SIFF 2018 Preview: Week Two

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We’re now into the second week of the Seattle International Film Festival. So far, here at Seattle Screen Scene we’ve reviewed: Freaks and Geeks: The DocumentaryFirst Reformed (twice), and People’s Republic of Desire, with much more to come in the next few weeks.

Here are some of the movies we’re looking forward to that are playing during the second week of the festival:

Angels Wear White – Director Vivian Qu was received acclaim for this, her second feature on the festival and award circuit for almost a year now. SIFF’s description: “A young woman witnesses a local official’s assault against two schoolgirls, leading to a complex aftermath of cover-ups and gaslighting.” I quite liked Qu’s first film, Trap Street, an effective noirish film about living in a surveillance state, so I have high hopes for this one.

The Third Murder – Fresh off his Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, here is the prolific Kore-eda Hirokazu’s film from last year, a courtroom drama that sounds very different from his more popular (in the US at least) movies about Japanese families.

Love Education – The latest from director and star Sylvia Chang (herself the subject of an on-going series at the Metrograph in New York, which I wrote about last week) is about a woman who hopes to exhume her father’s ashes so they can be buried with her recently deceased mother. Problem is the ashes currently reside under the watchful eye of her father’s first, and possibly only, wife. A nuanced and moving exploration of ideals of love and commitment across generations and genders, it’s surely one of the best new films at SIFF this year.

Let the Sunshine In – No less anticipted though is the arrival at last of Claire Denis’s latest film, a romantic comedy starring Juliette Binoche. Probably the one film from 2017 I most regret not having seen yet.

The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful – This Taiwanese film from director Yang Ya-chee was somewhat of a surprise Best Picture winner at last year’s Golden Horse Awards, especially considering its strong competition (which included Love Education and Angels Wear White). But with the always great Kara Hui starring as the head of a crime family, it certainly should be pretty great.

Belle de jour – Luis Buñuel’s classic starring Catherine Deneuve as a bored housewife who decides to dabble in prostitution gets the restoration treatment. We talked about it on The George Sanders Show way back in 2013.

The Widowed Witch – “A third-time widow who falls on especially hard times is declared cursed, but turns superstition to her advantage by travelling the wintry landscape of rural China and offering supernatural advice, in this modern tale of mysticism told with mordant humor and starkly beautiful cinematography.” Sold.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda – A documentary about the Japanese musician and composer (who starred with David Bowie in the very great World War II film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence). Another in an interesting selection of musician docs at SIFF this year.

SIFF 2018: First Reformed (2017, Paul Schrader)

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

Rare is the modern film that understands the consequences of what it depicts and how it achieves this to the level of First Reformed. In many ways the perfect distillation of what Paul Schrader has sought throughout his career, its influences range from transcendental cinema to Classical Hollywood, yet its many concerns seem uniquely its own. Ethan Hawke, as an ailing reverend who undergoes an extended long dark night of the soul, is revelatory.

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

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

SIFF 2018 Preview: Week One

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Today marks the start of the annual odyssey that is the Seattle International Film Festival. Here at Seattle Screen Scene we’ll have full coverage of the festival, with reviews of as many movies as we can manage to see and maybe even an episode or two of The Frances Farmer Show to go along with it.

Here are some of the movies we’re looking forward to playing during the first week of the festival:

First Reformed – Ethan Hawke plays a country priest in the latest from Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and director of Cat People.

Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary – Probably won’t be much in the way of a film, but even an overblown DVD extra should be worth watching since Freaks and Geeks was one of the best TV shows of the 2000s.

Dead Pigs – Director Cathy Yan got the job directing the upcoming Harley Quinn movie, which probably says something about the appeal of this, her feature debut. SIFF’s tagline makes it sound promising: “Five Shanghai residents find their lives converging amidst the backdrop of a mysterious river of dead swine.”

Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day – If I didn’t have to be out of town this weekend, spending quality time with my children, I would be at the Film Center on Saturday watching this marathon screening of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s TV series, “a decades-spanning social history of postwar Germany as told through the life of a young toolmaker and his sprawling group of friends, coworkers, and family.” It also plays in three different parts on Wednesdays throughout the festival.

People’s Republic of Desire – Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like SIFF’s Asian Crossroads and China Stars programs are by far the most interesting of this year’s festival. This documentary by Hao Wu covers the culture of internet fame in contemporary China.

The Greenaway Alphabet – I like the few Peter Greenaway movies I’ve seen (especially Prospero’s Books), and he seems like a genuinely weird person, so this doc about him, made by his wife Saskia Boddeke, should be fun.

Sansho the Bailiff – One of the absolute highlights of the festival, almost guaranteed to be the best film playing in Seattle this month, is this restoration Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1954 masterpiece about two kidnapped children who grow up in medieval servitude, dreaming of their mother and a better life. One of the most emotionally devastating films ever made, don’t miss it.

Redoubtable – I’m refusing to acknowledge that they changed the name of The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius’s film about Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky’s 1968 romance. “Godard mon amour” isn’t just a much less interesting title, I’m pretty sure they changed it to disassociate the film from all the reviews that blasted it on its festival run last year. It makes my list of want-to-see films, purely for its car wreck spectacle value, which I imagine approaches Weekend-like dimensions.

I Am Not a Witch – I don’t really know anything about Rungano Nyoni’s film other than that it got a lot of strong buzz on the festival circuit last fall. SIFF says: “A nine-year-old Zambian girl is thrown into a witch camp after she’s blamed for a seemingly innocuous accident.” Could go either way.

Edward II – Derek Jarman’s 1991 film is another of the strong archival presentations at this year’s festival, an adaption (more or less) of Christopher Marlowe’s play about the gay 14th Century English monarch, with Tilda Swinton as his queen, Isabella.

The African Storm – Sylvestre Amoussou’s film about a fictional country in Africa confronting the forces of imperial capitalism by nationalizing their mining industry.

Matangi/Maya/MIA – A doc about the Sri Lankan pop star and activist MIA, which SIFF calls “a kinetic collage of her own footage”. I really liked her first two albums, but have lost track of her career since then, so I’m looking forward to catching up with this.

John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection – A documentary about the fiery genius tennis player, made by Julien Faraut and focusing on footage from McEnroe’s performance at the 1984 French Open. I don’t know anything about tennis, but it sounds fascinating.