Friday May 11 – Thursday May 17

Featured Film:

News from Home at the Northwest Film Forum

Arguably the great Belgian director Chantal Akerman’s best film, News from Home plays one show only this Saturday afternoon at the Northwest Film Forum. It’s part of their long-running and excellent “Home Movies” seres, in which “filmmakers document their families.” It’s the series that brought us Oxhide II last month, and News from Home is every bit the masterpiece that one is. Over images of New York City, its streets and cars and people and subways, bust and still, crowded and empty, Akerman reads letters from her mother back home in Belgium. It’s simultaneously a symphony of a city, New York at its most vibrantly grotesque, and an unconventional portrait of a family. We never hear Akerman’s responses to her mother and that absence makes her letters all the more poignant, it’s the sound of a mother left behind while her child explores the wonders, and dangers, of the wider world. The images of the city might be her response, a visual card sent home to mom, or they may just be what she sees everyday, with the distant words from home lingering behind the noise of America.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Raazi (Meghna Gulzar) Fri-Thurs

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968) Fri-Thurs
Spaceballs (Mel Brooks, 1987) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Serial Mom (John Waters, 1994) Fri-Sun
Freaky Friday (Mark Waters, 2003) Fri-Sun
The Theory of Everything (James Marsh, 2014) Mon & Tues Only

Century Federal Way:

Daana Paani (Tarnvir Singh Jagpal) Fri-Thurs
Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey (Dave O’Leske) Fri-Thurs
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
Ghost Stories (Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman) Fri-Thurs
November (Rainer Sarnet) Sat Only
Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton) Tues Only
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952) Weds Only
Hitler vs. Picasso and the Others (Claudio Poli) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Mind Game (Masaaki Yuasa, 2004) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs
Revenge (Coralie Fargeat) Fri-Thurs

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Lu Over the Wall (Masaaki Yuasa) Fri-Thurs Our Review Dubbed & Subtitled, Check Listings
Mehbooba (Puri Jagannadh) Fri-Thurs
Raazi (Meghna Gulzar) Fri-Thurs
Naa Peru Surya (Vakkantham Vamsi) Fri-Thurs
Mahanati (Ashwin Nag) Fri-Thurs
102 Not Out (Umesh Shukla) Fri-Thurs
Irumbu Thirai (P.S. Mithran) Fri-Thurs
Nude (Ravi Jadhav) Sun Only
Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Lu Over the Wall (Masaaki Yuasa) Fri-Thurs Our Review Dubbed & Subtitled, Check Listings
Racer and the Jailbird (Michaël R. Roskam) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Looking at the Stars (Alexandre Peralta) Fri-Sun
What We Started (Bert Marcus & Cyrus Saidi) Fri & Sun Only
News from Home (Chantal Akerman, 1977) Sat Only
Cassette Commander (Various) Sun Only
Reunification (Alvin Tsang) Weds Only Filmmaker in Attendance
Qui trop embrasse… (Jacques Davila, 1986) Weds Only 35mm
Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate (Matt Kugelman) Starts Thurs
A Skin So Soft (Denis Côté) Thurs Only Our Review

AMC Pacific Place:

A or B (Ren Pengyuan) Fri-Thurs
I Am Your Mom (Xiao Zhang) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Raazi (Meghna Gulzar) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Dial ‘M’ for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Lu Over the Wall (Masaaki Yuasa) Fri-Sun Our Review Dubbed & Subtitled, Check Listings

AMC Southcenter:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Regal Thornton Place:

Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950) Sun & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Tues, Thurs Our Review
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
1945 (Ferenc Török) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Wildling (Friedrich Böhm) Fri-Thurs
Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony & Joe Russo) Our Review
Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg) Our Review
Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson) Our Review
Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) Our Review
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Lu Over the Wall (Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)

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Things have been bleak on the family film front lately on Seattle Screens, at least as far as I have seen. The last movie I took my kids to was The Last Jedi, and there hasn’t been anything they or I have really been interested in since then. After seeing several toy tie-in cartoons over the last few years (really the only animated film we saw with any kind of heart to it was the ballet movie Leap!, which even then diminished itself with kid-movie cliché chase sequences), something like Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall is an absolute joy, worth taking the kids to even in its English-dubbed version (I assume: the version I watched was Japanese with English subtitles). The mash-up of Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea and Linda Linda Linda we don’t know we needed, Lu is the best variation on The Little Mermaid of 2017.

Lu is a ningyo, a creature from Japanese folklore roughly analogous to a mermaid. In a reversal of Greek myth, she’s drawn to the shore by music, specifically the pop-rock stylings of a middle school trio named “Seiren”. Moved by the tunes, Lu sings and then jumps onto the land (a protective bubble of water around her head), sprouts legs and dances wildly. The legs go away when the music stops, and after some initial confusion the band members, especially the shy Kai, befriend her. It seems the small fishing village in which the action takes place has a complicated history with the merfolk, with stories of them eating people circulating among the elderly (in particular Kai’s grandfather, who saw his mother get bitten and disappear under the sea). There’s a giant island in the town’s harbor, a Gibraltar casting a shadow over the sleepy village and separating it from the wider ocean and the island where the merfolk are said to dwell. It’s a literalization of the walls separating the village from the outside world, the people from the spirits and nature around them, and Kai from other people. Catchy music and simple messages (“Like everyone!”) are the medium through which Lu breaks down all these walls.

While much of the animation and plotline recalls Ponyo (with a little bit of Kiki’s Delivery Service thrown in), Lu Over the Wall isn’t nearly as derivative as the otherwise pleasant Mary and the Witch’s Flower from earlier this year. Yuasa has a goofier touch than Miyazaki, trading the mystical beauty of Ghibli’s nature for a more Looney Tunes aesthetic. In an interesting twist, Yuasa’s merfolk are vampiric: they are allergic to sun, they can transform creatures into the undead with a bite, and they appear to have to hypnotic power to make people dance in spite of themselves. This leads to some of the film’s most memorable images: denizens of a dog pound transformed into an army of merpups; undead fish dancing their way out of a sushi restaurant. The film’s crisp primary colors and cartoonish character movements are both flatter and more fun than what we’ve seen in recent Japanese animated films like Makoto Shinkai’s experiments in photo-realism (Your Name.) or the more traditional anime Napping Princess, and the look of the film is vastly more appealing than the CGI blandness of recent American efforts. I haven’t yet seen Yuasa’s Mind Game, which is reputed to be quite good. It’s playing this week at the Grand Illusion, and I’m guessing pairing it with this would make for an excellent double bill. Probably want to leave the kids behind for that one though.