SIFF 2017: Week Four Preview


This weekend the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival comes to an end, with three more days featuring another handful of interesting titles. here are some of the ones we’re anticipating.

The DoorRogue One star Jiang Wen’s brother Jiang Wu (A Touch of Sin) stars in this interdimensional comedy about a mechanic who discovers a time-portal.

The Feels – Constance Wu stars in Jenée LaMarque’s film in which “a lesbian bachelorette weekend goes awry when one of the brides admits she’s never had an orgasm.”

A Ghost Story – In one of the year’s most-anticipated American films, Casey Affleck plays a white-sheeted ghost haunting his wife, Rooney Mara.

The Witches – SIFF-honoree Anjelica Huston stars in Nicholas Roeg’s 1990 Roald Dahl adaptation, which is apparently a kind of touchstone for people younger than me.

Free and Easy – A variety of oddballs and conmen interact in a Northern Chinese town in Jun Geng’s film. SIFF compares it to Jarmusch and Kaurismaki.

Taste of Cherry – The late Abbas Kiarostami’s most famous film, winner of the 1997 Palme d’Or, about a man looking for someone to bury him after he kills himself. Stick a jazz band on my hearse wagon/Raise hell as I stroll along.


SIFF 2017: Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)


Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

20 days into #SIFF2017 and this is the first time I’ve seen something truly unique, a new cinematic voice. An elegant mashup of Ozu (the plot: convincing a young woman to move on with her life), Linklater (a man and a woman talk about art and life) and Antonioni (architecture!), a Platonic romance with lovely performances from John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson (and Parker Posey!), Kogonada’s debut feature is precise and warm but never sentimental.

SIFF 2017: Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian, 2017)


Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

The second feature from director Liu Jian is an animated network-noir that in its amoral glee at the interconnected machinations of crooks and losers recalls early Tarantino, or at least his Korean imitators. A bag of money is stolen and passes through many vicious hands in dingy, bleak sections of a city at night (the pale, grimy animation recalls a hungover Duckman), a world away from the glitzy capitalist paradises of recent Chinese urban rom-coms.

SIFF 2017: The Little Hours (Jeff Baena, 2017)


Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

No doubt parallels abound between Boccaccio’s plague-ridden Renaissance and our own apocalyptic present, so surely the time is ripe for this adaptation of a story from The Decameron, about vulgar nuns fighting the patriarchy the only way they can: sex, alcohol and witchcraft. Very funny, with Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Kate Micucci leading the improv-ed script. Dave Franco is adequate, but fortunately his role mostly just requires being yelled at and looking pretty.

SIFF 2017: Wind River (Taylor Sheridan, 2017)


Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

Like Hell or High Water and Sicario, for which he wrote the scripts, Taylor Sheridan’s second feature is the story of manly men and women doing manly things in a manly genre and a manly wilderness. This time, it’s a park ranger (Jeremy Renner) helping an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) track down a murderer on a reservation. The ending’s a disaster, but strong performances from Native actors Gil Birmingham and Graham Greene almost redeem it.

SIFF 2017: Landline (Gillian Robespierre, 2017)

Landline - Still 1

Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

Following up their excellent 2014 rom-com Obvious Child, director Robespierre and star Jenny Slate reunite for a family comedy set in 1995. Slate and her teenage sister (Abby Quinn) discover their father (John Turturro) is cheating on their mom (Edie Falco) and spiral out of control into comic misadventures. Robespierre’s films resemble much of 21st century Hollywood comedy in their openness, vulgarity and spontaneity, but they have an emotional depth and maturity that the Apatows can’t fathom.

SIFF 2017: Week Three Preview


We’ve passed the halfway point of the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival, and there are still a number of interesting films to come. Here are some of the ones playing this week, between June 2 and June 8:

Soul on a String – Director Zhang Yang returns with what appears to be a genre companion to last year’s Paths of the Soul, about a Buddhist traveling through Tibet.

I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach’s 2016 Palme d’Or winner is about one man struggling to work a computer and other failures of Britain’s public welfare system.

Gook – Justin Chon’s comedy about two Korean-American brothers caught up in the Rodney King riots.

Mr. Long – Chang Chen plays a hitman hiding out cooking noodles in a small Japanese town in this film from Sabu. SIFF calls it “Yojimbo meets Tampopo“.

The Reagan Show – Archival footage takes us back to the first fake presidency of my lifetime. Should be fun.

The Dumb Girl of Portici – Archival presentation of silent film director Lois Weber’s adaptation of the opera that inadvertently helped spark the Belgian Revolution. Stars superstar ballerina Anna Pavlova.

My Journey through French Cinema – Bertrand Tavernier’s amiable history lesson loses  focus in its final third, but is nonetheless a fun and insightful idiosyncratic look at mid-Century French film. Will make you want to watch Eddie Constantine films.

Landline – Director Gillian Robespierre and star Jenny Slate, who’s Obvious Child is one of the better Hollywood romantic comedies of this decade, reunite for this film about two sisters who discover their father is having an affair.

Wind River – Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan directs this backwoods policier with Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson investigating a murder in snowy Wyoming.

Brainstorm – Douglas Trumbell’s 1983 mind-bender starring Christopher Walken and Louise Fletcher as scientists attempting to keep their brain-recording virtual reality device from the military.

Love and Duty – Archival presentation featuring Ruan Lingyu, one of the greatest of all silent film stars, in a romantic melodrama directed by Bu Wancang. With live piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin.

Columbus – Video essayist and critic Kogonada’s debut feature stars John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson a couple who meet and travel through Columbus, Indiana.

Nocturama – Director Bertand Bonello’s film about young leftist terrorists hanging out in a shopping mall.

The Frances Farmer Show #12: SIFF 2017 Part One


Halfway through the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival, Sean, Melissa, Evan and Ryan get together to talk about what they’ve seen, what they liked, didn’t like and are looking forward to as the festival moves into its final two weeks. Film discussed include: Yourself and Yours, Person to Person, Sami Blood, Searchers, Dawson City: Frozen Time, Knife in the Clear Water, Beach Rats, Maurice, Vampire Cleanup department, Cook Up a Storm, God of War, By the Time it Gets Dark, The Unknown Girl, Finding Kukan, and Bad Black.

You can listen to the show by downloading it directly, or by subscribing on iTunes or the podcast player of your choice.

SIFF 2017: Person to Person (Dustin Guy Defa, 2017)

Person to Person

Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

A self-consciously NYC network movie, Person to Person follows five loosely tied plot strands over the course of a single day in the Big Apple. Whether it be a crime investigation, a moment of self-discovery, or the chase for a rare vinyl, Defa manages to find the sweet and lovely in every close-up and every little character moment, precisely jumping around in a characteristically lived-in city. It’s clear-eyed and wonderfully executed with gentle precision.

SIFF 2017: God of War (Gordon Chan, 2017)


Note: as this film is under embargo until its release in the Seattle area, here are exactly 75 words.

It’s the King Hu film I can never quite remember, The Valiant Ones, remade as PRC propaganda, all national, class and gender unity in the face of foreign aggressors (in this case: samurai masquerading as pirates in Ming China). The action is mostly very good, but there isn’t nearly enough Sammo Hung and Vincent Zhao (The Blade) weirdly looks like Jimmy Fallon now. Veteran kung fu/ninja star Yasuaki Kurata is exceptional as the samurai leader.