Friday March 29 – Thursday April 4


Featured Film:

War and Peace at the SIFF Uptown

It’s a great week for long movies, as the Northwest Film Forum has the acclaimed two-part A Bread Factory, which looks pretty good, though I haven’t had a chance to see it, and SIFF has the new restoration of Sergei Bondarchuk’s legendary adaptation of War and Peace, which at just over seven hours, is almost four Bread Factories long. It’s a big movie in every sense of the word, not just running time: the cast of extras runs into the quintuple digits, the sets and costumes are spectacular, and it has more diversity of film technique than anything this side of Arnaud Desplechin. In terms of film epics, it ranks with the works of DW Griffith, Abel Gance, Sergei Eisenstein (Alexander Nevsky in particular) in ambition, while also basically inventing everything Terrence Malick did in The Thin Red Line and The New World. SIFF’s playing it in four parts, so you can stretch it out over a few days, or all at once on Sunday. 

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Kesari (Anurag Singh) Fri-Thurs 
Money (Park Noo-ri) Fri-Thurs 

Central Cinema:

Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976) Fri-Weds Our Podcast
O Brother Where Art Thou? (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2000) Fri-Tues Subtitled Sat, Sun & Tues
The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003) Weds Only 

Century Federal Way:

Rabb Da Radio 2 (Sharan Art) Fri-Thurs 
The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen, 1984) Sun & Weds Only 

Grand Cinema:

The Mustang (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre) Fri-Thurs 
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) Sat Only 
The Invisibles (Claus Rafle) Tues Only 
Cat Video Fest 2019 Weds Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Relaxer (Joel Petroykus) Fri-Thurs 
Birds of Passage (Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra) Sun, Mon & Weds Only 
Blood Lake (Tim Boggs, 1987) Fri, Sat & Tues Only 
Saturday Secret Matinee Sat Only 16mm
The Future is Female (Various) Sun Only  

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Aftermath (James Kent) Fri-Thurs 
The Mustang (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre) Fri-Thurs 
Kesari (Anurag Singh) Fri-Thurs 
Badla (Sujoy Ghosh) Fri-Thurs 
Junglee (Chuck Russell) Fri-Thurs 
Lakshmi’s NTR (Ram Gopal Varma & Agasthya Manju) Fri-Thurs 
Lucifer (Prithviraj Sukumaran) Fri-Thurs 
Notebook (Nitin Kakkar) Fri-Thurs 
Super Deluxe (Thiagarajan Kumararaja) Fri-Thurs 
Suryakantam (Pranith Bramandapally) Fri-Thurs 
Airaa (KM Sarjun) Sat-Thurs 
The Karate Kid (John G. Avildsen, 1984) Sun & Weds Only 

Regal Meridian:

Kesari (Anurag Singh) Fri-Thurs 
The Aftermath (James Kent) Fri-Thurs 
The Mustang (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

The Trial (Sergei Loznitsa) Fri Only 
A Bread Factory (Patrick Wang) Sat & Sun Only Two Parts
The Juniper Tree (Nietzchka Keene, 1990) Fri-Sun, Weds 
The Hours and Times (Christopher Munch, 1992) Weds & Thurs Only 

AMC Oak Tree:

The Aftermath (James Kent) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

The Wandering Earth (Frant Gwo) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
More than Blue (Gavin Lin) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Ulan (Irene Villamor) Fri-Thurs 
Badla (Sujoy Ghosh) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

Making Babies (Josh F. Huber) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Passport to Pimlico (Henry Cornelius, 1949) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

Mobile Homes (Vladimir de Fontenay) Fri-Sun 

AMC Southcenter:

No manches Frida 2 (Nacho Garcia Velilla) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Uptown:

War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1966) Fri-Thurs Four Parts Our Review
Woman at War (Benedikt Erlingsson) Fri-Thurs 
Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming (Ann Marie Fleming) Sat Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Dragged Across Concrete (S. Craig Zahler) Fri-Thurs 
Screwball (Billy Corben) Fri-Thurs 
A Vigilante (Sarah Daggar-Nickson) Fri-Thurs 

In Wide Release:

Captain Marvel (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck) Our Review Our Other Review
Triple Threat (Jesse V. Johnson) Our Review

War and Peace (Sergei Bondarchuk, 1966)


Sure to be among the longest, if not the best, movies to play on Seattle Screens this year is Sergei Bondarchuk’s adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s longest novel. Running just over seven hours, and split conveniently into four parts, the film captures something of the essence of the book, while leaving out just enough to infuriate partisans of literature in its war against cinema. Being that this is the rare adaptation of a book I have actually read, I can happily carp on the minimization of some of the best characters, the wholesale elimination of favorite scenes, and the rejection of Tolstoy’s more bizarre musings on the movements of history. But I won’t, because taken as it is, War and Peace is majestic, the missing link between the silent epics of Griffith, Ganceand Eisenstein and the historical films of Terrence Malick.

Of the four parts, three are named after the film’s three primary characters, the fourth reserved for that monumental year 1812. It begins with Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, an earnest and reserved man who heads off to war only to lose both his delusions about martial honor in the battle of Austerlitz and his sickly young wife in childbirth. His story forms the spine of Part One, the longest of the sections, with the rest of the time taken up with stage-setting and character introductions, especially the two other main characters: Natasha Rostova, namesake of Part Two, and Pierre Bezhukov (Part Four). Key episodes from the book are rushed through (Pierre’s drunken revelry and disastrous marriage, Natasha’s brother Nikolai’s experience at Austerlitz, etc) but the focus remains primarily on Andrei and his view of the world. Multiple voice-overs compete for our attention, internal monologues for many, many characters, along with a narrator who at times might be Pierre but at others matches more closely Tolstoy’s own voice. These voices, with their philosophical musings, mixed with gorgeous images of the Russian countryside, make it obvious that this is a film Malick certainly saw before making The Thin Red Line or The New World. Bondarchuk goes just about as far in the direction of romantic transcendentalism as one could expect from a Soviet-era production.

The second part, Natasha’s story, is probably the best. Lyudmila Savelyeva has something of the charm Audrey Hepburn brought to the role in King Vidor’s fine 1956 version of the book, growing believably from effervescent pixie to hollowed-out saint through the course of the the story’s seven years. Her debut ball is a magnificent bit of filmmaking, dare I say Minnellian in the shear joy of her first dance with Andrei. Her fall from grace is filmed just as impressionistically, as Bondarchuk abandons the tedious recounting of dialogue and plot in favor of the mad rush of excitement and temptation that leads the poor girl into an deliriously ill-considered romance with Pierre’s dastardly brother-in-law.

The third part is mostly concerned with the Battle of Borodino, where the Russian army fought the French to a standstill on the outskirts of Moscow before ultimately retreating, setting the stage for the Bonaparte’s disastrous winter withdrawal. The battle scenes are as spectacular as everything else in the movie, with reportedly more than ten thousand extras populating vast scenes of movement and death, which Bondarchuk films in every way imaginable: split screens and wipes, helicopters and cranes and tracks and handheld cameras, POV shots and long arcing movements. It’s as glorious as it is horrific.

The final section, after these spectacular middle parts, is a bit of a let down. The focus centers on Pierre, the brains of the film (such as he is with all his deluded ideas, barely hinted at in the film), where Andrei is its heart and Natasha its soul. Various plot threads are rushed to their conclusion, new characters sent on their tragic ways almost as soon as they are introduced. Rather than building in cumulative power over the course of its massive run time (as Hu Bo’s upcoming An Elephant Sitting Still does), or capping the proceedings with an unexpected change in tone and direction (as does Satantango, that other great behemoth of Eastern European cinema), War and Peace just kind of fizzles out. It’s been more than a decade since I read the book, but if I remember correctly it kind of does the same thing. A novel that big, in length and scope and ambition, can’t ever really end though, it goes on long after you’ve put it down. Despite its length, the film doesn’t approach the all-embracing nature of the book and its failure to do so is a good argument for the claim that no film can really express the totality of a great massive novel. The movie is at its worst when it tries to stick to the novel’s plot. But at its best, it captures the same great heights of Tolstoy’s most stirring sequences.