Friday March 9 – Thursday March 15

Featured Film:

Before We Vanish at the Grand Illusion

We didn’t get the great Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s last feature, the moody French mystery Daguerrotype, which only came out on DVD. But the Grand Illusion has his latest, an alien invasion film about an advance team of extra-terrestrials taking human form and attempting to learn all they can about people by telepathically removing certain concepts from our brains. Genuinely weird and off-beat, it’s equal parts satire and sap, and a lot more besides.

Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Terrifier (Damien Leone) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

The Great Muppet Caper (Jim Henson, 1981) Fri-Tues
Set It Off (F. Gary Gray, 1996) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

A Fantastic Woman (Sebastian Lelio) Fri-Mon, Weds & Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Laung Laachi (Amberdeep Singh) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (Paul McGuigan) Fri-Thurs
The Party (Sally Potter) Fri-Thurs
Animation Show of Shows (Various) Tues Only
The Women’s Balcony (Emil Ben-Shimon) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Before We Vanish (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) Fri-Thurs Our Review
November (Rainer Sarnet) Fri-Thurs
Blond Fury (Various) Sat Only VHS
Saturday Secret Matinee: Atomic Monsters Sat Only 16mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (Luv Ranjan) Fri-Thurs
Ye Mantram Vesave (Shridhar Marri) Fri-Thurs
Pari (Prosit Roy) Fri-Thurs
Aamhi Doghi (Pratima Joshi) Sun Only
Tagaru (Duniya Soori) Sat & Sun Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Western (Valeska Grisebach) Fri-Sun Our Review
Above & Beyond: Giving Up the Day Job (Paul Dugdale) Fri-Sun
Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa, 1980) Sat Only 35mm, Members Only
Vintage: Families of Value (Thomas Allen Harris, 1995) Sat Only
12 Days (Raymond Depardon) Weds & Thurs Only
Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? (Travis Wilkerson) Starts Thurs

AMC Oak Tree:

Operation Red Sea (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs Our Review

AMC Pacific Place:

Detective Chinatown 2 (Chen Sicheng) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Operation Red Sea (Dante Lam) Fri-Thurs  Our Review

AMC Seattle:

The Party (Sally Potter) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Big Time (Kaspar Astrup Schröder) Fri Only
Step Up to the Plate (Paul Lacoste, 2011) Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

Animation Show of Shows (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Shorts (Various) Fri-Thurs
The Party (Sally Potter) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Submission (Richard Levine) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Annihilation (Alex Garland) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
Fifty Shades Freed (James Foley) Our Review
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson) Our Review
The Post (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson) Our Review Our Podcast
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review
Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig) Our Review
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) Our Review

Before We Vanish (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017)


The latest film from one of the most interesting directors in the world right now is playing at the Grand Illusion for week starting this Friday. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director of such key Japanese horror films as Pulse and Cure, as well as award-winning dramas like Tokyo Sonatawas last seen here at SIFF in 2016 with Creepy, though his Daguerrotype was also released on VOD last fall. The new one is a science-fiction film about an alien invasion, and while its conclusion veers dangerously close to sappy, the path it takes to get there is anything but.

The aliens’ scout team consists of three “people” who take over the bodies of a trio of Japanese people: a teenage girl, a young man and an older married man. Before the invasion can begin, they have to learn everything they can about the people of Earth, but language gets in the way so the aliens have figured out a way to steal “conceptions”, the preverbal ideas which are the Platonic forms of things like “family”, “work”, “ownership”, etc, directly out of human’s heads. This has the unfortunate side-effect of completely removing the concept from the victim, leaving them forever without any conception of self or otherness or what have you.

In theory this amount to a kind of philosophical state of nature experiment, wherein you remove these basic ideas from our understanding of the world to see how we behave and what kind of society we’d build. The aliens have no understanding of these concepts until they take them, and we can see their behavior change when they learn what family is, for example, which ultimately contributes to their downfall. They enlist two “guides” along their way: the married man’s wife, who honestly likes him a lot better once he’s possessed by a malevolent creature from beyond the stars, and a tabloid journalist from a weekly news magazine, who agrees to help the aliens in hopes of staying alive long enough to thwart their plans, though his run-ins with the government forces pursuing the same goal and reexamination of his own life see him wavering in his loyalty to humanity.

Kurosawa’s direction is crisp and fluid, with snaking long takes, eerily upbeat music and unexpected cuts giving everything a comic, off-kilter vibe that meshes nicely with the film’s not quite satirical, not quiet earnest message. There’s even a healthy dose of violence and mayhem to keep things moving. A genuinely weird, light, and funny movie, a perfect tonic after all the dreary self-importance of recent Hollywood science-fiction.