and also a theatre in Redmond). At least, I assume that’s what the movie is about, I haven’t been able to see it yet and I haven’t really been following the news. Elsewhere around town the Beacon has a killer line-up of The Secret of NIMH, Angel’s Egg and Klute, while the Grand brings back my favorite movie of the year so far, Takashi Miike’s First Love, SAM has the Lee Marvin classic Point Blank, the Uptown has a Romanian Film Festival, which includes The Whistlers, a movie we discuss and recommend on our VIFF podcast, and the Egyptian has a live accompaniment to Yasujiro Ozu’s Dragnet Girl.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (Swati Bhise) Fri-Thurs  
Better Days (Derek Tsang) Fri-Thurs Our Review 

The Beacon Cinema:

Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955) Fri, Sat, Tues & Thurs 
Santa Sangre (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1989) Fri-Mon, Thurs 
The Secret of NIMH (Don Bluth, 1982) Sat & Weds Only 
Klute (Alan J. Pakula, 1971) Sat Only 
Angel’s Egg (Mamoru Oshii, 1985) Sun Only 
A Bullet for the General (Damiano Damiani, 1967) Sun & Weds Only 
Ask Any Buddy (Evan Purchell) Sun Only 
Tenebre (Dario Argento, 1982) Mon Only 
Where in the Hell is the Lavender House? (David Hall) Tues Only 

Central Cinema:

Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986) Fri-Weds Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans, 2011) Fri-Mon, Weds 

Cinerama:

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese) Fri-Weds 

Crest Cinema Centrer:

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Egyptian:

Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs 
Dragnet Girl (Yasujiro Ozu, 1933) Thurs Only Live Score Our Podcast

Century Federal Way:

Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon

Grand Cinema:

The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982) Sat Only Free Screening
First Love (Takashi Miike) Sat Only Our Review 
Aga (Milko Lazarov) Tues Only 
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950) Weds Only 
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller) Thurs Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Scandalous (Mark Landsman) Fri-Thurs 
Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2004) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs 35mm
Satoshi Kon Rarities Sat Only GI & NWFF Members Only
Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers Mon Only Gi & Scarecrow Members Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Better Days (Derek Tsang) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Bala (Amar Kaushik) Fri-Thurs 
The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (Swati Bhise) Fri-Thurs  
Sanga Thamizhan (Vijayachander) Fri-Thurs  
Marjaavaan (Milap Zaveri) Fri-Thurs 
Action (Sundar C.) Fri-Thurs 
Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Mon

Regal Meridian:

Frankie (Ira Sachs) Fri-Thurs
The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (Swati Bhise) Fri-Thurs 
Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Mon 

Northwest Film Forum:

Strange Negotiations (Brandon Vedder) Fri-Weds Director & Subject in Attendance for Some Shows
Millennium Actress (Satoshi Kon, 2001) Sun & Weds Only 
Everybody’s Everything (Ramez Silyan & Sebastian Jones) Sun & Thurs-Next Tues 
Fast Color (Julia Hart) Sun Only 
Unlikely (Adam Fenderson & Jaye Fenderson) Thurs-Next Sat 

AMC Pacific Place:

Better Days (Derek Tsang) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Somewhere Winter (Wang Weiming) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (Swati Bhise) Fri-Thurs  
Bala (Amar Kaushik) Fri-Thurs 
Unforgettable (Jun Lana & Percival Intalan) Fri-Thurs 
Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (Alison Reid) Fri-Sun  

AMC Southcenter:

Better Days (Derek Tsang) Fri-Thurs Our Review 

Regal Thornton Place:

Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Mon 

SIFF Uptown:

Romanian Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program 
Fantastic Fungi (Louie Schwartzberg) Fri-Thurs  
Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements (Irene Taylor Brodsky) Mon Only  
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller) Thurs Only 
Depeche Mode: SPIRITS in the Forest (Anton Corbijn) Thurs Only 

Varsity Theatre:

The Report (Scott Z. Burns) Fri-Thurs 
Radioflash (Ben McPherson) Fri-Thurs 
Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon

In Wide Release:

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers) Our Review 
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday November 8 – Thursday November 14

image
Featured Film:

Perfect Blue at the Northwest Film Forum

It seems there’s a Miyazaki movie playing every other week here in Seattle (there are two next week: Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke), and it’s been the case for going on 20 years now that he and, to a lesser extent, the other Studio Ghibli filmmakers are about all we regularly get from Japanese animated film in regular theatrical release. That’s starting to change though, with great releases like Naoko Yamada’s Liz and the Blue Bird, Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name., and Mamoru Hosada’s Wolf Children in recent years. But in the late 90s and into the 2000s, the one director who could break Miyazaki’s stranglehold on the American market was Satoshi Kon. This week the Northwest Film Forum and the Grand Illusion begin a retrospective of his work with his 1997 Hitchcockian classic Perfect Blue. Next week, they’ll be playing Millennium Actress, and the Grand Illusion will have Paprika (on 35mm!). Elsewhere around town, SAM has one of Samuel Fuller’s greatest films, the nasty noir The Naked Kiss, while the Beacon has Joe vs. the Volcano, another one of those movies (like Ishtar) that for years I was convinced that only people in my immediate family loved, but it turns out that there are much more of us out there and the number is (happily) growing all the time. Oh and the Cinerama has a whole bunch of war movies for Veteran’s Day.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs  

The Beacon Cinema:

Downtown 81 (Edo Bertoglio, 1981) Fri-Thurs 
The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966) Fri, Sun, Mon & Weds 
Kamikaze Hearts + The Prostitutes of Lyons Speak (Juliet Bashore, 1986/Carole Roussopoulos, 1975) Fri Only 
Night and the City (Jules Dassin, 1950) Sat & Thurs Only 
Street Fight Radio Presents Undercover Business Tyrants Sat Only 
Urusei Yatsura 2 – Beautiful Dreamer (Mamoru Oshii, 1984) Sun Only 
Joe vs. the Volcano (John Patrick Shanley, 1990) Sun-Tues Only 
Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975) Mon Only 

Central Cinema:

10 Things I Hate About You (Gil Junger, 1999) Fri-Weds 
Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 1981) Fri-Weds 

Cinerama:

Military Film Series Fri-Mon Full Program 

SIFF Egyptian:

Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) Sun & Weds Only  

Grand Cinema:

Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994) Sat Only 
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins (Janice Engel) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Midnight Traveler (Hassan Fazili) Fri-Thurs 
Making Waves: the Art of Cinematic Sounds (Midge Costin) Fri-Thurs 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Better Days (Derek Tsang) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Bala (Amar Kaushik) Fri-Thurs 
My Dear Liar (Ao Shen) Fri-Thurs  
Thipparaa Meesam (Krishna Vijay) Fri-Thurs 
Kaithi (Lokesh Kanagaraj) Fri-Thurs 
Gantumoote (Roopa Rao) Sun Only  
The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) Sun & Weds Only  

Northwest Film Forum:

Rabid (David Cronenberg, 1977) Fri-Sun 
For Sama (Waad Al-Khateab & Edward Watts) Sat & Sun 
Sundance Indigenous Shorts Sat & Sun 
Words from a Bear (Jeffrey Palmer) Sat Only 
Nailed It (Adele Pham) Sat Only 
Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, 1997) Sun & Weds Only 
Everybody’s Everything (Ramez Silyan & Sebastian Jones) Tues Only 
Fast Color (Julia Hart) Weds, Thurs & Next Sun Only 
Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) Thurs Only 

AMC Pacific Place:

Better Days (Derek Tsang) Fri-Thurs Our Review 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Bala (Amar Kaushik) Fri-Thurs 
Unforgettable (Jun Lana & Percival Intalan) Fri-Thurs 
Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar) Fri-Thurs  
Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller, 1964) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

Greener Grass (Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe) Fri-Sun  

Regal Thornton Place:

The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) Sun, Tues & Weds Only  

SIFF Uptown:

Cinema Italian Style Fri-Thurs Full Program 

Varsity Theatre:

Adopt a Highway (Logan Marshall-Green) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers) Our Review 
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

Friday November 1 – Thursday November 7

f52633504c26b5e0e5869ff8a627bed9
Featured Film:

Thieves’ Highway at the Beacon

Fall festival movies are creeping onto Seattle Screens this week, with Parasite joining The Lighthouse in wide release, plus limited runs of Synonyms (which is very good) and Jojo Rabbit (which I haven’t seen). And there’s yet another 70mm film series at the Cinerama (you can see Vertigo or Lawrence of Arabia again, or a couple of Christopher Nolan movies!). But the Beacon is kicking off a miniseries of films by director Jules Dassin with Thieves’ Highway, one of the great underseen films noirs and arguably the best movie ever made about driving a truck. A film so good, Mike included it on his Top 100 films of all-time entry last year.

Playing This Week:

The Beacon Cinema:

Mr. Klein (Joseph Losey, 1976) Fri-Thurs 
Thieves’ Highway (Jules Dassin, 1949) Sat & Thurs Only 
My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991) Sat Only 
Dallos (Mamoru Oshii, 1983) Sun Only 
Salvatore Giuliano (Francesco Rosi, 1962) Sun & Weds Only 
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (Dario Argento, 1971) Mon Only 

Central Cinema:

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Ridley Scott, 1982) Sat-Weds 

Cinerama:

70mm Film Series Part II Fri-Thurs Full Program 

Century Federal Way:

Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs  
Daaka (Baljit Singh Deo) Fri-Thurs  

Grand Cinema:

Fantastic Fungi (Louie Schwartzberg) Fri-Thurs 
One Cut of the Dead (Shinichiro Ueda) Sat Only 
Burning Cane (Phillip Youmans) Tues Only 
Samurai in the Oregon Sky (Ilana Sol) Thurs Only Director Q&A

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Holiday Hell (Jeff Ferrell, Jeremy Berg, Jeff Vigil, David Burns) Fri-Thurs 
Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace (April Wright) Fri-Thurs 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs 
Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs  
Bigil (Atlee Kumar) Fri-Thurs 
Kaithi (Lokesh Kanagaraj) Fri-Thurs 
Meeku Maathrame Cheptha (Shammeer Sultan) Fri-Thurs  
Shapludu (Golam Sohrab Dodul) Sun Only  

Regal Meridian:

Cyrano My Love (Alexis Michalik) Fri-Thurs 
Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

Guy Maddin’s Seances Fri-Sun 
For Sama (Waad Al-Khateab & Edward Watts) Weds & Thurs and Next Sat & Sun 

AMC Pacific Place:

Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs 
Inside Game (Randall Batinkoff) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Jowable (Darryl Yap) Fri-Thurs  
Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs 
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  

AMC Seattle:

Inside Game (Randall Batinkoff) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

Los reyes (Bettina Perut & Iván Osnovikoff) Fri-Thurs 
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987) Weds Only 

Regal Thornton Place:

Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Uptown:

Synonyms (Nadav Lapid) Fri-Thurs 
Parents in Progress (Laura Chiossone) Thurs Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Adopt a Highway (Logan Marshall-Green) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers) Our Review 
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Our Review Our Podcast 

VIFF 2019: Atlantics, The Laundromat, Jeanne, I Was at Home, But…, Beanpole, Pain and Glory

Image result for atlantics film"
Atlantics (Mati Diop)

The presence (or absence) of Netflix continues to be a major point of contention at various film festivals—particularly at Cannes, where the stakes are highest, and which the streaming giant skipped for the second year in a row. There’s some irony, then, to the fact that high-profile Cannes titles frequently get picked up by Netflix, as was the case with Grand Prix-winner Atlantics, the debut feature of French actor-director Mati Diop. Although still best known for her role in Claire Denis’s 35 Rhums (2008), Diop has directed a number of short- and medium-length films, so this feature is a culmination, as well as an expansion of her 2009 short Atlantiques. Set in the port city of Dakar in Senegal, where Ada (Mama Sané) is to marry a wealthy businessman named Omar (Babacar Sylla), the film is supernatural sea shanty cinema—though before such associations arise, we are first introduced to the hardy existence of Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), one of many disgruntled construction workers toiling away in the port city. He is in love with Ada, and the affection is mutual. But when the pair plan to meet up for a moonlit tryst, Ada learns that Souleiman has set sail for Europe. Not long after, she learns that the ship he was on sank.

Much of this is intriguing from the jump, and Diop manages to create both an enveloping soundscape (with an electronic score from electronic musician Fatima Al Qadiri) and a potent mood of languor and loss. The story’s supernatural bent suggests a kind of lovers-on-the-run scenario—an image of a burning bed following a wedding celebration briefly brought Badlands (1973) to mind—where the presence of one of the lovers is uncertain, though it eventually transforms into something more I Walked With a Zombie–adjacent. A triumph of Tourneur-esque texture, then, though there’s also a nebulous aspect to the structure that eventually delimits its power: Diop trusts that a viewer will take its arbitrary script details and narrative developments on faith, relying on the admittedly heady mix of moods to do the heavy lifting. But despite some occasional first film issues—the noncommittal closing, ill-considered voiceover—Atlantics nonetheless confirms Diop as a talent to watch. That the film’s most commendable elements will undoubtedly play less well when viewed at home on Netflix is, however, somewhat unfortunate.

The other notable Netflix title at VIFF this year, apart from Noah Baumbach’s commendable East coast–West coast divorce tale Marriage Story, is The Laundromat, director Steven Soderbergh’s second production this year, following High Flying Bird. It is also his worst film since at least Full Frontal (2002), perhaps ever. The film concerns the 2015 Panama Papers leak, which exposed the widespread manipulation of off-shore shell companies, a subject that’s very much in keeping with Soderbergh’s multifaceted, career-long fascination with the ground-level implications of economic policy. Unfortunately, the container he’s chosen this time around is misguided in the extreme. The stylistic comparison that’s come up most frequently is to Adam McKay circa The Big Short (2015), though even that seems rather generous given the script’s shrill condescension and a visual style that merely plays up the artificiality of the entire production, right down to the concluding call-to-arms that sees Meryl Streep removing her brownface getup in front of a studio warehouse, reciting a statement from the Panama Papers whistleblower, and finally using a hairbrush to strike a closing-shot pose as the Statue of Liberty. 

The idea, it seems, is that given the urgency of its topic, only a baldly didactic approach will do. (Along similar lines, Soderbergh’s admission that he himself owns a number of offshore shell accounts, seems meant to disarm by virtue of his candor.) That’s all well and good, in theory, but the intelligence that usually fuels even Soderbergh’s most inelegantly scripted projects seems all but missing here. Only a brief jaunt to China, which uses a foreign businessman (a very suave, tightly suited Matthias Schoenaerts) to relay the events of the Bo Xilai scandal, really looks and moves like a proper Soderbergh movie.

Jeanne, on the other hand, Bruno Dumont’s sequel to 2017’s Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, is a Bruno Dumont movie through and through. That feature, which confined its “action” to a series of head-banging performances in sandy, windswept exteriors of the French countryside, was a repetitive, grating affair that nonetheless elicited a kind of grudging respect from me for its boundless energy and sheer audacity. Apart from a lyrical honor guard ceremony with sundry drone shots of appealingly choreographed dressage formations, however, Jeanne offers far less to appreciate, distending its director’s interest in cinematic bodies with little variation or discernible purpose. Lise Leplat Prudhomme again stars as Joan of Arc, though here she plays a role far older than her years and as such, has a guilelessness that meshes well with Dumont’s predilection for casting non-actors. But an early shot that observes Prudhomme in full costume, holding a pose for minutes on end—thus capturing every twitch of her face, every gust of wind that throws her off balance—conveys all that there is to the feature, at which point there’s little else to do but count down the remaining 120 or so minutes.

For his direction of actors and interest in certain manifestations of spirituality, Dumont has often been compared to Bresson—a comparison that likewise follows German director Angela Schanelec, not without reason. Although she has often been corralled under the Berlin School designation with fellow Germans Maren Ade, Ulrich Köhler, and Christian Petzold, she has resisted both easy classification and wider recognition—after three decades of work, her tenth feature The Dreamed Path (2016) had the backhanded distinction of being selected for New Directors/New Films. That is, until this year, when her latest feature I Was at Home, But… won the Silver Bear for Best Director at Berlin and was subsequently put into the New York Film Festival’s Main Slate. 

Image result for i was at home but"
I Was at Home, But… (Angela Schanelec)

Schanelec’s relative obscurity is no mystery. She assembles her films in a way that tend to make audiences rather angry, if the copious walkouts at the VIFF screening of Home, not to mention reports from various festival Q&As, are any indication. Although her films initially seem to operate along clear narrative lines, they resist the payoff and satisfaction that viewers conditioned by both Hollywood and art cinema conventions might come to expect. Films like Marseille (2004) and The Dreamed Path have ellipses that open their ostensible stories up in truly discombobulating ways; the lingering emotional vapors of any given passage or section are eventually sucked into yawning voids. In that regard, I Was at Home, But… is something of a lateral shift—it’s recognizably Schanelec’s work, but whereas previous films were frustratingly/thrillingly irresolvable and somewhat cold/clinical, this is more easily assembled into a coherent narrative and also more emotionally direct. Her découpage here is less Bressonian than in previous films, though her images have an astonishingly limpid, expressive quality that serves the story’s emotional clarity. Two scenes in particular demonstrate contrasting aspects of her method: The first is a lilting sequence set to an M. Ward cover of Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” which moves from a cemetery at twilight to the blinding white of a hospital room; the second is a lengthy one-take scene of the lead character monologuing to (and then eventually berating) a film director, which plays both as a structural and stylistic break from the rest of the film (not to mention an amusing variation of what we usually see in Hong), and as a gesture of goodwill to the audience, offering explicit discussion on ideas that Schanelec herself has engages with.

No self-reflexive touches can be found in Kantemir Balagov’s Beanpole, an unfortunate blend of preposterous narrative contrivance, stringently opaque characterizations, and aggressively portentous staging. A multiple prize-winner in the Cannes Un Certain Regard sidebar, the film is Balagov’s sophomore feature, and while it represents an undoubted leap in visual control, the meticulously art-directed polish—color-coded costuming, burnished cinematography, and exactingly decrepit recreation of 1945 Leningrad—it also clarifies the unfortunate sensationalist aspects of his debut feature Closeness (2017). It is yet too soon to write off the 28-year-old director, who may yet deliver a film to match his ample technical facility. The breathless encomiums that essentially conflate “virtuosic direction” with “well-photographed images, held long,” however, are long past their sell-by date.

Also rather tired: the polished art-cinema genre outing, here exemplified by Austrian director Jessica Hausner’s Cannes competition entrant Little Joe. The elevator-pitch concept is Little Shop of Horrors by way of Body Snatchers—which is a pretty compelling premise. But Hausner’s handling obviates the potential ambiguities that arise. The unusual, atonal score and mannered camera movements hold interest initially, but once the canine subplot emerges, it’s clear exactly where this film is going, both narratively and thematically: the subplot with the son, plus a number of therapist scenes, are used to draw out the mother-child anxieties; the absent father becomes a synecdoche for the natural world (he lives outside the city in a kind of symbiotic take-only-what-you-need manner with his surroundings), whereas the mother works with genetically modified plants, and only orders take-out because she can’t cook. Even the interactions with all the co-workers are bizarrely conventional, bordering on outright inept. Hausner’s mannered direction in Amour Fou (2014) had a coherence and integrity about it; here the actors seem rather left to their own devices. It’s the kind of film that’s so meticulously put together that everything—formal strategy, performance style, thematic coherence—clicks into place immediately, after which it just becomes a matter of waiting for it to crumble to pieces. A shame, given that the pleasures of its sci-fi antecedents lie at least in part in their malleability.

Finally, there’s Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, which centers on an aging, ailing director named Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), who’s in an extended state of creative paralysis. In some sense, the film requires that a viewer already be somewhat invested in the Spanish director’s career, and know at least something of his extended artistic collaboration with Banderas, which dates to the 1980s, when he starred in such films as Labyrinth of Passion (1982) and the superb Law of Desire (1987). But even without that knowledge, three scenes stand out: an early, near-abstract montage of bodily illustrations and medical diagrams; a nighttime visit from an old lover, which deploys its sense of longing like a depth charge; and the erotic memory-cum-restaging of the artist’s first stirrings of carnal desire. It’s certainly Almodóvar’s prerogative to make a film about his creative paralysis instead of the inspiration that finally emerged out of it, but the interspersed material from the latter is just far more appealing than any of the present-day material, which is comprised of three not-quite-Christmas Carol-esque visitations from past figures from his life. (An episode with a bathing bricklayer suggests that Almodóvar could do well with a full-blown memory piece à la Terence Davies’s The Long Day Closes.) There’s more than a touch of complacency here, with Almodóvar trusting that personality and/or familiarity will supply the much-needed gestalt to a fairly lackadaisical film. Still, intermittent pleasure is better than no pleasure at all.

Friday October 25 – Thursday October 31

Archangel
Featured Film:

Guy Maddin at the Northwest Film Forum

The year’s buzziest art house movie opens this week at the Egyptian and the Lincoln Square, but we saw Bong Joonho’s Parasite a few weeks ago at VIFF and have already covered it in detail in both audio and written forms. Instead, let’s highlight the Northwest Film Forum’s presentation of Canadian weirdo Guy Maddin’s art installation Seances, which sounds pretty cool, alongside a mini-retrospective of his work, including his acclaimed documentary My Winnipeg and my personal favorite of his films, 1990’s Archangel. But also, don’t miss Godzilla at the Grand Illusion and Hong Kong Horror classic The Boxer’s Omen at the Beacon.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) Fri-Thurs  

Ark Lodge:

Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

House on Haunted Hill (William Castle, 1959) Fri-Thurs 
Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981) Fri-Weds 
The Lost Boys (Joel Schumacher, 1987) Fri & Sat Only 
The Boxer’s Omen (Kuei Chih-hung, 1983) Sat, Tues & Weds Only Our Review 
Old School Halloween (Various) Sun Only 
Halloween II (Rob Zombie, 2009) Mon Only 
The Beacon Halloween Special Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

Hocus Pocus (Kenny Ortega, 1993) Fri-Weds 
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) Fri-Weds  

Cinerama:

Horrorama! Film Series Fri-Thurs Full Program

SIFF Egyptian:

Parasite (Bong Joonho) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Podcast 
Collide-O-Scope Halloween 2019 Thurs Only 

Century Federal Way:

Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs  
Ardab Mutiyaran (Manav Shah) Fri-Thurs  
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun Only Dubbed

Grand Cinema:

Where’s My Roy Cohn? (Matt Tyrnauer) Fri-Thurs 
Fantastic Fungi (Louie Schwartzberg) Fri-Thurs 
Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987) Sat Only 
David Crosby: Remember My Name (A.J. Eaton) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Godzilla (Ishiro Honda, 1954) Fri-Mon, Thurs 
Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984) Fri, Sat & Mon Only  
Fatal Exposure (Alan Metzger, 1991) Fri Only VHS 
The Wicker Man: The Final Cut (Robin Hardy, 1973) Sat Only 
The Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1979) Sat & Weds Only 
Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Yoshimitsu Banno, 1971) Sun, Weds & Thurs Only 
A Bucket of Blood + Little Shops of Horrors (Roger Corman, 1959/60) Tues Only 16mm 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Parasite (Bong Joonho) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Podcast 
Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs  
Bigil (Atlee Kumar) Fri-Thurs 
Kaithi (Lokesh Kanagaraj) Fri-Thurs In Tamil or Telugu, Check Listings
Made in China (Mikhil Musale) Fri-Thurs  
Saand Ki Aankh (Tushar Hiranandani) Fri-Thurs  
The Captain (Andrew Lau) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Mon

Regal Meridian:

Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs 
Saand Ki Aankh (Tushar Hiranandani) Fri-Thurs  
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Mon

Northwest Film Forum:

Guy Maddin’s Seances Fri-Next Sun 
Becoming Nobody (Jamie Catto) Fri Only 
Archangel (Guy Maddin, 1990) Sat Only 
Careful (Guy Maddin, 1992) Sat Only 
My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007) Sun Only 
The 3rd Nightmare Emporium Horror Film Anthology Mon-Weds 
Chez Jolie Coiffure (Rosine Mbakam) Weds Only 
The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman (Rosine Mbakam) Weds Only 

AMC Pacific Place:

The Captain (Andrew Lau) Fri-Thurs Our Review 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988) Fri-Thurs  
The Blair Witch Project (Eduardo Sánchez & Daniel Myrick, 1999) Fri-Thurs 
Housefull 4 (Farhad Samji) Fri-Thurs 
Made in China (Mikhil Musale) Fri-Thurs  
Saand Ki Aankh (Tushar Hiranandani) Fri-Thurs  
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  

Seattle Art Museum:

The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

NFFTY Film Festival Fri-Sun Only Full Program 

AMC Southcenter:

The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) Fri-Thurs  

Regal Thornton Place:

 Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Mon

SIFF Uptown:

Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer) Fri-Thurs 
Where’s My Roy Cohn? (Matt Tyrnauer) Fri-Thurs 
NFFTY Film Festival Fri-Sun Only Full Program 
April and the Extraordinary World (Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci, 2015) Sat Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Paradise Hills (Alice Waddington) Fri-Thurs 
The Great Alaskan Race (Brian Presley) Fri-Thurs 
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon

In Wide Release:

The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers) Our Review