Friday October 28 – Thursday November 3

Featured Film:

Vampires on Film at the Grand Illusion

The month of October belongs to the Grand Illusion, as the city’s greatest little theatre specializes in the kind of weirdo genre cinema and camp oddities that the Halloween season perennially inspires. The second week of their seasonal festivities presents two more classics on 35mm. In Tony Scott’s 1983 The Hunger, David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve turn Susan Sarandon into a vampire to the pulse of Bauhaus’s lament for Bela Lugosi, while in Jim Jarmusch’s 2013 Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston wander Detroit and Tangiers, listening to cool music, hanging out with Christopher Marlowe and Mia Wasikowska, embodying the yin and yang of immortality.

Playing This Week:

AMC Loews Alderwood:

The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Thurs
I’m Not Ashamed (Brian Baugh) Fri-Thurs
Luck-Key (Lee Gye-Byeok) Fri-Thurs
Voiceless (Pat Necerato) Fri-Thurs
Desierto (Jonás Cuarón) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) Sat-Tues
Hocus Pocus (Kenny Ortega, 1993) Sat-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn) Fri-Thurs
The Pit (Lew Lehman) Fri Midnight Only
Collide-O-Scope Halloween Night Spook Show Mon Only

Century Federal Way:

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Thurs
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) Sat Only
The Godfather I & II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 & 1974) Sun & Weds Only Double Feature

Grand Cinema:

Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari) Fri & Sat Only
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs
Harry & Snowman (Ron Davis) Fri-Thurs
Michael Moore in Trumpland (Michael Moore) Sun, Mon & Weds Only
The People vs. Fritz Bauer (Lars Kraume) Tues Only
The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983) Fri, Sat & Mon Only 35mm
Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013) Fri-Mon Only 35mm Our Review
Suddenly In The Dark (Ko Young-nam, 1981) Sat Only
Heavy Metal Horror 35mm Triple Feature Pizza Party Sun Only 35mm
VHS for President: Redux Tues Only VHS
Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu (Akiyuki Shinbo & Tatsuya Oishi) Tues Only
Kizumonogatari Part 2: Nekketsu (Akiyuki Shinbo & Tatsuya Oishi) Weds-Sun

Landmark Guild 45th:

The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Thurs
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs
Kaashmora (Gokul) Fri-Thurs Tamil and Telugu Shows
Shivaay (Ajay Devgan) Fri-Thurs
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) Sat Only
The Godfather I & II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972 & 1974) Sun & Weds Only Double Feature

Regal Meridian:

Operation Mekong (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Nightmare Before Christmas (Tim Burton, 1993) Fri-Mon
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Thurs
Shivaay (Ajay Devgan) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Tower (Keith Maitland) Fri-Thurs
We the Voters Tues Only
Cool Cats (Janus Køster-Rasmussen) Thurs Only
Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene) Thurs-Sun

AMC Oak Tree:

Recovery (Darrell Wheat) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Mr. Donkey (Lu Liu & Shen Zhou) Fri-Thurs

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Miss Hokusai (Keiichi Hara) Fri-Thurs
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Thurs
La Leyenda del Chupacabras (Alberto Rodriguez) Fri-Thurs
Desierto (Jonás Cuarón) Fri-Thurs
I’m Not Ashamed (Brian Baugh) Fri-Thurs
Bakit Lahat Ng Gwapo May Boyfriend (Jun Robles Lana) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Red House (Delmer Daves, 1947) Thurs Only 35mm

Seven Gables:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Beatles: 8 Days a Week (Ron Howard) Fri-Sun

Sundance Cinemas:

Oasis: Supersonic (Mat Whitecross) Fri-Thurs
In a Valley of Violence (Ti West) Fri-Thurs
Don’t Think Twice (Mike Birbiglia) Fri-Thurs
Dancer (Steven Cantor) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Tim Burton, 1993) Fri-Mon

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs
Miss Hokusai (Keiichi Hara) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
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Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)

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Now that Tom Hiddleston is (thank you, Jesus!) single again, it’s as good a time as any to gaze at him, the thinking cinephile’s dreamboat, in Jim Jarmusch’s excellent 2013 vampire dramedy. Hiddleston emotes broodily as a depressed Detroit musician named Adam, opposite the always-brilliant Tilda Swinton as Eve, his beloved who lives across the globe from him yet is still profoundly connected to him. When Adam plunges into suicidal despair in the film’s early scenes, Eve rushes to his rescue. The two lovers are a gorgeous, if possibly doomed, pair who complement one another in virtually every way. Though the film leaves much unspoken about the exact nature of their relationship (how did they meet? why were they living separately? are they even the same sort of creature?), it nevertheless makes us feel the intensity of their bond and the inevitability of their mutual entanglement in every shot. This is partly due to the deft performances of the leads, and partly due to Jarmusch’s famous attentiveness to evocative detail. Low on incident but high on atmospherics, the film creates a slyly seductive mood with exactly the right music, the right images, and the right words.

Continue reading Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)”

Friday October 21 – Thursday October 27

Featured Film:

Japanese Horror at the Grand Illusion

The month of October belongs to the Grand Illusion, as the city’s greatest little theatre specializes in the kind of weirdo genre cinema and camp oddities that the Halloween season perennially inspires. Mixed in with obscure VHS movies and mystery double and triple features, this week they’re playing, on 35mm, two classics of mid-century Japanese cinema. Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan is an anthology inspired by the ghost stories of Lafcadio Hearn, featuring an experimental sound design by the great composer Toru Takemistsu and gorgeous color cinematography by Yoshio Miyajima (Harakiri, The Human Condition). Kuroneko, directed by Kaneto Shindo (Onibaba, The Naked Island) is about a pair of ghosts, a woman and her daughter-in-law, who vow to kill samurai after they are brutally murdered in the midst of a civil war.

Playing This Week:

AMC Loews Alderwood:

Asura: The City of Madness (Kim Sung-su) Fri-Thurs
Desierto (Jonás Cuarón) Fri-Thurs
I’m Not Ashamed (Brian Baugh) Fri-Thurs
Luck-Key (Lee Gye-Byeok) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Greg Palast) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) Sat-Mon
The Craft (Andrew Fleming, 1996) Sat-Mon
Blacula (William Crain, 1972) Tues Only

SIFF Egyptian:

Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Multiple Maniacs (John Waters, 1970) Fri & Sat Midnight Only
Oasis: Supersonic (Mat Whitecross) Weds Only

Century Federal Way:

Luck-Key (Lee Gye-Byeok) Fri-Thurs
Desi Munde (Inderjit Bansel) Fri-Thurs
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) Sun & Weds Only
Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno) Sat Only

Grand Cinema:

American Honey (Andrea Arnold) Fri-Thurs Our Review
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs
Equity (Meera Menon) Tues Only
Generation Startup (Cheryl Miller Houser & Cynthia Wade) Thurs Only Free Screening

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968) Fri, Sat & Thurs Only 35mm
Kwaidan (Masaki Koayashi, 1964) Sat & Mon Only 35mm
Teen Vamp (Samuel Bradford, 1988) Fri Only VHS
Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments (Erica Benedikty, 1995) Sat Only
Scarecrow Video Weirdo Horror Triple Feature Sun Only VHS & Digital
Thundercrack! (Curt McDowell, 1975) Tues Only
50s Drive-In Monster Double Feature Weds Only 16mm
Love in the Time of Monsters (Matt Jackson, 2014) Thurs Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno) Sat Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Ism (Puri Jagannadh) Fri-Thurs
Premam (Alphonse Puthren) Fri-Thurs
Neer Dose (Vijaya Prasad) Fri-Thurs
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) Sun & Weds Only
Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno) Sat Only

Regal Meridian:

Operation Mekong (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Do Not Resist (Craig Atkinson) Fri-Thurs
Nemo Hadeest’ii (Navajo Finding Nemo) (Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich, 2003) Sat Only In Diné
Ski Troop Attack and Monster from the Ocean Floor (Roger Corman, 1960 & 1954) Sat Only 16mm Double Feature
The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith (Sara Fishko) Weds Only
Election Cavalcade: Democracy on 16mm, 1932-1977 Thurs Only 16mm

AMC Oak Tree:

31 (Rob Zombie) Fri-Thurs

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

La Leyenda del Chupacabras (Alberto Rodriguez) Fri-Thurs
Desierto (Jonás Cuarón) Fri-Thurs
I’m Not Ashamed (Brian Baugh) Fri-Thurs
The Third Party (Jason Paul Laxamana) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Children of Paradise (Marcel Carne, 1945) Weds Only 35mm Our Review
The Unsuspected (Michael Curtiz, 1947) Thurs Only 35mm

Seven Gables:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Tanna (Martin Butler & Bentley Dean) Fri-Sun
Blue Jay (Alex Lehmann) Fri-Sun, Thurs

Sundance Cinemas:

The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966) Fri-Thurs
In a Valley of Violence (Ti West) Fri-Thurs
Don’t Think Twice (Mike Birbiglia) Fri-Thurs
The Free World (Jason Lew) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

The Beatles: 8 Days a Week (Ron Howard) Fri-Thurs
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Weds
Seattle Polish Film Festival Full Program 
Blue Jay (Alex Lehmann) Mon-Weds
SEED: The Untold Story (Jon Betz & Taggart Siegel) Tues Only

Varsity Theatre:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) Weds Only

Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)

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Kelly Reichardt’s films speak with a particular and rather outmoded cadence, a sort of clenched-jaw Western laconism. American movies and American culture writ large no longer appear interested in such restraint; heroic pauciloquy died with Gary Cooper, or something like that. Our present heroes—and orange skinned villains—fill the air with unceasing clamor, armed with the gift of gab and hair-trigger. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se. A mythic America of tight-lipped fortitude probably never existed anyways, but it did form a national pop mythos as recently as a half century ago. As it fell out of vogue, cinema’s true believers largely retreated from multiplex screens and into the avant garde, though Clint Eastwood’s Sully was rightly hailed as a recent norm-deviating revival. Non-narrative cinema continues to offer modes of production and consumption amendable to restraint as an aesthetic and moral principle. The problem is that Peter Hutton’s or James Benning’s American landscapes probably aren’t coming to a theater near you (unless you live in Seattle, where the Northwest Film Forum is presenting a one-night-only, attendance-required selection of Hutton’s films next month). Their respective corpuses could not exist without the trail first blazed in Hollywood by someone like John Ford, himself an artist with a tendency to careen between laconism and good old Irish loquaciousness, but neither Hutton nor Benning possesses a conventional interest in storytelling that allowed Ford to thrive in a commercial industry. Enough with those pretty pictures, the people demand characters! Where is our Wyatt Earp? Where have all the strong, silent types gone? Kelly Reichardt knows.

Continue reading Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)”

VIFF 2016: Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro, 2016)

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Like his previous features Viola and The Princess of France, Matías Piñeiro’s latest takes a Shakespeare play as its jumping off point, in this case A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But it’s seemingly less invested in the play at its heart than those others (at least at first glance, more research may reveal structural similarities I didn’t pick up this time, it’s been awhile since I read the play), instead it’s a kind of a coming of age film, but jumbled such that it feels like a wholly fresh take on that well-worn genre. Agustina Muñoz plays a young theatre student who moves from Buenos Aires to New York on fellowship to translate the Shakespeare play (her notebooks, with page after page of the play pasted into them, are one of the film’s many small pleasures). While there she visits her father, a man she’d never met, played by critic and filmmaker Dan Sallitt, is visited by a friend of a friend (actress and director Mati Diop, from Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum), and carries on a tentative romance or two, but not in that order. Piñeiro also mixes in scenes in Argentina before her departure, and in New York before her arrival, when one of her friends (María Villar, who played Viola in Viola) lived in the same apartment as part of the same program and dated the same man. The tone throughout is light and playful, even the meeting with the father, though painful and awkward, is suffused with good-humor and warmth. Aside from the jumbled timeline, there’s little of the formal daring of Viola, with its oblique narrative and repeated lines of Shakespeare, or of the brilliantly goofy opening shot of Princess of France. As such, it’s Piñeiro’s most accessible, most easily digestible film.

Taken in quick succession, as I saw them at VIFF, these films Hermia & HelenaThings to Come and After the Storm come to encompass an entire lifespan: the boy from the Koreeda growing into the students of Hermia and Things to Come, who in turn grow into the adult parents of Storm and Things, leading inevitably to the loneliness of late middle age, as marriages dissolve and the younger generation moves away, finally resting on the weary good humor of the elderly Kirin Kiki. These are three filmmakers of different ages from three disparate corners of the world, yet the spirit of these movies is the same: warm and bittersweet and a little bit absurd. Of course, then Paul Verhoeven came along to shatter this globalized humanist dream with Elle, which isn’t exactly a satire and isn’t exactly a nightmare, but creates a world in which the happy existentialism of wistful contentment has no home, where life isn’t about abstraction but the brutal physicality of emotion and the hideous, desperate struggle to achieve and maintain power and control.

VIFF 2016: After the Storm (Kore-eda Hirokazu, 2016)

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Beginning with a shot out of the canon, a small Japanese kitchen, mother and daughter at work, receding into the distance on the left side of the screen are a series of rectangular spaces, the right angles of doorways leading to doorways, director Kore-eda Hirozaku states his intention to work in the mines first exploited by Yasujiro Ozu in a series of domestic comedies and dramas from the 1930s through the 1960s. This seems to be Kore-eda’s increasingly preferred mode of work, it’s been a long time since the minimalist fantasy of Afterlife, or even the bizarre Doona Bae vehicle Air Doll (in which the one of the great actresses working today plays a sentient sex doll who learns what it means to be human, and to kill). Since that film, Kore-eda has been following the vein of his 2008 masterpiece Still Walking, with a handful of films about families told in a patient, superficially Ozuvian style (no director has ever made a film completely in Ozu’s style: his editing and framing system is simply too idiosyncratic, most, like Kore-eda, recall the shapes of his sets and seek to recreate the pace of his movies with longer shot lengths). If this period of his work is as strong as After the Storm, I for one am content to let Kore-eda keep churning out these movies indefinitely.

Hiroshi Abe plays an acclaimed writer who, blocked in the creation of his second novel and succumbing to his gambling addiction, is working as a shady private investigator. He’s recently divorced and trying to keep the affection of his young son and win his wife back as she moves on to another man. The old woman in the opening scene is his mother, played by Kirin Kiki, who was exceptional as the matriarch in Still Walking and just as good here, the woman was his sister, like him a mooch and a bit of a failure. Hanging over everything is their recently deceased father, a compulsive gambler, an unliterary man who nonetheless took great pride in his penmanship. The various threads weave together during the eponymous storm, the latest in an unusually large number of typhoons (I write in the midst of a typhoon here in Tacoma) to hit Japan that year. After the storm, things aren’t resolved, as they can’t ever be in movies like this, where the recognition of irresolvability is always the resolution, but the air is a little cleaner.

VIFF 2016: Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)

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The first of two remarkable performances from Isabelle Huppert this year comes as a teacher of philosophy who in late middle-age finds herself with a remarkable amount of freedom and not much idea of what to do with it. Saddled at the beginning of the film with a husband, adult children, friendly former students, an overbearing mother, and a book contract, she loses each one in turn. The husband admits he’s having an affair (“why tell me?” is her gloriously French deadpan response), the kids are off to school, the maddening publicity representatives of her publisher pelt her with inane ideas and finally cut her loose, the mother even dies, leaving her a cat. She takes the cat (Pandora, naturally) to the mountains, a remote writer’s commune, at the invitation of one of her former students. She hangs out with the idealistic twenty-somethings and listens to their deeply-felt internecine lefty squabbles and feels no connection to any of it: these passions are her past. Where Hansen-Løve’s last film, Eden (which played here at SIFF last year) was the life story of a man whose life never really got going, trapped in a perpetual loop of the early 20s, always on the verge but never quite becoming anything, until one day he’s middle-aged and never made it, Things to Come tackles what accomplishment means in life from the other end of the age spectrum. By any conventional standard, Huppert had it all: friends, family, fulfilling employment, but strip all that away and she finds she’s not much different from Eden‘s hero. We are, in most ways, defined by what we do and who we interact with on a daily basis, our role in life is too often conflated with our life itself. Hansen-Løve is after something else though, searching for an irreducible core to our humanity. If anyone can find it, Isabelle Huppert can.

VIFF 2016: Index

Today is the closing day of the Vancouver International Film Festival, and while we’ve been home for awhile now, our coverage continues. Here is an index of what we’ve reviewed, listed alphabetically by title:

After the Storm (Kore-eda Hirokazu, 2016)
Aquarius 
(Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2016)
Beautiful 2016 (Jia Zhangke, Stanley Kwan, et al, 2016)
Crosscurrent (Yang Chao, 2016)
Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro, 2016)

The Intestine (Lev Lewis, 2016)
Last Poems Trilogy (Sofia Bohdanowicz, 2016)
The Lockpicker (Randall Okita, 2016)
Maudite Poutine (Karl Lemieux, 2016)
Never Eat Alone (Sofia Bohdanowicz, 2016)

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016)
Pop Song (Matthew Taylor Blais, 2016)
A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, 2016)
Ta’ang (Wang Bing, 2016)
Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)

Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, 2016)
Werewolf (Ashley McKenzie, 2016)
Yellowing (Chan Tze-woon, 2016)
Yourself and Yours (Hong Sang-soo, 2016)

Friday October 14 – Thursday October 20

Featured Film:

In the Mouth of Madness at the Grand Illusion

The Grand Illusion kicks off Halloween movie season in style with a 35mm print of John Carpenter’s 1994 classic, the director’s last indisputably great film. Sam Neill plays an investigator sent to find a missing horror author and recover his latest manuscript, which apparently causes insanity, suicide and the destruction of the universe as we think we know it. “Reality’s not what it used to be.”

Playing This Week:

AMC Loews Alderwood:

Asura: The City of Madness (Kim Sung-su) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945) Fri-Mon
Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

TWIST 2016 Full Program

Century Federal Way:

Asura: The City of Madness (Kim Sung-su) Fri-Thurs
Lock (Smeep Kang) Fri-Thurs
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) Sun & Weds Only
Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974) Tues Only

Grand Cinema:

Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs
Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) Sat Only
Our Little Sister (Kore-eda Hirokazu) Tues Only Our Review
The Princess Bride (Rob Reiner, 1987) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Greasy Strangler (Jim Hosking) Fri-Thurs
In the Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter, 1994) Sat & Tues Only 35mm
Blonde Death (James Robert Baker, 1984) Thurs Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno) Sun & Mon Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

M.S. Dhoni (Neeraj Pandey) Fri-Thurs
Premam (Alphonse Puthren) Fri-Thurs
Neer Dose (Vijaya Prasad) Fri-Thurs
Harry Potter Movies Fri-Thurs
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Operation Mekong (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs Our Review
M.S. Dhoni (Neeraj Pandey) Fri-Thurs
L.O.R.D. – Legend of Ravaging Dynasties 3D (Guo Jingming) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

TWIST 2016 Full Program
Ghosts, Spirits and Miracles on a Summer Night: Short Animated films of Joanna Polak
 Tues Only

AMC Oak Tree:

Better Off Single (Benjamin Cox) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

I Belonged to You (Zhang Yibai) Fri-Thurs

Pacific Science Center:

Voyage of Time (IMAX) (Terrence Malick) Mon-Thurs
Harry Potter Movies Fri-Sun

Regal Parkway Plaza:

La Leyenda del Chupacabras (Alberto Rodriguez) Fri-Thurs
No Manches Frida (Nacho Garcia Velilla) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Unsuspected (Michael Curtiz, 1947) Thurs Only 35mm

Seven Gables:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

Seattle South Asian Film Festival Full Program 

Sundance Cinemas:

American Honey (Andrea Arnold) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Don’t Think Twice (Mike Birbiglia) Fri-Thurs
London Town (Derrick Borte) Fri-Thurs
Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari) Fri-Thurs
Demon (Marcin Wrona) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Harry Potter Movies Fri-Thurs
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) Sun & Weds Only
Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974) Tues Only

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

American Honey (Andrea Arnold) Fri-Thurs Our Review
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Weds
Seattle Polish Film Festival Full Program 
The Decalogue (Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1988) Mon-Thurs
Solitary (Kristi Jacobson and Julie Goldman) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
Ordinary World (Lee Kirk) Fri-Thurs

VIFF 2016: Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2016)

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In the span of just two features (I can’t speak for the shorts) Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho has developed a truly indelible mise-en-scène. Architecture’s contour and form take center stage in front of Filho’s camera, his eye ever attuned to man’s geometric impositions on the world. Cavernous widescreen images locate everything within environmental context; it’s not enough to say that Filho’s characters are defined by the spaces they occupy. The spaces occupy them.

Filho’s dynamics of power concern primarily the dominance of hearth and home. In Neighboring Sounds, one familial clan holds sway over an entire city block, the ill-begotten gain of an unexplained original sin. There the family’s grip on their petty empire comes under attack from within by infiltrators lurking in the compound. Dona Clara, the materfamilias of Aquarius, is under siege from without. Greedy real estate developers have their eye on the eponymous apartment complex where she remains the last holdout. Clara’s life is housed in the walls of the Aquarius and Filho imbues every nook and every piece of furniture—including a particularly memorable dresser—with one woman’s personal history. Clara’s commitment to this place gets sketched out by Filho’s cartographic camera, but equal credit goes to the fire burning in Sonia Braga’s eyes. The legendary Brazilian actress almost seems to fight against Filho’s architectural sensibilities. Her hair alone is capable of commanding the screen, enveloping the widescreen frame in swaths of undulating black. It even demands its own chapter. Braga’s place in the mise-en-scène nurtures a productive friction between actor and director. But Filho occasionally opts for a smoother course elsewhere. To call Aquarius safe seems patently false: it caused some notable controversy in its home country after its premiere, though that’s possibly a result of the cast and crew’s public politics at Cannes more than the overt announcements of the film itself. But Filho doesn’t hide his aims either, and trying to cleave a wedge between the red carpet protest and what’s on screen is a fool’s errand. The struggle to control one old flat speaks volumes for Filho. If anything Aquarius‘s premise plays too neatly as metaphor—less, uh, termite, more white elephant. Not every film needs clandestine subtext, however, and Filho certainly isn’t the first auteur to use his second at-bat as a pretext for stylistic and thematic clarification, though I wonder if expansion rather than distillation might’ve made for a knottier movie. Still, methinks Filho has a masterpiece in him, so, thanks in large part to Braga’s ferocious performance, we’ll just have to settle for Aquarius being merely very good.