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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

In The Club

posted by on June 12 at 3:21 PM

The man in the image is the director of a British movie called Surveillance.
siff155b61004316.jpg When I talked with the director, Paul Oremland, in SIFF's hospitality lounge near the top of W Hotel, he shared this piece of information with me: "In the UK, a person is photographed, caught on camera at an average of 360 times a day."
I was astonished.
"But it doesn't end there. In the UK, the government can keep track up to 50 million license plates a day."
I was doubly astonished.
"But it's not just the government. They other day, I took money out of a cash machine and 15 minutes later, I received a call from my bank in London. They just wanted to make sure I was in the States."
I was triply astonished. The UK has become one big eyeball.

As for Oremland's film, Surveillance, which shows today at 4:30 pm at the Egyptian, this is what we, The Stranger, wrote:

Fact 1: Paul Oremland’s dramatic thriller follows a young gay Brit led by a chance one-night stand into a twisty government conspiracy. Fact 2: Britain’s been making better gay-themed films (and more subtle dramatic thrillers) than the U.S. since the dawn of cinema.

I wonder what Grant Cogswell has to say about that?
SIFFcd27139a9f1b.jpg Cogswell was in the lounge, drinking wine, talking with a Scandinavian director, talking with his director, Daniel Gildark, and talking with me. At one point, he told me that his film, Cthulhu, has much changed since its test screening a month or so ago. "It's far better and clearer." Be it so or not so, the poster for Cthulhu deserves some sort of SIFF award. It's a perfectly mad image.

SIFF 2007: Tuesday Highlights

posted by on June 12 at 2:47 PM

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in the festival continue below and at


Skip the early matinee. You actually already skipped the early matinee. It was about interior design.

Neptune, 4 pm. We didn't get to review it, but Slant Magazine says Euphoria trades in "sumptuous visual beauty," though the characters are a little thin.


Early evening is a tossup: The Scandinavian Falkenburg Farewell (Bradley Steinbacher calls it "startling" and "wholly original") at the Egyptian, 7 pm or the Indonesian musical Opera Jawa (Lindy West calls it "gorgeous, frightening, freakishly weird") at SIFF Cinema, 6:30 pm.

Opera Jawa

Pacific Place, 9:30 pm. Charles Mudede recommends Sons, a sort of Norwegian Little Children.

Monday, June 11, 2007

SIFF 2007: Monday Highlights

posted by on June 11 at 12:06 PM

Finally! We're in the final week of SIFF. The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in the festival continue below and at

Pacific Place, 2 pm. A Parting Shot is pretty damn good--a cool drama with just a trace of the thriller it might have been. More about lead actor Isild Le Besco here. This may be her best performance yet.

You could stay at Pacific Place for the Montreal toughs in The Point (4:30 pm), but SIFF Cinema, 4:30 pm has got something twice as ridiculous and twice as enjoyable: The hysterical lesbian May-September prison piano drama Four Minutes.


Eddie Muller is in town if you want to hear him introduce the mediocre B noir The Big Combo (SIFF Cinema, 7 pm). But you're better off at Pacific Place, 7 pm for The Paper Will Be Blue, one of only a few Romanian films at SIFF 2007. Meanwhile, Pacific Northwest Ballet AD Peter Boal will wax nostalgic about being tutored by Balanchine at the age of 10, no doubt, in his introduction to the lovely documentary Ballets Russes (Harvard Exit, 6:30 pm). It had a theatrical run in Seattle relatively recently, but if you've been following the new directions Boal has been taking PNB, it's the place to be.

SIFF Cinema, 9:15 pm. The noir melodrama The Damned Don't Cry is already out on video, but I'm going to go ahead and call it for Joan Crawford and, of course, an introduction from professional raconteur Eddie Muller.


Other good options are Out of Time (Pacific Place, 9:30 pm), the sad little doc about Viennese businesses from another era, and Shotgun Stories (Harvard Exit, 9:30 pm), a multigenerational Arkansas drama produced by David Gordon Green.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

SIFF 2007: Sunday Highlights

posted by on June 10 at 10:21 AM

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in every day of America's biggest film festival continue below and at


SIFF Cinema, 11 am. There were some questions raised in the comments earlier about whether the opening sequence of Sharkwater, in which director/subject Rob Stewart embraces a shark, posed a danger to the shark. The answer, according to Rob Stewart, is sort of. 1) Apparently (don't try this at home), sharks get really wonked out if you tickle them in their magnetically sensitive regions. This is how the hug was instigated. 2) Not all sharks need to keep swimming in order to move new oxygen over their gills. 3) The huggee was one of the sharks that needs to keep swimming in order to move oxygen over its gills. But 4) the amount of time the huggee was hugged was not sufficient to starve the shark of oxygen. I hope that clears up some confusion. Sharkwater has mediocre elements (the narration could be less repetitive), but it's riveting.

Pacific Place, 1:30 pm. The bleak, hyperrealist drama The Paper Will Be Blue is an excellent example of the new breed of Romanian cinema. Don't miss.

Harvard Exit, 4 pm. Commemorate Charles Nelson Reilly (RIP) with The Life of Reilly, a documentary of his recent one-man show about a troubled childhood.

Neptune, 7:30 pm. The locally produced film Made in China takes a look at the children of white missionaries raised in China. Christopher Frizzelle says it's fascinating.

The night screening is ideal for people who don't currently hold tickets. Who wants to see anything at 9 pm on a Sunday night? Unfortunately, nothing all that exciting is going on.

They Have Faces: Part Four

posted by on June 10 at 9:45 AM


Here are seven more great faces, including the late Kryzstof Kieslowski [above], that are featured in this year's film festival.
I'll probably stop here, although there are thousands of other intriguing mugs out there. Click the links for parts one, two, and
three (Annie dedicated an entry to actor/director Isild Le Besco).


Toni Collette: Evening, Like Minds. I have no idea if these films
are any good—the former, from the Hungarian director of the Holocaust drama Fateless, looks aestheticized to within an inch
of its life—but Collette makes everything she touches that
much better
. Like Minds plays the Neptune on 6/10 and Evening plays the Neptune on 6/16. (Evening opens in Seattle on 6/29.)


Isabelle Huppert: La Vie Promise. You may recognize her from The Piano Teacher, I Heart Huckabees, and the films of Claude Chabrol. Her impassive face is so inscrutable, there's an entire book dedicated to it. She's been photographed by all the greats, making her a sort of modern-day Garbo or Dietrich—with freckles. There are no more SIFF screenings, but La Vie Promise is available on DVD.

Continue reading "They Have Faces: Part Four" »

Saturday, June 9, 2007

SIFF 2007: Sat Highlights

posted by on June 9 at 9:34 AM

Dude, I just saw Sharkwater, and one thing Jen Graves neglected to mention is that its director and rather puny, adorable primary subject has an abiding aversion to clothes.


This is Rob Stewart "free diving," a technique that relies on the intake of a single solitary breath and, conveniently enough, requires no cumbersome equipment. Just a Speedo.

Anyway, sharks are dying! Don't eat shark fin soup! Sharkwater plays again Sunday at 11 am. The puny adorable one should be inattendance.

Now for today's picks.


Egyptian, 11 am. In his guise as a Lacanian intellectual, Slavoj Zizek can be a bit of a hack. But below this sinister exterior lurks a genius film critic. Watch A Pervert's Guide to Cinema and learn.

Harvard Exit, 1:30 pm. Lindy West was horrified by Soldiers of Conscience, a fascinating look at the psychological training for modern warfare.

Late afternoon. Take a break, unless you like idealistic anticolonialism movies from the '70s.

Egyptian, 7 pm. The Boss of It All: the movie that plunged Lars von Trier into a deep and debilitating depression. It's funny!

Harvard Exit, 9:15 pm. Charles recommends Northern Light.

Neptune, midnight. SXSW horror favorite The Signal.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Realm of the Senses

posted by on June 8 at 5:34 PM

If you're reading this post then you've missed your last chance to see this work of beauty: 04.jpg A part of this actress, Anna Tsuchiya, is Russian American and the other part of her is Japanese. She is an established pop star, an emerging film goddess, and in the movie that's running in SIFF at this very moment,Sakuran, she plays a feisty whore."How beautiful you are/Just like a movie star."

SIFF 2007: Freaky Friday Highlights

posted by on June 8 at 11:49 AM


If you haven’t seen the print edition of this week’s paper, there’s a sweetened and condensed “SIFF Picks” for week three of the festival on page 95. Check it out online here. Daily recommendations for the festival continue below and at

I'd say something about the films Thursday, but since I spent an hour driving around Magnuson Park with my son looking for the Pyramid practice for the Solstice Parade, I didn't see any. Maybe I should get a cell phone... or a watch. Nah, all I need is my Platinum Pass to SIFF...


Neptune, 4:30 pm. Rather than the Americanized version we saw recently in theaters in Geisha, you can watch the manga-inspired version of a girl's life as a geisha in the Edo era instead, Sakuran. And this means you'll get the extra added bonus of a sense of humor, colorful costumes, and a musical soundtrack that is not just old period music, but a mixture of jazz, electronica, and Japanese pop. Yes, the review in SIFF was by Charles Mudede, but in this case he's right—go see it!

SIFF Cinema, 7 pm. All good films come from Canada, at least those about the sea. Especially documentaries, of which good ones with great photography are hard to find. Luckily for us, we have Sharkwater, an amazing film done by someone unafraid to show us the true tale of the wholesale worldwide slaughter of sharks, including graphic footage of their fins being ripped off and then having their shuddering finless bodies tossed back to sink to the bottom in agony. Not only that, but we have Canadian Rob Stewart hugging sharks underwater, being chased by Central American shark poachers in a gunboat, narrow escapes from the law, and nearly losing his leg. Good thing Charles Mudede didn't review this, but the SIFF buzz says it's a great film, and Jen Graves agreed.

Harvard Exit, 9:30 pm. Sophie Fiennes may be the sister of actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, but she's also the director of The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, an innovative documentary/travelogue/academic lecture by the Slovenian philosopher de jour Slavoj Zizek, with his peculiar brand of cerebral slapstick. This has Zizek placed in 43 seminal films, discoursing on the nature of desire, death, and our addiction to fantasy, be it in Blue Velvet, The Birds, or City Lights. Peter Bowen reviewed this. Go see it so that everyone that I know can go see the other 9:30 pm movie instead!

SIFF Cinema, 9:30 pm. Trail of the Screaming Foreheads. It's like retro schlock. Monster-wriggling foreheads invade earth and spread--what Tarantino's codirector in Grindhouse should have been doing instead of the lame plotless farce he cranked out. Another good thing to see instead of my choice for a 9:30 pm flick!

Neptune, 9:30 pm. Whatever you do, don't go see this film, because everyone I know (including myself and my son) will be watching Day Watch. Yes, it's the sequel to Night Watch, which wowed the audiences of SIFF before. Yes, it has the epic quest for Magic Chalk, cars racing on the sides of buildings, the battle between good and evil, a son who has chosen the dark path while his father has chosen the path of light. Sure it has hot Russian women in black leather outfits that make your jaw drop, and men in cool suits or scruffy street wear, enough to satisfy your prurient lust no matter if you're gay, straight, bi, or transgender. Sure, it has a rocking soundtrack that will have you bouncing for joy for the next week. But if you go see it, how will I get a row of five seats all together for my friends and I to go see it? So, if you have to see it, go see it at Lincoln Square on Sunday instead, and skip the U.S. Premiere tonight...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

SIFF Notes: The Podcast

posted by on June 7 at 9:32 PM

The SIFF Notes podcast for week three is up now over at podcast central. In honor of half the festival being halfway over, we only talk about the good stuff. Enjoy.

Tugboat Annie

posted by on June 7 at 6:00 PM


I had never before seen a movie or play with the name "Annie" in the title. I imagine this was originally an accident, but then it became a way for me to pretend I didn't know what people were on about when they sang "Tomorrow" at me. And then it became an irrational obsession.

Anyway, I broke my decades-long Annie boycott yesterday for Tugboat Annie (1933), which was filmed on Lake Union and on the Seattle waterfront but set in the hybrid town of Secoma. (Yeah, it's too close to "glaucoma" for comfort, but I actually think this is a more attractive portmanteau than SeaTac.) The audience was seeded with lots of local film critics, but mostly I saw the characteristic turtlenecks and chignons and woolly beards of the native Seattleite.

I like to read early film criticism to make myself feel better about my writing, so it's with no small quantity of glee that I give you an excerpt from Mordaunt Hall's original New York Times review of the film.

That grand actress, Marie Dressler, delivers an even more effective characterization than usual in her latest picture, "Tugboat Annie," which is based on a series of magazine stories written by Norman Reilly Raine. In this film, now on exhibition at the Capitol, she appears as the often troubled, determined, but always sympathetic Annie Brennan, who is the guiding spirit of the Pacific Coast tugboat Narcissus. And Wallace Beery, who was teamed with Miss Dressler in the enormously successful "Min and Bill," gives an excellent account of himself as Terry, Annie's bibulous spouse.

Not only is Miss Dressler's part more satisfactory than those she had in her previous pictorial ventures, but the story, with all its rambunctious mirth and its spells of sentiment, is superior to the other vehicles. The episodes in which Terry indulges his taste for alcohol are set forth in such a humorous fashion that they aroused loud waves of laughter from the audience at the first show yesterday.

Bibulous is a good word, though. It means either "absorbant of moisture" or "addicted to drinking or tippling."

A more entertaining take on Tugboat Annie can be found in the virtual pages of Time Magazine. My favorite line: "The next three reels of Tugboat Annie show a few more of the things Annie has to put up with." It's worth reading the whole thing--seriously. You'll find out how many massages and colored servants Marie Dressler had at the height of her fame.

The film was based on the Tugboat Annie stories (and illustrations) in the Saturday Evening Post.


Historylink denies the claim that the titular Annie Brennan was based on Thea Foss, the original Puget Sound lady tugboat titan. But her descendants' tugboat Wallowa (afterward called Arthur Foss) was used extensively in the film.

The movie suffers from the awkward transition (noted by the Time review) between Annie's husband's slapstick drunkenness, played for laughs, and his stupid, destructive alcoholism, which nearly derails her career. (Not that the '30s perspective admits she might deserve one.) And there's an awful lot of direct-to-camera mugging, occasioned by taxi windows and tugboat fire boxes and so forth. But Annie's inventive cussing can make you forgive many sins. And how about that tug, huh?


I wonder if Matt McCormick has seen it.

Righteous Brother

posted by on June 7 at 10:37 AM


The plan was to try and shine a black-light on the engima—not to penetrate it, but to respect it, and to let the music tell its own story.
-- Stephen Kijak, director's statement


After his sixties success with the Walker Brothers ran its course, Scott Walker released several solo albums, then disappeared.
Every few years, a new record would appear, but Walker would not. He wasn't finished with music, but he was finished with show business. No more interviews, tours, or television appearances.
From now on, the music would have to do the talking.

Stephen Kijak (co-director of the festival favorite Cinemania) discovered the music of Scott Walker in 1990. Eleven years later,
he set out to make a documentary about the man with the bottomless baritone. Five years later, it was finished. Scott Walker: 30 Century Man took so long because Kijak wanted Walker's permission—and his participation. Countless emails, phone calls, and faxes later, Walker gave his consent. Kijak had earned his trust, and Walker agreed to
sit down for a two-session interview and to allow cameras into the studio during the making of last year's haunting Drift.

Continue reading "Righteous Brother" »

SIFF 2007: Thursday Highlights

posted by on June 7 at 10:30 AM

If you haven't seen the print edition of this week's paper, there's a sweetened and condensed "SIFF Picks" for week 3 of the festival on page 95. Check it out online here. Daily recommendations for the festival continue below and at

But first, a correction: I promised that Tugboat Annie would contain "extensive footage of the Pike Place Market back in the day." Actually, the cumulative footage of the Pike Place Market in Tugboat Annie amounts to approximately three seconds. If that. Lots of Seattle waterfront, though. More about that imperfect but highly enjoyable film later, if I get the chance.


Pacific Place, 2 pm. This movie sounds completely absurd. But the most memorable part of every SIFF is seeing ridiculous movies from countries you've barely heard of. Hence, I give you Tajikistan's To Get to Heaven First You Have to Die, about a novel cure for impotency.

Neptune, 4:30 pm. I really like the unusual Israeli coming-of-age movie Sweet Mud. It's understated and beautiful. But if you want to keep up with the cinephiles, you should probably put your time in at Syndromes and a Century (SIFF Cinema at 4:30 pm), the new film by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Neptune at 6:30 pm. Charles Mudede fell hard for Sakuran.


Late evening. Two crowd pleasers: the mockumentary American Shopper (Harvard Exit at 9:30 pm) and Hula Girls (Egyptian at 9:30 pm), a Full Monty ripoff with pretty girls in place of fat men.

She Has a Face: Part III

posted by on June 7 at 10:12 AM

To crib a category from Kathy Fennessy, I have got to talk about Isild Le Besco's face. Here she is:


But usually she's playing very young and slightly unhinged sensualists. She usually looks more like this:


I write about Backstage (SIFF 2006) in the DVD column this week. I was impressed by her performance--not to mention her name (Le Besco? what does that mean, woodsy one?)--in that damp-eyed impression of celebrity mania. But she's even better as a suicidal nurse named Fred in SIFF 2007's A Parting Shot (original title Pas douce, a reference to Fred's not-so-soft preferences in bed), which plays again Monday at the rather inconvenient time of 2 pm.

Le Besco has a great body--has she ever not taken off her clothes in a movie made after she was 16?--but her face is completely enrapturing. When she's blank, she's creepy. When she's angry, she's terrifying. When she smiles, it's unreal.

I think the first movie I saw her in was Girls Can't Swim (SIFF 2002). But I realize I've missed so many! I was disappointed when I found out that Scarecrow doesn't have A Song of Innocence (La Ravisseuse), in which Le Besco, as a 19th century wet nurse, stars opposite (be still my heart) Gregoire Colín. But it's not on DVD. I even checked

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Anyone Seen This Movie?

posted by on June 6 at 3:13 PM


SIFF 2007: Wednesday Highlights

posted by on June 6 at 12:19 PM

We're officially halfway there--only twelve days (4 to 6 movies per) left to go! The Stranger's recommendations for every damn slot in the festival continue below and at


Skip the early afternoon matinee--the awkward Almost Adult--and eat something.

Egyptian, 4:15 pm. Your last chance to see the nutso Dasepo Naughty Girls.

Early evening. This is one tough choice, with a lot of seemingly ordinary movies that break the rules. Do you see the delicate and absorbing Israeli film Sweet Mud (Neptune at 7 pm), about coming of age in the '70s on a suffocating kibbutz?

Sweet Mud

... or the excellent sports movie White Palms (Pacific Place at 7:15 pm), which addresses the pervasive influence of coaches from former Communist countries on Western gymnastics clubs today?

Then there's Tugboat Annie (SIFF Cinema at 7 pm), the only showing of the MGM blockbuster from 1933 that was shot on location in Seattle (including extensive footage of the Pike Place Market back in the day). Decisions, decisions.

Tugboat Annie

Late evening. For urbanites: Agua (Pacific Place at 9:30 pm), another sports movie, this time about a doping scandal in swimming. For those who sleep on the Eastside: Northern Light, a simple but beautiful film set in Amsterdam. Charles loved it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

SIFF 2007: Tuesday Highlights

posted by on June 5 at 2:45 PM

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in SIFF continue below and at

Skip the 2 o'clock (oops, you missed it) and plop down at SIFF Cinema for the entire evening.

4 pm. The documentary Nanking, about the Japanese Rape of Nanking, promises to be massively depressing. But good!

7 pm. Conflict of interest! We can't help but recommend Stranger alum Sean Nelson, who's interviewing the rock documentarian Julien Temple on stage. (He also directed Earth Girls Are Easy.)

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

9:15 pm. Stay put for Temple's newest, a documentary about the Clash frontman: Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. Here's some advance reading material, via the Guardian.

Grimm Love: You'll Believe a Man Can Fry

posted by on June 5 at 2:39 PM


Remember Godzilla? There was the original Japanese version, with no white people in it, and then there was the version released for American audiences with Raymond "Perry Mason" Burr. Burr played a television reporter sending dispatches back to the states about this big monster stomping on the Japanese.

Grimm Love, which gets its second SIFF screening today at 4 PM, is kind of like Godzilla--only you've got your German cannibal in place of your giant lizard and your Kerri "Felicity" Russell in place of your Raymond "Ironsides" Burr. Inspired by the true story of a German cannibal and a man he met on the Internet who consented to be killed and eaten, Grimm Love uses Russell--playing an American grad student studying in Germany--the same way Godzilla used Burr. That is, as a clumsy and unnecessary framing device.

Looking cadaverous and goth, Russell swans around a dimly lit German moonscape, eventually breaking into the house where the murder went down... where she falls down some steps into the creepy, dank basement where the murder took place... and takes some pictures. She eventually manages to get her hands on a videotape of the fateful night by, no shit, posting a note up on a website. A helpful, anonymous cannibal quickly delivers the video to Russell's apartment on an appropriately dark and stormy night. She settles in to watch... the cannibal cooks his victim's penis... which he then shared with his victim... who complains that his own penis is tough...

"I wanted it to be perfect," says the German cannibal's victim/date, before he sets his head down on his plate. Then the cannibal stabs his victim to death. Russell cries.

The end.

At the screening I attended someone from SIFF instructed us to view the film as if it were a modern Grimm Brothers' fairy tale. This is something the audience was assumed to be too stupid, I guess, to deduce from the title alone.

Grimm Love is... well, it's no modern Grimm Brothers' fairy tale. It's a crude, pretentious, stupid, and offensive slasher flick with just one slash. It's Hostel or Tourista or Saw XVIII for pretentious homosexual film aficionados. Definitely to be missed.

SPOILER ALERT: The man that wanted to eat human flesh? It was his mother's fault. The man that wanted his flesh to be eaten? It was his mother's fault. The girl that just had to see the snuff video? Kerri Russell's agent's fault.

About a Soundtrack

posted by on June 5 at 12:00 PM

His death was all I knew of him, and its impact on me continues to resound even now; but watching this film, listening to him speak, I was able to separate him from that for the first time.
-- David Lowery on AJ Schnack's new documentary


Here's the track listing for the soundtrack to Kurt Cobain: About a Son, set to be released by Barsuk on 9/11/07. (Bummer about the date, but what can ya do...) The Ben Gibbard track is previously unreleased. (Click here for my post about the Seattle premiere.)


Steve Fisk & Benjamin Gibbard - “Overture”
audio excerpt - Never Intended
Arlo Guthrie - "Motorcycle Song"
The Melvins - "Eye Flys"
audio excerpt - Punk Rock
Bad Brains - “Banned In D.C.”
Creedence Clearwater Revival - “Up Around the Bend”
Half Japanese - “Put Some Sugar On It”
The Vaselines - "Son of A Gun"
Butthole Surfers - “Graveyard”
audio excerpt - Hardcore Was Dead
Scratch Acid - “Owner’s Lament”
Mudhoney - “Touch Me I’m Sick”
audio excerpt - Car Radio
Iggy Pop - “The Passenger”
Lead Belly - “The Bourgeois Blues”
REM - “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1”
audio excerpt - The Limelight
David Bowie - “The Man Who Sold The World”
Mark Lanegan - “Museum”
Ben Gibbard - "Indian Summer"

Continue reading "About a Soundtrack" »

Monday, June 4, 2007

SIFF 2007: Monday Highlights

posted by on June 4 at 11:03 AM


There are two good options in every slot today, save the early afternoon matinee. Skip Vinicius (Pacific Place at 2 pm) unless you're a huge fan of the titular musician and start your movies off at...

Pacific Place, 4:30 pm. Kathy Fennessy says the cutesy-sounding German film Grave Decisions is actually "sweet, funny, and occasionally tasteless--much like your favorite pre-teen nephew." If you haven't seen it yet, Running on Empty (SIFF Cinema, 4 pm) is even better.

SIFF Cinema, 6:45 pm. David Schmader adores For the Bible Tells Me So, a great doc from Sundance that hasn't been picked up for distribution.


See it now or see it never. If you saw it over the weekend, go with the Belgian comedy Congorama (Neptune, 6:45 pm), which Brendan Kiley thoroughly enjoyed.

9:30 pm, Harvard Exit. Pay homage to the late Charles Nelson Reilly with this film about his one-man stage show (here's the New York Times review, performed in 2001. Plus, the South Korean schoolgirl fantasia/sociopolitical commentary Dasepo Naughty Girls, which Bradley Steinbacher couldn't help but love.


Eighteen Wheeler

posted by on June 4 at 10:42 AM

At the Big Rig showing last Saturday, the filmmakers parked a semi in front of the Egyptian Theater. Anyone who wanted to could climb inside the cab and sit in the driver's seat or check out the setup. The film was great, with interesting people--individualists not fitting into the regular 9-to-5 life. I love seeing documentaries that show you a subculture that you didn't know anything about before.

Keep your rubber down and your metal up!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

He Should Have Been a Son

posted by on June 3 at 1:00 PM


The local music community was in full effect for last night's Seattle premiere of AJ Schnack's unique documentary, Kurt Cobain: About a Son. I spotted Mark Pickerel, Dave Meinert, and DJs from KEXP and KCMU (I was KCMU music director from 1989-1991).

Although we certainly didn't plan it, my friends and I—Gillian G. Gaar, author of the 33-1/3 book Nirvana's In Utero, and former Stranger scribe Tom Kipp—ended up sitting next to photographer Charles Peterson, musician/producer Steve Fisk, and author Michael Azerrad (Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana). A few seats away, I noticed Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard (who's been performing "All Apologies" as part of his recent solo repertoire).

What I didn't realize until after the screening was how many of these individuals were involved with the making of this impressionistic portrait. I knew that Cobain's narration was taken from Azerrad's early-1990s interviews with the Nirvana front man, but I didn't know that Peterson provided the still photography (not just archival images, but according to the director, new images at a four-to-one ratio to the old) or that Fisk and Gibbard composed the minimalistic score. Schnack's wife, producer Shirley Moyers [below], drowsy daughter, and key crew members were also in attendance.

Continue reading "He Should Have Been a Son" »

Saturday, June 2, 2007

They Have Faces: Part Two

posted by on June 2 at 1:30 PM

Here are five more great faces featured in
this year's film festival. Click here for part one.


Marion Cotillard: Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, i.e. La Môme (The Kid). It's inevitable the film would be re-titled La Vie en Rose for English-speaking territories, but "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" is the Sparrow's defining number. In fact, it's the movie's message, i.e. Piaf had a tough life, but given the choice, she wouldn't change a thing.

Olivier Dahan, one of this year's Emerging Masters, will be at today's 3:15pm screening at the Neptune. I caught last night's showing, and felt that Cotillard fully justified the hype. Dahan's portrait has its problems, but her remarkable performance reduces most of them
to rubble. La Vie en Rose opens at the Egyptian on 6/22.


Cotillard as a femme fatale in A Very Long Engagement, for which she won the César, the French version of the Oscar. Did the make-up team on La Vie en Rose do a fantastic job or what? It takes some effort to make Cotillard look unattractive (or at least frail and sickly).

Continue reading "They Have Faces: Part Two" »

Color Me Cthulhu!

posted by on June 2 at 12:56 PM

Alright. I'm veritably pooping with veritable anticitwitterpation. I'll admit it. The SIFF screening is June 14th at The Neptune (6:30, sharp!), but in the meantime, you can see, well, me maybe, if you don't blink, here:

Hey, mom! Look at me! I'm a fish monster!

Glub, glub!

SIFF 2007: Weekend Highlights

posted by on June 2 at 7:53 AM

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in America's biggest film festival continue below and at

SATURDAY JUNE 2 (happy birthday, mom!)

SIFF Cinema, 11 am. Should you take your kids to The Three Musketeers or the penguin surfing movie that will be saturating every screen in the nation starting next Friday? I wonder.

Pacific Place, 1:30 pm. Tsai Ming Liang's I Don't Want to Sleep Alone is a fascinating, sad, and lovely film by a really, really important filmmaker. It may or may not be returning to Seattle. Do. Not. Miss.

The late afternoon slot should go to Strange Culture (SIFF Cinema at 3:30 pm) if you're into art and politics; Big Rig (Egyptian at 3:15 pm) if you're a hipster. Aw, but I'm being mean. Doug Pray's trucker doc sounds great.

The Sentimental Bloke

SIFF Cinema, 7 pm. Seattle film historian David Jeffers makes the case for the 1919 Aussie silent A Sentimental Bloke over at Siffblog:

The Sentimental Bloke is a rare surviving silent feature from a foreign, English[-language] market. It is considered by many to be the best example of regional Australian film from that period. It is currently unavailable on commercial video, anywhere, and is rarely seen outside of Australia[...] This film will not be screened at the SFSFF (San Francisco Silent Film Festival), so to the best of my knowledge this is the only currently scheduled screening available within a reasonable distance (if you know otherwise, please let me know, I asked!).

The late evening decision is hard. Kurt Cobain About a Son (Neptune, 9:30 pm) makes Aberdeen (and other PNW environs) look beautiful.

Kurt Cobain About a Son

Running on Empty is a strong existential film from Germany about a traveling salesman. And Amy Kate recommends the zombie comedy Fido (Lincoln Square at 9:15 pm).

Neptune, midnight. It's all about the NZ horror comedy about lambs coming home to roost. Or something. This is the last screening of Black Sheep before it opens in Seattle later this summer.


Harvard Exit, 11 am. Start your Sunday off right with a cool drink of '70s Catalan: Life on the Edge (original, way cooler title La Vida Abismal). Kathy Fennessy calls the plot "a wisp of a thing," but identifies a new god in the acting pantheon. He has a mustache.

Solid choices in the early afternoon slot: David Schmader adores For the Bible Tells Me So (Egyptian at 1:30 pm), but I just saw Jessica Yu's classically inspired experimental doc Protagonist (Lincoln Square at 1 pm), and the ex-ex-gay ex-minister featured therein sure gives all the homos in Bible a run for their money. Also good: Tell No One (Neptune at 1:30 pm).

Lincoln Square, 3:30 pm. It's back to Bellevue for the Romanian drama Offset.

SIFF Cinema, 7 pm. Who doesn't love a grisly tale of cannibal fetishists? Grimm Love is based on the story recounted in this Savage Love column from 2003. Ew.

SIFF Cinema, 9:30 pm. Lindy West has nothing but good things to say about the dark Icelandic film Children.

Friday, June 1, 2007

SIFF 2007: Week 2 Podcast

posted by on June 1 at 4:25 PM

I can't believe it's week 2 already! (That was a hilarious joke. It feels like week 3,027.)

Lindy West and I pimp our favorites and demolish our not-so favorites for the second week of the Seattle International Film Festival on The Stranger's SIFF Notes Podcast. Enjoy.

Three for Three

posted by on June 1 at 2:23 PM

Of three films I've seen thus far (yes, I'm the lightest SIFF lightweight... I just don't enjoy sitting, especially indoors on a sunny day)—all three rocked.

The Canadian documentary about the work of industrial-waste photographer Edward Burtynsky, Manufactured Landscapes, was gorgeous and bleak at the same time. The film simply witnesses post-consumer waste and environmental devastation due to large-scale industry, and though it lacks a sermon or call to action, I left feeling ill at ease in the material world. It opens at one of Landmark's Seattle locations on July 13, or rent it later if you have a nice big TV.

Fido, the zombie comedy from Andrew Currie, sounded ridulous and was in fact deliciously so and totally entertaining.
The cast, and Carrie-Ann Moss especially, injected just enough coy subtlety to balance the camp. It plays again tomorrow (9:15 pm, Lincoln Square) and is worth the trek to Bellevue. (It will open in Seattle later this summer.)

Last night's The Ten, a set of twisted, loosely related comedic vignettes from the creators of The State, was laugh-out-loud funny throughout. It would have been even better without the slightly forced Ten Commandments organizational device. Rob Courdy was especially darling in a prolonged, somehow touching prison-rape joke—people were moaning between guffaws. This one plays again tomorrow (11 am, Egyptian) and would benefit from a big bong hit beforehand. (Opens in Seattle sometime in August.)

Two minor annoyances noted at the Egyptian: The sound was painfully hot (i.e. too loud at the high end) and the theater air was freezing--wear long pants regardless of the sunshine outside.

This Poster Makes My Scalp Tingle

posted by on June 1 at 11:01 AM


Rolling, "a documentary-style journey through the Los Angeles party scene," plays tonight at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival: 8:15 pm at the Rendezvous Theater. Don't forget the Vicks.

SIFF 2007: Fri Highlights

posted by on June 1 at 9:45 AM

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in SIFF continue below and at SIFF Notes Online:


Pacific Place, 2 pm: Yet again, you only have one choice for the afternoon slot in the festival. And yet again, this is one choice you can't mess up. Brendan Kiley adores The Cloud, a nuclear teen romance from Germany. (That's right, Germany, my dear haters.)

The Cloud

The second slot is full of riches. Eagle vs. Shark (Neptune at 4 pm) will be coming out later this summer (and I'll actually be interviewing the director as this post goes up), but if you liked Napoleon Dynamite, you should not miss this goofy New Zealand romance. It's completely derivative, but I very much enjoyed myself. There's another screening of the excellent acid disfiguration romance Crazy Love (Pacific Place at 4:30 pm). Also recommended for politicos and film buffs, respectively: the Ukrainian doc Orange Revolution (Harvard Exit at 4 pm), the made-for-Polish TV doc Still Alive: A Film About Krzysztof Kieslowski (Egyptian at 5 pm). I don't recommend Armin (Lincoln Square, 4 pm), a PTSD-epilepsy mashup about a Bosnian child actor, but if you're on the Eastside and have no other choice, a mildly intriguing Romanian short by the assistant director of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is screening in front of it.

Pacific Place, 7 pm: I'm definitely most excited about Protagonist, the new experimental doc by In the Realms of the Unreal director Jessica Yu. It's been picked up by IFC for theatrical distribution, however, so we should see it in Seattle soon.


Another excellent option is Life on the Edge (Harvard Exit at 7 pm), a jazz-infused Catalan drama.

Egyptian, 9:30 pm: Megan Seling digs Doug Pray's new trucker doc Big Rig. Also splendid: the French mystery-action film Tell No One (Neptune, 9:45 pm). You can watch a trailer at this website. And here is an awesome production still:

Filming _Tell No One_

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hopkins and Me and Some Simple Strategies for Stalkers!

posted by on May 31 at 4:43 PM

My affection for the Egyptian Theater runs deep as Lindsay Lohan’s coke spoon, but forgive me if I feel that the old girl waxes a bit threadbare in the presence of such glittery grandness as Anthony Hopkins. Just last Monday, for instance, the Egyptian’s projector exploded or melted or something during the first fifteen minutes of The Life and Times of Yva Las Vegas, which was actually rather awesome, since Yva was in the audience, and she stormed the stage with her guitar ablaze and dazzled us all with an impromptu concert. But still. Perhaps as the venue for the Lifetime Achievement Award thing the SIFFsters threw for Anthony Hopkins last night, The Egyptian should have been carefully reconsidered. Just a thought.

Anyway. Let’s start at the beginning.

When it comes to stalking celebrities professionally, as I have often been rumored to do, (say it to my face and I’ll slap you), I have developed this policy: meet the famous upfront, face-to-face. Always have someone introduce you properly. Whenever appropriate, get shitty drunk with them. Also, never, but never, herd in amongst (ugh) the paparazzi, and don’t ever bring a camera, never ask for an autograph or picture, and, good lord, avoid “interviewing” at all costs. Nothing sucks ass like interviewing the famous. Nothing. It’s completely degrading. Any fucking schmuck can dress up like a desperate hairdresser in a tragic suit and square-toed Aldo's, paste an insipid smile on, and beg celebrities to answer the same old stupid questions that they’ve been asked a zillion times before by insipid assholes in square-toed Aldo's. The celebrity, of course, (baring some notable exceptions), will answer as patiently as possible while secretly yearning to rip your head off, shit down your neck, and get back to groupie sex and their billion dollar prescription habits. Perish. The fucking. Thought.

Also, careful anonymity cannot be overrated. Through simple lurking and spying, I have personally allegedly witnessed huge stars pick loose women up off the street for sex, and seen a budding big-budget starlet snort coke in the men’s room of a certain Pine St. bar. Roseanne once spit her gum at me (I still have it), and I once also supposedly witnessed a very famous director snag an entire cadre of nubile boyflesh from a hotel lounge, scamper them off to his suite for, you guessed it, an entire night of nubile boysexing. But I don’t want to say too much about that here. You understand.

It’s also possibly worth noting that unless you are a well-practiced and consummate sort of eavesdropper (as am I) that it might be impossible for you to avoid detection. In this case, your stalking might be best served from the safe embrace of a large crowd. When it comes to spying, I have ears like an obsessive bat, the focus of ten Zen monks, and the strange ability to witness a person’s every move, even if I seem to be looking exactly the opposite direction, and have nails in my eyes. It's almost supernatural.

But the fans! The tittering crowd of fans! Those quixotic souls who care enough to emerge blinking from their holes to haunt such strange events as last night’s award ceremony, just to get a glimpse of their icon….that’s where the real fun is. The real meat. I love lurking all stealthy and anonymous amongst the fans, seeing how they react and overreact---and I adore eavesdropping on what they say. That’s my favorite sport. That’s where I decided to be last night when old Tony Hopkins made the grand entrance for his SIFF awards event---in the herd of fans. There was a fairly reasonable mob hovering outside the theater to watch Sir Anthony red-carpet his way inside, eager for a glimpse of the biggest star SIFF has snagged since Jeff Goldblum back in 2000-whatever, so I tucked my press pass into my jacket and joined them. Many people clutched Hopkins-related memorabilia and Sharpies in the hopes of an autograph. One extremely freaky dude wore a homemade Hannibal Lecter mask, but I'd rather not dwell on it.

When Anthony finally arrived, he was already somehow mobbed by a mobile cache of admirers, and when he came into sight, an over-excited woman in her fifties began screaming, “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!” like a thirteen-year-old girl in the presence of Justin Timberlake’s underwear. Many of the autograph seekers held their various objects out with, “Sir Hopkins, please! Sir Hopkins, please!” Sir Hopkins only favored one hopeful with an autograph, then posed briefly with his wife for pictures, before scampering off into the theater.

Once the star was safely inside, the young guy whose poster of some sort Anthony signed held it triumphantly over his head and trumpeted, “EBAY!” Everyone laughed. Then an older woman remarked to no one in particular, “He looks just like my father!” and was answered, “He looks like everyone’s father.” Everyone laughed again. Then the dust settled, the buzz died down, and the entire crowd scattered, smiling, a little happier, and little star struck. Inside, Sir Anthony was given a big chunk of one-eyed glass and copious ass kissing. He was very, very grateful, and that was that.

The end!

(Thanks to Jose Trujillo/The PI, for the pic, which is from Tuesday's screening of Hopkin's film "Slipstream", and not from the event described above. To which I did not bring a camera. Because I never carry a camera. As I explained earlier. Word.)

Après Film at Septieme

posted by on May 31 at 2:22 PM

I watched the Darfur doc The Devil Came on Horseback at the Harvard Exit again last night. It's devastating. Aside from the gut-clenching photographs, the best sequence in the documentary is an interview with a highly educated survivor living in a refugee camp, who, in his careful English, delivers an impassioned thank-you to the government--here he corrects himself--to the people of the United States for the food and supplies their camp has received. It's the most understated, worthwhile guilt trip I've ever been subject to. The entire audience was choking back tears.


Filmmakers Annie Sundberg (who was in attendance, along with subject/witness Brian Steidle, who took the above photograph) and Ricki Stern are basically self-distributing the film, but Annie assured us they'd bring it back to Seattle sometime in the late summer.

After the movie Annie and Brian and some old and new friends (the "new" category included a pirate computer-game programmer who met Brian at Folklife this weekend and Iraq in Fragments director James Longley) headed to Cafe Septieme for drinks and dinner. Annie, who is of Swedish extraction, may look hardcore and distant in her headshot, but she's not above discussing the merits of pet health insurance or evangelizing the bicycle as a means of urban transport. She told one adorable story about locking her bike (vintage women's Robin Hood, blue with sparkly blue grips) up to a similar one (brown Robin Hood--the male model) and being suddenly moved to write the other bike a love letter on behalf or her smitten three-speed. Turns out it belonged to an acquaintance. A female acquaintance. The actual story is much longer because the female acquaintance has a gender-ambiguous nickname.

Then James Longley, who highly recommends the beet salad, announced that Pirates of the Caribbean is no good, even if you have insomnia and are attending a midnight screening.

If you liked The Devil Came on Horseback--or even if you missed it--you should definitely check out The Trials of Darryl Hunt, another excellent documentary by the same filmmaking team that screened at SIFF last year and is opening at Northwest Film Forum on July 27th. Here's the trailer:

SIFF 2007: Thurs Highlights

posted by on May 31 at 12:07 PM

The Stranger's suggested viewing for every slot in the festival continues below and at SIFF Notes Online: There's a new venue, starting today: way out in Bellevue, you can enjoy the cushy, independently owned seats at Lincoln Square Cinemas.


Pacific Place, 2 pm: The first movie of the day is again decided for you. The dreamy Spanish epilepsy tale Doghead is the only thing in this slot. But hooray, it's excellent.


In the mood for an elaborate Hong Kong spaghetti western homage? Johnny To's Exiled (Egyptian at 4:45 pm) is where it's at. Documentary aficionados should check out Crossing the Line (SIFF Cinema at 4 pm), a North Korea curio about an AWOL American soldier from the director of the excellent A State of Mind.

Northwest Film Forum, 7 pm: Stranger art critic Jen Graves has a NEW REVIEW of Lynn Hershman Leeson's nonfiction film Strange Culture, about government paranoia and political art:

Strange Culture

Steve Kurtz has his own personal 9/11: 5/11/2004, when his wife Hope died of heart failure. FBI agents subsequently found in his house harmless bacteria he was using for an artwork in a museum show, and the government began to stalk him as a bioterrorist. The bioterrorism charge had no legs, but the government has continued its attack on Kurtz, whose work is critical of the government's lack of regulation on the big business of genetically modified foods. (Kurtz is awaiting trial on mail fraud, which could carry a sentence of 20 years in prison.) Artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson's forays into identity get heavy-handed (when Tilda Swinton, for instance, remarks ponderously on the implications of the death of Hope, who she has just played in earlier scenes), but they're a side show anyway to the main event: a portrait of what happens when your own paranoid government gets into your house. JEN GRAVES

Lincoln Square, 9:45 pm: First, I must point out that Jennifer Aniston's Seattle directorial debut is happening tonight. Surely someone out there is grateful for this information. (It's okay--you don't have to admit it.) If, on the other hand, you absolutely must be the first on your block to see the newest horror comedy--or you're totally averse to staying up late (it screens again Saturday at midnight)--now's the time to make the trek out to Bellevue to see Black Sheep. Here's the trailer:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Take 2 for I Dot the Eye

posted by on May 30 at 4:10 PM

SIFF's one-time-only shorts program about "foundational musings" or some such mumbledygook was uneven (as only the best shorts programs can be) but I am happy to report that two of the best entries can be seen elsewhere.

Rob Perri's I'm Keith Hernandez, a satirical mash note about the titular baseball player and his druggy, porny, mustachey exploits, will be getting another screening at the Seattle True Independent Festival on Thursday at 6:15 pm at the Rendezvous. Highly recommended.

And Marie Losier's The Ontological Cowboy, about Richard Foreman, the founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater in New York, can be streamed on her website.

The Ontological Cowboy

I love the part about the babies. Also, this is a kind of conflict of interest, because occasional Stranger film freelancer Brian Frye appears to have done the cinematography.

Man on the Moon

posted by on May 30 at 4:03 PM

This is David Sington:
782739d1e326.jpg He directed In the Shadow of the Moon, a documentary about nine men who've done something that the rest of us (in history or in the present) have never done: walk on another world, the moon. The rare moon men are asked to express the feeling of seeing the earth as a planet in the sky, as another world, as a complete object? "Earth hung like a fragile jewel in the blackness," says one moon man.

I had few drinks with the director in SIFF's guest lounge in the W. After talking about his documentary, we began talking about Francis Bacon. I've just read The New Organon but not the book Sington highly recommended, The New Atlantis. "It's a slim book. You'd be with it in a second. But I wrote a book with my wife called Paradise Dreamed. It has a section on [The New Atlantis], which is about a utopia managed by scientists."
"Sounds Platonic," I said.
"It is Platonic, and might very well be the first work of science fiction in history." During this pleasant conversation, we ate fat shrimp and salmon on sticks.

In the Shadow of the Moon screens today at 7 pm at McCaw Hall.

SIFF 2007: Wed Highlights

posted by on May 30 at 10:55 AM

Yeah, it's gorgeous out, but it's almost hot enough that you can imagine how people in other cities retreat to air-conditioned movie theaters for relief. Luckily, SIFF has a fantastic lineup today. The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in America's biggest film festival continue below and at SIFF Notes Online:

Start off at Pacific Place, 2 pm: Again, you only have one option for the first afternoon slot, but this time, it's a good one. Lindy West was evidently entranced by Children, a "meandering love letter to Icelandic loneliness."


The late matinee is up for grabs. We liked the slightly sadistic French farce My Best Friend (4 pm at the Neptune), but you may prefer to take your chances with Anthony Hopkins's experimental vanity project Slipstream (4 pm at the Egyptian) or the fine-sounding coming-out tale Outing Riley (5 pm at the Harvard Exit) or Agua (5 pm at SIFF Cinema), a beautiful movie about a doping scandal in swimming.

Settle in at the Harvard Exit at 7 pm for The Devil Came on Horseback, if you haven't seen it yet. (Other good options are Doghead (Pacific Place at 7 pm), if you won't be able to see the early matinee tomorrow, and the found-footage shorts program Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Northwest Film Forum at 7 pm), which has some intriguing-sounding films.) I don't really know why you would want to see a live episode of Inside the Actor's Studio, but if that's your thing, too bad. Remains of the Day and the Tribute to Anthony Hopkins are sold out. Rush tickets may be available--just show up at the Egyptian and wait.

Also at the Harvard Exit, 9:30 pm: Do not miss Tsai Ming Liang's (Goodbye Dragon Inn, What Time Is It There?) newest, I Don't Want to Sleep Alone. It's heartbreakingly gorgeous.

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone

It makes mosquito netting and atmospheric particulates seem so romantic. (The acid disfiguration doc Crazy Love, at Pacific Place, 9:30 pm, is also awesome, but it's opening here just as the festival is winding down on June 15, so I'd go with Tsai.)

They Have Faces: Part One

posted by on May 30 at 9:45 AM

We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!
-- Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard


Like all film festivals, SIFF isn't just about movies, but the faces that populate them. This isn't to discount the directors, writers, and other crew members who bring films to life, but to acknowledge that gazing at other people is a big part of the movie-going experience.

It isn't just about basking in the beauty of the conventionally attractive (The Banquet's Zhang Ziyi, Interview's Sienna Miller) or reveling in the strangeness of the unconventional (hello, Vincent "Mr. Vargas" Schiavelli!). We're all attracted to different features for different reasons. Herewith, a few of my favorites from the fest.

While I admire these actors for their abilities—and talent can
make even the most bland or unattractive visage seem more appealing—these are seven faces I find inherently fascinating (including Red Road's wide-eyed Nathalie Press, above).

Steve Buscemi: Interview, Delirious, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, and Joel and Ethan Coen's portion of Paris, Je T'aime. (Here he is as Mr. Pink in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs). The 33rd Seattle International Film Festival belongs to Buscemi!

Andy Lau: A Battle of Wits. Salon's Stephanie Zacharek claims
he "has the face of a grave elf." (He sings and dances, too.)

Continue reading "They Have Faces: Part One" »

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why Germany?

posted by on May 29 at 6:22 PM

SIFF's spotlight country this year is Germany, for reasons I can discern only dimly. The program page on their site notes that The Lives of Others won an Oscar this year. (Pan's Labyrinth wuz robbed!) Or here's Carl Spence expounding on the choice in the German spotlight press release:

“Germany has a rich and bold history of cinema. The current resurgence of German films infuses tradition with innovation for some of the most uniquely powerful films anywhere in the world,” says Carl Spence, SIFF Artistic Director.

Meh. History, sure, but recent German cinema ain't all that inspiring. Turkish Germans are mixing things up, but there's only one such example in the lineup. (Running on Empty plays Saturday and Monday at SIFF.) Meanwhile, Volker Schlondorff sneaks by with another heinous clunker about the Polish Solidarity movement, in which a German actress is dubbed into Polish to play the "mother of Poland." Geez. Can't Germany leave Poland well enough alone?

I mused in the capsule for the German shorts package that Austria or Romania would've been more interesting.

Check out the welcome Romania got at Cannes: prizes and analysis. And see SIFF Notes for reviews of the remaining Romanian features in SIFF.

There's a decent Austrian doc in SIFF, but the real action lies elsewhere.

The Seventh Continent

Starting Friday, Grand Illusion's got the clenched precision of Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke packaged in double features for the next two weeks.

The Problem With Short Films

posted by on May 29 at 3:00 PM

After watching Paris, je t'aime:

And SIFF's 2007 Fly Filmmaking Challenge, which contained three short films by local directors (Lisa Hardmeyer, Matt Daniels, and Dayna Hanson), I have come to conclude that film, as an art form, requires length if it is to be meaningful. Short films, unlike short stories, are mostly empty and consistently end in disappointment. To make a short film is to make something that is bound to fail. Even the best short films are barely worth the effort required to make them. For example, Hanson's "Rainbow," the second film shown in the Fly Filmmaking Challenge, has great (even magical) moments, but nothing substantial can be drawn from the brief experience of watching it. As for Paris, je t'aime, what a mess of a movie. Only two of its 18 shorts can be classified as any good. The rest are dust to the mouth and dull to the mind.

SIFF 2007: Tuesday Highlights

posted by on May 29 at 1:18 PM

The Stranger's recommendations for every slot in the festival. Links go to that film's capsule on SIFF Notes Online, the most comprehensive guide to America's biggest film festival.


2 pm, Pacific Place: You have no choice. The only film in this slot is Hounds, which SIFF did not screen for the press.

4:30 pm, Egyptian: Assuming you already saw the fascinating and beautiful documentary Manufactured Landscapes (Pacific Place at 4:30 pm--director Jennifer Baichwal will not be in attendance, but I did an interview with her yesterday which you'll be able to read [or listen to] when the film opens theatrically in July), you should see the Lolita tale Summer 04, starring Martina Gedeck of The Lives of Others.

7 pm at Northwest Film Forum: Skip the Anthony Hopkins movie and see Ghosts of Cité Soleil--a doc about impoverished people sure to raise the ire of you Life in Loops haters. Ghosts is a look at the circa 2004 lives of pro-Aristide gangsters in the sprawling slums of Port au Prince. The film is unabashedly glam and deeply horrifying.

Ghosts of Cite Soleil

9:30 pm, SIFF Cinema: Jen Graves loved the predictable yet electrifying father-son story Salty Air. This is your only chance to see it in Seattle proper--the next SIFF screening is on the Eastside.

Monday, May 28, 2007

SIFF Notes: Annoying Lefty Audience Gets Comeuppance

posted by on May 28 at 12:52 PM

I saw my 3rd SIFF movie of the weekend last night, another one of Annie Wagner's recommendationsBamako.

It was a quiet movie about a makeshift courtroom that's set up in the courtyard of a bungalow apartment complex in a dusty neighborhood in Mali. The court—with robed judges and earnest attorneys representing both sides—is trying the World Bank (!) for its rape of Mali.

The passionate anti-World Bank testimony from dispossessed citizens, citizen intellectuals, and even an old man who sings his testimony is all delivered as life goes on around the trial—including an elusive "plot" about a super foxy lounge singer (who lives in the complex) with her husband and sick daughter.

The poetic denunciations of World Bank policies—wholly accurate— were boiler plate leftism and got a bit tiresome. Some of the neighbors listening over a loudspeaker in the street outside the courtyard acknowledged this for the audience by unplugging the speaker at one point and announcing "this trial is getting boring." The movie needed more comedy like that to lighten the often pedantic script.

Despite the longwinded speeches, though, the calm pacing, lulling electric fans, marvelous colors, occasional offbeat conversations, and snap shots of life going on outside the trial, made the movie a weird gem.

My favorite moment though was this: The typical Seattle audience (judging from the righteous head nodding at all the standard anti-Bush, lefty rhetoric) seemed thrown for a loop when the testimony veered—as all reactionary Leftism does—into demagoguery about traditional values.

Indeed, one or two speeches sounded like they were lifted straight from Bush's own family values script. It was fun to observe the apparently simple-minded lefties in the audience (who had offered audible knee jerk, knowing agreement when the characters in the film as much as name checked Bush) get confused and fall into silence when the speeches started to sound more like Focus on the Family's James Dobson.

SIFF 2007: Obits Edition

posted by on May 28 at 9:09 AM

Charles Nelson Reilly is dead.

The Life of Reilly

For a more extended memorial, see The Life of Reilly, a film based on his final one-man show, playing at SIFF June 4 and 10.