SIFF 2018 Preview: Week One

sansho-the-bailiff

Today marks the start of the annual odyssey that is the Seattle International Film Festival. Here at Seattle Screen Scene we’ll have full coverage of the festival, with reviews of as many movies as we can manage to see and maybe even an episode or two of The Frances Farmer Show to go along with it.

Here are some of the movies we’re looking forward to playing during the first week of the festival:

First Reformed – Ethan Hawke plays a country priest in the latest from Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and director of Cat People.

Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary – Probably won’t be much in the way of a film, but even an overblown DVD extra should be worth watching since Freaks and Geeks was one of the best TV shows of the 2000s.

Dead Pigs – Director Cathy Yan got the job directing the upcoming Harley Quinn movie, which probably says something about the appeal of this, her feature debut. SIFF’s tagline makes it sound promising: “Five Shanghai residents find their lives converging amidst the backdrop of a mysterious river of dead swine.”

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day – If I didn’t have to be out of town this weekend, spending quality time with my children, I would be at the Film Center on Saturday watching this marathon screening of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s TV series, “a decades-spanning social history of postwar Germany as told through the life of a young toolmaker and his sprawling group of friends, coworkers, and family.” It also plays in three different parts on Wednesdays throughout the festival.

People’s Republic of Desire – Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like SIFF’s Asian Crossroads and China Stars programs are by far the most interesting of this year’s festival. This documentary by Hao Wu covers the culture of internet fame in contemporary China.

The Greenaway Alphabet – I like the few Peter Greenaway movies I’ve seen (especially Prospero’s Books), and he seems like a genuinely weird person, so this doc about him, made by his wife Saskia Boddeke, should be fun.

Sansho the Bailiff – One of the absolute highlights of the festival, almost guaranteed to be the best film playing in Seattle this month, is this restoration Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1954 masterpiece about two kidnapped children who grow up in medieval servitude, dreaming of their mother and a better life. One of the most emotionally devastating films ever made, don’t miss it.

Redoubtable – I’m refusing to acknowledge that they changed the name of The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius’s film about Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky’s 1968 romance. “Godard mon amour” isn’t just a much less interesting title, I’m pretty sure they changed it to disassociate the film from all the reviews that blasted it on its festival run last year. It makes my list of want-to-see films, purely for its car wreck spectacle value, which I imagine approaches Weekend-like dimensions.

I Am Not a Witch – I don’t really know anything about Rungano Nyoni’s film other than that it got a lot of strong buzz on the festival circuit last fall. SIFF says: “A nine-year-old Zambian girl is thrown into a witch camp after she’s blamed for a seemingly innocuous accident.” Could go either way.

Edward II – Derek Jarman’s 1991 film is another of the strong archival presentations at this year’s festival, an adaption (more or less) of Christopher Marlowe’s play about the gay 14th Century English monarch, with Tilda Swinton as his queen, Isabella.

The African Storm – Sylvestre Amoussou’s film about a fictional country in Africa confronting the forces of imperial capitalism by nationalizing their mining industry.

Matangi/Maya/MIA – A doc about the Sri Lankan pop star and activist MIA, which SIFF calls “a kinetic collage of her own footage”. I really liked her first two albums, but have lost track of her career since then, so I’m looking forward to catching up with this.

John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection – A documentary about the fiery genius tennis player, made by Julien Faraut and focusing on footage from McEnroe’s performance at the 1984 French Open. I don’t know anything about tennis, but it sounds fascinating.

 

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