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.”

Friday September 20 – Thursday September 26

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Featured Film:

A Matter of Life and Death at the Beacon

It’s another strong week on Seattle Screens: SIFF favorites Lynch: A History and Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool open at the Grand and the Egyptian, respectively; an extensive retrospective of films from the American indie film distributor Factory 25 plays the Beacon, along with more in their 2010s action film series, including SPL II: A Time for Consequences and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning; the Kiarostami retrospective moves to the SIFF Film Center with his Palme d’Or winner Taste of Cherry along with And Life Goes On (aka Life, and Nothing More…); the Northwest Film Forum hosts their annual Local Sightings Film Festival; and SAM kicks off their fall noir series with Murder, My Sweet. But our Featured Film has got to be Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death, if only because it’s the best movie playing anywhere in Seattle this week, if not this year.

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Tazza: One-Eyed Jacks (Kwon Oh-Kwang) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1946) Fri, Sat, Tues & Weds 
All the Light in the Sky (Joe Swanberg, 2012) Fri Only 
Silver Bullets (Joe Swanberg, 2011) Fri Only 
Bad Fever (Dustin Guy Defa, 2011) Sat Only 
Stinking Heaven (Nathan Silver, 2015) Sat Only 
The Color Wheel (Alex Ross Perry, 2011) Sat Only 
The Oregonian (Calvin Reeder, 2011) Sat Only 
Fake It So Real (Robert Greene, 2011) Sun Only 
Better Say Something: Jay Reatard (Alex Hammond & Ian Markiewicz, 2011) Sun Only 
Sun Don’t Shine (Amy Seimetz, 2011) Sun Only 
Tito (Grace Glowicki) Sun Only 
The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai, 2013) Mon Only Our Podcast 
SPL II: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang, 2015) Mon & Weds Only Our Podcast 
The Incredible Melting Man (Williams Sachs, 1977) Mon Only 
Fritzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982) Tues Only Beer in Attendance
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972) Weds & Thurs Only 
Avengement (Jesse V. Johnson) Thurs Only 
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (John Hyams, 2012) Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) Fri-Weds 
Half Baked (Tamra Davis, 1998) Fri-Weds 

SIFF Egyptian:

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

Century Federal Way:

Tazza: One-Eyed Jacks (Kwon Oh-Kwang) Fri-Thurs 
Nikka Zaildar 3 (Simerjit Singh) Fri-Thurs 
The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994) Sun & Weds Only 

Grand Cinema:

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999) Sat Only 
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) Sat Only Our Podcast 
Lynch: A History (David Shields) Mon & Tues Only Post-Film Discussion w/Director Monday Our Review 
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky & Nicholas de Pencier) Weds Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Murder in the Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story (Adam Dubin) Fri-Sun, Tues & Thurs  
Give Me Liberty (Kirill Mikhanovsky) Fri-Thurs 35mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Gang Leader (Vikram K. Kumar) Fri-Thurs 
Dream Girl (Raaj Shaandilyaa) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Kaappaan/Bandobast (K. V. Anand) Fri-Thurs Tamil or Telugu, Respectively Check Listings
Love Action Drama (Dhyan Sreenivasan) Fri-Thurs 
Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas (Sunny Deol) Fri-Thurs 
Prassthanam (Deva Katta) Fri-Thurs 
The Zoya Factor (Abhishek Sharma) Fri-Thurs 
Vallmiki (Harish Shankar) Fri-Thurs 
The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994) Sun & Weds Only 

Regal Meridian:

The Last Wish (Tian Yusheng) Fri-Thurs 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Fri-Thurs Subtitled
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
Villains (Robert Olsen, Dan Berk) Fri-Thurs 
Tokyo Ghoul S (Kazuhiko Hiramaki & Takuya Kawasaki) Fri Only 

Northwest Film Forum:

Local Sightings Film Festival Fri-Thurs Full Program 

AMC Pacific Place:

Midnight Diner (Tony Leung Ka-fai) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Fri-Thurs 
Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos (Son Yong-Ho) Fri-Thurs 
The Last Wish (Tian Yusheng) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Just a Stranger (Jason Paul Laxamana) Fri-Thurs 
Tod@s Caen (Ariel Winograd) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

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

Seattle Art Museum:

Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk, 1944) Thurs Only 

SIFF Film Center:

Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997) Fri-Sun 
And Life Goes On (Abbas Kiarostami, 1992) Sat & Sun Only 

AMC Southcenter:

Tokyo Ghoul S (Kazuhiko Hiramaki & Takuya Kawasaki) Fri Only 

Regal Thornton Place:

Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Villains (Robert Olsen, Dan Berk) Fri-Thurs 
Tokyo Ghoul S (Kazuhiko Hiramaki & Takuya Kawasaki) Fri Only 
The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994) Sun, Tues & Weds Only

SIFF Uptown:

Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins (Janice Engel) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990) Fri-Sun  
The Last Unicorn ( Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr., 1982) Sat Only 
American Heretics: The Politics of Gospel (Jeanine Isabel Butler) Mon Only 
Fiddlin’ (Julie Simone) Tues Only 
Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky & Nicholas de Pencier) Weds Only 

Varsity Theatre:

American Dreamer (Derrick Borte) Fri-Thurs
Bloodline (Henry Jacobson) Fri-Thurs 
The Sound of Silence (Michael Tyburski) Fri-Thurs
The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994) Weds Only

In Wide Release:

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

Midnight Diner (Tony Leung Ka-fai, 2019)

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I am, as I suspect many people are, afflicted with an unquenchable fondness for movies about food. Close-ups of meat sizzling, the sound of tea being poured into a china cup, the crispy crunch of vegetables being chopped, it all triggers some kind of ASMR-like pleasure center deep in the back of my brain. Combine that with a rich environment filled with deep brown wood, dark stone tile, golden light and a tinkling piano score, and I’m sold. Midnight Diner has all of this and more–it’s only lack is any glimpse of the greatest food of them all. But fortunately there’s more than enough cheese in its screenplay to compensate.

Tony Leung Ka-fai is The Other Tony Leung. Not the one who starred in Hard-Boiled and Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, that’s Tony Leung Chiu-wai, but the one who starred in Prison on Fire and Centre Stage and Election. Chiu-wai starred in Bullet in the Head, Ka-fai starred in A Better Tomorrow III. They both starred in Ashes of Time and The Eagle-Shooting Heroes. Chiu-wai is “Little Tony”, Ka-fai is “Big Tony”. Chiu-wai starred a couple of years ago in a movie called See You Tomorrow, about a bartender who helps people deal with various personal problems, structured as a series of short stories packed with an all-star cast. Ka-fai stars in a movie called Midnight Diner which opens this week and is about a chef who helps people deal with various personal problems, structured as a series of short stories packed with an all-star cast. See You Tomorrow was directed by Zhang Jiajia, and was based on his own story, and is dizzyingly fast-paced, zooming forward and backward in time with egregiously orange images, like Speed Racer meets My Blueberry NightsMidnight Diner was directed by Ka-fai himself, and is based on a manga by Yarō Abe that has previously been adapted into a TV series in Japan, Korea and China, as well as two films directed by Joji Matsuoka. It’s as calm and conventional as See You Tomorrow is garish and unexpected.

Leung plays the chef at a diner in Shanghai that is only open from midnight until seven in the morning. It’s called, in the delightfully direct manner of Chinese movie restaurants, “Midnight Diner”. It’s frequented by a variety of more or less normal people, and Leung tells us their stories in narration. Some of the stories are more interesting than others, but only barely so. There’s a boxer who fights with his mom (Elaine Jin) even though they both really love each other. The boxer falls for a nurse who has a daughter in a wheelchair, but his mother interferes (trying only to help, of course). A young executive (Joyce Cheng) panics about the impending arrival of the boy she was too afraid to pursue in high school. Leung’s brother, a local cop, loses his temper sometimes. A young couple from Hunan break up because he wants to make money and go home while she dreams of making it big as a model. A rock star falls in love with a young singer but loses her.

None of it is particularly moving and it’s certainly not original, but it is weirdly comforting to see something this old fashioned. That comfort is only amplified by the rich sensuousness of restaurant set and the cooking scenes. Leung himself very obviously is not doing the cooking (the only time we see a longshot of food preparation is a bit of him cracking an egg, all the other cooking images are close-ups that block the chef’s face), which is kind of funny. And the warmth and closeness of the restaurant are nicely contrasted with the vast neon darkness of the megalopolis at night. Other recent food movies have delivered the same kinds of pleasures, while also managing to tell an interesting story: Ramen Shop‘s exploration of the legacy of World War II in Singapore, for example, or a young woman’s reconciliation with her mother and her life in the city during a year on a farm in Little Forest (in both the two-part Japanese version and the single-feature Korean version). While Leung himself has been outspoken recently in support of the Hong Kong police and against the protestors there, there’s nothing the least bit controversial in Midnight Diner. It’s a conservative movie to be sure, but in the way of the kindly grandpa at the other end of the counter who dresses in tweed and doles out reassuring aphorisms and gently pours you a cup of tea when you’re sad. It’s a nice movie, and it made me very hungry.

What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? (2018, Roberto Minervini)

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The opening gesture of What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? consists of a move from the outward to the inward. A hard cut yields the first shot in the film, following an adolescent Mardi Gras Indian as he bounds down a suburban street, brandishing a sword and chanting along to a pounding drum beat. This restless image gives way to enclosure, as two young brothers cautiously make their way through a flickering haunted house, with the younger sibling clearly more frightened than the elder. This lateral move, from a figure who never reemerges to two of the film’s main characters, typifies the structural schema of this remarkable film: relations between scenes and characters are fluid and inexact, operating more on contrast and rhythm than thematic heft, and yet yielding tantalizing, often moving associations.

The director of What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? (a title derived from a traditional spiritual), the Italian-born, Houston-based Roberto Minervini, began in fiction filmmaking before moving to documentary, or at least a slippery hybrid that mines both the approximate formal and narratological approach of standard documentary and the performativity that comes with any human being placed in front of a camera. His two previous works in this vein, 2013’s Stop the Pounding Heart and his 2015 breakthrough The Other Side, both followed white outsiders; the former featuring religious goat farmers in Texas, the latter following amphetamine addicts and, in one of the most disquieting and prescient sequences of filmmaking of the decade, far-right nationalists in Louisiana.

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With What You Gonna Do…, Minervini shifts focus within the Bayou State to a different group of outsiders. Hewing exclusively to the black communities in Baton Rouge and its outskirts, he focuses mostly on three separate threads: a bar owner, Judy; the two brothers from the opening, Ronaldo and Titus; and the members of the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The film’s style is stripped of almost all adornment: no intertitles, chyrons, or dividing chapters; no clear delineation of dates — though the film begins and closes with the Mardi Gras Indians, who are otherwise not seen, and the New Black Panther Party’s protest surrounds the one-year anniversary of Alton Sterling’s murder by the police; and no direct interviews or voiceovers.

The approach, then, is almost akin to a hyperrealized — perhaps overly so — version of verite, shot entirely in black-and-white handheld and frequently in extended close-ups. Minervini, who is also one of the camera operators, observes from mere inches away as Judy commiserates with her friends about the ingrained nature of institutional discrimination as a modern form of slavery, or as the New Black Panther Party protests outside of the Baton Rouge City Hall, or as Ronaldo and Titus bike freely down the city streets. His aim here isn’t necessarily one of total sociopolitical equivalency — his sincere belief and support of the radicalism suggested and stated by his adult figures seems apparent — but the coherency and cohesion of this particular experience is paramount.

In the modern landscape, when racial oppression in America and elsewhere is very nearly as severe as it has ever been, What You Gonna Do… understands that the small moments of day-to-day living are just as vital as the outward protests. (Whiteness is the structuring absence in some ways: no white people are visible on screen until the New Black Panther Party’s final scene, in which multiple members are arrested at a protest by taser-wielding police officers.) The vitality that his fluid camera and editing afford these people only enhances their quiet but defiant resistance, achieving a sweeping quality because of, not in spite of, their individuality.

Friday September 13 – Thursday September 19

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Featured Film:

Fagara at the AMC Pacific Place

There’s a bunch of great stuff out there on Seattle Screens this week. The Beacon has Roberto Minervini’s excellent doc What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? along with more killer 2010s action movies: Baahubali: the ConclusionThe Raid and DreddMaster Z and The Grandmaster (in its original, Chinese cut, not the Weinsteined one that originally got released here). Art House Theatre Day this Wednesday brings In Fabric to the Grand and the Uptown and Putney Swope to the Grand Illusion, while Polyester plays Thursday at the Central Cinema and the Uptown on Tuesday has the brilliant meta-zombie comedy One Cut of the Dead (I know that sounds bad, but really, it’s very good). And the Northwest Film Forum kicks the city’s Kiarostami Retrospective into high gear with The Traveler and Where is the Friend’s Home. But I’m going with the most under-the-radar pick for our Featured Film this week, and that is the Heiward Mak-directed, Sammi Cheng-starring family drama Fagara playing only at the Pacific Place. It’s a warm, lovely movie with a terrific cast and a lot of tasty-looking hotpot. 

Playing This Week:

AMC Alderwood:

Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
Freaks (Adam Stein, Zach Lipovsky) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? (Roberto Minervini) Fri-Thurs Our Review
Trading Places (John Landis, 1983) Fri, Tues & Weds Only 
The Best Friday the 13th Movie (???, ???) Fri Only 
Baahubali: The Conclusion (SS Rajamouli, 2017) Sat Only Our Review 
Mission Impossible: Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie, 2018) Sat Only 
Unico in the Island of Magic (Moribi Murano, 1983) Sun Only 
The Raid (Gareth Evans, 2011) Sun Only 
Dredd (Pete Travis, 2012) Sun Only 
Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (Yuen Woo-ping) Mon & Tues Only Our Review 
Daisies (Věra Chytilová, 1966) Weds & Thurs Only 
The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai, 2013) Thurs & Next Mon Only Our Podcast 

Central Cinema:

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (John Hughes, 1986) Fri-Sun, Tues & Weds 
Liquid Sky (Slava Tsukerman, 1982) Fri-Sun, Tues & Weds 
Polyester (John Waters, 1982) Thurs Only Free Screening

SIFF Egyptian:

We Are the Radical Monarchs (Linda Goldstein Knowlton) Thurs Only 

Century Federal Way:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert Wise, 1979) Sun & Weds Only 

Grand Cinema:

Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska & Ljubomir Stefanov) Fri-Thurs 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982) Sat Only 
American Heretics: The Politics of Gospel (Jeanine Isabel Butler) Tues Only 
Say Amen Somebody (George T. Nierenberg, 1982) Weds Only 
In Fabric (Peter Strickland) Weds Only Our Podcast 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Jay Myself (Stephen Wilkes) Fri-Thurs  
The Films of Sarah Jacobson Fri, Sat & Tues Only 
Utano Princesama Maji LOVE Kingdom Movie (Jouji Furuta) Sat & Sun Only 
Putney Swope (Robert Downey, 1969) Weds Only 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Gang Leader (Vikram K. Kumar) Fri-Thurs 
Dream Girl (Raaj Shaandilyaa) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Brother’s Day (Kalabhavan Shajohn) Fri-Thurs 
Pailwaan (S. Krishna) Fri-Thurs 
Section 375 (Ajay Bahl) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Mission Mangal (Jagan Shakti) Fri-Thurs 
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert Wise, 1979) Sun & Weds Only 

Regal Meridian:

Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Aquarela (Viktor Kossakovsky) Fri-Thurs 
Tokyo Ghoul S (Kazuhiko Hiramaki & Takuya Kawasaki) Mon & Weds Only 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Tues & Thurs Only Dubbed Tues

Northwest Film Forum:

Say Amen Somebody (George T. Nierenberg, 1982) Fri-Thurs 
Rezo (Levan Gabriadze) Sat & Sun Only 
Where is the Friend’s Home? (Abbas Kiarostami, 1987) Sat Only 
The Traveler (Abbas Kiarostami, 1974) Mon Only 
Seattle Arabian Nights Festival 2019 – LGBTQ Shorts Thurs Only 

AMC Pacific Place:

Fagara (Heiward Mak) Fri-Thurs Our Review 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Telugu
Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Just a Stranger (Jason Paul Laxamana) Fri-Thurs 
Tod@s Caen (Ariel Winograd) Fri-Thurs 
Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

Luce (Julius Onah) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

Chulas Fronteras & Del Mero Corazón (Les Blank, 1976) Fri-Sun 

AMC Southcenter:

Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 
Luce (Julius Onah) Fri-Thurs 
Freaks (Adam Stein, Zach Lipovsky) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Thornton Place:

Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Robert Wise, 1979) Sun & Weds Only 
El Norte (Gregory Nava, 1983) Sun Only 
Rob Zombie’s 3 from Hell (Rob Zombie) Mon, Tues & Weds 
Tokyo Ghoul S (Kazuhiko Hiramaki & Takuya Kawasaki) Mon & Weds Only 
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi) Tues & Thurs Only Dubbed Tues

SIFF Uptown:

Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins (Janice Engel) Fri-Thurs 
Official Secrets (Gavin Hood) Fri-Thurs 
David Crosby: Remember My Name (A.J. Eaton) Fri-Weds 
One Cut of the Dead (Shinichiro Ueda) Tues Only 
In Fabric (Peter Strickland) Weds Only Our Podcast 

In Wide Release:

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

Friday September 6 – Thursday September 12

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Featured Film:

La Flor at the Northwest Film Forum

It’s a stacked weekend of movies on Seattle Screens, with the 2010s action film series continuing at the Beacon with some longtime SSS favorites (Baahubali, Blackhat, Drug War), the terrific The Case of Hana and Alice Sunday only at the Grand Illusion, and Rashomon at the SIFF Film Center. But the film event of the week is doubtless the Film Forum’s presentation of Mariano Llinás’s 14 hour epic La Flor. It’s been one of the films I’ve been most excited to see since first hearing the buzz last year, but I missed it at VIFF (Lawrence didn’t though, check out his review) and I haven’t had a chance to catch up with it yet (but I will, now that summer vacation is finally over). They’re showing its six episodes in four parts spread over three days (Fri-Sun), and this will likely be your only chance to see it in a theatre. As with past marathon screening events (Satantango, Out 1) attendance is sure to become a mark of Seattle cinephile credibility.

Playing This Week:

Admiral Theater:

Maiden (Alex Holmes) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Alderwood:

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Colaizzo) Fri-Thurs 
Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Joe Talbot) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

‘I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians’ (Radu Jude) Fri-Mon, Weds-Thurs Our Podcast
Blackhat (Michael Mann, 2015) Fri & Mon Only 
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie, 2015) Fri & Sat Only 
Baahubali: The Beginning (SS Rajamouli, 2015) Sat Only Our Review 
Space Adventure Cobra (Osamu Dezaki, 1982) Sun Only 
My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, 1936) Sun & Weds Only 
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999) Sun & Thurs Only 
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (John D. Hancock, 1971) Mon Only 
Drug War (Johnnie To, 2012) Weds Only Our Review Our Podcast 
Society (Brian Yuzna, 1989) Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006) Fri-Weds 
The Land Before Time (Don Bluth, 1988) Fri-Weds 

SIFF Egyptian:

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Colaizzo) Fri-Thurs 

Century Federal Way:

Jaddi Sardar (Manbhavan Singh) Fri-Thurs 
Surkhi Bindi (Jagdeep Sidhu) Fri-Thurs 

Grand Cinema:

Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska & Ljubomir Stefanov) Fri-Thurs 
Chopping Mall (Jim Wynorski, 1986) Sat Only 
Wild Rose (Tom Harper) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Ode to Joy (Jason Winer) Fri-Thurs  
Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story (John Anderson) Fri Only 
SECS Fest 2019 Sat Only 
The Case of Hana & Alice (Shunji Iwai, 2015) Sun Only Our Review 
Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska & Ljubomir Stefanov) Mon-Thurs 

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Colaizzo) Fri-Thurs 
Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Enai Noki Paayum Thota (Gautham Menon) Fri-Thurs 
Ittymaani: Made in China (Jibi-Joju) Fri-Thurs 
Magamuni (Santhakumar) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, Check Listings
Mission Mangal (Jagan Shakti) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Meridian:

Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

La Flor (Mariano Llinás) Fri-Sun Four Parts, Check Listings Our Review 
The City as Character Fri Only 
Art & Mind (Amélie Ravalec) Sat Only 
Harold & Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971) Sun Only 
Low Low (Nick Richey) Mon Only 
IRIS: A Space Opera by Justice (André Chemetoff & Armand Beraud) Tues Only 
Rezo (Levan Gabriadze) Weds & Next Sat & Sun Only 
Kon Kon (Cecilia Vicuña) Weds Only 
Night of the Creeps (Fred Dekker, 1986) Thurs Only 

AMC Oak Tree:

Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Pacific Place:

Luce (Julius Onah) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Telugu
Chhichhore (Nitesh Tiwari) Fri-Thurs 
Just a Stranger (Jason Paul Laxamana) Fri-Thurs 
Hello, Love, Goodbye (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

Before You Know It (Hannah Pearl Utt) Fri-Thurs 
Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Colaizzo) Fri-Thurs 
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent) Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Film Center:

Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950) Fri-Sun 

AMC Southcenter:

Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 
Killerman (Malik Bader) Fri-Thurs 
Tod@s Caen (Ariel Winograd) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Thornton Place:

Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Colaizzo) Fri-Thurs 
IRIS: A Space Opera by Justice (André Chemetoff & Armand Beraud) Tues Only 
You are Here (Moze Mossanen) Weds Only 

SIFF Uptown:

Tigers are not Afraid (Issa Lopez) Fri-Thurs 
David Crosby: Remember My Name (A.J. Eaton) Fri-Thurs 
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent) Fri-Thurs 

Varsity Theatre:

Satanic Panic (Chelsea Stardust) Fri-Thurs
Dauntless (Mike Phillips) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

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

The Case of Hana and Alice (Shunji Iwai, 2015)

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What do you do if you want to make a prequel to one of your best movies, one built as much around the performances of two terrific young actresses more than anything else, but a decade has passed and the actresses are now much too old to be playing the same characters? Well, if you’re Shunji Iwai, you make it as an anime. That’s the case with The Case of Hana and Alice, the prequel to his 2004 film Hana and Alice. Anne Suzuki and Yū Aoi (respectively) reprise their roles in voice form with an origin story for the two slightly odd friends. In most respects, the film is of a piece with the original: both are slice of life films about teen girls, with meandering plots filled with small moments of wonder and mystery. That they could be so similar and yet be made in dramatically different media speaks to the paucity of Hollywood imagination, where “animated” is a genre unto itself (an almost exclusively kid-oriented one), rather than merely one method among many for telling a story.

Alice moves into a new house and starts a new school in the 9th grade. She’s immediately set upon by her classmates because her assigned desk belonged to a boy who is rumored to have died the year before, which the students have interpreted as some kind of occult phenomenon. She fights back (ably beating up one boy who tries to torment her) and sets out to solve the mystery of the former student’s disappearance, which leads her to her reclusive neighbor, Hana, who sat behind him in class the year before. The two eventually join forces, with Hana coming up with various schemes to track down the boy’s father and Alice lackadaisically playing along.

This leads to a remarkable yet entirely tangential sequence, as Alice, accidentally following and then befriending the wrong old man, finds herself in a miniature remake of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Ikiru. With several shots lifted straight out of the Kurosawa, she befriends her wistful elder, visiting a crowded restaurant and a swing set with him. It’s a completely inessential sidetrack, having literally nothing to do with furthering the plot, and it’s absolutely perfect. A film about the wonder and possibility of youth taking the time to meditate for a bit on what it means to be old and alone.

The Kurosawa thing makes me think about the connections between Japanese feature film and anime. One of his contemporary Yasujiro Ozu’s more famous recurring stylistic features is the pillow shot, a short scene of nothing in particular, a sky, a city street, some power lines. They serve no narrative purpose whatsoever, but they help with the pacing of his films, allowing a momentary breath between scenes, giving the audience a space to think about what they’re seeing. Such shots are also a common feature of manga and anime, individual panels with no story-related content that simply serve to break-up the flow of the narrative, and they’re as anathema to tradition American comic book making as Ozu’s pillow shots are to standard Hollywood editing. In the American tradition, forward movement of the plot is everything, and anything else is a waste of time. This is on its face an absurdly limiting idea of narrative art, but it persists nonetheless (think of all the people out there complaining about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood‘s leisurely pacing as a failure to properly edit).

I don’t know much about anime, but I’ve watched a few series and movies and have maintained subscriptions to both Crunchyroll and Funimation for awhile, despite not really using them as much as I should (as it is with all my streaming services). This summer the tragic fire at Kyoto Animation finally spurred me to watch some of their series: Sound! Euphonium, of which last year’s wonderful Liz and the Bluebird was a spin-off; and K-On!, an earlier series that is also about a high school musical group. They’re terrific, almost directionless shows (K-On! more so than the other: it has an episode that is literally about it being rainy outside, and another about how it’s too hot in the music room) that aren’t so much about growing up or coming of age as they are simply about being young. The Case of Hana and Alice is that kind of movie. And maybe it’s that I’m becoming more and more conscious of the fact that I’m nearer in age to the elderly businessman than I am to the kooky teen girls, but it’s the kind of movie you don’t want to miss when it plays for two more shows this Sunday at the Grand Illusion.

The Seattle Screen Scene Top 100 Films of All-Time Project

When the new Sight & Sound poll came out in 2012, Mike and I each came up with hypothetical Top Tens of our own. For the next few years, we came up with an entirely new Top Ten on our podcast, The George Sanders Show, every year around Labor Day. The podcast has ended, but the project continues here at Seattle Screen Scene.

The idea is that we keep doing this until the next poll comes out in 2022, by which time we’ll each have a Top 100 list. Well, I will. Mike will have only 98 because he repeated two from his 2012 list on the 2013 one.

Here are Mike’s Top Ten Films of All-Time for 2019:

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1. One Week (Buster Keaton & Edward Cline, 1920)

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2. King Kong (Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933)

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3. Pit Stop (Jack Hill, 1969)

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4. A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)

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5. The Truth About De-evolution (Chuck Statler, 1976)

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6. Tampopo (Juzo Itami, 1985)

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7. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

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8. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)

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9. Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)

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10. Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

 

And here are Sean’s Top Ten Films of All-Time for 2019:

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1. Spring in a Small Town (Fei Mu, 1948)

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2. The Quiet Man (John Ford, 1952)

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3. Kiss Me Kate (George Sidney, 1953)

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4. Airplane! (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams & Jerry Zucker, 1980)

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5. Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981)

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6. City on Fire (Ringo Lam, 1987)

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7. Platform (Jia Zhangke, 2000)

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8. Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003)

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9. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)

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10. Baahubali (SS Rajamouli, 2015/2017)

Friday August 30 – Thursday September 5

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Featured Film:

Saaho at Various Multiplexes

Honestly I haven’t seen this Indian action movie yet, but it sounds pretty crazy and it stars Prabhas and is his first film since Baahubali, which is reason enough to watch it. So if you want to prep for the Beacon’s upcoming presentation of both Baahubali movies, this seems like the wise way to go. That’s going to be part of their amazing series of the decade’s best action movies, and I’m sure I’ll be mentioning it again in this space. It’s kicking off this week with some recent Hollywood movies: Mad Max Fury Road and Creed. In other rep releases, the Cinerama has a Stephen King film series. They don’t have the best Stephen King movie, but they do have the second best: check out John Carpenter’s adaptation of Christine if you’ve never seen it. But maybe take the bus to get there.

Playing This Week:

Admiral Theater:

Maiden (Alex Holmes) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Alderwood:

Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Hindi
Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 
Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Joe Talbot) Fri-Thurs 

The Beacon Cinema:

The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg) Fri-Thurs 
Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (Pamela B. Green) Sat, Sun & Tues Only Our Review
Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) Sat & Sun Only 
Nine to Five (Colin Higgins, 1980) Sun & Mon Only 
The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961) Mon Only 
Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2015) Tues-Thurs Only Our Review
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) Weds & Thurs Only 

Central Cinema:

Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006) Fri-Weds 
The Land Before Time (Don Bluth, 1988) Fri-Weds 

Cinerama:

Stephen King Film Series Fri-Thurs 

SIFF Egyptian:

Brittany Runs a Marathon (Paul Downs Colaizzo) Fri-Thurs 

Century Federal Way:

Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Tamil or Telugu, Check Listings
Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 
Ishq My Religion (Gurdeep Dhillon) Fri-Thurs 
Surkhi Bindi (Jagdeep Sidhu) Fri-Thurs 
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) Sun & Weds Only 

Grand Cinema:

Luce (Julius Onah) Fri-Thurs 
Murder in the Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story (Adam Dubin) Sat Only 
The Spy Behind Home Plate (Aviva Kempner) Tues Only 

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Ode to Joy (Jason Winer) Fri-Thurs  
Attack of the Beast Creatures (Michael Stanley, 1985) Fri Only VHS 
The Case of Hana & Alice (Shunji Iwai, 2015) Sat, Sun & Next Sun Only

Cinemark Lincoln Square:

Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, Check Listings
Mission Mangal (Jagan Shakti) Fri-Thurs 
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) Sun & Weds Only 

Regal Meridian:

Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Hindi
Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 
Mission Mangal (Jagan Shakti) Fri-Thurs 
Love, Antosha (Garret Price) Fri-Thurs 

Northwest Film Forum:

The Mountain (Rick Alverson) Fri-Sun, Tues-Thurs 
Contemporary Experimental Films and Video Art from Germany, Vol. 4 Fri & Sat Only 
What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972) Sun Only 
Art & Mind (Amélie Ravalec) Weds-Thurs & Next Sat Only 

AMC Pacific Place:

Luce (Julius Onah) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Parkway Plaza:

Saaho (Sujeeth) Fri-Thurs Telugu
Luce (Julius Onah) Fri-Thurs 
Mission Mangal (Jagan Shakti) Fri-Thurs 
Hello, Love, Goodbye (Cathy Garcia-Molina) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Seattle:

One Child Nation (Nanfu Wang & Lynn Zhang) Fri-Thurs 

AMC Southcenter:

Don’t Let Go (Jacob Aaron Estes) Fri-Thurs 
Killerman (Malik Bader) Fri-Thurs 
Tod@s Caen (Ariel Winograd) Fri-Thurs 
Maiden (Alex Holmes) Fri-Thurs 

Regal Thornton Place:

Ne Zha (Jiaozi) Fri-Thurs 
Luce (Julius Onah) Fri-Thurs 
Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) Sun & Weds Only 

SIFF Uptown:

The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent) Fri-Thurs 
Echo in the Canyon (Andrew Slater) Fri-Thurs 

Varsity Theatre:

Itsy Bitsy (Micah Gallo) Fri-Thurs
Santa Girl (Blayne Weaver) Fri-Thurs

In Wide Release:

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

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (dir. Pamela Green, 2018)

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Too few people know about the extraordinary woman who arguably created cinema as we know it. With La Fée aux Choux (1896), Alice Guy-Blaché became the first director in history to use film to do something that we now take for granted as the obvious job of the movies: to tell a story. (Some critics and scholars make a case for the Lumière brothers as the inventors of fiction film with the staged prank depicted in their 1895 L’Arroseur Arrosé, but this argument depends entirely on what one believes counts as a “story,” as opposed to an incident or attraction.) To note only that Guy-Blaché was “the world’s first woman director,” then, is to do her somewhat of a disservice, given her other even more remarkable achievements. (She also, for example, was the first director in history to use synchronized sound in film, decades before The Jazz Singer.) Pamela Green’s long-overdue documentary Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché is therefore a little safe and cautious in calling Guy-Blaché only “one of” the earliest fiction filmmakers. Even so, Green’s compelling account performs an essential service in at last giving a remarkable and nearly forgotten figure from cinema history the feature-length documentary that she deserves. Be Natural (entitled after the advice Guy-Blaché always gave her actors) is wholly engrossing, and by turns surprising, illuminating, and moving.

Continue reading Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (dir. Pamela Green, 2018)”