The Green Fog (Maddin, Johnson, Johnson, 2017)

the green fog

“San Francisco’s changed. The things that spell San Francisco to me are disappearing fast.” — Gavin Elster, Vertigo, 1958

I’ve never seen Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho. I know the consensus opinion is one of distaste, if not disgust, but from afar I have always kind of respected what I think Van Sant was going for, the experiment behind the film. Can someone take the elements of a stone cold classic and manage to replicate its power? In their bizarre, Canadian way Guy Maddin and his collaborators, Galen and Evan Johnson, have taken the baton from Van Sant with their new film The Green Fog, which uses clips from a century of cinema and television shot entirely in San Francisco to retell the plot of another Hitchcock masterpiece, Vertigo.

And damn it, The Green Fog is Vertigo, albeit filtered through the manic Friday night-to-Saturday morning antics of Joe Dante’s Movie Orgy. (Dick Miller is even in it!) There are clips from ’40s film noir like Dark Passage and scenes from ’70s cop shows like The Streets of San Francisco. (Apparently one episode had Karl Malden dressed as a clown, which gets a surprising amount of mileage here.) Knowing Maddin’s house style there are not as many clips from silent films as one would expect but the filmmakers did include scenes from the mid-’90s David Caruso joint, Jade, so its a wash. However, the joy of The Green Fog comes less from playing I-Spy with the copious array of film clips–this is not Maddin’s Ready Player One–but from seeing how a bunch of disparate moments from all kinds of films can be repurposed to recount one of cinema’s most enduring mysteries.

The experiment could come off as tedious or pretentious in the hands of anyone else but thanks to a concise one-hour running time and the lowbrow high jinks of Messrs. Maddin, Johnson, and Johnson, The Green Fog is a piece of entertaining and hilarious art. A young and dashing Michael Douglas watches video footage of a naked, middle-aged Michael Douglas and nods approvingly. N*Sync shows up for an inexplicable musical interlude. Nicolas Cage screams. But the film is not a farce. It is not taking malicious aim at Vertigo. The filmmakers are playing deliriously with something they love.

The Green Fog works because it chooses to replicate Vertigo specifically. The consensus pick for THE GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIME is perhaps the only choice that would make sense. Because of its placement atop the Sight and Sound poll, Vertigo is required viewing for all budding cinephiles. It has become homework. Like Citizen Kane before it, the distinction as cinema’s ideal makes viewing Vertigo on its own terms difficult. The film has so much baggage. It is getting harder to separate the movie from the accolades and analysis. The Green Fog gives us a new way of coming to Vertigo. It boils the film down to its essence and reminds us what was so intoxicating in the first place.

Friday April 20 – Thursday April 26

Featured Film:

Abbas Kiarostami and Guy Maddin at the Northwest Film Forum

Once again the NWFF hosts the highlights of the film week, this time with the latest from Canadian weirdo Guy Maddin, The Green Fog, and the final film from the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, 24 Frames. Both are experiments: Maddin’s film reconstructs a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo using archival images of San Francisco; while Kiarostami’s imagines what happens before and after a series of 24 still images. Both are essential film events of this year, and you can only catch them this weekend.

Playing This Week:

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950) Fri-Thurs
Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985) Fri-Mon, Weds-Thurs Our Podcast
Jewel’s Catch One (C. Fitz) Tues Only
The Nightmare Emporium Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz, 1986) Fri-Tues
Troll 2 (Claudio Fragasso, 1990) Fri-Tues Hecklevision

SIFF Egyptian:

Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs
Up in Smoke (Lou Adler, 1978) Fri Only

Century Federal Way:

Khido Khundi (Rohit Jugraj Chauhan) Fri-Thurs
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs
The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Grand Cinema:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs
Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz) Fri-Thurs
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Zack Snyder, 2010) Sat Only Free Screening
The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1927) Sat Only Our Podcast
Love & Bananas (Ashley Bell) Sun Only
Radio Dreams (Babak Jalali) Tues Only
Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan & Damon Davis) Weds Only
Soundtrack for a Revolution (Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman, 2009) Weds Only
An Inconvenient Sequel (Bonni Cohen & Jon Shenk) Thurs Only Free Screening
Ivan (Alyona Davydova) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Borg vs. McEnroe (Janus Metz) Sat-Mon Only
Marrowbone (Sergio G. Sánchez) Fri-Thurs
Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike, 2003) Fri & Sun Only
The Black Gloves and Silken Sleeves (Maria Beatty, 1996 & 2006) Sat Only
Emulsion Manipulations II Tues Only
House of Tomorrow (Peter Livolsi) Thurs Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Beyond the Clouds (Majid Majidi) Fri-Thurs
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs
Krishnarjuna Yudham (Merlapaka Gandhi) Fri-Thurs
Rangasthalam (Sukumar) Fri-Thurs
October (Shoojit Sircar) Fri-Thurs
The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Regal Meridian:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Green Fog (Guy Maddin) Fri-Sun Only Our Review
24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami) Sat & Sun Only Our Review Our Other Review
The Cat o’Nine Tails (Dario Argento, 1971) Weds Only
Cadence: Cross Section Thurs Only
The Judge (Erika Cohn) Starts Thurs Director in Attendance

AMC Pacific Place:

Final Portrait (Stanley Tucci) Fri-Thurs
Dude’s Manual (Kevin Ko) Fri-Thurs

Paramount Theatre:

Little Annie Rooney (William Beaudine, 1925) Mon Only Live Score

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Never Not Love You (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Seattle Art Museum:

Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (Dave O’Leske) Fri-Sun Only
Outside In (Lynn Shelton) Fri-Sun Only Our Review

Regal Thornton Place:

The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Sun, Mon & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Varsity Theatre:

The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
The Cat Returns (Hiroyuki Morita, 2002) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg) Our Review 
Isle of Dogs 
(Wes Anderson) Our Review
Annihilation (Alex Garland) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro) Our Review