The Frances Farmer Show #21: VIFF 2019


Sean and Evan and Melissa and Lawrence discuss some of the films they saw at the 2019 Vancouver International Film festival. Movies discussed include: Amanda (Mikhaël Hers), Wet Season (Anthony Chen), I Was at Home, But. . . (Angela Schanelec), Fourteen (Dan Sallitt), The Whistlers (Corneliu Porumboiu), Parasite (Bong Joonho), Young Ahmed (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne), and A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick).

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Friday October 18 – Thursday October 24

Featured Film:

An Autumn Afternoon at the Beacon

Going with the seasonal movie at the Beacon once again this week, because while there are German and Polish film festivals at the Northwest Film Forum and SIFF, and Abel Ferrara’s Driller Killer at the Grand Illusion, and a special Dolemite double feature Saturday night at the Ark Lodge and even a personal favorite in Cat People at the Beacon, which also has a double feature tribute to the late Robert Forster with Jackie Brown and Vigilante, Yasujiro Ozu’s final film is quite simply one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s also the only Ozu movie I’ve seen in a theatre (at SAM a few years ago) and it’s even better on a big screen. Don’t miss it.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  

Ark Lodge:

Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer) Fri-Thurs Double feature with Dolemite (1975) Sat Night

The Beacon Cinema:

Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942) Fri, Sat, Mon-Thurs 
In the Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter, 1994) Fri, Sat, Mon, Weds & Thurs 
Dead and Buried + Messiah of Evil (Gary Sherman, 1981/Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz, 1973) Fri Only 
Viy – Spirit of Evil (Konstantin Yershov & Georgi Kropachyov, 1967) Sat, Tues & Weds Only 
Jackie Brown + Vigilante (Quentin Tarantino, 1997/William Lustig, 1982) Sat Only 
The Curse of Kazuo Umezu + Mermaid Forest (Naoko Omi, 1990/Takaya Mizutani, 1991) Sun Only 
An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujiro Ozu, 1962) Sun, Tues & Thurs Only Our Podcast
Ghostwatch (Lesley Manning, 1992) Sun Only 
Halloween H2O (Steve Miner, 1998) Sun Only 

Central Cinema:

House (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977) Fri-Tues 
Fright Night (Tom Holland, 1985) Fri-Sun, Tues & Weds  
Fast Friday (David Rowe, 2009) Sun Only  
Blood Diner (Jackie Kong, 1987) Mon Only  Director in Attendance

SIFF Egyptian:

The Collective- a Ski Film by Faction (Etienne Mérel) Fri Only 
Skatetown USA (William A. Levey, 1979) Sat Only 
Parasite (Bong Joonho) Sat Only Sneak Preview 
The Night of a Thousand Scares Weds Only 
Seattle Queer Film Festival 2019 Sun Only Full Program 

Century Federal Way:

Ardab Mutiyaran (Manav Shah) Fri-Thurs  

Grand Cinema:

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles (Max Lewkowicz) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Corpse Bride (Tim Burton & Mike Johnson, 2005) Sat Only 
Monty Python & the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones, 1975) Sat Only 
Mike Wallace is Here (Avi Belkin) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Golden Glove (Fatih Akin) Fri-Thurs  
Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2009) Fri, Sat, Mon & Tues 35mm
The Wicker Man: The Final Cut (Robin Hardy, 1973) Sat, Thurs & Next Sat Only 
The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara, 1979) Sun Only 
Scarecrow Video Weirdo Horror Triple Feature Sun Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

The Captain (Andrew Lau) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley) Fri-Thurs 
My People, My Country (Various) Fri-Thurs 
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Fri-Thurs 
The Sky is Pink (Shonali Bose) Fri-Thurs  
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  
Adhyarathri  (Jibu Jacob) Sat & Sun Only 

Regal Meridian:

The Sky is Pink (Shonali Bose) Fri-Thurs  
Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

Seattle Queer Film Festival 2019 Fri-Sun Full Program 
Desolation Center (Stuart Swezey) Sun Only 
Chez Jolie Coiffure (Rosine Mbakam) Sun, Weds & Next Weds Only 
The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman (Rosine Mbakam) Sun, Weds & Next Weds Only 
Oray (Mehmet Akif Büyükatalay) Mon Only 
Of Fathers and Sons (Talal Derki) Mon Only Editor in Attendance
Styx (Wolfgang Fischer) Tues Only 
Balloon (Michael Bully Herbig) Tues Only 
Becoming Nobody (Jamie Catto) Thurs & Next Fri Only 
Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000) Thurs Only 

AMC Pacific Place:

The Captain (Andrew Lau) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Immortal Hero (Hiroshi Akabane) Fri-Thurs 
My People, My Country (Various) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

The Sky is Pink (Shonali Bose) Fri-Thurs  
Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley) Fri-Thurs 
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  

AMC Seattle:

Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Niagara (Henry Hathaway, 1953) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

“…and the winners are…” New German Cinema Series Fri-Sun 

SIFF Uptown:

Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer) Fri-Thurs 
Where’s My Roy Cohn? (Matt Tyrnauer) Fri-Thurs 
Seattle Polish Film Festival Sat & Sun Only Full Program 
ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas (Sam Dunn) Mon Only 
Mountaintop (Neil Young) Tues Only 
Lynch: A History (David Shields) Thurs Only Our Review Director Q&A

Varsity Theatre:

First Love (Takashi Miike) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Trick (Patrick Lussier) Fri-Thurs 

The Captain (Andrew Lau, 2019)


Andrew Lau Wai-keung is perhaps the most representative Hong Kong director in the post-Handover era. An accomplished cinematographer dating back to the late 80s (most famously he shot Wong Kar-wai’s debut As Tears Go By and half of Chungking Express, and his first ever DP credit was for Ringo Lam’s City on Fire), he’s been directing for almost as long. His breakthrough hit was the Young & Dangerous series, which debuted right around the time of the Handover and almost single-handedly kept the Hong Kong industry afloat during the recession of the late 1990s (a time when many of the colony’s biggest stars had fled to Hollywood). A comic book and teen soap-inspired version of the Heroic Bloodshed sagas of John Woo and Ringo Lam, the Young & Dangerous movies featured young actors with elaborate hair going through the motions of generic plots scored with contemporary music and audiences ate them up (there are a dozen or so films and spin-offs in the series, which is excessive even by Hong Kong franchise standards). Then, in 2002, Lau teamed with Alan Mak and Felix Chong to make Infernal Affairs, the first Hong Kong movie to hit really big internationally since the Handover (depending on how you count In the Mood for Love, I guess), and the inspiration for a whole host of 21st century crime dramas, as well as the Best Picture winning Martin Scorsese movie The Departed.

Lau’s post-Infernal Affairs work has been somewhat spotty, however, with the highlight probably being the 2010 Donnie Yen vehicle Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, which, ghastly title aside, is a pretty good fusion of comic book movie-making with the traditional kung fu epic (it’s a remake of the Bruce Lee classic Fist of Fury, itself remade with Jet Li in 1994 as Fist of Legend). The move to digital filmmaking suits Lau’s predilection for glossy, brightly colored surfaces and Shu Qi and Donnie Yen have never looked better. But he’s found diminishing returns with this approach, even has he’s moved beyond Hong Kong to America (the barely noticed gangster film Revenge of the Green Dragons) and Mainland China (the all-star propaganda flop The Founding of an Army).

The Captain is another propaganda film, albeit a more or less tolerable one given that it’s also a very good disaster film. Based on actual events from May of 2018, when a Sichuan Airlines flight from Chongqing to Lhasa had its windshield break away high over the Tibetan Plateau. remarkably, the pilot and crew were able to navigate the plane back to safety with no loss of life and minimal injuries. Lau takes a procedural approach to the story, joining the captain (played by The Taking of Tiger Mountain‘s Zhang Hanyu) from the time he wakes up in the morning through the crew’s various pre-flight rituals and inspections, to the incident itself, with their responses chronicled in detail. There are a few nods to melodramatic convention (an obnoxious first-class passenger harasses a flight attendant, the captain must return home for his daughter’s sixth birthday party, etc), but Lau is as great as ever at action and suspense, and the disaster sequences are gripping.

The obvious comparison is with Clint Eastwood’s Sully, and in comparison to that film, The Captain fails in just about every way. Where Eastwood took the disaster as an opportunity to explore the psychology of a man who behaved extraordinarily well in an extreme situation, along with side-long glances at the bureaucracy that can’t just immediately accept his heroism, Lau isn’t interested in examining anything too deeply. Sully is a movie full of contradictions, one that is uneasy about all its conclusions, including the very idea of heroism. The Captain isn’t the least bit complicated. It’s an ode to the wonders of bureaucracy, to the apparatuses of the state that we can be sure will always ensure our safety.

Because of the cabin depressurization and howling winds, for the entire course of the disaster we are unable to hear the pilots communicate among themselves or with various control towers (why they don’t have headsets is a conundrum for which I have no answer). As such, we spend most of the crisis in the cabin with the passengers and flight attendants, who find themselves at the mercy of a cockpit full of men who they simply have to trust know what they’re doing (the flight attendants, all women (Yuan Quan gives the best performance in the film as the flight attendant in charge), and the passengers, don’t get a vote in what the plane will do). We also visit various control towers, civilian and military, who track what the plane is doing and provide helpful bits of exposition (the plane needs to descend to a certain altitude for the pilots to breathe, but it can’t because there are a bunch of mountains in the way, for example). They cheer and congratulate themselves at the end (and we see lots of glossy and important seeming military technology), but they literally do nothing to help the plane but get out of the way. Taken as an exercise in pop disaster filmmaking, The Captain is pretty good. As long as you just don’t think too much about what the PRC is trying to tell you about itself.