The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)

pentagram-love-witch

An enigmatic woman descends upon a town, drifting in like a sultry, slinking fog. She moves into a room in a Victorian mansion, where she cooks up home brews of potions and soaps, some of which she sells at the local hippie enclaves. Other mixtures end up in the bodies of lustful men who fall madly in love–or just simply go mad–for this femme fatale in knee high boots and miniskirts. This is Elaine. She’s the heroine of Anna Biller’s latest feminist phantasm, The Love Witch. It’s groovy and gaudy. It’s the second film of the year to track the doomed pursuit of love through the Tarot, the first being Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups. A wallop of a double feature these two would make.

Continue reading

Friday November 25 – Thursday December 1

Featured Film:

The Love Witch at the Grand Cinema and the SIFF Film Center

Samantha Robinson is just a simple, pretty young witch looking for a man to love her the right way in Anna Biller’s hilarious new film, playing this week only at Tacoma’s Grand Cinema and the SIFF Film Center. As one does, Biller has chosen a painstaking recreation of the underground cinema of the 1960s and 70s (sexploitation, Italian horror, and more) as the ideal form for her intricate, deeply subversive feminist tract, recreating the vibrant textures and colors of Technicolor and going so far as to shoot on actual 35mm film. And as she did in her last feature, 2007’s Viva, she not only directed, but also served as writer, producer, composer, costume designer and art director.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned (Um Tae-hwa) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Fri, Sat, & Mon Our Review
Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 1981) Fri-Mon
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) Tues & Weds Only

SIFF Egyptian:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Love Witch (Anna Biller) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse) Fri-Thurs
Equal Means Equal (Kamala Lopez) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Landmark Guild 45th:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Fri-Thurs
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada (Vi Anand) Fri-Mon Telugu
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) Sun & Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Boatman (Gianfranco Rosi, 1993) Fri Only
The Wanderers (Philip Kaufman, 1979) Fri-Weds
Below Sea Level (Gianfranco Rosi, 2009) Sat Only
For the Plasma (Bingham Bryant & Kyle Molzan, 2014) Sat Only
Sacro GRA (Gianfranco Rosi, 2013) Sun Only
Zona Intangible (Ann Hedreen & Rustin Thompson) Weds Only
Rainbow Time (Linas Phillips) Thurs Only Director in Attendance
Brothers (Aslaug Holm) Thurs-Sat

AMC Pacific Place:

I am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Pacific Science Center:

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

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur  (Harry Baweja) Fri-Tues
Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde) Fri-Thurs
The Unmarried Wife (Maryo J. de los Reyes) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967) Thurs Only Our Podcast 35mm
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957) Thurs Only

Seven Gables:

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Love Witch (Anna Biller) Fri-Thurs 35mm Our Review
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) Fri-Sun In Smell-O-Vision

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Mon
One More Time with Feeling (Andrew Dominik) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Harry & Snowman (Ron Davis) Fri-Thurs
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards, 1961) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)  Our Review

Tower (Keith Maitland, 2016)

tower

Approaching the subject of one of the first mass shootings in American history is by nature a tricky undertaking. In the case of the UT Austin clock tower shooting, it seems even more so; compared to other, more recent shootings, which usually take place in confined spaces like a movie theater, a club, or a school campus, this one took place in the wide expanses of downtown Austin, where no one seemed safe during the prolonged, two-hour standoff. So Keith Maitland’s approach comes as somewhat of a surprise: instead of seeking to paint a comprehensive portrait of this shocking day, it is a story primarily in anecdotes, from people who in all likelihood would only connect in events as shattering as this.

The most striking aspect is, undoubtedly, the almost entirely rotoscoped aesthetic of Tower. It almost purposefully eschews photorealism for a more impressionistic, almost faded effect, exaggerating the expressions and emphasizing the details, like the beads of sweat in the summer Texan heat or the sudden flashes of light from bullets on the sides of buildings. Even more radical is the mixing of archival footage with this animation. Particularly in the opening—before the shooting occurs—Maitland splices in animation interacting directly with the footage, the bright colors of the cars pulling up to the curb or people walking through the UT campus contrasting with the monochrome photography. But after the shooting happens, in an admittedly spurious but incredibly effective creative choice, the colors bleed out of the animation. Each person gets their own “loss of innocence” moment as they learn about the shooting (no matter how far it is into the actual events), and crucially the color never returns after the fact; when recalling certain memories the color returns to only further accentuate this point.

Continue reading

I Am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang, 2016)

2f83f0a0c246f24146904366bca04933

A comedy of bureaucracy like many a film of the Romanian New Wave, but rather than the drab and bleak institutional ironies of the Eastern Bloc, Feng Xiaogang’s satire is bright and sprightly, bouncing along its tunnel visions for two and a half hours of contradiction made irresolvable by a society’s fundamental lack of belief in the primacy of actuality over appearance. Fan Bingbing plays a rural peasant woman who wants to undo and then redo her divorce. She and her husband, she claims, only pretended to get divorced in order to qualify for an apartment near the factory where he works, while keeping her house in another town (a year later they would remarry and get both properties). But then her husband took up in that apartment with another woman, and claiming the divorce was real, kicked Fan out.

Continue reading

Friday November 18 – Thursday November 24

Featured Film:

Pockets of Resistance

I don’t know about you, but I’m not yet ready to shift back into the normal movie year, just as the awards season hype train is taking off (see this week’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, the expansion of Moonlight and the slow rollout of Loving, to be followed by more big names once we pass Thanksgiving). Fortunately, there are a few films in small, brief runs that might help us cope with the coming age of devolution. The Northwest Film Forum has on Friday and Saturday Mauro Herce’s experimental documentary Dead Slow Ahead, about a container ship making its way from port to port and the men who work on it, dwarfed as they are by the size and sounds of machinery. The SIFF Uptown has two shows only of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy, wherein the odd but seemingly nice enough guy next door turns out to be a totally unhinged nightmare of toxic patriarchy. The Sundance Cinemas continues its exclusive run of Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, in which Sonia Braga obstinantly stands in the way of the destructive forces of real estate development. And in I Am Not Madame Bovary, at the Pacific Place, Fan Bingbing carries on a ten year war against the irrational laws and corrupt bureaucracy of the Chinese state, a system in which appearances are more important than truth.

Playing This Week:

Central Cinema:

Monty Python & the Holy Grail (Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam, 1975) Fri-Mon Quote-along
Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro, 1991) Fri-Tues
Lion Ark (Tim Phillips, 2013) Tues Only

SIFF Egyptian:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Tues Our Review 
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) Starts Weds

Grand Cinema:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Tues
The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse) Fri-Tues
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Tues
The Secret of NIMH (Don Bluth, 1982) Sat Only Free, Free Donuts
Tower (Keith Maitland) Tues Only
Loving (Jeff Nichols) Starts Weds

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante) Fri-Weds Our Review
Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present (Tyler Hubby) Sat Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Loving (Jeff Nichols) Fri-Thurs
Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch) Fri-Thurs
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Loving (Jeff Nichols) Fri-Thurs
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (Gautham Menon) Fri-Mon Tamil
Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada (Vi Anand) Fri-Mon Telugu

Regal Meridian:

Loving (Jeff Nichols) Fri-Thurs
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce) Fri & Sat Only
Crumbs (Miguel Llansó) Fri Only
IRL: Craigslist Fri & Sat Only
Homo Sapiens (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) Fri & Sat Only
Babe: Pig in the City (George Miller, 1998) Sun-Weds Only
Puget Soundtrack: Chris Brokaw Presents the Films of Peter Hutton Sun Only

AMC Oak Tree:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Take (James Watkins) Fri-Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

I am Not Madame Bovary (Feng Xiaogang) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Pacific Science Center:

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

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur  (Harry Baweja) Fri-Tues
Bakit Lahat Ng Gwapo May Boyfriend (Jun Robles Lana) Fri-Tues
Loving (Jeff Nichols) Starts Weds

Seven Gables:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs
The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell) Starts Weds

SIFF Film Center:

2016 Seattle Turkish Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program

AMC Southcenter:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Sundance Cinemas:

Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho) Fri-Mon Our Review 
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Mon Our Review

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

The Romanian Film Festival in Seattle Fri-Sun Full Program
Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) Sat & Sun Only
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (Ridley Scott, 1982) Mon & Tues Only
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Weds-Thurs Our Review

Varsity Theatre:

Harry & Snowman (Ron Davis) Fri-Thurs
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs

Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante, 2015)

ixcanul_01

(This review was originally published in 2015 as a part of the Vancouver Film Festival coverage.)

Ixacanul opens on a young woman’s passive form and impassive face. Her name is Maria (María Mercedes Coroy), and her mother (María Telón) dresses her and then smooths, parts, and plaits her hair, securing a crown-like garland upon her head. The two Mayan women, alone together in their home, near a volcano, an ixcanul, in a remote region of Guatemala, both absorbed and silent in the exclusive intimacy of their shared activity, indicate that they inhabit a world with which they are familiar, and I am not. I guess, as I first look at them, that Maria is not quite happy to be so taken in hand by her mother – or perhaps she is not quite happy with the event, unknown as yet to me, for which she is being prepared. Continue reading

Friday November 11 – Thursday November 17

Featured Film:

Three Wisemans at the Grand Illusion and the Northwest Film Forum

The Grand Illusion and the Northwest Film Forum have once again joined forces to present a mini-series of masterpieces on 35mm. Arguably the greatest living American filmmaker, Frederick Wiseman has been churning out documentaries for almost 50 years now, not-quite-verité studies of institutions at work. His 1967 Titicut Follies, his directorial debut, about the patients at a Massachusetts institute for the criminally insane, plays at the Film Forum over the weekend, while Hospital, from 1970, and High School, from 1968, play Saturday and Thursday at the Grand Illusion. While it’s extremely tempting to crawl into the comforting space of the Central Cinema’s My Neighbor Totoro, the absurd nostalgia of Cinemark’s Space Jam, or worse, the numbing repetition of Marvel’s Doctor Strange this week, Wiseman’s observational defiance is what we need.

Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

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

Central Cinema:

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988) Fri-Tues In Japanese Tues Only
Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks, 1974) Fri-Tues

Cinerama:

Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome Edition (George Miller) Fri-Sun

SIFF Egyptian:

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur (Harry Baweja) Fri-Thurs
Space Jam (Joe Pytka, 1996) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs
Harry & Snowman (Ron Davis) Fri-Thurs
The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse) Fri-Thurs
Chicken People (Nicole Lucas Haimes) Tues Only
Fiddler on the Roof (Norman Jewison, 1971) Weds Only
Lincoln Film Festival Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Who: The Kids are Alright (Jeff Stein, 1979) Fri Only
Quadrophenia (Franc Roddam, 1979) Fri Only 35mm
High School (Frederick Wiseman, 1968) Sat & Thurs Only 35mm
Hospital (Frederick Wiseman, 1970) Sat & Thurs Only 35mm
Borbetomagus: A Pollock of Sound (Jef Mertens) Sat Only
Barbara Broadcast (Bradley Metzger, 1977) Mon Only
Erasures and Spaces: the revisionist films of Salise Hughes Tues Only

Landmark Guild 45th:

Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch) Fri-Thurs
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs
American Pastoral (Ewan McGregor) Fri-Sun, Tues-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Thurs
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (Gautham Menon) Fri-Thurs Tamil
Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo (Gautham Menon) Fri-Thurs Telugu
Rock On 2 (Shujaat Saudagar) Fri-Thurs
Space Jam (Joe Pytka, 1996) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Sun

Northwest Film Forum:

Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman, 1967) Fri-Sun 35mm
We Are X (Stephen Kijak) Fri-Sun
My King (Maïwenn) Fri-Sun
The Seventh Fire (Jack Pettibone Riccobono) Sat Only
A Thousand Cuts: Film Collector Book Release and Archival Screening Sat Only
Theo Who Lived (David Schisgall) Weds Only Subject in Attendance
If There’s a Hell Below (Nathan Williams) Weds & Thurs Only Director in Attendance Thursday
A Rendering Thurs Only
Dead Slow Ahead (Mauro Herce) Thurs-Sat

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:

Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur  (Harry Baweja) Fri-Thurs
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (Karan Johar) Fri-Thurs
Rock On 2 (Shujaat Saudagar) 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 Prowler (Joseph Losey, 1951) Thurs Only 35mm

Seven Gables:

A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

2016 Seattle Shorts Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program

Sundance Cinemas:

Aquarius (Kleber Menonça Filho) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Christine (Antonio Campos) Fri-Thurs
Don’t Think Twice (Mike Birbiglia) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Cinema Italian Style Fri-Thurs Full Program
The Handmaiden (Park Chanwook) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Coming through the Rye (James Steven Sadwith) Fri-Thurs
Don’t Look Down (Daniel Gordon) Fri-Thurs
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs

VIFF 2016: Notes on Ta’ang (Wang Bing, 2016)

201607407_1_img_fix_700x700

The cinema of Wang Bing is one that seems, even if a documentary, one where the physical body of a director has been removed, and the camera is guided solely by compassion. With this in mind, there is very little one can analyze or really write about – as my colleague Andy Rector stated quite astutely regarding this new work: “You’re with real people now – Essential cinema.” Wang shares an affinity with the Portuguese director Pedro Costa – both have found themselves making representational films but with the complete awareness and understanding of the potential pitfalls of such an approach. (Costa is even on record stating that Wang is his favorite contemporary filmmaker) Firstly, this appears to stem from the desire to document what otherwise would go undocumented. If there is another serious similarity – it’s that they both have found a way to remove a subject from any point of representational stasis; they have found ways to film with making those in-front of them subjects to their cameras. But while Costa seems to have moved in another direction since, Wang seems to be capable of doing this in a form that is impossibly natural. And while Costa aestheticizes and blurs (if not make entirely unnecessary) the lines between fiction and nonfiction, Wang gives us solely the world as is, more importantly the faces in it, and most importantly makes no attempt towards dialecticism within filmed reality and moreover makes no attempt to reconstitute it either. (Not that Costa necessarily does these things, but to discuss that would drift too far from the work at hand.)

Continue reading

VIFF 2016: Notes on Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016)

tumblr_inline_o8siszxo6i1shjv1j_540

“…I dreamt that we would have twins..”

I didn’t catch these opening lines until my second viewing of the film, & as elegant and moving as the initial one was, the film opens up considerably once these added dimensions are openly defined. The film is frequently introducing us to twins or doubles, not within dreams but in reality, culminating with Paterson being given ‘new’ pages by what is in essence, a spiritual twin. Does the ‘real’ then, become influenced by our own subjective impressions, rather than our impressions be designed by the real? Or is there a kind of middle ground whereupon these are arbitrary forces? Paterson only writes in isolation, almost in secret – yet this writing manifests as both compression/paring down of the outside world to abstract essentials, and amplification/elaboration of romantic feelings into romantic gestures.

Continue reading

Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)

moonlight

The only true constant in Moonlight is its look. It is an odd sort of luminescence, bringing out the vibrancy of the subject while turning everything not in the immediate foreground into a impressionistic haze of blurred colors. The effect is definitely one of immediacy, but crucially, it is immediacy that belongs to all time periods: apart from some signposts in the form of cars, cell phones, and music, the setting of the film, Miami, doesn’t seem to change all that much. The background of run-down homes, barred windows, and an moonlit beach stay the same, while the people and their changes are highlighted in stunning detail.

The movie’s visual style mirrors Barry Jenkins’ approach towards his main character, Chiron. The story of Chiron’s growth during three decades in Miami, Moonlight functions less like a biography and more like a series of snapshots. Each section, denoted by the name Chiron goes by in each section (Little, Chiron, and Black, respectively), is set over a few consecutive days, and the events are at once the most consequential and yet seem like transitions to different stages of Chiron’s life. They are formative moments, in a sense, and they come together over the course of the film to gather a quiet, cumulative force that dazes the viewer, making them feel as lost yet as at home as Chiron does.

Continue reading