It’s been four year since we launched Seattle Screen Scene, and if there’s one thing I hope we’ve established over that time, it’s that there are a great many more Asian films, specifically films from China, Korea, and India, playing around town than anyone ever seems to notice, and that quite a few of them are very good. If there’s one other thing, it would be that European cinema, at least for the last several decades, has been a vast wasteland of drab, dull, self-important, ugly, and overrated movies. European cinema has been, in my opinion of course and with notable exceptions, for lack of a better word, dead. So I was as surprised as anyone when I watched Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning Ida at VIFF last fall and absolutely loved it. A vibrant, breathless, decadently romantic love story set against the sweep of mid-20th Century history, anchored by two fine performances, excellent music and lustrous black and white cinematography that ranks with the best Europe has ever produced (by which I mean Luchino Visconti’s White Nights), it was almost enough to make me rethink my sweeping condemnation of the cinema of an entire continent. Almost.
I said I’d do my best not to name whichever film was playing in the Northwest Film Forum’s Shaw Brothers series as our Featured Film every week, so I’m definitely not picking Come Drink With Me, the King Hu classic that started it all, which is playing Wednesday night only. Instead I’m going with the AMC Pacific Place, which is playing 15 of the best documentaries of the year (the ones shortlisted for the Academy Awards nomination) for a couple of shows each over the course of this week. The ones not to miss are: Shirkers, which has otherwise only be available on Netflix, Minding the Gap, and Hale County This Morning, This Evening, each of which had unfortunately brief runs here in Seattle. This might be your last chance to ever see them in a theatre.
If Beale Street Could Talk at the Uptown and the Meridian
It figures of course that the finest American film of the year would only be released on a handful of screens in the final days of 2018. Barry Jenkins more than follows through on the promise of Moonlight with this dreamy, yet scathing, look at life and romance under structural racism in the USA. Though based on the mid-century novel by James Baldwin, there’s nothing antiquated about its story of young love struggling to endure against all odds, while Jenkins’s style marks the most successful yet attempt to adapt Hou Hsiao-hsien to the Hollywood mainstream.
Seattle’s best and longest-running cinematic Christmas tradition is the Grand Illusion’s annual three-week run of Frank Capra’s super-depressing holiday classic. While other theatres try to start new traditions (SIFF’s Fiddler on the Roof sing-along, various attempts to make Elf happen, or Die Hard), suicidal Jimmy Stewart succumbing to the life-crushing logic of capitalism and the nuclear family, only to be rescued by the divine revelation that while the world is indeed terrible, hey, at least it could be worse, is the only cure we need for our candy cane hangover.
At Eternity’s Gate(Julian Schnabel) Fri-Mon Shoplifters(Kore-eda Hirokazu) Fri-Thurs Fiddler on the Roof(Norman Jewison, 1971) Tues Only Sing-along If Beale Street Could Talk(Barry Jenkins) Starts Tues
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan at the Northwest Film Forum
Yeah, I know, it’s awards season and the theatres are packed with the respectable products of Hollywood and the international festival circuit. You got your Lanthimoses and Cuarón’s and Kore-eda’s, your respectable actors doing biopics and whatever it is Natalie Portman is up to in Vox Lux. Well, you can have all that if you want, for me, the undisputed highlight on Seattle Screens this week is a 45 year old rape-revenge film by Chor Yuen, the Shaw Brothers answer to Josef von Sternberg. Intimate Confessions kicks off what is to be a series of Hong Kong films over the next month, splitting between the Film Forum (who will be playing Come Drink with Me, Golden Swallow, and The One-Armed Swordsman in coming weeks) and the Grand Illusion (who have a pair of Sammo Hung movies: Pedicab Driver and Blade of Fury). I will do my best not to name them the Featured Film every week. But no promises.
Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) Fri-Thurs The Favourite(Yorgos Lanthimos) Fri-Thurs At Eternity’s Gate(Julian Schnabel) Fri-Thurs A Christmas Story(Bob Clark, 1983) Sat Only Free Screening Rare Exports (Jalmari Helander, 2010) Sat Only Heavy Trip (Juuso Laatio & Jukka Vidgren) Sat Only Life and Nothing More (Antonio Mendez Esparza) Tues Only Bell, Book and Candle (Richard Quine, 1958) Weds Only
There are a lot of films of interest out this week, including award-hopefuls The Favorite and At Eternity’s Gate, both of which aren’t bad at all, and Peter Bogdanovich’s fine Buster Keaton doc The Great Buster, which continues into a second week at the Grand Illusion. And Roma, of course, Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix movie has a decent shot at being the first true foreign language film to win the Best Picture Oscar, and it’s playing at the Cinerama and, of all places, the Crest. I haven’t seen Roma yet (it’s planned for later tonight), so if I had to pick one essential movie to see on Seattle Screens this week (and I do, that’s what this space is for), it’d be Lee Changdong’s Burning, playing exclusively at the Northwest Film Forum.
I’m not even sure if Burning is a very good movie. It’s made with exceptional craft though, a slow-ahem-burning psychological thriller about a disaffected young man who comes to believe that a rich guy (Steven Yeun, in a performance sure to get plenty of deserved award recognition in coming weeks) is both an arsonist and has done something to the woman the young man loves. Based on a Haruki Murakami short story, with lots of added Murakami in-jokes and shades of William Faulkner, it’s the most diabolically engrossing film of the year.
Burning (Lee Changdong) Fri-Thurs In the Soup (Alexandre Rockwell, 1992) Fri & Next Sat Only The Apology (Tiffany Hsiung) Sat Only Free Event I am Evidence (Trish Adlesic & Geeta Gandbhir) Sun Only Free Event From the West (Juliane Henrich) Tues Only Filmmaker in Attendance Wobble Palace (Eugene Kotlyarenko) Weds Only
Goon (Michael Dowse, 2011) Fri Only The Cutting Edge (Paul Michael Glaser, 1992) Sat Only Youngblood (Peter Markle, 1986) Sat Only I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie) Sun Only Mystery, Alaska (Jay Roach, 1999) Sun Only
Bathtubs Over Broadway(Dava Whisenant) Fri-Thurs Maria by Callas(Tom Volf) Fri-Thurs Moomins and The Winter Wonderland(Ira Carpelan & Jakub Wronski) Tues Only White Christmas(Michael Curtiz, 1954) Weds Only
It’s getting into awards season and you know what that means: Seattle Screen Scene recommends you go out and watch anime. Last week it was Liz and the Blue Bird, which criminally only played for a handful of shows around town. This week, it’s Mamoru Hosada’s Mirai, which is playing sporadically at various multiplexes in the area, mostly Regal but also at the Cinemark in Bellevue. Much like the other truly great anime from this year, Night is Short Walk on Girl, it’s playing as part of some kind of specialty release program (targeted at, I don’t know, Cruchyroll subscribers?) rather than getting proper theatrical distribution. I don’t know why but it’s too bad, because in a just world Mirai and these other films would be getting the kind of art house rollout even the most mediocre (or outright bad) Oscar hopeful gets this time of year. Anyway, Mirai is very good. Like Hosada’s best film, Wolf Children, it’s a deceptively wise look at growing up, this time from the perspective of a child who comes to see themself as a part of a wider continuity through time and space. With a light touch and moments of striking beauty, it’s one of the very best films from what has been an exceptional year for (non-American) animation.
2018 has been a terrific year for under-the-radar anime on Seattle screens, with a pair of Masaaki Yuasa films (Lu Over theWall and Night is Short, Walk on Girl), Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s Ghibli-lite Mary and the Witch’s Flower, and Mamoru Hosada’s Mirai (which opens on a few screens around town next week). But the best of them all, and one of my favorite films of the year, animated or otherwise, is also the most fleeting. Liz and the Blue Bird played for only three days two weeks ago, but the Grand Illusion is bringing it back this weekend, Saturday and Sunday only. A romance/coming of age story set in and among a group of girls in a high school band, director Naoko Yamada’s film is as attuned to the smallest, and most expressive, movements and gestures as any acclaimed festival film. It’s slice-of-life anime, perfected.
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) Sat Only Inventing Tomorrow (Laura Nix) Tues Only Alternate Endings, Activist Risings (Various) Weds Only Free screening The Trans List (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders) Thurs Only Free screening
Liz and the Blue Bird (Naoko Yamada) Sat & Sun OnlyOur Review Searching for Ingmar Bergman (Felix Moeller, Margarethe von Trotta & Bettina Böhler) Fri-Thurs Best of Cinekink 2018 (Various) Sat Only The House that Jack Built (Lars von Trier) Weds Only
Slap Shot (George Roy Hill, 1977) Fri Only The Mighty Ducks (Stephen Herek, 1992) Sat Only Ice Castles (Donald Wrye, 1978) Sat Only I, Tonya (Craig Gillespie) Sat Only Mystery, Alaska (Jay Roach, 1999) Sun Only King Curling (Ole Endresen, 2011) Sun Only
The Grand Illusion’s Jim Jarmusch series comes to an end this week with the very Thanksgiving appropriate Dead Man, playing in a new restoration. Which is good, because when we played it at the Metro a dozen years ago the print had a nasty scratch on the soundtrack. But as much as I love Dead Man (you can hear all about that on Episode 2 of The George Sanders Show), I have to go with the new Frederick Wiseman film as the Featured Film of the week. A portrait of the small Indiana town, Monrovia is a blunt portrait of the alienation and loss that mark aging rural American outposts. Beautiful and sad and cruel and fascinating and almost, but not entirely, hopeless.
Tea with the Dames(Roger Michell) Fri-Thurs The Old Man & the Gun (David Lowery) Fri-Thurs Pokemon 4Ever (Kunihiko Yuyama/Jim Malone, 2002) Sat Only Free Screening An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn (Jim Hosking) Sat Only Black ’47 (Lance Daly) Tues Only The Wiz (Sidney Lumet, 1978) Weds Only
We started Seattle Screen Scene almost four years ago because we discovered that there were a bunch of movies we really wanted to see playing in multiplexes around town. Specifically, there were Johnnie To and Tsui Hark movies playing at the Pacific Place with absolutely no press or coverage in the media, social or otherwise. Every week I go through the listings of every theatre in town hoping to find similar gems that we can review and highlight. This week, it’s Last Letter, the latest film from Japanese director Shunji Iwai (A Bride for Rip van Winkle, All About LilyChou-Chou). It’s his first film made in China, and stars Zhou Xun (from last year’s Our Time Will Come). Like his previous Love Letter and Chang-ok’s Letter, it’s about the disappointments of life and the loves of youth, about discovering people through stories, stories told in letters. A cross-generational film about love and coping with the loss of a loved one, it’s one of the finest films to hit Seattle Screens this year and it deserves an audience. Don’t miss it.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?(Marielle Heller) Fri-Thurs Tea with the Dames(Roger Michell) Fri-Thurs Wildlife (Paul Dano) Fri-Thurs Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977) Sat Only Little Pink House (Courtney Balaker) Mon Only Brewmaster (Douglas Tirola) Tues Only Horn From the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story (John Anderson) Weds Only
Life and Nothing More (Antonio Méndez Esparza) Fri-Weds Tribal Justice (Anne Makepeace) Sat Only Kuroneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968) Sat Only Sticky Shed SyndromeSun Only Meow Wolf: Origin Story (Morgan Capps & Jilann Spitzmiller) Thurs Only Skype Q&A Narcissister Organ Player (Narcissister) Starts Thurs Skype Q&A