Friday October 18 – Thursday October 24

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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)

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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.

Friday October 11 – Thursday October 17

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Featured Film:

All that Heaven Allows at the Beacon

Sure there’s a couple of cool local film festivals opening this week, with the Seattle Queer Film Festival at the Northwest Film Forum (mostly) and the Seattle Polish Film Festival at SIFF, and the Grand Illusion has a couple of 35mm prints of Black Death and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising (which I really dug ten years ago and have no idea how it plays now), and the Egyptian has a pair of Bong Joonho movies (The Host and Snowpiercer) to get you hyped for Parasite (which is very good, I imagine we’ll be talking about it on our upcoming VIFF wrap-up podcast), but I’m going with the Beacon’s slyly perfect seasonal pick of All that Heaven Allows as our Featured Film this week. It’s arguably Douglas Sirk’s greatest movie, an essential autumn film, and a horror movie about how awful children are once they’ve grown up.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

The Battle of Jangsari (Kwak Kyungtaek & Kim Taehoon) Fri-Thurs  
The Sky is Pink (Shonali Bose) Fri-Thurs  
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  

The Beacon Cinema:

The Thing from Another World (Christian Nyby, 1951) Fri-Thurs 
Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973) Fri, Sat, Mon, Weds & Thurs 
Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992) Fri & Sat Only 
Morgiana (Juraj Herz, 1972) Sat, Tues & Weds Only 
Flying Phantom Ship (Hiroshi Ikeda, 1969) Sun Only 
The Beacon Guide to Unsolved Mysteries Sun Only 
All that Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955) Sun, Tues & Thurs Only 
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Dominique Otherin-Gerard, 1989) Mon Only 

Central Cinema:

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) Fri-Weds Our Podcast 
Night of the Creeps (Fred Dekker, 1986) Fri-Weds  

SIFF Egyptian:

Army of Darkness (Sam Raimi, 1992) Fri Only 
The Host (Bong Joonho, 2006) Sat, Mon & Tues Only 
Snowpiercer (Bong Joonho, 2013) Sat, Mon & Tues Only Our Podcast & Interview 
The NY Dog Film Festival Sat Only 
Seattle Queer Film Festival 2019 Sun Only Full Program 

Century Federal Way:

Tara Mira (Rajiv Dhingra) Fri-Thurs  
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) Sun & Weds Only 
3 from Hell (Rob Zombie) Mon Only 
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (Kevin Smith) Tues Only 

Grand Cinema:

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Bliss (Joe Begos) Sat Only 
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Stanley Nelson) Tues Only Our Review 
WarGames (John Badham, 1983) Weds Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

The Dead Center (Billy Senese) Fri-Thurs  
Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2009) Fri-Tues 35mm
Black Death (Christoper Smith, 2011) Sat, Sun  & Thurs 35mm
Nekromantik (Jörg Buttgereit, 1987) Sat & Weds Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley) Fri-Thurs 
The Sky is Pink (Shonali Bose) Fri-Thurs  
Asuran (Vetrimaaran) Fri-Thurs 
My People, My Country (Various) Fri-Thurs 
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Fri-Thurs In Telugu, Tamil or Hindi, Check Listings
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  
Adhyaksha In America (Yoganandh Muddhan) Fri-Sun 
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) Sun & Weds Only 
3 from Hell (Rob Zombie) Mon Only 
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (Kevin Smith) Tues Only 

Regal Meridian:

The Sky is Pink (Shonali Bose) Fri-Thurs  
Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley) Fri-Thurs 
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  
My People, My Country (Various) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

Seattle Queer Film Festival 2019 Fri-Thurs Full Program 

AMC Pacific Place:

The Climbers (Daniel Lee) 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 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

Seattle Polish Film Festival Sat & Sun Only Full Program 

Regal Thornton Place:

Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) Sun, Tues & Weds Only 
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (Kevin Smith) Tues Only 

SIFF Uptown:

First Love (Takashi Miike) Fri-Weds Our Review 
Loro (Paolo Sorrentino) Fri-Thurs 
Where’s My Roy Cohn? (Matt Tyrnauer) Fri-Thurs 
Pilchuck, A Dance with Fire (John Forsen) Thurs Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Lucky Day (Roger Avary) Fri-Thurs 
Mary (Michael Goi) Fri-Thurs 
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) Weds Only 

Friday October 4 – Thursday October 10

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Featured Film:

First Love at the Egyptian

We’re still in Vancouver through the weekend, looking forward to The Whistlers, Fourteen, Vitalina Varela, Oh Mercy, and much more. But for those of you in Seattle, don’t miss Takashi Miike’s latest, playing exclusively at the Egyptian. It’s a gangster movie and a romance and a comedy and a one crazy night movie and a crazy caper movie and a whole lot more. Miike continues to be one of the freest filmmakers in the world, and First Love is maybe his best film in years and one of the best movies to hit Seattle Screens in 2019.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  
The Climbers (Daniel Lee) Fri-Thurs  

The Beacon Cinema:

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) Fri, Mon-Thurs 
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975) Fri, Sun, Tues & Thurs 
The Town that Dreaded Sundown (Charles B. Pierce, 1976) Fri & Sat Only 
The Peanut Butter Solution (Michael Rubbo, 1985) Sat Only 
The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, 1999) Sat & Sun Only 
Vampire Hunter D (Toyoo Ashida, 1985) Sun Only 
Problems with Many Solutions: Abbas Kiraostami Short Films Sun Only 
The Midnight Hour (Jack Bender, 1985) Sun Only 
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982) Mon Only 
Io Island (Kim Ki-young, 1977) Tues & Weds Only 
Mister America (Eric Notarnicola) Weds Only 

Central Cinema:

Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic, 2001) Fri-Weds 
Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985) Fri-Weds  
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (Stephen Chiodo, 1988) Thurs Only  

SIFF Egyptian:

First Love (Takashi Miike) Fri-Weds Our Review 

Century Federal Way:

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Fri-Thurs  
Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) Sun & Weds Only  

Grand Cinema:

Tacoma Film Festival  Fri-Thurs Full Program 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Memory: The Origins of Alien (Alexandre O. Philippe) Fri-Thurs  
Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968) Fri-Tues 35mm
A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2014) Sat, Sun, Weds & Thurs 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Fri-Thurs In Telugu, Tamil or Hindi, Check Listings
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  
Dream Girl (Raaj Shaandilyaa) Fri-Thurs 
The Climbers (Daniel Lee) Fri-Thurs  
Asuran (Vetrimaaran) Fri-Thurs 
Chanakya
(Thiru) Fri-Thurs 
Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) Sun & Weds Only  

Regal Meridian:

War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  
My People, My Country (Various) Fri-Thurs 
The Matrix (Lana & Lilly Wachowski, 1999) Fri-Thurs 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Fri-Thurs Subtitled
Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) Sun & Thurs Only  

Northwest Film Forum:

Desolation Center (Stuart Swezey) Fri, Weds & Thurs 
Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero (Eric Mahoney) Fri Only 
Swarm Season (Sarah Christman) Sun & Mon Only 
Gaza Fights for Freedom (Abby Martin) Weds Only 

AMC Pacific Place:

The Climbers (Daniel Lee) Fri-Thurs  
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Fri-Thurs 
My People, My Country (Various) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Fri-Thurs  
War (Siddharth Anand) Fri-Thurs  

AMC Seattle:

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

The Breaking Point (Michael Curtiz, 1950) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

Chained for Life (Aaron Schimberg) Fri-Sun 
Frank Gehry: Building Justice (Ultan Guilfoyle) Weds Only 

Regal Thornton Place:

The Climbers (Daniel Lee) Fri-Thurs  
Monty Python & the Holy Grail (Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam, 1975) Sat Only 
Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) Sun & Thurs Only  
Mister America (Eric Notarnicola) Weds Only 

SIFF Uptown:

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Stanley Nelson) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Ms. Purple (Justin Chon) Fri-Thurs 
Monos (Alejandro Landes) Fri-Weds  
Wrinkles the Clown (Michael Beach Nichols) Fri-Thurs 
Don’t Talk About the Baby (Ann Zamudio) Thurs Only 

Varsity Theatre:

Latin Shorts Program #1 Fri-Thurs 
Latin Shorts Program #2 Fri-Sun, Tues-Thurs

In Wide Release:

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review Our Other Review

VIFF 2019: The Shadow Play (Lou Ye, 2018)

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At this point the best advice I can give you, the prospective viewer of a Lou Ye movie, is this: don’t see it in a theatre, and if you must, sit as far away from the screen as possible. Possibly contemporary cinema’s most extreme abuser of the close-up, shallow-focus, quick-cutting shaky cam, Lou’s movies are nigh unwatchable under what should be ideal viewing conditions (that is, about a half dozen or so rows back from the screen, depending on auditorium shape and size). The incoherent swirl of blurs and occasional images are nauseating and headache-inducing at that distance. Never have I so longed for the ability to speak Chinese as I did watching The Shadow Play here at VIFF, wishing desperately to be able to just close my eyes and simply listen to the movie.

It’s a shame, because in most other respects, Lou is a fine filmmaker, deftly smuggling social critique within otherwise popular genre plots. The Shadow Play is a terrific example of this, with an outstanding opening sequence chronicling the street-by-street buildup of a riot in protest of developers who plan to bulldoze a dilapidated, but occupied, neighborhood, culminating in a brutal police crackdown. That it’s set in 2012 makes it no less resonant to events in Hong Kong (and beyond) that are occurring as I type. But The Shadow Play isn’t really a film about resistance to urban “renewal” (an evil anywhere in the world, as omnipresent as capitalism itself), so much as it uses the fact of corruption (illicit links between government and business and law enforcement and the family) as set dressing for a lurid and not especially interesting noir story about a cop (Jing Boran, star of Monster Hunt and Us and Them) having a very hard time trying to solve a not-very-difficult case.

Hyperactively cutting back and forth across twenty years of history in the life of a developer, a government official (who will be killed in the aftermath of the riot) and the woman they love, along with their daughter (whose daughter? it’s a mystery!) and a bar girl from Taiwan who became the developer’s top assistant several years before the 2012 riot/murder (where’d she go? another mystery!), Lou distracts from the weakness of his scenario by jumbling continuity, not exactly following any kind of logical or emotional through line, but rather simply trying to extend the suspense, such as it is, for as long as he can. Set piece follows set piece, with what looks like could be some fine acting (especially by the three women, Ma Sichun (from Soul Mate, playing the daughter, Song Jia (Shock Wave) as the mother, and Michelle Chen (Badges of Fury) as the assistant), except we can’t actually see any of it because most of every frame is blurred out and cut to pieces. Ultimately the mysteries prove to have solutions both obvious and not especially sensical, but that would all matter a lot less if the rest of the movie held up. But there’s a big difference between acknowledging the existence of corruption in a society and actually making a movie about it. It’s undeniable that Lou has been a leading figure of resistance against the PRC’s various censorship systems, suffering a filmmaking ban after Suzhou River (his best film), a five year distribution ban after Summer Palace, and waiting two years after shooting wrapped in 2016 to see The Shadow Play get released. But, in the same way Lou used Tiananmen Square as a backdrop for an uninteresting and poorly shot romantic melodrama in Summer Palace, so the politics of The Shadow Play, admirable though they are, can’t obscure the film’s deficiencies as cinema.

It’s not as if we haven’t seen plenty of recent films pull this same trick, of sneaking anti-PRC themes into a generic story. Ash is Purest White and Mountains May Depart track the same things: the corrosive effects of corruption and capitalism and their effects on the family over time. Mountains especially, with its love triangle and estranged child, especially seems relevant, but how much more human is Jia’s movie than Lou’s? Xin Yukun’s Wrath of Silence is a rock solid genre film that attacks corruption with all the subtlety of a mute coal miner bashing in the face of a corporate crook. Just here at VIFF, we have Diao Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake, a not-so-subtle jab at the parallels and interconnections between criminals, law enforcement, and capital, told within a mostly generic noir plot, but with a visual acuity and precision that seems anathema to Lou. I guess here’s where I should say that of course Lou has adopted his style for reasons, he’s been doing it for years and years and show’s no signs of stopping. I’m sure his reasons are sound, and that compelling arguments can be made in favor of his cutting and camera work. He isn’t incompetent, he’s just made an aesthetic choice that I find, and perhaps the fault merely lies with my middle aged physiology, fucking unwatchable.

VIFF 2019: The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)

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Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The light-house top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?

Is this mine own countree?

We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,
And I with sobs did pray—
O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway.

Robert Eggers is a maker of myths. Not in the interconnected serialized myth-making of Disney’s corporate franchises, the Marvels and Star Warses and other princesses. Rather in that with The Lighthouse, as with his last film, The Witch (The VVitch if you’re nasty), he exploits cinema’s love for grotesque ambiguity in tapping into the oldest, weirdest currents of New England culture, digging into the primal fears that lurked underneath the Puritan world. Quite literally with The Witch, set as it was in the 17th century among a family of too fundamentalist for the Puritans farmers. The Lighthouse is set some two hundred years later, give or take, but the fears and repressions of New England culture are still deeply felt. With allusions to everything from Moby-Dick to Coleridge to the story of Prometheus, Eggers weaves an allegory of guilt and rebellion, of a man (Robert Pattinson) under the yoke of a tyrannical and loving God (Willem Dafoe) that he cannot hope to understand, and how that lack of understanding costs him his soul.

But just as importantly, The Lighthouse is a movie about a pair of our greatest actors trapped together for 110 minutes in a square, black and white frame, covered in beards and torrential rain, railing away at each other in impossibly ornate old-timey monologues of fire and damnation. As a pure horror film, it’s more successful than something like Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!, which conversely has it beat in terms of religious allegory. The hamminess of the two stars’ performances is deeply pleasurable, especially Dafoe, who in a just world would finally win an Oscar for a role that might have just been talking like a pirate and acting drunk, but instead oscillates brilliantly between power and weakness, between an imposing, all-powerful god of the sea, and a frail, lost old mariner.

The comparison to Mother! is especially apt (thanks to my colleague Melissa for bringing it to my attention), as Eggers and Aronofsky appear to be on a similar track. Both Mother! and Aronofsky’s Noah dig into biblical stories in search of the more primal human fears and desires that gave birth to them. But while Aronofsky tells the stories relatively straight, following the familiar plot points more or less closely and using the tropes of horror cinema to flesh out the emotions, Eggers is treading newer ground, still after those same basic emotions, but building newish plots around them. He also, at least with The Lighthouse, finds pre-Christian parallels for his myths, as in the story of Prometheus (who stole the secret of fire from the gods and as punishment had his liver eaten by an eagle every day for eternity). The result is an even more elemental kind of fear and guilt, as old as the weather itself, but one that doesn’t parse nearly as coherently. The Lighthouse could be “about” a lot of things, which is a weakness as much as it is a strength, depending on your point of view. They aren’t fables, defined in the end by a clear moral statement–myths are necessarily more ambiguous, and more entertaining. At its best, The Lighthouse recalls the primal mythologies of great films like Conan the Barbarian (the closest we’ve ever come to a Gilgamesh movie) or Excalibur (which similarly freely mixes Christian and pre-Christian myth in the service of cinematic weirdness). 19th century New England had a nightmare, and it dreamt of Willem Dafoe.

Friday September 27 – Thursday October 3

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Featured Film:

The Vancouver International Film Festival

Most of us here at Seattle Screen Scene are making our way north to cover VIFF once again, but you can be sure that if we were in town, we’d be hanging out at the Grand Illusion this week. Not only do they have two of Abbas Kiarostami’s best films in Close-Up and Through the Olive Trees, they’re playing all three of Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy (Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, Ley Lines; it’s a thematic trilogy, unconnected by plot or character). But we’ll be in Vancouver, and this week we’re planning to catch: Young Ahmed (the Dardennes), Parasite (Bong Joonho), The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers), Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont), Anne at 13,000 Ft. (Kazik Radwanski), Varda by Agnès (Agnès Varda), A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick), The Shadow Play (Lou Ye), MS Slavic 7 (Sofia Bohdanowicz), Synonyms (Nadav Lapid), Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho), and much more. Should be a good week.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Judy (Rupert Goold) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatazov, 1957) Fri-Thurs 
The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1982) Fri Only 
John Wick Chapters 1-3 (Chad Stahelski, 2014, 2017, 2019) Sat Only 
Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (Hiroyuki Yamaga, 1987) Sun Only 
Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin, 1947) Sun Only Our Podcast 
Flooding with Love for the Kid (Zachary Oberzan, 2010) Sun Only 
House (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977) Mon Only 
The Peanut Butter Solution (Michael Rubbo, 1985) Tues & Weds Only 
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) Starts Thurs 

Central Cinema:

When Harry Met Sally… (Rob Reiner, 1989) Fri-Tues 
Slither (James Gunn, 2006) Fri-Tues 

Cinerama:

70mm Film Series Fri-Weds  

SIFF Egyptian:

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Stanley Nelson) Fri-Thurs Our Review 

Century Federal Way:

Doorbeen (Ishan Chopra) Fri-Thurs 
Nikka Zaildar 3 (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Mon  
The Secret World of Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Starts Tues  
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl (Sôichi Masui) Weds & Thurs Only  

Grand Cinema:

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
Judy (Rupert Goold) Fri-Thurs 
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992) Sat Only 
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent) Tues Only 
The Infiltrators (Cristina Ibarra & Alex Rivera) Thurs Only Tacoma Film Festival Premiere

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990) Fri-Sun 
Through the Olive Trees (Abbas Kiarostami, 1994) Sat & Sun Only  
Blood Orgy of the Leather Girls (Meredith Lucas, 1988) Fri Only VHS
Shinjuku Triad Society (Takashi Miike, 1995) Sat, Tues & Thurs  
Rainy Dog (Takashi Miike, 1997) Sun, Mon & Weds  
Ley Lines (Takashi Miike, 1999) Mon, Weds & Thurs 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Judy (Rupert Goold) Fri-Thurs 
Namma Veetu Pillai (Pandiraj) Fri-Thurs 
Oththa Seruppu Size 7 (R. Parthiepan) Fri-Thurs 
Dream Girl (Raaj Shaandilyaa) Fri-Thurs 
Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
The Zoya Factor (Abhishek Sharma) Fri-Thurs 
Valmiki (Harish Shankar) Fri-Thurs 
Ganagandharvan (Ramesh Pisharody) Sat & Sun Only 
The Secret World of Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon
Snoopy Come Home (Bill Melendez, 1972) Sun Only 
The Climbers (Daniel Lee) Starts Mon  
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Starts Tues  
Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Arrow of the Orion (Katsushi Sakurabi) Tues & Thurs Only Subtitled Thurs
War (Siddharth Anand) Starts Weds  

Regal Meridian:

The Matrix (Lana & Lilly Wachowski, 1999) Fri-Thurs 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Fri-Thurs Subtitled
Villains (Robert Olsen, Dan Berk) Fri-Thurs 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
The Secret World of Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon
My People, My Country (Various) Tues & Weds Only 
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl (Sôichi Masui) Weds & Thurs Only  

Northwest Film Forum:

Local Sightings Film Festival Fri-Sun Full Program 
Becoming Nobody (Jamie Catto) Sat-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Judy (Rupert Goold) Fri-Thurs 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Tod@s Caen (Ariel Winograd) Fri-Thurs 
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Surender Reddy) Starts Tues  
War (Siddharth Anand) Starts Weds  

AMC Seattle:

Judy (Rupert Goold) Fri-Thurs 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 

Seattle Art Museum:

Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983) Weds Only Our Podcast 

Regal Thornton Place:

Judy (Rupert Goold) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Villains (Robert Olsen, Dan Berk) Fri-Thurs 
The Secret World of Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon
The Climbers (Daniel Lee) Mon-Weds  
Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl (Sôichi Masui) Weds & Thurs Only  

SIFF Uptown:

Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins (Janice Engel) Fri, Mon-Thurs 
Monos (Alejandro Landes) Fri-Thurs 
French Cinema Now Festival Fri-Thurs Full Program 

Varsity Theatre:

Manhattan Short Film Festival Fri & Sun Only
Prey (Franck Khalfoun) Fri-Thurs 
The Day Shall Come (Chris Morris) Fri-Thurs
The Secret World of Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010) Sun & Mon Only Subtitled Mon

In Wide Release:

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino) Our Review Our Other Review

First Love (Takashi Miike, 2019)

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Every time I watch a Takashi Miike movie, I end up asking myself why I ever watch movies that aren’t Takashi Miike movies. That’s certainly the case with First Love, his latest, which premiered at Cannes earlier this year and opens next week (October 4) at the Uptown. It’s a familiar story, a one crazy night gangster movie mixed with just enough romance and humor to confound the tonal consistency police. But while the plot evokes faint memories of Johnnie To’s The Odd One Dies or Derek Yee’s One Night in Mongkok or Soi Cheang’s Love Battlefield, really it’s all Miike, suffused with his inimitable blend of pitch-black humor, razor-sharp filmmaking, and a surprising undercurrent of hope amid all the absurdist bloodshed and horror of a world that has almost completely lost its mooring.

A young boxer who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor stumbles into a scheme wherein a low-level yakuza and a crooked cop are conspiring to steal a bag of drugs from the yakuza, while framing a prostitute and a Chinese Triad syndicate for the crime. The hope is to incite a gang war and have all the bad guys kill each other off, while the schemers get away with the drugs and can then take over. But the prostitute, a young drug addict who suffers from hallucinations, caused by years of abuse by her father and her handlers, runs away from the cop at a pivotal moment, and thinking she needs rescuing, the boxer clocks the cop. The young people run away and the scheme falls apart, thanks as well to a pair of nigh-indestructible women, one the girlfriend of the guy who the drugs are stolen from, the other a Chinese gangster lamenting the sad state of honor among today’s yakuza men. A host of other memorable baddies abound, including an old school yakuza who is fresh out of prison and terribly annoyed by everyone around him, and a one-armed Chinese gangster who has no lines but follows along the whole way, waiting for his opportunity to take revenge on the man who maimed him.

Miike unfolds the convoluted plot with expert precision, such that it’s pretty much always clear exactly who is double-crossing who, and why. And those double-crosses play out in and escalating series of violent encounters, as funny as they are original. I wouldn’t dare spoil any of the surprises the movie has in store, but I want to single out Miike’s editing in particular, cutting on motion with as much attention to the flow of action as, say, Steven Spielberg, but with a sublime sense of humor, as when a punch in the boxing ring becomes a beheading stroke of a katana in a dark alley. First Love is filled with these little touches. One imagines Miike chuckling away as he finds ever more demented ways to depict violence on-screen. I’ve said before that no one in contemporary cinema has as much fun making movies as Takashi Miike, and First Love is him working with complete freedom within otherwise well-worn genre terrain.

Even the romance is unusual. Given the circumstances, and their various medical and mental conditions, it’d be absurd, something that only happens in the movies, for our two innocents to fall madly in love right away (even with the help of a pop song, as they do in Wong Kar-wai’s As Tears Go By). Instead, the First Love of the title can only grow after the trials of the one crazy night have been put behind them. Not just a lunatic cascade of gangster movie violence, the night instead becomes a stand-in for all the horrible things that have happened to them in their pasts, and only after they survive them and move on to a new day, is a first love even possible. The final shot doesn’t need a pop song, or even a close-up, to be the most hopeful, most romantic image of the movie year.

I should watch more Takashi Miike movies. The Grand Illusion this week is playing three of them, none of which I have seen, Shinjuku Triad SocietyRainy Dog, and Ley Lines. Like First Love, they all involve rivalries between Chinese Triads and Japanese yakuza, such that their grouped together as his “Black Society Trilogy”, though they are apparently unrelated in plot or character. If I was in town next week, that’s where I would be.

VIFF 2019: The Wild Goose Lake (Diao Yinan, 2019)

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One of the most anticipated Chinese titles of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival is Diao Yinan’s follow-up to his Berlin winning 2014 film Black Coal, Thin Ice. Like that film, The Wild Goose Lake is a moody Chinese noir, full of morose characters trapped in a world of violence they cannot understand. It’s also significantly more interesting to look at than the majority of Chinese noirs that have afflicted the festival circuit in the wake of Black Coal‘s triumph. Sure, it has more than its share of torrential downpours and black nights of the soul, but Diao mixes the morose setting with yellows, greens, and reds (along with some delightfully sickly neon pinks) more reminiscent of Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and the first third of Jia Zhangke’s Ash is Purest White than the dull grayness of movies like The Looming Storm or Savage or Lush Reeds. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his characters, who are nowhere near as vibrant as the film’s images.

Hu Ge, who had a small role in Shunji Iwai’s Last Letter, stars as an ex-con and gangster who finds himself the target of a manhunt after he accidentally shoots a cop. The setup to this is extremely promising, with Diao melding the highbrow style of Bi and Jia with a classic Triad-type story, involving gang rivalries and a motorcycle-stealing contest that ends in a shocking bit of violence. But it quickly shifts into a different kind of film entirely, with Liao Fan as the cop in charge of hunting him down and Gwei Lun-mei as the prostitute with a heart of gold who tries to help him escape (both Gwei and Liao starred as well in Black Coal).

Liao and the cops come off much better, as the blankness of their personalities matches the just-the-facts proceduralism of their pursuit, Liao himself bringing a necessary weight and professional authority to the role. But Gwei and Hu are blank slates, almost entirely affectless, with nary a hint of personality to mitigate their mopey sadness. Gwei is usually an actress of considerable charm, but there’s nary a hint here of the performer who stole scenes left and right in Tsui Hark’s Seven Swords and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate a decade ago. Instead she walks determinedly, if directionlessly, around the frame, face pinched in a perpetual scowl, while Hu (hobbled as his character is by multiple gunshot wounds) merely looks depressed. The motivations and actions mostly make sense, but it’s hard to care anything about them when they aren’t the least bit interesting. Compare them to the wit and will Zhao Tao showed in Ash, or Liao Fan’s weaselly over-confidence in that same film, or the mystery and passion of Tang Wei and Sylvia Chang in Long Day’s Journey, and you’ll see what Wild Goose Lake is missing most.

But for all that, at moments the film is wonderful. There are at least three expert showdowns, built slowly and without dialogue, actors carefully arranging themselves in a well-defined space, communicating only with looks (or just as much: by not looking at all). Diao heightens one by having one group wearing shoes that have neon lights around their soles, such that our hero (such as he is) is seemingly hunted by circles of eerie pale green light, stark against the blackness of night. Another is set in a dilapidated concrete apartment complex, reminiscent of so many such structures in Hong Kong films, with their tangled hallways and noisy neighbors. In scenes like this, The Wild Goose Lake approaches the best of Johnnie To (the showdowns are nothing if not a nod to The Mission). If only the rest of the movie were so free.

VIFF 2019 Preview

We here at Seattle Screen Scene are very much looking forward to once again covering the Vancouver International Film Festival this year. It’s shaping up to be a pretty strong festival, with a number of titles we can’t wait to catch. We’ve already seen a few of the movies playing this year, though, as we covered them at festivals earlier this year. Here is a compendium of links to our previously published reviews of VIFF films that played at the Toronto Film Festival and the New York Asian Film Festival.

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Blood Quantum (Jeff Barnaby) – Evan in the Georgia Straight: “TIFF kicked off for me with the First Nations zombie movie Blood Quantum, but the moment that I walked out of the theater, I ejected it from my consciousness like a spent shotgun cartridge (though one dumbfounding line—delivered with perfect seriousness—will rent a room in my memory palace for eternity: “They look at me like my vagina is Pandora’s box!”)”

Hard-Core (Nobuhiro Yamashita) – The latest from the director of Linda Linda Linda, one of the great films of the century thus far, was a disappointment for Sean, who wrote at the Notebook that, “Hard-Core is simply lost in itself, its collection of losers as charmless and uninteresting as the film’s forced whimsicality.”

A Hidden Life – (Terrence Malick) – Lawrence at InReview Online notes that Malick’s latest is a “vision of breathtaking natural expanses and solid manmade enclosures [which] remains every bit as formally radical as any of his films this decade.” While Evan is very much looking forward to seeing it again, as he wrote for the Georgia Straight that while he was initially disappointed, he “sat down for the next film, the lights dimmed, and then, suddenly, they came back up. How long had I been here? Sometimes, at a festival, a movie gets sacrificed on the pyre when the film that precedes it sparks something in the soul. Turns out I spent two hours replaying A Hidden Life in my head—everything else passed by in a blur. Sorry Beanpole [also playing VIFF], Terrence Malick set my mind on fire.”

It Must Be Heaven(Elia Suleiman) – Evan was not a fan of Suleiman’s latest, noting at InReview Online that, “Suleiman possesses maybe two or three visual ideas, though he strongly prefers one: sometimes things over here look like things over there. Because warmed-over humanism is his chosen mode, his facile symmetries are meant to reinforce — as the press notes say — the “unexpected parallels” that he discovers while travelling the globe. They’re also meant to be funny. That they fail as comedy is perhaps forgivable. That they turn disparate places and people into easily readable mirror images, which provide us the comfort of the familiar only because they reflect back a portrait of ourselves, is more worthy of condemnation.”

Krabi, 2562 – (Anocha Suwichakornpong & Ben Rivers) – At Reverse Shot, Lawrence writes that Suwichakornpong & Rivers’s collaboration “present[s] the viewer with sundry moving parts buttressed by fulsome textural detail and all manner of disorienting edits. If the pieces don’t quite fit together by the end, linked somewhat arbitrarily by the film’s temporal flattening—the entirety of the Holocene is folded into the present, 2562 being the current year of the Thai Buddhist calendar—that irresolvability is at least part of the point”

Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach) – At InReview Online, Lawrence sees the risk-averse Baumbach attempting a bit more formal experimentation, such that his new movie “might eventually come to feel like a transitional work within his filmography.” As an example: “Baumbach sets up the formal template of the film, which introduces exaggerated, even caricatured types, then offers sundry details to modulate or even overturn the typification — which is also to say the opposite of what goes on during divorce proceedings, where small slippages are turned into deadly character flaws.”

Parasite (Bong Joon-ho) – In the Georgia Straight, Evan writes that Bong’s “images possess the graphic panache and pith of a comic book panel, and in Parasite, he tosses them off with characteristic ease. But as Bong bulks up his visual prowess with each new film, his characterological muscle only atrophies further. We’ve reached an unhealthy point: the internal and external stimuli that motivate his people are now second order concerns at best, always subordinate to the next punchy composition.”

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Cèline Sciamma) – Writing in the Georgia Straight, Evan was not a fan of Sciamma’s “finicky attention to candlelight and 18th century domestic fripperies [which] can’t hide the fact that Portrait of a Lady on Fire actually takes place in the present. And like any ready-made facsimile, the historical varnish is merely a concession to bourgeois tastes, a decorative contrivance, and therefore entirely dishonest.”

Synonyms (Nadav Lapid) – Evan in the Georgia Straight: “Lapid sees a neat correlation between his behaviorist approach to character—which abstracts human behavior into a series of violent tics—and the unstable psychogeography of Israeli selfhood. It’s unclear, however, that his style alone is sufficient to explicate his subject, at least to anyone living outside the confines of Nadav Lapid’s skittish mind—which is to say, the rest of us.”

The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin) – At InReview Online, Lawrence notes that while “Comparisons to fellow Winnipeg filmmaker Guy Maddin are inevitable, as both share an evident interest in lost and/or defunct film forms, artificial staging, and wild humor.” But, “the difference seems to be that the incongruous, borderline surreal turns of Maddin’s singularly fecund oeuvre feel touched by genuine madness, whereas Rankin’s film registers as merely mannered.”

Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa) – Evan is conflicted on Costa’s latest, noting in the Georgia Straight that while “his images are as striking as any in contemporary cinema; they are incredible things to witness on a movie screen” but that “it also raises a question that both Costa and his fans are intent on avoiding. If Vitalina Varela truly belongs to the woman at its center, who lends the film her name and her life story, shouldn’t Costa bend his style around her?”

White Lie (Calvin Thomas & Yonah Lewis) – At InReview Online, Sean wrote that this Canadian indie from the team that brought Spice It Up to last year’s VIFF, about a woman pretending to have cancer is “like a straight version of a Seinfeld episode, with Katie (Kacey Rohl) as the Costanza at the center of it all, barely afloat atop a sea of deceit.”

White Snake (Amp Wong & Ji Zhao) – Reviewing this Chinese animated fantasy at the Mubi Notebook, Sean wrote that “aside from showing a bit too much skin and having a decided lack of songs, White Snake might as well be a Disney product.” But also, “it’s standard fairy tale romance stuff, but done with enough verve and belief that old clichés can be forgiven. It’s not Tsui Hark, but it might be a kids version of House of Flying Daggers.”

The Wild Goose Lake (Diao Yinan) – Evan was mixed on the latest from the director of Black Coal, Thin Ice, writing in the Georgia Straight that, “the eccentric mise-en-scène scrambles important plot information just as often as it transmits it with ingenuity. In other words, Diao is a less sophisticated storyteller than he is a stylist, and the narrative convolutions eventually throw a wrench in things. The film breaks down as it approaches its end, and the final beat, which should register with the emphatic force of a full stop, instead trails off like an ellipsis.”