Friday September 29 – Thursday October 5

Featured Film:

The Vancouver International Film Festival

Once again we at Seattle Screen Scene are headed north for the Vancouver Film Festival. Anticipated highlights include: Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames, Hong Sangsoo’s Claire’s Camera, Agnès Varda’s Faces Places, Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl, Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts, Ben Russell’s Good Luck, Yorgos Lanthimos’s Killing of a Sacred Deer, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits, Ruben Östlund’s The Square and Wilson Yip’s SPL3: Paradox, alongside the one of the best collections of Asian cinema to be found in any Western film festival and the finest in cutting-edge Canadian film.

Playing This Week:

Admiral Theatre:

Rooted in Peace (Greg Reitman) Mon Only

AMC Alderwood:

Tangled (Nathan Greno & Byron Howard, 2010) Fri-Thurs
Judwaa 2 (David Dhawan) Fri-Thurs
Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977) Fri-Weds
The Fifth Element (Steve Barron, 1990) Fri-Weds Our Review

Cinerama:

Blade Runner: Final Cut (Ridley Scott, 1982) Fri-Weds

SIFF Egyptian:

Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two (Danny Clinch) Fri-Weds

Century Federal Way:

Nikka Zaildar 2 (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs
The Tingler (William Castle, 1959) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Columbus (Kogonada) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Midwife (Martin Provost) Fri-Thurs
Menashe (Joshua Z. Weinstein) Fri-Thurs
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Viceroy’s House (Gurinder Chadha) Fri-Thurs
Lemon (Janicza Bravo) Sat Only
Marie Curie: The Courage of Knowledge (Marie Noëlle) Tues Only
Tacoma Film Festival Starts Thurs Full Program

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Super Dark Times (Kevin Phillips) Fri-Thurs
The Search for Weng Weng (Andrew Leavold) Tues Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Judwaa 2 (David Dhawan) Fri-Thurs
Jai Lava Kusa (K. S. Ravindra) Fri-Thurs
Mahanubhavudu (Maruthi) Fri-Thurs
Spyder (A.R. Murugadoss) Fri-Thurs In Tamil & Telugu, Check Listings
The Tingler (William Castle, 1959) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Chasing the Dragon (Wong Jing & Jason Kwan) Fri-Thurs
Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs
Judwaa 2 (David Dhawan) Fri-Thurs
Spyder (A.R. Murugadoss) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Local Sightings Film Festival Fri & Sat Only Full Program
Danger Diva (Robert McGinley) Fri Only
Baywitch presents MIPoPS (Various) Sat Only Live Soundtrack
Unrest (Jennifer Brea) Starts Weds

AMC Pacific Place:

Tangled (Nathan Greno & Byron Howard, 2010) Fri-Thurs
Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Never Say Die (Yang Song & Chiyu Zhang) Fri-Thurs
Victoria & Abdul (Stephen Frears) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Judwaa 2 (David Dhawan) Fri-Thurs
Spyder (A.R. Murugadoss) Fri-Thurs
Til Death Do Us Part (Chris Stokes) Fri-Thurs
Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs
Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two (Danny Clinch) Tues Only

AMC Seattle:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Lured (Douglas Sirk, 1947) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Mattress Men (Colm Quinn) Sat Only
Irish Shorts Program 1 (Various) Sat Only
Emerald City (Colin Broderick) Sat Only
Song of Granite (Pat Collins) Sun Only
Irish Shorts Program 2 (Various) Sun Only
In The Name of Peace: John Hume in America (Maurice Fitzpatrick) Sun Only

AMC Southcenter:

Tangled (Nathan Greno & Byron Howard, 2010) Fri-Thurs
Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Til Death Do Us Part (Chris Stokes) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Uptown:

Menashe (Joshua Z. Weinstein) Fri-Thurs
French Cinema Now Fri-Thurs Full Program
Pearl Jam: Let’s Play Two (Danny Clinch) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Columbus (Kogonada) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Manhattan Short Film Festival (Various) Fri Only

In Wide Release:

Mother! (Darren Aronofsky) Our Review
Wind River (Taylor Sheridan) Our Review
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mother! (2017, Darren Aronofsky)

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Give credit where it is due: it is rare to find any studio film this brazenly and recklessly self-confident in its own twisted and sick artistry, especially when carried out to the logical extremities of the subject matter, both literal and allegorical, without an iota of care for good taste. To be clear, mother! is a horrifically awful film, dull when it isn’t completely repugnant and so blatantly up its own ass that it becomes almost bemusing in its complete arrogance. But it is fascinating nonetheless, not the least because it has divided critical opinion so sharply and along entirely unexpected battle lines, but because the movie has somehow, through some alchemical combination of intention and luck on the part of Darren Aronofsky, managed to be both asininely clear and completely opaque in the ways it can and has been interpreted.

Perhaps the establishment of a film’s premise is a fool’s errand for a film like mother!, but it is useful nonetheless. The movie is centered around a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) married to a slightly older acclaimed poet (Javier Bardem) living in a house seemingly in the middle of nowhere – indeed, the woman, and by proxy the film, never leaves the house. He is busy grappling with a bout of writer’s block, while she is renovating and rebuilding the house after a fire that occurred in the house – which was the husband’s before he met his wife – an unspecified number of years ago. Their fairly idyllic existence is interrupted by the unexpected appearance of an ailing doctor (Ed Harris) and his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), who ingratiate themselves into the household by praising the work of the husband despite the protestations of the wife. From there, multiple turns occur, including a brief interlude before the movie culminates in a truly horrendous and apocalyptic third act free from any sense of coherent logic or structure, which will not be spoiled in this review.

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Friday September 22 – Thursday September 28

Featured Film:

The Big Sleep at the Seattle Art Museum

SAM’s autumn series devoted to film noir kicks off this Thursday with Howard Hawks’s seminal The Big Sleep, a film which has played here on Seattle Screens many times before (hard to believe it’s now been a decade since we played it at the Metro), but one which only grows stranger every time you see it. We talked about it on The Frances Farmer Show last spring. Coming up in the Here Comes the Night series are established classics like Chinatown, Kiss of Death, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Pickup on South Street, alongside more obscure gems like The File on Thelma Jordan, Pretty Poison, The Naked Alibi, and Douglas Sirk’s Lured, starring Lucille Ball and George Sanders.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Mulan (Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook, 1998) Fri-Thurs
Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Teach Us All (Sonia Lowman) Mon Only

Central Cinema:

Snakes on a Plane (David R. Ellis 2006) Fri-Weds
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Steve Barron, 1990) Fri-Mon, Weds

SIFF Egyptian:

Hype! (Doug Pray, 1996) Mon Only Live Music, Q&A after

Century Federal Way:

Jai Lava Kusa (K. S. Ravindra) Fri-Thurs
Nikka Zaildar 2 (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984) Sun & Mon Only Our Podcast Dubbed Sunday, Subtitled Monday
Wall Street (Oliver Stone, 1987) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Columbus (Kogonada) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
The Midwife (Martin Provost) Fri-Thurs
Menashe (Joshua Z. Weinstein) Fri-Thurs
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 (Tobe Hooper, 1986) Sat Only
Revolting Rhymes (Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer) Sun Only
Lucky (John Carroll Lynch) Sun Only
The Last Dalai Lama? (Mickey Lemle) Tues Only
Fix It: Health Care at the Tipping Point Thurs Only Free Screening

Grand Illusion Cinema:

L7: Pretend We’re Dead (Sarah Price) Fri & Sat Only
Boris Without Beatrice (Denis Côté) Fri-Thurs
The Road Movie (Denis Côté) Sun Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Thupparivalan (Mysskin) Fri-Thurs
Jai Lava Kusa (K. S. Ravindra) Fri-Thurs
Simran (Hansal Mehta) Fri-Thurs
Bhoomi (Omung Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Magalir Mattum (Bramma G) Fri-Thurs
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984) Sun & Mon Only Our Podcast Dubbed Sunday, Subtitled Monday
Wall Street (Oliver Stone, 1987) Sun & Weds Only
Spyder (A.R. Murugadoss) Tues-Thurs Only

Regal Meridian:

The Tiger Hunter (Lena Khan) Fri-Thurs
Rebel in the Rye (Danny Strong) Fri-Thurs
Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Our Podcast Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Spyder (A.R. Murugadoss) Tues & Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Local Hallucinations: Short Films (Dave Hanagan) Sat Only
Sandy Osawa Retrospective Sun Only
Local Sightings Film Festival Fri-Thurs Full Program
Rocketmen (Webster Crowell) Thurs Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Mulan (Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook, 1998) Fri-Thurs
Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Baby Driver (Edgar Wright) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Spyder (A.R. Murugadoss) Tues-Thurs Only
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (Rs Prasanna) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Trophy (Shaul Schwarz &Christina Clusiau) Fri-Thurs
Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946) Thurs Only Our Podcast

SIFF Film Center:

Lane 1974 (S.J. Chiro) Fri-Thurs

AMC Southcenter:

Because of Gracia (Tom Simes) Fri-Thurs
Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Mulan (Tony Bancroft & Barry Cook, 1998) Fri-Thurs
The Houses October Built 2 (Bobby Roe) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Brad’s Status (Mike White) Fri-Thurs
Stronger (David Gordon Green) Fri-Thurs
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Our Podcast Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings
Wall Street (Oliver Stone, 1987) Sun & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

The Trip to Spain (Michael Winterbottom) Fri-Thurs
Menashe (Joshua Z. Weinstein) Fri-Thurs
The Midwife (Martin Provost) Fri-Thurs
Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987) Sun Only Movie Party
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón) Weds Only In 3D, Sponsored by Headlight Cannabis
Black Sabbath: The End of the End (Dick Carruthers) Thurs Only
Django (Etienne Comar) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Columbus (Kogonada) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Year by the Sea (Alexander Janko) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Wind River (Taylor Sheridan) Our Review
Leap! (Eric Summer & Éric Warin) Our Review

2017 Local Sightings Film Festival: Natural Experiments

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During the summer, I was given the rather wonderful opportunity to assist in programming the experimental shorts program at the 20th Local Sightings Film Festival, which runs from tomorrow through the end of the month at the Northwest Film Forum. Though I wasn’t given a specific prompt, the shorts I helped select fell into two programs: Natural Experiments and Hurtling Through Space. Of the two, the one containing almost all of the shorts that genuinely excited me is the former. While I must say I am no expert in writing about the avant-garde, all of these shorts offer no small amount of visceral and visual pleasure.

Though I must reiterate that I approached this assignment with no set theme in mind, I gravitated towards shorts that showcased the ways in which development in the Pacific Northwest intermingles with other elements, whether they be natural surroundings or various cinematographic techniques. In this respect, “Erased Etchings” (Linda Fenstermaker) is the perfect introduction. Dreamy and hazy via the texture of 16mm, the depictions of both natural foliage and the houses in their midst don’t develop so much as unravel. Some context is introduced – a few pointed shots of housing development plans – but this is mostly purely experiential, with some lovely music choices to match.

My favorite of the shorts is “Lost Winds” (Caryn Cline), which reminded me much of what little Brakhage I’ve seen. Consisting entirely of damp plants, leaves, and flowers as seemingly seen through a microscope, the short manages to create a very appealing dynamism in the quick edits which invite the viewer in rather than disorient them. Coupled with the ambient sounds of water and fascinating inserts that create iris shots out of the leaves, it is calming in so many beautiful ways.

“Bell Tower of False Creek” (Randolph Jordan) is a curious case. It approaches documentary more than something purely experimental, and I must confess much of the context – which, per the summary, “uses the church bell as metaphor for the traffic on Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge” – went over my head. But the black and white 8mm images are lovely, and the way in which voiceover interviews and the natural (or not-so-natural) sounds are interwoven is fairly skillfully done.

Featuring two filmmakers already in this program, “Tri-Alogue #3” (Caryn Cline, Linda Fenstermaker & Reed O’Beirne) nevertheless feels like something different. The screen is divided into thirds, with each filmmaker taking a section and creating their own individual short, but all of the images take on a collective unity, all exploring the city and using a particularly active mode of shooting, all never-ceasing shots that bleed into each other. There is no particular effort to make the shots line up, from what I could tell, and that in itself gives the endeavor a certain interconnectivity.

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One of my other favorite shorts in the program, “Shared Space” (Champ Ensminger), stands out from the others. Its approach is blatantly digital and virtual and focuses on individuals rather than their surroundings. Yet they tackle the notion of the city as well, as each person interviewed talks about the culture that they take part in and said culture’s various pros and cons. All the while, they are fragmented and almost abstracted into lines, pixels, and other digital constructions. The human figure is still there, but it is made into something both alien and familiar.

Perhaps the only truly abrasive short in the selection, “HearNW” (Ben Popp) continually puts hindrances in front of its images of the natural world, whether they be the outlines of the objects being represented, overlapping prismatic images, or just the relentless thrum of the soundtrack. But the experience is never assaultive, the techniques never distracting, and the experiments with the frame are wonderful.

My third favorite of the program, “Game Plan” (Lynn O C Thompson), takes a rather novel look at the modern industries. Vintage game boards are overlaid onto relatively normal shots of power lines, trucks, factories, and other industrial mainstays, and the effect strikes as exceedingly playful. One could read a potential critique (the use of games similar to Monopoly commenting on the ubiquity of money), but it seems like the most productive path is to appreciate this short’s inherent buoyancy and energy.

“A City in Four Parts” (Jon Behrens), in the context of the other shorts, isn’t the most adventurous of experiments, but the effect of its images still allows for some appreciation. Taking four different shots of the waterfront and overlaying them over one another, with occasional inversions, the short creates the illusion of buildings building on top of each other, ships sailing upside down on a water-filled sky, and while the impact may be slightly less surreal than hoped, the deep blues of the 16mm film speak for themselves.

The most far-flung of the shorts, “Silk Scream” (Brenan Chambers) uses a seemingly endless amount of overlays of similar shots to create a legible yet intensely blurred portrait of Tokyo city life, set to a wordless and shimmering instrumental track. The effect is indeed that of a city in motion, and a rather astonishing balance is struck between clarity and abstraction.

“Vernae” (Ethan Folk and other collaborators) is by far the longest film in the program at 28 minutes, and is by turns the most conventional and the most daring short. Comprised mostly of rhythmic dances by various figures in some clearly elemental and highly sensual state of being. By turns gorgeous and somewhat disturbing, the short seems clearly cloaked in some inner meaning, but the spectacle of numerous bodies in motion suffices.

The final short, “Disjunct” (Brian C. Short), is a rather appropriate closer to this stunning program. Adopting a highly free-wheeling and almost everything but the kitchen sink approach, the short moves through modes with abandon, synthesizing nearly every technique in this program to create some portrait of the Pacific Northwest. But nothing feels necessarily inorganic to the short, such is the general deftness with which everything is unveiled.

Though all of these shorts may confound, delight, and move in certain measure, what connects all of them above all is the spirit of experimentation, a willingness to render familiar sights with new resonances and filters. In this regard, the program is utterly remarkable, and a very worthy experience.

Escapes (2017, Michael Almereyda)

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Among the aspects most crucial to the creative success of a documentary is one that should be all too obvious: the subject. This isn’t necessarily to say that there are a preponderance of documentaries that fail because of their material, or that there are many topics that are ill-suited to the medium. But, as with narrative films, the right subject almost always must be paired with the right filmmaker in order for the venture to truly get started.

So it is with Escapes, one of two films premiered this year from the eclectic director Michael Almereyda, the other being his science-fiction drama Marjorie Prime. Though he is better known for his fiction works, including Hamlet and Experimenter, the filmmaker (from whom I’ve sadly seen no other film) has made several documentaries, including one with the late Sam Shepard, and he turns in something quietly spectacular, stylish, and moving.

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Friday September 15 – Thursday September 21

Featured Film:

Columbus at the Grand Cinema and the Varsity Theatre

Kogonada’s debut feature continues its Seattle-area run this week, expanding to the Grand in Tacoma and the Varsity. The film, about two lonely people (John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson) bonding over the modern architecture of Columbus, Indiana, played here at SIFF before opening theatrically in August (and it will be playing next month as well at VIFF). It’s one of the year’s most striking American films, equal parts Ozu and Linklater, and one that isn’t easily dismissed. I liked it a lot more than my colleagues here at SSS (as we discussed on our SIFF podcast), but Nathan’s review, wrestling with its flaws and strengths, is a terrific read.

Playing This Week:

 

Admiral Theatre:

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) Weds Only

AMC Alderwood:

Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Second Nature (Michael Cross) Fri-Thurs
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986) Fri-Sun, Tues
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Frank Oz, 1988) Fri-Sun, Tues

Century Federal Way:

True to the Game (Preston A. Whitmore II) Fri-Thurs
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Columbus (Kogonada) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Rumble (Catherine Bainbridge & Alfonso Maiorana) Fri-Thurs
Babe (GChris Noonan, 1995) Sat Only Free Screening
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974) Sat Only
Pop Aye (Kirsten Tan) Tues Only
To Sir, With Love (James Clavell, 1967) Weds Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

L7: Pretend We’re Dead (Sarah Price) Fri-Sun
The Teacher (Jan Hrebejk) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Lucknow Central (Ranjit Tiwari) Fri-Thurs
Thupparivalan (Mysskin) Fri-Thurs
Poster Boys (Shreyas Talpade) Fri-Thurs
Arjun Reddy (Sandeep Reddy Vanga) Fri-Thurs
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (Rs Prasanna) Fri-Thurs
Do It Like an Hombre (Nicolás López) Fri-Thurs
Simran (Hansal Mehta) Fri-Thurs
Kathalo Rajakumari (Mahesh Surapaneni) Fri-Thurs
Magalir Mattum (Bramma G) Fri-Thurs
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Rebel in the Rye (Danny Strong) Fri-Thurs
Good Time (Josh & Benny Safdie) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Lane 1974 (S.J. Chiro) Fri-Weds
Shadow of the House (Allie Humenuk, 2007) Weds Only
Lane 1974 (S.J. Chiro) Starts Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

Twenty-Two (Ke Guo) Fri-Thurs
Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

The Glass Castle (Destin Daniel Cretton) Fri-Thurs
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (Rs Prasanna) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Rebel in the Rye (Danny Strong) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The Confessions (Roberto Andò) Fri-Sun Only
Napping Princess (Kenji Kamiyama) Sat & Sun Only Japanese Sat, English Sun

AMC Southcenter:

Because of Gracia (Tom Simes) Fri-Thurs
Beauty and the Beast (Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

The Trip to Spain (Michael Winterbottom) Fri-Thurs
Beach Rats (Eliza Hittman) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Midwife (Martin Provost) Fri-Thurs
The Nile Hilton Incident (Tarik Saleh) Fri-Thurs
May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Judd Apatow & Michael Bonfiglio) Tues Only
Heather Booth: Changing the World (Lilly Rivlin) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda) Fri-Thurs
Step (Amanda Lipitz) Fri-Thurs
Columbus (Kogonada) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright) Our Review
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Our Review
Wind River (Taylor Sheridan) Our Review
Leap! (Eric Summer & Éric Warin) Our Review

Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)

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A film about a journey to a room: so muses the knowingly understated title of Geoff Dyer’s volume of ruminations on Andrei Tarkovksy’s Stalker, recently restored by Criterion and finishing up its repertory run (including at Northwest Film Forum earlier this summer). Upon revisiting it myself, I was struck by a few elements that flew over me on first viewing. Stalker was my first Tarkovsky and I’ve held out on revisiting it for years until I could see a proper projection.

Stalker has long seemed to me the quintessential entry point to Tarkovsky. Thanks to the starting point of the Strugatsky Brothers’ sci-fi novella Roadside Picnic, on which it is based, it’s a less explicitly personal and esoteric work compared to much else Tarkovsky made in the same time period – even its cousin in sci-fi adaptation, Solaris, is far more up the creek in its willingness to indulge auteurial asides. By comparison, Stalker is a fleet and disciplined narrative, with an immediately compelling dystopian setting and propulsive will for moving from one event to the next.

And then of course there is the camera, which slowly glides apace with its humans. If the only thing one remembers from Tarkovsky is a sense of reverent – or nervous – procession, it’s because of the ability of such moments to impress themselves upon one’s memory. On this viewing, I was surprised at how little the shot I associate with the film actually shows up. You know the one: the dollied camera follows a man at shoulder height from one end of a hallway to another. That shot is indeed there and it is indeed spectacular, but this particular means of following, of anticipating what is ahead, of moving with someone through a space charged with meaning, isn’t scattered throughout as frequently as I’d remembered. Something else, however, is.

Even if there isn’t as much movement as I’d thought, there is a lot of looking outwards. The men of Stalker, especially the Stalker himself, are constantly looking away from camera, outwards from themselves and us. This act of gazing essentially extends the bounds of cinematic space within that space itself even within an already thoroughly mapped out composition. If the concern of most directors is in how to navigate the space between viewer and characters, Tarkovsky seems concerned more with navigating the space beyond his actors’ purview, making these figures intermediaries between us and that infinite distance. The literal spatial distance, whether in a room or a field, matters little; what matters is the act of gazing together.

Ultimately, it calls to mind the ancient posture of liturgical prayer in some Catholic and most Orthodox communities: when celebrating the Sacred Mysteries, a priest faces “east;” the hope of the community is directed towards the rising sun, anticipating the return of Christ. In liturgical terms this doesn’t always mean geographic east, but wherever the altar is located; the altar is the East, and in Eastern Christian communities this itself is usually still hidden by an iconostasis – a screen. Priest and parishioners direct their gaze in one direction, infinitely beyond them.

Is this what Tarkovsky is up to? A cinema of beholding? It’s far from the only possibility of Stalker, but it remains for me the most thrilling aspect, charged with implications for cultivating a community of the moving image.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter R. Hunt, 1969)

ohmss-3Having recently taken it upon myself to revisit all of the canon James Bond films in chronological order, some for the first time since childhood, one thing became very clear, very quickly: most of these films are thunderingly mediocre on every level, no more so than in their lack of interest in pushing the limits of cinematic form. From the very beginning the series eschewed artistic innovation in favour of middle-of-the-road dependability. In the Connery era, the costumes, sets, colours, gadgets, sex, and violence could evolve with the times, but the means of arranging and propelling them on screen remained prim, efficient, and more or less unchanged.

The template: unfussy and clean compositions, standard high key lighting, pristine continuity editing, rich palettes, and perhaps an occasional Hitchcockian flourish. A certain sequence here or there might allow room to play around with pacing for effect – the train fight in From Russia With Love, or the protracted dreaminess of the underwater battles in Thunderball – but for the most part, business as usual means keeping things coolly focused and more or less tied to the rudiments of establishing Bond in classical cinematic space.

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Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)

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A man and a woman find meaning amidst the ruins of another age: the schematic proffered by Roberto Rossellini in his 1954 masterpiece, Voyage to Italy, remains as vital as ever, constantly spawning successors in that undefinable but all too recognizable strain of modern narrative cinema which makes tourists of disaffected men and women in settings richly endowed with history and forgotten culture. In these films, the setting and its adornments are given the weight of characters themselves, speaking silent truths to those gazing upon them, offering wisdom and comfort to those caught between the contented past and the uncertain future.

It’s a scenario that audiences (mostly festival ones) are by now used to seeing played out in European settings, among mostly European people – Certified Copy, La Sapienza, Museum Hours, and the Before trilogy, to name a few. Tension is often derived from the presence of an interloper from Britain or the U.S. – to say the least, a character containing, unknown to them, a multitude of historical baggage ranging anywhere from the English Reformation and its iconoclasm, to puritanism, capitalism and attendant barbarisms. By coming into contact and meditating upon long-rejected pagan and Catholic architecture, painting, sculpture, and ornamentation, a certain refreshment and cleansing takes place. At its most basic level, as introduced by Rossellini, a spiritual and emotional clarity is ushered in by contact with pre-modern art, and consequently, the sublime, and the cogs of the narrative rumble back into motion, taking our now reborn characters into a new future – a revitalized marriage, the starting of a family, a return to the boring old New World with fresh eyes. It has long been observed that Voyage set into motion a truly modern cinema – that is to say, a cinema of lost people unmoored from tradition, beauty, and community, searching for themselves while traveling – rarely living – amongst its jewels.

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Friday September 8 – Thursday September 14

Featured Film:

Nocturama at the Northwest Film Forum

For some reason only playing for a single show, on Sunday night at the Film Forum, is Bertrand Bonello’s spectacular and befuddling story of a group of young people who coordinate a series of terrorist attacks around Paris and then hole up for the night in a department store. The first half is exceptional suspense filmmaking, relentlessly following the twists and turns of their scheme. The second half dissipates the action while cranking up the tension, as the kids don’t quite know what to do next. It’s one of the more controversial releases of the year, and we talked a bit about it on our second SIFF podcast and Ryan wrote about it this week.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

True to the Game (Preston A. Whitmore II) Fri-Thurs
A Taxi Driver (Jang Hoon) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Second Nature (Michael Cross) Fri-Thurs Director Q&A Friday
Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Scorchy (Howard Avedis, 1976) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988) Fri, Sun-Tues Dubbed or Subtitled, Check Listings

SIFF Egyptian:

Beach Rats (Eliza Hittman) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Century Federal Way:

True to the Game (Preston A. Whitmore II) Fri-Thurs
The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer, 1982) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Trip to Spain (Michael Winterbottom) Fri-Thurs
The Little Hours (Jeff Baena) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Rumble (Catherine Bainbridge & Alfonso Maiorana) Fri-Thurs
Welcome to the Dollhouse (Todd Solondz, 1995) Sat Only
Birthright: A War Story (Civia Tamarkin) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

SECS Fest (Various) Fri-Sun Only
Escapes (Michael Almereyda) Sun-Thurs Only
Organic Films (Caryn Cline) Tues Only 16mm & Digital
L7: Pretend We’re Dead (Sarah Price) Starts Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Daddy (Ashim Ahluwalia) Fri-Thurs
Poster Boys (Shreyas Talpade) Fri-Thurs
Arjun Reddy (Sandeep Reddy Vanga) Fri-Thurs
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (Rs Prasanna) Fri-Thurs
Do It Like an Hombre (Nicolás López) Fri-Thurs
Yuddham Sharanam (Krishna Marimuthu) Fri-Thurs
Lipstick Under My Burkha (Alankrita Shrivastava) Fri-Thurs
MedhaMeeda Abbayi (Prajith G) Fri-Thurs
Operation Alamelamma (Simple Suni) Sat & Sun Only
The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer, 1982) Sun & Weds Only
The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979) Thurs Only Our Review English Dub

Regal Meridian:

Gook (Justin Chon) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Daddy (Ashim Ahluwalia) Fri-Thurs
Good Time (Josh & Benny Safdie) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello) Sun Only Our Review
#BKKY (Nontawat Numbenchapol) Sun Only Director in Attendance
Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959) Weds Only 35mm Members Only
Lane 1974 (S.J. Chiro) Starts Thurs

AMC Pacific Place:

The Sinking City – Capsule Odyssey (Stephen Ng Hon-Pong & Nero Ng Siu-lun) Fri-Thurs
Twenty-Two (Ke Guo) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Gook (Justin Chon) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (Rs Prasanna) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer) Fri-Thurs Our Review
I Do. . . Until I Don’t (Lake Bell) Fri-Thurs Our Review

SIFF Film Center:

The Fencer (Klaus Härö) Fri-Sun Only
The Oath (Baltasar Kormakur) Fri Only
Rift (Erlingur Thoroddsen) Sat & Sun Only
Free in Deed (Jake Mahaffy) Sun & Tues Only
The Confessions (Roberto Andò) Mon Only
Orpheus (Jean Cocteau, 1950) Weds Only

AMC Southcenter:

Do It Like an Hombre (Nicolás López) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer, 1982) Sun & Weds Only
The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979) Thurs Only Our Review English Dub

SIFF Uptown:

The Trip to Spain (Michael Winterbottom) Fri-Thurs
The Villainess (Jeong Byeong-Gil) Fri-Thurs
Rumble (Catherine Bainbridge & Alfonso Maiorana) Fri-Thurs
May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers (Judd Apatow & Michael Bonfiglio) Tues Only
Heather Booth: Changing the World (Lilly Rivlin) Thurs Only

Varsity Theatre:

Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda) Fri-Thurs
Rememory (Mark Palansky) Fri-Thurs
Step (Amanda Lipitz) Fri-Thurs
Columbus (Kogonada) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer, 1982) Sun & Weds Only
The Castle of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979) Thurs Only Our Review

In Wide Release:

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright) Our Review
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter) Our Review
Wind River (Taylor Sheridan) Our Review
Leap! (Eric Summer & Éric Warin) Our Review