VIFF 2017: Sami Blood (Amanda Kernell, 2016)

measuring elle marja

Sami-Swedish writer-director Amanda Kernell’s debut feature, Sami Blood, opens on a black screen and the sound of a lonely, whistling wind. Then, we hear a knocking, as the introductory credits, white on black, appear, and a man’s voice speaks: “Mom?” More knocking, then the same man’s voice: “Christina?” The first image appears, an elderly woman, alone, in close-up profile, lighting a cigarette, looking out a window, ignoring the voice.

It’s a haunted space with that blackness, the wind, the disembodied voice, and the woman who is turned away, hiding from both the voice of her son and our public prying eyes. It’s a space that sets the stage for the film to follow, the story of the girl who becomes that woman, a woman who is, indeed, haunted, hiding, and alienated from those closest to her and from the larger world, too, a world, she fears, might stare at her too much and too long.

In the opening scenes, the elderly Christina (Maj-Doris Rimpi), reluctantly guided by her son and accompanied by her granddaughter, attends the funeral of her long estranged sister. It is a Sámi funeral, following the traditions of that complex and internally diverse people group indigenous to Sweden, and it is clear that Christina, living in Swedish dress and speaking the Swedish language, feels deeply uncomfortable within the Sámi community. She speaks to no one and shields her face with her hand while she sits silently at the post-funeral meal, apart from her son and granddaughter, who are eating and talking with ease with those around them. The intimacy of family-community bonds juxtaposed with the individual isolation of Christina, separate and silent, is what strikes us most immediately. It is one thing to feel alone among strangers, wholly another to be alone among kin.


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VIFF 2017: 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, 2017)

ocean poles

The frame holds me.
Straining to see beyond,
I sleep,
caught between
tension & peace.

In the sleep, I dream,
The dream, a window
into what is
and what could be. 
      –(Adapted from the original tweet, 9/29/2017)

An inevitable sort of melancholy hangs over a beloved filmmaker’s last film, and one feels a certain pressure to love it, whatever it is. Going into the screening of the final film of Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016), 24 Frames, I couldn’t ignore the nostalgia associated with the endeavor. I am not sure, ultimately, if it will ever be possible for me to disassociate the film from the cinema experience of sitting in the dark, grieving a film lover’s grief and thinking, “This 120 minutes will be the last new footage I will ever see.”  But sitting there, even so intensely aware of the experience as a memento mori, Kiarostami’s film–flickering relentlessly forward through those precious minutes–took on its own weight. Like all of his films have done for me, it slowly removed me from self-consciousness and immersed me in itself.

24 Frames is certainly unique within Kiarostami’s oeuvre. It’s the sort of thing you might expect to find in an exhibition at the MoMA, where you can study an art piece for a while and then wander away. It’s not the sort of thing you’d expect to sit in the dark and watch for two hours. But then, Kiarostami has always been playing with the idea of cinema, his films so often reflecting back on themselves and on the act of filmmaking, and in these reflections, he has continually made his audiences consider again what cinema is and what it could be.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017)


This is the first movie I’ve seen from celebrated Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, and it’ll likely be the last. A bearded Colin Farrell plays a surgeon whose patient dies during an operation. The patient’s son (Barry Keoghan, super creepy) first tries to get Farrell to hook up with his mother (Alicia Silverstone, sad and sadly underutilized) to take the dead father’s place, but when that doesn’t work out, begins supernaturally torturing his family in an attempt to force Farrell to choose which one of his two kids should die as compensation for the boy’s dead father. It’s an adaptation of the story of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon who is commanded to be sacrificed after her father kills a deer beloved of the goddess Artemis. But in adapting the story into the bleak world of Euro-art house cruelty, Lanthimos drains the story of its humanity and its tragedy, leaving instead a deeply cynical, and exceedingly dumb, black comedy. Farrell and Nicole Kidman, playing his wife, speak and relate with an affectless precision, which is funny and weird when playing up their bizarre oversharing at parties or depressing bedroom antics, but serves no other apparent purpose. A satire of bourgeois zombiism dressed up with a classical education. Lacking belief in either the cause or the tragedy of Iphigenia’s sacrifice, all that’s left is a cheap mockery of humanity. An adaptation of myth from the point of view not of the people who strive and suffer, but through the eyes of an imperious god, tormenting foolish, hubristic mortal souls. A film almost wholly lacking empathy.

Friday October 20 – Thursday October 26

Featured Film:

The Florida Project at the SIFF Egyptian and the Lincoln Square

Normally I’d use this space to highlight the Northwest Film Forums presentation of an unearthed, uncut 35mm print of Dario Argento’s classic horror film Suspiria, with star Jessica Harper in attendance. But they’re playing it one night only and both shows have been sold out for weeks. So if, like me, you’re shut out of the movie event of the fall, you should go see what is quite probably the best American film of 2017 so far, Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. We like it so much, we reviewed it twice in a single day. Here’s Ryan’s take on it and here’s mine.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Fortress (Hwang Dong-hyuk) Fri-Thurs
The Bachelors (Kurt Voelker) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (George Barry, 1977) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946) Fri-Mon   Our Review
The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2012) Fri-Mon
The Nightmare Emporium (Various) Tues Only

SIFF Egyptian:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Weds Our Review Our Other Review

Century Federal Way:

The Fortress (Hwang Dong-hyuk) Fri-Thurs
Secret Superstar (Advait Chandan) Fri-Thurs
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Lucky (John Carroll Lynch) Fri-Thurs
The Last Dalai Lama? (Mickey Lemle) Fri-Thurs
Dolores (Peter Bratt) Fri-Thurs
Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974) Sat Only
The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) Sat Only
California Typewriter (Doug Nichol) Tues Only
Turn It Around: The Story Of East Bay Punk (Corbett Reford) Thurs Only
The Road to Nickelsville (Derek Armstrong McNeill) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932) Fri, Sat, Mon & Weds
The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Rawhead Rex (George Pavlou, 1986) Sat & Thurs Only
2nd Annual Scarecrow Video Weirdo Horror Triple Feature Sun Only VHS
Damsels of Doom: Horror B-Movie Double Feature Tues Only 16mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) Fri-Thurs Our Review Our Other Review
Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Golmaal Again!!! (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs
Secret Superstar (Advait Chandan) Fri-Thurs
Goodbye Christopher Robin (Simon Curtis) Fri-Thurs
Mersal (Atlee Kumar) Fri-Thurs
Raja the Great (Anil Ravipudi) Fri-Thurs
Tokyo Ghoul (Kentarô Hagiwara) Sat Only
A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Golmaal Again!!! (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs
Wind River (Taylor Sheridan) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Mother! (Darren Aronofsky) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Northwest Film Forum:

4 Days in France (Jérôme Reybaud) Fri-Thurs
King of Jazz (John Murray Anderson, 1930) Sun Only
Rat Film (Theo Anthony) Starts Weds
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) Thurs Only Jessica Harper in Attendance Sold Out

AMC Pacific Place:

Never Say Die (Yang Song & Chiyu Zhang) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Golmaal Again!!! (Rohit Shetty) Fri-Thurs
Wind River (Taylor Sheridan) Fri-Thurs Our Review

AMC Seattle:

Dina (Antonio Santini & Dan Sickles) Fri-Thurs
The Departure (Lana Wilson) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway, 1947) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968) Fri-Sun

SIFF Uptown:

Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Fri-Thurs
Lucky (John Carroll Lynch) Fri-Thurs
Seattle Polish Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) Fri, Mon & Tues Only
Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968) Mon & Tues Only
The Fall (Tarsem Singh, 2006) Weds Only

Varsity Theatre:

Jungle (Greg McLean) Fri-Thurs
Walking Out (Andrew J. Smith & Alex Smith) Fri-Thurs
Leatherface (Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve) Our Review