Sunday, May 29, 2005

Invitation


See the new email link to the right under the calendar? Please email me by clicking on that link if you'd like to become a contributor here!


I did some poking around today and sadly, I must report that Movable Type does not support author-based archives, so I am afraid that for the moment everyone must fish around to locate their own work.



The Return of Comments


I just posted a long review as a guest entry. This entry was posted into the comments of another, unrelated entry. Since it did not have a relationship to the content of that previous entry, it's technically spam. Therefore I did not publish it as a comment.


I noted that I would prefer folks to refrain from doing this. Sometime soon I suppose I will have a set of contributors' and commenters' guidelines to post someplace which may help to forestall confusion.


However, I'd love to see more unsolicited reviews coming in to be published here!


At the moment, we don't have a good method for publishing them, so send them directly to me at siffblog@whybark.com and I will run them as guest entries as I did previously. Additionally, I am initiating a dialog about continuing to expand the contributor base here. With luck, I will come up with an easy way for interested people to begin posting here. Stay tuned!



Dopo Mezzanotte (guest review)


[This was posted in a comments box on another person's entry. For the record: DON'T DO THIS. It's comment spam. Despite this, David's review is serious and worth publishing. I will address this in yet another comments-related entry.]


"For one person to be happy, another has to cry."

Dopo Mezzanotte (After Midnight), 2004.



David Jeffers


Ironic humor, pathos and a profound respect for tradition are the sentimental foundation for this tale of Martino and his secret love for Amanda, his fast food muse. He is night watchman at the Mole Antonelliana, the unrealized synagogue turned National Museum of Cinema in Turin. Bound to tradition, represented in his Grandfather, but searching for his own identity through the vast archives he is entrusted to protect, Martino lives in a cinema purgatory of his own creation, relating more to his world of gadgets, Buster Keaton and the Lumiere Brothers than living breathing humans. Our perspective is via his first person narrative, at times more naive and youthful than we might expect. She is the wannabe bad girl, submissive girlfriend of hoodlum biker Angel. Amanda is part Fendi model, part Flora from Botticelli's la Primavera, stuck in a greasy red and yellow tile burger hell. When she deep-fries her idiot bosses trousers while he's wearing them, she seeks refuge from the police at the Mole to the surprise and amazement of Martino.


This film pays homage to film.


The cavernous, sacred setting, almost another character itself, Martino's lofty digs, his awe of Amanda and her peril suggest The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A bicycle ride with his girl on the handlebars is straight out of Butch Cassidy. He revels in the world of slapstick comedy from the silent era and it's overt, swooning, tinted romance. The humorous and almost sad sound of the Banda Tradizionale repeated throughout the picture brings to mind Fellini's Amacord. Martino executes the physical pantomime and one perfect wheeling turn, as Chaplinesque as Johnny Depp's dance of the dinner roles from Benny and Joon. In the end, Amanda, torn between Angel, an unfaithful dog, and Martino, an adoring puppy, reflects, and decides, not to decide. The final homage is a blessing,


"Two boys and one girl? I saw a French movie once."


"Was the ending happy?"


"They died."


The biggest problem with such an obvious reference is the inevitable comparisons, these three lack the depth and freshness of characters from a legend of the New Wave they seek to imitate. While very sweet and oh so curious, Franchesca Inaudi's Amanda hasn't the fire and soul of Jeanne Moreau's Catherine. Giorgio Pasotti's Martino and Fabio Troiano's Angel are merely dim reflections of those they seek to imitate. But hey, Icarus was having a great time until...


Written, produced and directed by journalist filmmaker Davide Ferrario, After Midnight is filled with pleasing and unusual images, the first and last we see, dust, floating in space. An iconic, towering, fifty foot image of Anita Ekberg, la Luna, again and again, as though the darkness of the world at night becomes the darkness of the cinema, Amanda's dream of freedom, running, as she

sleeps safely in Martino's bed, the flickering nickelodeon, literally walking and living in the camera obscura, the closing aperture of the lens. Comedy is always there, thieves drowning a car alarm in a bucket of water, the handyman Ivan, dropping from the sky for his morning coffee, Martino using his tiny antique camera to film Amanda's underwear, drying on a clothesline, two-bit gangsters singing karioke, badly, and Martino's constant eating of apples, "I hate the double fry special. I like apples," and Amanda realizes he wasn't there for the burgers, his secret love revealed.


"Always leave them wanting more," may always bring them back, but the unrealized also leads to frustration and disappointment. While on the right track, hopefully Ferrario learns and improves in subsequent films. Still, After Midnight is a sweet, endearing story of love, the movies, love and the movies and love of the movies.


"Tales are like dust. Movies may end but cinema never."



Quick Hits: Junebug & That Man: Peter Berlin

Junebug
(
Phil Morrison, US, 2005)

Based on the description of this film, I was expecting a slice of Southern whimsy, but first-time director Morrison is more ambitious than that. Consequently, "Junebug" feels like two films, a comedy and a drama (in the production notes, he does cite Ozu as an influence). Personally, I preferred the comedy, but that may simply be because I was expecting it and because the two halves don't fit together as well as they could. Still, I would recommend the film for Amy Adams's performance alone. The "Catch Me If You Can" star plays Ashley, an eternally optimistic young pregnant woman, doing her best to make the most out of a bad situation (she lives with her in-laws, the bloom has gone out of her marriage, etc.). Celia Weston and Scott Wilson, who really seems to be on a roll these days, provide strong support as those in-laws.

Uptown: Fri., 6/10, 7:00PM and Harvard Exit: Sun., 6/12, 2:00PM



That Man: Peter Berlin
(Jim Tushinski, US, 2005)


Back in the 1970s, when Peter Berlin was at the height of his fame, I was a big fan of The Book of Lists, so I'm gonna rattle off a list of names and titles. If they peak your interest in the slightest, I would highly recommend checking out this fine film:

1. Tom of Finland
2. Boogie Nights
3. Andy Warhol
4. The Mayor of Castro Street
5. Sal Mineo
6. Wadd
7. Robert Mapplethorpe
8. John Waters
9. Armistead Maupin
10. Klaus Nomi

So there you go. Berlin (That Boy, Nights in Black Leather) was a stunning--and prodigiously gifted--German-born gent who, like the former Klaus Sperber (The Nomi Song), reinvented himself when he hit the States. He spent time in New York, hanging out with Warhol and the gang, before he moved to San Francisco, where he became a cross between a Tom of Finland illustration and Luchino Visconti lover/muse Helmut Berger (The Damned). He modeled and he made movies, but mostly he walked the streets looking fabulous in his incredibly-revealing custom-made outfits (those white pants!). Amazingly, the bottle-blond bombshell is still turning heads at 60+. Berlin, in this film, is many things (here's yet another list): vain, smart, principled, loving, and funny. He's truly a one-of-a-kind and I'm glad I made his acquaintance.

Egyptian: Sun., 6/5, 6:00PM and Tues., 6/7, 4:45PM.



Endnote: This is a Tablet-sponsored event and
Tushinski is scheduled to attend both screenings.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Ruan Ling-yu, Mike Watts and Don Letts

For those of who can't get enough of Chinese actress Ruan Ling-yu--or who would like to get caught up on her work--The Goddess (1934) airs tonight on KCTS (channel 9) at 10pm. I'll be setting the VCR for sure.

Meanwhile, The Peach Girl (1931), starring Ruan Ling-yu and featuring live musical accompaniment by Donald Sosin, screens at the Egyptian on Sat., 5/28, at 3:45pm. This is a one-time only screening.



Also, it isn't a SIFF film, but the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo opens at the NWFF this evening at 7pm. Producer Keith Schieron is scheduled to attend both the Friday and Saturday screenings.



I think it would make a particularly nice teaser for Don Letts's Punk: Attitude, which screens tonight at 9pm at the Broadway Performance Hall.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Beat That My Heart Skipped

The Beat That My Heart Skipped / De battre mon coeur s'est arr
(Jacques Audiard, France, 2005, 108 mins.)

After the press screening of this inventive re-imagining of James Toback's
Fingers (1978), I heard one pass holder proclaim, "Implausible!" I heard another
take Romain Duris (the hippie drummer from When the Cat's Away, the upcoming Russian Dolls) to task for his visceral portrayal of a classical pianist (too much
"face squinching," apparently). So don't say you haven't been warned.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I liked the film-and I thought Duris, who looks
like Charlotte Gainsbourg's long-lost brother, was pretty convincing on the ivories. Granted, I quite like Fingers (I own the DVD), but I don't think it's a masterpiece.

And although I don't think Audiard's fifth feature is as good as Read My Lips or
A Self-Made Hero (still my favorite), the former SIFF Emerging Master does a surprisingly credible job at shaping what was very personal material for Toback (according to his DVD commentary) into a film with his own unique stamp on it.

[image]

The story, in brief, is that Tom (Harvey Keitel's "Jimmy" in the original) is torn between a life of crime (his father's profession) and life as a concert pianist
(his late mother's calling). If that makes it sound like Mean Streets-with classical music standing in for Catholicism-that's because it is (a little). The tension
comes from Tom's increasingly desperate attempts to reconcile the two.
I guess it goes without saying, but there's no way this tale's gonna end well, and
Audiard somehow manages to find a less portentious way to come to the same pessimistic conclusion as Toback. It's a neat trick. That said, The Beat That My Heart Skipped does get off to a slow start--it didn't really kick in for me till the last act-
and Tom is never a particularly likable character, but he is a sympathetic one.



The Neptune: Sunday, 5/29, at 6:30PM and Monday, 5/30, at 2PM.
Postscript: The Beat That My Heart Skipped made my top 10 for '05.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Comments: the Sequel


D'oh!


On a hunch I took a peek to see if there were comments that had been submitted without my noticing them. Bingo! My apologies to anyone whose comments were withheld - blame slow-processing servers and gmail's mysteriously overenthusiastic spam filtering.



Monday, May 23, 2005

Rambling on My Mind: Malfunkshun, Mysterious Skin, 4 & Frozen

Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story
(Scot Barbour, US, 2005)


[image]

I was Andy's biggest fan not because he was going to be a rock star. I was Andy's biggest fan because Andy was who he was. If you met Andy, you loved him like I loved him.
-- David Wood, Andrew's father

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It's hard to predict whether viewers who aren't interested in the Seattle scene will take to this well-contructed portrait. I am, so I did, and I was never a big fan of Malfunkshun or Mother Love Bone (Mudhoney and Nirvana were more my speed).

Andrew Wood, AKA Landrew the Love Child, was the flamboyant frontman for both, the latter of which morphed into Pearl Jam after his drug-related death in 1990.

For those who enjoyed Doug Pray's Hype!, I'd recommend Malfunkshun. Plus, it includes members of the title band and MLB (like Stone Gossard and Greg Gilmore), producer/musician Jack Endino of Skin Yard, Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Wood's family, friends and fiancee, and other interesting locals.

Neptune: Sat., 6/4, 6:30PM and EMP: Thurs., 6/9, 7:00PM
.

Mysterious Skin
(Gregg Araki, US, 2004)


[image]

This evocative adaptation of the highly-praised Scott Heim novel is an impressive return to form for Araki (The Doom Generation). More to the point, it's his best film.

Yes, Mysterious Skin is disturbing-it concerns sexual abuse and the results thereof-but more is suggested than shown, and Araki coaxes fine performances from his cast, particularly Joseph Gordon-Levitt (yep, that Third Rock from the Sun kid) as the sociopathic Neil, Brady Corbet as the likably pathetic Brian, and Mary Lynn Rajskub (24's Chloe) as a woman who also believes she was abducted by aliens. Oh, and Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie (the Cocteau Twins) provide the lovely score.



Egyptian: Thurs., 6/2, 9:15PM and Uptown: Sat., 6/4, 3:45PM. Note: Araki is scheduled to attend both screenings.

4
(Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Russia, 2004)


Imagine, if you will, a film filled to the brim with whining, whimpering, barking
dogs (lots of them), meat (lots of close-ups of cold carcasses and greasy,
slimy cooked stuff, mostly pork), alcohol (lots of it, mostly homebrew), puke
(hey, where there's homebrew, there's puke), toothless old crones (lots of them, some gleefully topless), anatomically-correct cloth dolls with faces made out of chewed bread (masticated by those industrious crones) and, of course, suicide.
4 takes every Russian stereotype you can imagine and throws 'em all up-pun intended-on the screen. I understand there's a fair amount of symbolism behind the bewildering array of unappealing imagery, and viewers more intrepid than myself may well appreciate the meanings they convey, but I was just too repelled to care.

Neptune: Fri., 6/10, 2:00PM, and Sat., 6/11, 6:30PM.

Frozen
(Juliet McKoen, UK, 2004)


[image]

The starting point was this powerful and poetic article called Salvaging the Sacred, in which Marion Partington, cousin of Martin Amis, describes the emotional effects of her sister Lucy being missing for 21 years. (Lucy was eventually discovered to be one of the West victims).
-- Writer/director Juliet McKeon

***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The aptly titled Frozen is a mostly successful, but frustratingly static look at the consequences of an impeded grieving process. Just as Kath (Shirley Henderson, the highlight of Sally Potter's Yes) can't properly mourn the loss of her sister, because
a body has never been recovered, I found it hard to sympathize with her plight.
McKeon's debut feature presents an odd conundrum, because it's almost too successful at what it's trying to achieve, i.e. Kath's "frozen" state, emphasized
by frequent shots of ice and water, ends up distancing us from her, despite Henderson's best efforts (and Red Road's Sean Harris makes for a fine foil).
Still, Frozen is worth seeing, even if doesn't scale the same heights as Lynn Ramsay's Ratcatcher or Bruno Dumont's L'Humanite, the two films it reminded me of most.

Harvard Exit: Fri., 6/10, 7:15PM, and Sun., 6/12, 4:15PM.



Images from The Moscow Times, The Evening Class, The Stranger, and Slamdance. 8/12/07 postscript: The Malfunkshun DVD is scheduled for later this year.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Comments


Kris just dropped me a line wondering about why the comments do not post immediately. It's because without the approval-delay (I see and release each comment before it is publicly posted) the host computer would lock up under the weight of thousands and thousands of 'bot generated spam postings.


However, I'm not rejecting comments unless I think they are spam - so far, I have not seen any that were. However, I am the sole determinant of what might or might not be spam, based on my experience with it on other blogs.


Kris hopes you will gleefully talk smack at one another, and that's just fine. Snipe away!



Friday, May 20, 2005

Opening Night Come & Gone

I missed last year's soiree, so I'm unable to make any comparisons, but I definitely had more fun in 2004. You see, every year I go to the Axman's Alternate Opening Night Party, or I have for the past three years or so. (The Axman is local film crit extraordinaire Sean Axmaker.) This annual event takes place at a nearby watering hole during the opening night film, which Sean and the rest of the gang have usually already seen or don't have tickets for or don't wanna see. In this case, most of us had caught Me and You and Everyone We Know at the press launch or, like the IMDb's Keith Simanton, at Sundance. (I didn't have any interest in last year's selection The Notebook--and still don't).

So there was only a small group of us at the Six Arms--six at the most--but a fine time was had by all. Last year, we met at the Elephant and Castle and the year before we met at the late, great Cloud Room. But back to 2005. Around 9:30pm, we headed over to the old library with the rest of the after-movie throng. I must say I started to miss the well-lit coziness of the Six Arms the minute we got there. It was too dark, there weren't enough places to sit, and there was something kinda "cold" about the vibe. Granted, I ran into a wide variety of fine film folks--Tom Tangney, Mark Rahner, Moira Macdonald, Robert Horton, Shannon Gee, Andy Spletzer, Jen Roth, etc.--but didn't really get the chance to chat with anyone for very long and, for me, that's what parties are all about, so my friend Steven and I took a pass around midnight or so.

On the plus side, Sean and I got to ask Paul Provenza a few questions about The Aristocrats when we ran into him in the elevator. That was a nice surprise. I asked him if Eddie Izzard was really as clueless about "The Aristocrats" joke as he appeared to be, and Provenza said he wasn't and that he was just taking the piss (that was a relief as I tend to think of Izzard as a pretty bright chap, but he seemed a little off in this film). I also asked Provenza how come he never tells or talks about the joke on screen while his co-producer, Penn Jilette, does. "Penn and Teller," he corrected. The point being, I guess, that Jilette appears as part of an act/character and not as regular old Penn Jilette.

As for the rest of my Tablet co-conspirators, I ran into Karla and Gillian, but never saw Kris. And although I only had one drink at the party (and one at the Six Arms), I definitely had a hangover the next day. Gillian wasn't joking about the strength of those Bombay G&Ts! Alas, the food had pretty much disappeared before I had the chance to partake of any it (though I wasn't that hungry anyway). So that was about it for my night. The Six Arms gets an A-, the Opening Night Party gets a C+.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Quick Hits: Murderball, Boats, Dying Gaul & the Aristocrats

MURDERBALL
(Henry-Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro, US, 2005)


[image]

Inspired by Shapiro's Maxim article, Murderball is a lively, surprisingly funny, ultimately quite moving documentary about the burgeoning sport of quad rugby. To play "murderball," mobility-impaired athletes use customized wheelchairs on a basketball court. At 86 minutes, the film seems short, but the directors don't waste any time.

The US team competes in Sweden and then at the Paralympic Games in Greece. Along the way, Rubin and Shapiro introduce Canada's fiery coach Joe Soares (a former US player, considered a traitor by many), most of the US team, and even prospective player Keith. To a man, they're likable, engaging fellows--and three
will be coming to Seattle, along with Rubin and Shapiro, to support the film: Scott Hogsett, Andy Cohn, and team captain Mark Zupan. Don't miss 'em.

Egyptian Theater: Fri., 5/27, 9:15PM and Mon., 5/30, 11:00AM.



BOATS OUT OF WATERMELON RINDS
(Ahmet Ulussay, Turkey, 2004)


[image]

The title of this rambling little picture refers to dreams not grounded in reality.
The action centers around talented, if impoverished teenager Recep, who works
at a watermelon stand, but dreams of running a theater with his pal Mehmet,
while nursing a crush on the beautiful Nihal. I've only seen a few Turkish films in
my time, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Distant being the most recent. Boats isn't at that
lofty level, but it's an entirely different creature. For one thing, it's set in the
country, rather than the bustling city of Istanbul. It's also lighter in tone, but
Ulussay could've tightened things up a bit. Overall, it's entertaining, amusing-
even enlightening, but not as emotionally engaging as I would've liked.

Harvard Exit: Sat., 5/28, 11:00AM and Fri., 6/3, 7:15PM.



THE DYING GAUL
(Craig Lucas, US, 2005)


[image]

Adapted from his play, Lucas's debut gets off to a promising start and boasts a first-rate cast, but it's pretty chilly going (Steve Reich's score contributes to that effect).
The always-watchable Peter Sarsgaard, who'll be in town for the screening, plays
Robert, a gay screenwriter. While shopping a script based on the death of his
lover, Robert becomes entangled in the lives of studio executive Jeffrey (Campbell Scott), who agrees to buy it--if he'll make one significant change--and his wife,
Elaine (Patricia Clarkson). In short order, Jeffrey and Elaine fall for the screenwriter
...and chaos ensues. Lucas ably captures the day-to-day lives of spoiled Hollywood denizens, but I'd rather hang out with the movie-mad kids from Boats.

Egyptian: Sat., 5/21, 7:00PM (Gala) and Sun., 5/22, 1:30PM.



THE ARISTOCRATS
(Paul Provenza, US, 2005)


[image]

With an assist from Penn Jillette, Provenza explores what may be the dirtiest joke
in the world. The punchline goes like this: "What do you call your act?" Answer: "The Aristocrats." The joke? If you don't already know, you'll just have to watch the film
to find out. Several comedians compare it to a jazz standard in that everyone riffs
on it in their own way. Since it's the kind of bit comedians mostly share with other comedians, the approaches are pretty profane--some exceedingly, disgustingly so.
Participants include Drew Carey, George Carlin, Martin Mull, Paul Reiser, and Sarah Silverman. You may be surprised as to who tells the best and/or filthiest version, but potential candidates include Whoopi Goldberg, Gilbert Gottfried, and...Bob Saget.

Neptune Theater: Fri., May 20, MIDNIGHT.



Images from Reeling Reviews, Radford Reviews, The
Woodstock Film Festival
and The Mannheim Film Festival.

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Capsules: Kim Ki-duk, Daniel Auteuil, & Miranda July

Just a few comments while these films are fresh in my mind.

3-Iron
(Kim Ki-duk, South Korea, 2004)

[image]

3-Iron is another winner from the prolific Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...
and Spring
). Those who enjoyed Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang's Last Life in
the Universe
--one of my favorite films of 2004--will probably like it, too.

On the surface it's quite different, except for the fact that it revolves around an unlikely relationship, and there's an odd, supernatural tone to the proceedings.

And yes, the 3-Iron of the title does get used-several times, in fact, but the movie isn't half as disturbing as Kim's fishhook fairytale The Isle. It's almost as if Japan's Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Bright Future) had directed a love story. Some may see the ending as a cop-out or a betrayal or what-have-you, but I was happy to go along with it.

Neptune: Sat., 5/21, 6:30PM and Sun., 5/22, 4:15PM.



Apres Vous...
(Pierre Salvadori, France, 2003)

[image]

I love Daniel Auteuil (Un Coeur en Hiver), and he's quite good in Apres Vous...,
but this romantic comedy is nothing special. I was mildly entertained, but the
film evaporated from my mind before the end credits even finished un-spooling.

As a general rule, I feel the same about Auteuil in comedies as I do fellow Frenchman Jean Reno (who, interestingly enough, was also born in Algeria) or American doppelganger Robert De Niro--which is to say, I prefer them in dramas.

I'm not suggesting that Auteuil can't handle comedy (2001's The Closet was pretty funny), just that his dramatic work has more sticking power. And for what it's worth, his very physiognomy suggests drama, but I'm not so sure that's a fair criticism.

Just to get even more discursive...I was thrilled to see Reno and De Niro in a
picture together, the late, great John Frankenheimer's underrated Ronin (1998).
And I'm still waiting for Auteuil and De Niro to do the same--I mean, c'mon, they have the same damn nose, although Auteuil's has a cool Gallic twist to it.

Egyptian: Wed., 5/25, 9:15PM and Neptune: Fri., 5/27, 5:00PM
.



Me and You and Everyone We Know
(Miranda July, US, 2005)

[image]

Like Kris Monroe, I really enjoyed Me and You and Everyone We Know. In fact,
I'm tempted to say I loved it, but I need to think about it some more. I ran
into Robert Horton (The Everett Herald) after the screening, and he proclaimed
it "lovely," so there really are other critics in town who liked it.

Kris and I were sitting in front of Sean Axmaker (The Seattle PI), and it's fair to say he was laughing as hard as us--if not more so. That said, I ran into yet another critic, Jeff Shannon (The Seattle Times), afterward, and he found it merely okay.

If I had to describe the film--which isn't that easy to do--I'd say that it takes
the multi-character format of Rose Troche's The Safety of Objects or Jill Sprecher's
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, and has some fun with it.
In other words, those films are dark, but Me and You is suffused with light, love,
and humor. I apologize if that sounds saccharine--I swear the movie isn't.

The action revolves around several people who live in the same suburban Southern California neighborhood, and the ways in which they affect each others lives. At its core, it's a love story (yes, I have a thing about unconventional romances...). And
it has some of the biggest laughs of the year, one of which is an instant classic.

Personally, I found it funnier than Napoleon Dynamite which shares a similar sort of deadpan sense of humor. And actor/director July, who recalls a younger, brunette Laura Dern, underlines one of the film's most amusing scenes with Spiritualized's transcendent cover of the Troggs' "Anyway That You Want Me." Beautiful.

Paramount: Thurs., 5/19, 7:30PM (Opening Night Gala)
.



Images from UCLA, Rotten Tomatoes, and indieWIRE.