Memories of the Sword (Park Heung-shik, 2015)

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Opening this week at the Century Cinemas in Federal Way is this Korean wuxia film, a revenge tale bearing more than a little resemblance to a certain sic-fi trilogy and filled with striking sunsets, lovely fields, elaborate sets and digitally-enhanced swordfighting. Directed by Park Heung-shik, the man behind such award-winning films as 2001’s I Wish I Had a Wife and 2004’s My Mother, the MermaidMemories of the Sword follows in the footsteps of Zhang Yimou’s martial arts films Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower in that it is a highly melodramatic tale told in sumptuous, gorgeously photographed settings. Beginning with a young woman walking through a field of sunflowers, she puts down her basket and takes a flying leap over a giant stalk, soaring weightlessly through the air. Her joy as she lands safely, accomplishing what must have been a task she’d set herself for weeks if not years, is palpable. Unfortunately it’s the last bit of happiness in what becomes an unremittingly grim tragedy. Like Zhang’s films, the tastefulness of the enterprise undermines any life the genre film within might have possessed.

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The Iron Ministry (J.P. Sniadecki, 2014)

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The Iron Ministry is the first film in many years to begin with an overture. Particularly popular with the opulent studio productions of the 1950s and ’60s, the practice of including an orchestral score as prelude to the narrative was intended to provide gravitas to the proceedings as well as act as a transition from the real world to the cinematic. The overture in The Iron Ministry definitely provides the latter, but unlike films such as Ben-Hur, the music is not grasping at majesty. In fact, it’s not really music. As the droning sound plays out we discover that it is not a string section but the straining sound of metal on metal of a train moving along its tracks.

Filmed between 2011 and 2013, The Iron Ministry takes place entirely on trains traversing through China on the world’s largest railway network. The film is another project released under the Sensory Ethnography Lab, whose ascendence among cinephiles has been astronomical in recent years, thanks to a string of well-received releases such as Leviathan and Sweetgrass. The Ethnography Lab’s immersive documentaries have provided some of the most unexpected thrills in cinema as of late and The Iron Ministry is no exception. The film does not possess the formal rigor of something like the glorious gondola ride of Manakamana but that is not what this subject calls for. In fact, it needs the opposite, an embracement of movement and messiness.

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Friday August 28 – Thursday September 03

Featured Film:

Mistress America at the Egyptian, Guild 45th and Lincoln Square Theatres

With his second Seattle release of the year, director Noah Baumbach continues his collaboration with star/co-writer Greta Gerwig. An inversion of this spring’s While We’re Young, wherein an older couple became enamored with an younger, hipper pair, Mistress America follows a college freshman (Lola Kirke) as she idolizes an older, more adventurous woman (played by Gerwig) along her various New York adventures. It’s Baumbach’s lightest film, and the best of what is turning out to be a great year for screwball comedies. Our Review.
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Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge, 1983) Fri-Weds
Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990) Fri-Tues

Crest Cinema Center:

Love and Mercy (Bill Pohlad) Fri-Thurs Our Interview 
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Egyptian:

Mistress America (Noah Baumbach) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Turbo Kid (François Simard, Anouk Whissell & Yoann-Karl Whissell) Fri-Sat 11:30pm Only

Century Federal Way:

Memories of the Sword (Park Heung-shik) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Airplane! (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams & Jerry Zucker, 1980) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Phoenix (Christian Petzold) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Felix Herngren, 2013) Fri-Thurs
Meru (Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) Fri-Thurs
When Marnie Was There (Hiromasa Yonebayashi) Tues Only Our Review

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Iron Ministry (JP Sniadecki) Fri-Thurs Our Review
VHS Uber Alles presents Angel of Fury (Ackyl Anwari, 1992) Sat Only VHS
EXcinema presents Basement Media Festival Tues Only Video

Landmark Guild 45th:

Mistress America (Noah Baumbach) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Meru (Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Mistress America (Noah Baumbach) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Phantom (Kabir Khan) Fri-Thurs
Airplane! (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams & Jerry Zucker, 1980) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Irrational Man (Woody Allen) Fri-Thurs
Go Away Mr. Tumor (Han Yan) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Digging for Fire (Joe Swanberg) Fri-Thurs
Counting (Jem Cohen) Sat-Tues
New Vacation: Artist Talk Tues Only

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Angrej (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs

Scarecrow Video Screening Lounge:

Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973) Fri Only
Futureworld (Richard T. Heffron, 1976) Sat Only
It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014) Sun Only
Chris Marker Group Mon Only
Run Hide Die (Collin Joseph Neal) Tues Only Release Party
The Hitch-Hiker (Ida Lupino, 1953) Weds Only

Landmark Seven Gables:

Best of Enemies (Morgan Neville & Robert Gordon) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Listen to Me Marlon (Stevan Riley) Fri-Tues, Thurs
Turbo Kid (François Simard, Anouk Whissell & Yoann-Karl Whissell) Fri-Tues, Thurs
Call Me Lucky (Bobcat Goldthwait) Fri-Thurs

Sundance Cinemas Seattle:

Ten Thousand Saints (Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Phoenix (Christian Petzold) Fri-Thurs Our Review
7 Chinese Brothers (Bob Byington) Fri-Thurs
The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2013) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

She’s Funny That Way (Peter Bogdanovich) Fri-Thurs Our Review