SIFF 2018: Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary (Brent Hodge, 2018)

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Not much more than a DVD extra, this story of the seminal 1999-2000 TV series is fun but doesn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know. The show had a remarkable collection of talent, almost all of whom were unknown at the time it was made. Director Brent Hodge mixes some great archival material and clips with talking heads of the cast, creators, and executives. The latter interviews are the most heart-breaking, both from the producers who championed the show and the still-clueless executives who buried and then cancelled it.

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Friday May 18 – Thursday May 24

Featured Film:

The 2018 Seattle International Film Festival

SIFF kicks off its 2018 edition this week and we’ll have full coverage here throughout the next three and a half weeks of the festival. I’ve got a brief preview of some of the films we’re looking forward to over this first week, including Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, documentaries on Freaks & Geeks, MIA, and John McEnroe (that’s three separate films, though now I’m imagining a Fast, Cheap & Out of Control-style doc about the three of them all together and that would be really cool), and archival presentations of classics by Derek Jarman (Edward II) and Kenji Mizoguchi (Sansho the Bailiff). The latter would be my suggestion if you could only see one festival film this week. Or this festival. Or probably if you could only see one film on screen in Seattle this entire year.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word (Wim Wenders) Fri-Thurs
Raazi (Meghna Gulzar) Fri-Thurs
Champion (Kim Yong-wan) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

Drop Dead Gorgeous (Michael Patrick Jann, 1999) Fri-Tues
Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven, 1995) Fri-Tues Hecklevision

SIFF Egyptian:

The 2018 Seattle International Film Festival Full Program

Century Federal Way:

Harjeeta (Vijay Kumar Arora) Fri-Thurs
Champion (Kim Yong-wan) Fri-Thurs
Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Grand Cinema:

Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word (Wim Wenders) Fri-Thurs
Itzhak (Alison Chernick) Fri-Thurs
The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle, 1982) Sat Only Free Screening
Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998) Sat Only
Summer in the Forest (Randall Wright) Tues Only
Crazywise (Phil Borges & Kevin Tomlinson) Thurs Only Free Screening

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Guardians (Xavier Beauvois) Fri-Thurs
Ghost Stories (Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman) Fri-Tues
Take it Out in Trade (Ed Wood, 1970) Thurs Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word (Wim Wenders) Fri-Thurs
Raazi (Meghna Gulzar) Fri-Thurs
Mahanati (Ashwin Nag) Fri-Thurs
102 Not Out (Umesh Shukla) Fri-Thurs
Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992) Sun, Mon & Weds Only Subtitled Monday

Northwest Film Forum:

Boom for Real (Sara Driver) Fri-Thurs
Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate (Matt Kugelman) Fri-Thurs
Mothering Every Day (Various) Sun Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word (Wim Wenders) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Raazi (Meghna Gulzar) Fri-Thurs
102 Not Out (Umesh Shukla) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Film Center:

The 2018 Seattle International Film Festival Full Program

AMC Southcenter:

Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word (Wim Wenders) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Pope Francis – A Man Of His Word (Wim Wenders) Fri-Thurs
Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992) Sun, Mon & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

The 2018 Seattle International Film Festival Full Program

Varsity Theatre:

Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992) 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

SIFF 2018 Preview: Week One

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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.

 

Solo (Ron Howard, 2018)

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After three films and a few billion dollars earned, Disney has finally succeeded in turning Star Wars into a Marvel movie. Under the competent hands of America’s most consistently mediocre director (Ron Howard, subbing in for the LEGO guys), Solo is a perfectly fine bit of blockbuster action filmmaking, with a capable cast and some neat special effects upholding a wholly conventional screenplay with nary a hint of the idiosyncrasy that has marked every other Star Wars film, for good or for ill.

Solo is a superhero origin story, as such its ceiling is somewhat limited: it’s designed around the pleasure of recognition, rather than discovery, the solving of mysteries which didn’t need to be solved rather than exploration of a wider universe. But there are hints at broader issues: the film begins in the slums of Corellia, a manufacturing planet rife with orphans in thrall to a monstrous (literally) Fagin figure, from whom young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) scheme to escape. He does, she doesn’t, and the film skips ahead three years to Han’s desertion from the Imperial infantry to join a criminal gang led by Woody Harrelson. From there the film proceeds to its requisite three setpieces (a train robbery, a heist, and a showdown), with pauses for exposition and fill-in-the-blanks characterization. Some of the back story explanations are well-done: anything involving Chewbacca and Lando in particular, but some are just pointless or silly (how Han got his last name, Chewbacca learning to play Dejarik). The film makes a great point of fetishizing Han’s gun with pointed inserts and closeups as it takes shape, which is silly because we’re expected to believe that A) Han’s gun is iconic and B) he had the same gun for his entire life. This is I suppose part of the attempt at aping Westerns lying buried in the screenplay (though Westerns never unequivocally adored guns as much as this one seems too, even the movies named after guns like Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73), just as Harrelson’s character is supposed to recall Long John Silver or something (though with his unfortunate haircut all he reminds me of is Nazi buffoon Richard Spencer). But I don’t know, maybe someone should have read the room and realized that valorizing guns probably isn’t the best idea right now (or ever). I’m sure they hope to sell lots of toy versions though (yeah, I admit I had one 35 years ago).

Anyway, all that aside, it is a fun movie. Donald Glover of course is excellent as Lando and I really liked Ehrenreich’s performance as Han, a much more innocent take on the character than Harrison Ford’s in the original films, but a charming one nonetheless. Clarke fares less well, her character is not given much of a personality or even identity, and her scenes with Ehrenreich lack any real spark. Of the newer elements to the film, Phoebe Waller-Bridge comes off best as Lando’s friend and droid L3. Her outspoken demands for equal rights for droids are both funny and pointed, and in keeping with the ideals of revolution espoused in the last two Star Wars films (Rogue One and The Last Jedi), though it’s mostly played for a laugh, until it becomes sentimental (traditional the only two modes in Ron Howard’s directorial toolkit). Although even here Howard and his screenwriters (only the father-son teams of Lawrence and Jake Kasdan are credited) can’t resist making a call back all the way to a line in the original Star Wars, one which in a short sentence (“We don’t serve their kind here.”) conveyed more of a sense of an actual world than any of the speechifying and expositing in the Kasdans’ script. The world Han finds himself is peripheral to the Empire, and there are hints of interest to be found there, a kind of jianghu existing outside the bounds of everyday society ruled by five Triad-like gangs, only one of whom we encounter. But the film’s villain, a gang boss played by Paul Bettany, is underdeveloped and bound to a single set (a result of his late insertion into the film, replacing Michael K. Williams as an alien during reshoots, apparently), and his reputed army of henchman is weirdly small and unintimidating.

Origin stories are nearly impossible to do well, as a sampling of any first installment of a Marvel picture will tell you. Really only Tsui Hark has managed to make a great movie out of an origin story (with A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon), and that was by turning the ostensible hero into a side character for much of the film, allowing it to be driven by his mentor. There was no way of course that Disney could allow Han Solo to be a side character in a Woody Harrelson picture, so I imagine that this movie is about the best that Ron Howard and the Kasdans could produce given the inherent limitations of the project. With a glimpse at a wider underworld and a few developments in the film’s final moments, there are hints of other, more interesting chapters to come in the Young Han Solo story. Here’s hoping the corporate overlords in charge of the project allow someone with a little more vision to tell them. I’m going to go ahead and nominate Soi Cheang for the job.

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

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.

Manhunt (John Woo, 2017)

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After a decade in which all he put out were two two-part epics, one of which is great (Red Cliff) the other of which is half-great (The Crossing), it’s nice to see John Woo relax back into the kind of goofy genre fare that has always been his comfort zone. The plot is too complicated by half, with Zhang Hanyu framed by a pharmaceutical research company for murder because he wants to quit being their lawyer, or something, with a dogged cop played by Masaharu Fukuyama on his trail along with a variety of assassins. But the two leads are solid (Zhang you recall from Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Dante Lam’s Operation Red Sea, and Fukuyama from the Koreeda Hirokazu movies Like Father, Like Son and The Third Murder (coming soon to SIFF)) and they’re surrounded by all kinds of women: an earnest heartbroken potential love interest and a callow go-getter on the good side, and assassins of both the cold-blooded and heart of gold variety on the less good side (and wow is it both weird and a lot of fun to see John’s daughter Angeles Woo flying around as the more ruthless killer. She had a small part in The Crossing, but she almost steals the movie here). There’s even a small part for Yasuaki Kurata, enjoying a bit of a renaissance lately with key roles as well in Gordon Chan’s God of War and Chapman To’s The Empty Hands (also coming soon to SIFF). The action is exciting, with some truly exceptional moments, the rest of it is tolerable. In the battle of great 80s Hong Kong auteurs taking on corruption in the 21st Century medical-industrial complex, Woo is an easy winner over Ringo Lam.

Friday May 4 – Thursday May 10

Featured Film:

Meek’s Cutoff at the Pickford Film Center

Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist Western, about a lost wagon train and the man who thinks he knows the way to safety, was one of the best films of 2010, with a strong performance from frequent Reichardt star Michelle Williams and a haunting sound design. It will be playing for one show only this Sunday at the Pickford in Bellingham. And introducing it will be Seattle Screen Scene’s own Melissa Tamminga. If the commute up north is a bit too far for you, another weird Western is playing Wednesday night at the Grand Illusion: Sergio Corbucci’s classic The Great Silence, starring Klaus Kinski and Jean-Louis Trintignant. And that show will be introduced one-time SSS contributor, Scarecrow Video‘s Matt Lynch.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Serenity (Joss Whedon, 2005) Fri-Thurs
Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999) Fri-Thurs
Director’s Cut (Adam Rifkin, 2016) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Hayao Miyazaki, 1989) Fri-Tues Our Podcast Subtitled Sat, Sun & Tues
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) Fri-Tues

SIFF Egyptian:

RBG (Julie Cohen & Betsy West) Fri-Mon, Weds & Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Daana Paani (Tarnvir Singh Jagpal) Fri-Thurs
Traffik (Deon Taylor) Fri-Thurs

Grand Cinema:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs
The Green Fog (Guy Maddin) Sat Only Our Review
Keep the Change (Rachel Israel) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Ismael’s Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin) Fri-Thurs
The Devil and Father Amorth (William Friedkin) Fri-Sun
Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple (Takuya Igarashi) Sat & Sun Only
The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968) Weds Only Intro by Matt Lynch

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
RBG (Julie Cohen & Betsy West) Fri-Thurs
Naa Peru Surya (Vakkantham Vamsi) Fri-Thurs
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs
102 Not Out (Umesh Shukla) Fri-Thurs
Cycle (Prakash Kunte) Sun Only

Regal Meridian:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
RBG (Julie Cohen & Betsy West) Fri-Thurs

Northwest Film Forum:

Salesman (Albert & David Maysles, & Charlotte Zwerin) Fri-Sun
Half Life in Fukushima (Mark Olexa & Francesca Scalisi) Fri-Sun, Weds & Thurs
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) Sat Only
The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, 1968) Weds & Thurs Only

AMC Pacific Place:

A or B (Ren Pengyuan) Fri-Thurs
The Trough (Nick Cheung) Fri-Thurs

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Never Not Love You (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs

Pickford Film Center:

Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010) Sun Only Intro by Melissa Tamminga
The Personals (Chen Kuo-Fu, 1998) Tues Only Intro by Sam Ho

AMC Seattle:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs
Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Stage Fright (Alfred Hitchcock, 1950) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Cézanne – Portraits of a Life (Phil Grabsky) Fri-Sun

AMC Southcenter:

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

Regal Thornton Place:

Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple (Takuya Igarashi) Sat & Sun Only
The Boxcar Children – Surprise Island (Mark A.Z. Dippé, Anna Chi & Daniel Chuba) Tues Only

SIFF Uptown:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Tues, Thurs Our Review
The Endless (Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead) Fri-Weds
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (Sophie Fiennes) Fri-Weds
1945 (Ferenc Török) Fri-Thurs

Varsity Theatre:

Final Portrait (Stanley Tucci) Fri-Thurs
Love After Love (Russell Harbaugh) Fri-Thurs
The Boxcar Children – Surprise Island (Mark A.Z. Dippé, Anna Chi & Daniel Chuba) Tues 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

Friday April 27 – Thursday May 3

Featured Film:

Isao Takahata at the SIFF Uptown

It would take something special to wrest control of our Featured Film spot from the Northwest Film Forum, especially considering they have the most intersting new film of the week (Lucrecia Martel’s Zama) and a pair of excellent repertory films (The Third Man and The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach). But SIFF has done it with a special, one show Saturday morning only, presentation of the late, great director Isao Takahata’s My Neighbors the Yamadas. It’s the most underrated his work for Studio Ghibli, and endlessly inventive adaptation of a comic strip about a Japanese family. Like all Takahata’s best work, it’s weird and funny and almost surprisingly poignant.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

Basket Case (Frank Henenlotter, 1982) Thurs Only

Central Cinema:

Sister Act (Emile Ardolino, 1992) Fri-Weds
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (Shinichirō Watanabe, 2001) Fri-Weds

SIFF Egyptian:

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (Sophie Fiennes) Fri-Thurs
RBG (Julie Cohen & Betsy West) Starts Thurs

Century Federal Way:

Bhai Taru Singh (Sukhwinder Singh) Fri-Thurs
Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) Sun & Weds Only

Grand Cinema:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì) Fri-Thurs
Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs
Journey’s End (Saul Dibb) Fri-Thurs
Mystery Screening (???) Sat Only
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010) Sun Only
A Bag of Marbles (Christian Duguay) Tues Only
East Side Sushi (Anthony Lucero) Weds Only
Felix (Roberta Durrant, 2013) Thurs Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Ismael’s Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin) Fri-Thurs
Cinema Minneapolis Sat & Sun Only
Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple (Takuya Igarashi) Weds, and Next Sat & Sun Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Achari America Yatra (G. Nageswara Reddy) Fri-Thurs
Bharat Ane Nenu (Koratala Siva) Fri-Thurs
Diya (Karu) (Kanam) (A. L. Vijay) Fri-Thurs In Tamil or Telugu
Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) Sun & Weds Only

Regal Meridian:

Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) Sun, Tues & Weds Only

Northwest Film Forum:

Zama (Lucrecia Martel) Fri-Thurs Our Review
The Judge (Erika Cohn) Fri & Sat Only
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) Sat Only
The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, 1968) Weds & Thurs Only

Paramount Theatre:

Ella Cinders (Alfred E. Green, 1926) Mon Only Live Score

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Never Not Love You (Antoinette Jadaone) Fri-Thurs
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs

AMC Seattle:

The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Thurs

Seattle Art Museum:

Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941) Thurs Only

SIFF Film Center:

Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh) Fri-Weds
Where is Kyra? (Andrew Dosunmu) Fri-Thurs

Regal Thornton Place:

Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) Sun, Tues & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay) Fri-Tues, Thurs Our Review
The Endless (Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead) Fri-Tues, Thurs
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci) Fri-Thurs Our Review
My Neighbors the Yamadas (Isao Takahata, 1999) Sat Only

Varsity Theatre:

Final Portrait (Stanley Tucci) Fri-Thurs
Love After Love (Russell Harbaugh) Fri-Thurs

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

Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017)

ZAMA

“What is dead may never die.”

The long-awaited latest film from Argentine director Lucrecia Martel (The Headless Woman, La Ciénega) opens this week at the Northwest Film Forum. It’s set sometime in the late 18th Century, in an unnamed Spanish colony in South America. Daniel Giménez Cacho plays Diego de Zama, an American-born magistrate who very much wants to get away, back to his family (from whom he hasn’t heard, as the film begins, in 14 months), or transferred out of the ramshackle outpost he’s assigned to and into something resembling a city. Zama though will be frustrated at every turn, and the film is a chronicle of his long, slow disintegration as he is ignored, confounded, ridiculed and betrayed by his fellow colonists and swallowed up whole by the flora, fauna, and pestilence of the land he’s invaded and so disdains. Early in the film, Zama is told by a child suffering from cholera that he is a god, born old but fated to never die. His progress, such as it is, recalls other descents into the wilderness, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, Joesph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja, and so on, with the notable exception that for the majority of the film, Zama actually doesn’t journey anywhere, at least not spatially.

Based on a novel by Antonio di Benedetto, which I own but have not read, Zama is a slippery film: half allegory, half deadpan comedy, half realist fever dream. Giménez Cacho drifts through the film to the sounds of mid-century Brazilian guitar duo Los Indios Tabajaras (whose “Always In My Heart” you can also hear in Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild, a very different kind of film about a very different kind of jungle, that nonetheless shares Zama’s sense of aimless alienation). His Zama never seems to understand what is happening to him or why, he’s only apparently motivated by the desire to leave, or, alternately, the lust for women (only to be satisfied, if at all, off-screen). He is a magistrate, but from what we see not a very good one. He attempts to romance a fellow official’s wife, but is endlessly rebuffed. He tries to defend the young girls at his inn from a thief who may not have been uninvited. Time passes by while his entreaties to the governor for a transfer are endlessly delayed. Martel gives us no real markers for the passage of time, outside of Giménez Cacho’s physical deterioration. His physical state matches that of his surroundings: out of favor with the government he is evicted, and holed up in a hovel (that may be haunted) he contracts a fever. Or maybe he’s had it all along, or maybe he hasn’t ever really been there: he seems to have an extraordinary talent for not being noticed—even the servants can’t seem to remember his name.

Eventually, Zama makes it out of town, but not in the direction he’d hoped to be going. He joins a party searching for the notorious fugitive Vicuña Porto, a man held responsible for pretty much every crime in the area, fictional or not. The name has followed Zama from the beginning, not unlike the llama that stalks behind him during a meeting with the governor, the sounds and images of wildlife ever-present, even in the heart of the colonial community. On their journey, the men, of course, run afoul of the native population, who act mysteriously (one group wears masks, the other paints themselves orange and forcibly paint the Spaniards as well), but not with any kind of special hostility. Throughout the film, the natives, free and enslaved, linger in the background, as workers and servants, eying the colonists but rarely interacting with them. They are, like the environment itself, the force of otherness that torments Zama just as much as the other colonists. There’s no escape into nature for him, nor to the city. No chance for assimilation, either among the Spanish, or among the natives. He is doomed to in-betweenness: neither European nor America, urban or rural, civilized or wild, alive or dead.