That occasional glimpse of sun in our dank gray skies signals not only the rebirth of allergy season but also that it is time once again for Seattle’s annual migration to the margins of international art house cinema. The Seattle International Film Festival begins this Thursday, kicking off another epic 25 day march around the world of contemporary and archival cinema. We at Seattle Screen Scene will once again have extensive coverage, and here are some of the films we’re looking forward to this first week, May 18-25. We’ll add links to our reviews of the films we see here as we write them.
After the Storm – The latest from acclaimed Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu is another in his series of quiet family dramas, following Still Walking and Our Little Sister. Hiroshi Abe plays a dilapidated father, a novelist moonlighting as a private detective while he struggles with his second book. He tries to reunite with his ex-wife and connect with his young son. Slight, but warm, Kore-eda could probably churn out films like this for another 20 years and I’d be OK with that. I wrote a short review of it last fall at VIFF. Plays May 19 & 20.
The Unknown Girl – An unusual film from the Dardenne Brothers, in that it’s generically conventional: a nurse investigates the identity of a young woman who knocked on her door one night and wound up dead in the morning. The Dardennes’ Catholic vision of collective guilt meshes naturally with the film’s noir vibe. Evan reviewed it at VIFF. Plays May 19 & 21.
Dawson City: Frozen Time – Experimental documentarian Bill Morrison’s Beyond Zero 1948-1918 was one of my favorites of SIFF 2015, so I’m very much looking forward to this new film, which uses uncovered, decaying nitrate film to chronicle the transformations of a gold rush town around the beginning of the 20th Century. Plays May 19 & 20.
Animal Crackers – “The beginning of the end. Drab dead yesterdays shutting out beautiful tomorrows. Hideous, stumbling footsteps creaking along the misty corridors of time.” Plays May 20.
Hello Destroyer – Canadian director Kevan Funk’s chronicle of a hockey player wrestling with the consequences and ideology of violence after he puts a vicious hit on another player. It didn’t technically play as part of the Future // Present program at VIFF last fall, but it might have. Plays May 20 & 21.
The Trip to Spain – Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon continue their travels through Europe, along with the third installment of Michael Winterbottom’s series of improvisational fake documentaries about celebrity impressions and the angst of being rich, middle-aged men. Plays May 20 & 21.
Yourself and Yours – One of four Hong Sangsoo films to be released in the past nine months, this one is about a woman who, after her boyfriend tells her she drinks too much, spends a few days flirting with other men, or doesn’t but in fact has a twin who drinks and flirts a lot. Evan reviewed it at VIFF, and I reviewed it earlier this year. Plays May 21, 22 & 24.
Cook Up a Storm – One of only two Hong Kong films at this year’s SIFF, and back after a brief run at the Pacific Place in February, Raymond Yip’s foodie clash show stars Nicholas Tse, famous actor and host and primary chef on a popular cooking show. Chef Nic plays a Cantonese street cook competing against a Michelin-starred chef in a culinary competition. Anthony Wong plays Nic’s dad. I’m expecting a flashier, less soulful take on Tsui Hark’s The Chinese Feast, with less of the romantic charm of the now-playing This Is Not What I Expected. Plays May 21, 28 & 31.
Bad Black – A DIY action comedy from Uganda and producer/director/writer/editor Nabwana IGG that looks to promise as many joy of making exploitation cinema thrills as anything likely to be found in this year’s festival. Plays May 20, 22 & 25.
Vampire Cleanup Department – The other Hong Kong film at SIFF this year, it’s a kind of reboot of the classic 80s hopping vampire films (Mr. Vampire, The Dead and the Deadly), with a young man learning the ropes of vampire removal while protecting the vampire woman he loves. Plays May 23, 25 & 26.