Friday June 16 – Thursday June 22

Featured Film:

Funeral Parade of Roses at the Northwest Film Forum

In addition to a program of eight of his short films (playing Sunday only) the Northwest Film Forum this weekend presents the restoration of the late Toshio Matsumoto’s 1969 Japanese New Wave classic Funeral Parade of Roses, which I haven’t seen, but which they describe as a “shattering, kaleidoscopic masterpiece . . . one of the most subversive and intoxicating films of the late 1960s: a headlong dive into a dazzling, unseen Tokyo night-world of drag queen bars and fabulous divas, fueled by booze, drugs, fuzz guitars, performance art and black mascara.” Sold.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
Dean (Demetri Martin) Fri-Thurs
Warriors of the Dawn (Jeong Yoon-cheol) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The House on Coco Road (Damani Baker) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 2000) Fri-Mon
Ma vie en rose (Alain Berliner, 1997) Fri-Mon

SIFF Egyptian:

Collide-O-Scope Best of the Worst World Tour Kick-Off Party Weds Only

Century Federal Way:

Warriors of the Dawn (Jeong Yoon-cheol) Fri-Thurs
Resident Evil: Vendetta (Takanori Tsujimoto) Thurs Only
El Dorado (Howard Hawks, 1967) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach) Fri-Thurs
Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
Water Horse (Jay Russell, 2007) Fri-Thurs
Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976) Sat Only Our Podcast
Semi-Iconic: The Ballad of Dick Rossetti (Isaac Olsen) Sun & Tues Only
Nise: The Heart of Madness (Roberto Berliner) Tues Only
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 1939) Weds Only
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Greg Palast & David Ambrose) Thurs Only Free Screening

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (Maria Schrader) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Beatriz at Dinner (Miguel Arteta) Fri-Thurs
Resident Evil: Vendetta (Takanori Tsujimoto) Thurs Only
El Dorado (Howard Hawks, 1967) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Didi’s Dreams (Kevin Tsai) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Funeral Parade of Roses (Toshio Matsumoto, 1969) Fri-Sun Only
The Short Films of Toshio Matsumoto Sun Only
Last Men in Aleppo (Feras Fayyad) Weds & Thurs Only
Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock (Josh Fox, James Spione & Myron Dewey) Sun Only
Moving History Strikes Back: Battling the Magnetic Media Crisis Thurs Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Beatriz at Dinner (Miguel Arteta) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola) Fri-Thurs
Hindi Medium (Saket Chaudhary) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Dean (Demetri Martin) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Deconstructung the Beatles: Rubber Soul (Scott Freiman) Fri-Sun

SIFF Uptown:

Dean (Demetri Martin) Fri-Thurs
The Wedding Plan (Rama Burshtein) Fri-Thurs
Best of SIFF 2017 (Various) Fri-Thurs
Roosevelt Film Club’s Summer Screening Weds Only

Varsity Theatre:

Letters from Baghdad (Sabine Krayenbühl & Zeva Oelbaum) Fri-Sun

In Wide Release:

Alien Covenant (Ridley Scott) Our Review
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (James Gunn) Our Review

But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999)

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Equal parts love story, social satire, and broad teen sex comedy, But I’m a Cheerleader has had an enthusiastic following among the LGBTQ+ set (and others) for almost two decades. It’s easy to see why: the actors are full of sweetly winning charm, the satire (of “reparative therapy” camps) is pointed and richly earned, and the story arc is mercifully non-tragic—a rarity for the longest time in queer cinema. For those of us who came of age with mopey, lugubrious lesbian love stories like Desert Hearts (1985), Claire of the Moon (1992), and High Art (1998), it’s impossible to overstate what a blast of fresh air this film was when it first arrived in theaters. (Even today, in fact, a quick Google search of “lesbian movies” gets you hits like “Why are all lesbian movies sad?” and “17 Awesome Lesbian Movies Where No One Dies at the End.”) As we revisit But I’m a Cheerleader well into the new millennium, the film feels every bit as fresh, funny, fun, and necessary as it did when it first came out.

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The Frances Farmer Show #13: SIFF 2017 Part Two

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The 2017 Seattle International Film Festival has come to an end and Sean, Evan and Ryan get together to talk about what they saw, what they liked and didn’t like among the festival’s archival presentations and new releases. Film discussed include: The Dumb Girl of Portici, Taste of Cherry, Love and Duty, Brainstorm, A Ghost Story, Nocturama, Columbus, Godspeed, Gook and Mr. Long.

You can listen to the show by downloading it directly, or by subscribing on iTunes or the podcast player of your choice.

Between Work: A Conversation on Claire’s Camera and The Day After

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Evan Morgan: The sun’s out, palm trees are in sight, and we’ve temporarily traded in soju for sancerre. Hong Sang-soo is en vacance again. I don’t know about you Sean, but I’m always happy to see Hong in the literally and figuratively breezy mode that he takes up in Claire’s Camera. The seasons have long played a central role in the Hong project, though it seems that the tonal vacillation between his summer and winter films grows with each passing year. Hong’s sense of humor lilts along during the warmer months, and though it never goes entirely dormant in wintertime, it cools and takes on a serrated edge, like cracked ice. Claire’s Camera, in keeping with this seasonal dichotomy, might be his most amiable movie yet, defined as it is by Isabelle Huppert’s warm naiveté and the dabs of sunflower yellow provided her summer frock. Huppert’s flightiness bleeds into the plotting too, which moves with a nonchalance that borders on amateurishness. I mean that as a compliment. It strikes me that Hong’s acceptance into the upper echelon of the art cinema world (the film unfolds during Cannes, after all) occurred simultaneously with his loosened production methods, and though the competition gatekeepers prefer the more somber Seoul films, the animating spirit of later Hong owes much to the laidback atmosphere of friends who vacation together and decide, ‘what the hell let’s make a movie.’ It’s not for nothing that this most amateur of Hong films is set against the backdrop of the world’s premier film festival.

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SIFF 2017: Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, 2016)

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Like a not-so-metaphorical bomb, one of the only truly exceptional films that played at the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival landed in the final weekend. That film was Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama, the controversial and highly touted “thriller” (for lack of a better term) about a group of young terrorists who plan and execute a highly coordinated series of bombings around the City of Light. Bonello more or less eschews a concrete and obvious stab at relevancy – the group’s ideology is almost totally ambiguous, save for a likely anti-capitalist bent – in favor of something much more oblique, frightening, and ultimately powerful.

Bonello, who came to prominence for his acclaimed films House of Tolerance (2011) and Saint Laurent (2014), continues his penchant for stylish and meticulous direction, choreographing both the actual terrorist acts and the second half, a long unraveling of both team and sanity in a massive, labyrinthine department store, with the utmost precision. His Steadicam shots have a genuine sense of motion, snaking through subways and seemingly infinite hallways and watching intently for the slightest change in expression on a character’s face. These faces are key in a way; built from a group of relatively new actors, the diverse ensemble has a freshness and uncertainty about them that fits spectacularly well with the ambiguity about their personas and motives, even being conflated with store mannequins at several points. Nocturama has, as might be expected, a certain sort of cold-blooded brutality to it, but it also has vitality, driven forward relentlessly by a pulsing soundtrack and the vividly clear vision of Bonello.

SIFF 2017: A Ghost Story (David Lowery, 2017)

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Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

Kudos to David Lowery for attempting to introduce fairly mainstream audiences to Weerasethakul, Tsai, Hou, etc. Unfortunately, his coopting of the slow cinema aesthetic has some of the outlines, especially when it comes to the picturesque settings and highly muted performances, but very little of the feeling and passion behind the great works of that style. Well-mounted and occasionally rather involving, A Ghost Story nevertheless ends up with a muddled, unclear sense of purpose.

SIFF 2017: Gook (Justin Chon, 2017)

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Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

Centering on the first day of the Rodney King riots in LA, Gook turns its eye to an underseen perspective on that monumental event: the Korean-American shop owners. The riot is used mostly as a backdrop to a small-scale story of familial bonds, a feint which works for better and worse. Writer-director-star Chon excels in the more comedic and subdued moments, but his film seems to escape his grasp in the self-consciously “lyrical” moments.

SIFF 2017: I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)

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Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

The unexpected recipient of the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes, I, Daniel Blake is a shotgun marriage of the social critique and character study. It is an often funny, sometimes touching, occasionally intensely preachy affair, following the eponymous character and a young single mother caught in a catch-22 relating to the government’s healthcare benefits. The film finds its footing in the little, earnest interactions, while stumbling somewhat with the larger issues at stake.

SIFF 2017: Ma’ Rosa (Brillante Mendoza, 2016)

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Amid the kerfuffle over the generally baffling awards given by the jury headed by George Miller at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, a fair bit of attention was paid to the award for Best Actress, which was given to Jaclyn Jose, the ostensible lead of Ma’ Rosa, the film directed by Filipino director Brillante Mendoza. This arose for relatively transparent reasons: among the unusually crowded field vying for the award were a plentitude of truly astonishing performances from the likes of Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Sonia Braga (Aquarius), Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), Adele Haenel (The Unknown Girl), and Kim Tae-ri and Kim Min-hee (The Handmaiden), all of which were films that ultimately went home empty-handed. Of course, tearing down a film based on what it beat for fairly ephemeral awards is usually unfair, provided of course that said film is worthwhile in its own right.

Unfortunately, Ma’ Rosa is something less than a mixed bag, although there are certain elements that transfix in a way that the whole is unable to sustain. Mendoza’s film concerns itself with a family which owns a convenience store in the depths of Manila headed by the eponymous matriarch, who acts as a third-level crystal meth dealer. Early in the film, she and her husband are arrested for drug dealing on an anonymous tip by clearly corrupt cops, who take them to a back-alley police station and proceed to offer deals to let the couple go. They are forced to first give up their immediate superior and then raise 50,000 pesos ($1000 in US money), a task which is delegated to their three teenage children roughly halfway through the film. They each adopt different tactics, some more drastic than others: begging relatives and friends, selling household items, and even (in the case of the teenage son) prostituting themselves for ambiguous reasons.

Ma’ Rosa takes place in this highly compressed span of roughly 24 hours, which in this instance seems to act more as a stumbling block than anything else. Mendoza and company’s characterization of these people ultimately feels paper-thin, existing more as cogs in the machine that drives what is apparently a hellhole of a city. For her part, Jose appears in what feels like little more than half of the film, and her presence is only slightly less flattened than the rest of the cast.

An additional issue is the frankly ugly cinematography, which almost looks as if it hadn’t been color-corrected at all. This clearly digital look occasionally produces some striking effects, but otherwise is headache-inducing, as the camera careens through crowds and relentlessly tracks one anonymous figure after another.

Perhaps inevitably, there is a slight bit of pathos and interest to be found in Mendoza’s journey through hell. Such single-minded focus, however misguided and unintentionally voyeuristic it feels at times, has a certain amount of merit, and when Mendoza settles down completely (notably in the final scene) something deeper than the surface instinct to survive is conjured. These moments are few and far between, buried among the muddy characterizations and even muddier camerawork, but they are there. Whether that is enough is difficult to judge.

SIFF 2017: Mr. Long (Sabu, 2017)

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The SIFF program describes this as “Yojimbo meets Tampopo“, which definitely has an “I can only think of two Japanese movies” vibe, in that it isn’t really like either of those movies except its main character is a man who slices up people for hire and also sometimes makes noodles. It’s more akin to Johnnie To’s Where a Good Man Goes, but I’m probably only saying that because I’m the kind of person who compares everything to a Johnnie To movie.

Chang Chen’s a hitman in Kaohsiang who gets sent to Japan to kill someone. The job gets botched and he barely escapes. Recovering in a dilapidated slum, he’s befriended by a young boy (whose mom is a junkie) and eventually a whole community of locals, who figure out that he’s an excellent cook and, in like two days, build him an apartment and a noodle cart, while at the same time he helps the mom kick her heroin habit. It’s a story of rebirth fostered by community, and its portrait of the unity of people living on the margins recalls the spirit of no less than Sadao Yamanaka’s Humanity and Paper Balloons. The fairy tale approach is leavened by a harder edge, but director Sabu (last seen here as Samurai #1 in Scorsese’s Silence) keeps things brisk and light, with long wordless stretches scored jauntily by Junichi Matsumoto. Chang’s deadpan performance is a delight, even as his hair comes perilously close to “Gary Oldman in The Fifth Element”. Befuddled as to why the locals seem to like him, the kid explains “it’s because you keep cool and don’t say anything”. Taiwanese actress Yao Yiti is unconvincing as a junkie (she cleans up into super-adorable way too quickly), but shines in her extended flashback, providing the unlikely link between her and Chang. That that link should go undiscovered by the characters involved is one of the many small idiosyncrasies of Sabu’s storytelling, one which defies both Hollywood notions of causality and Hong Kong traditions of cosmic coincidence.