Saturday, May 31, 2008

SIFF 2008: Hit and Miss

First, the Hit:
Because I couldn't make it last night, I caught the early showing of American Teen this morning, and LOVED every minute of it. There's been some talk among my friends about whether this documentary was completely real, or if there was some loose 'scripting' - I could see what they were talking about, but either way I thought it was fantastic. I absolutely fell in love with Hannah, and thought the other teens (Jake, Colin, Megan & Mitch) the film profiled showed us a genuinely real (re: painful, awkward, frustrating, and heartbreaking - just as I remember it!) High School experience.

Director Nanette Burstein was at the screening, and told us the film will open in Seattle on August 1st, so you won't have to wait too long to see it if you missed it at SIFF. I personally can't wait for the DVD, because I'm hoping there'll be a ton of edited footage included as an extra.

Now, the Miss:
I really, really, really wanted to love Savage Grace. And poking around the Internet today, I see that most film reviewers did - but I just can't agree.
Normally I adore Julianne Moore, but most of what I saw in this film was her "acting", and not in any way I found believable. Also, I thought the script to be really lacking in character depth, the pacing was way too drawn out - and by the time the really extra-shocking scene happened (as in, the director really wants you to know THIS IS SHOCKING! LOOK!), I was actually paying more attention to her stunning Chanel Suit than the emotions being played out. I feel like I need to read the book this was based on to get a better grasp of the story, which is never a good sign.
Still, this is just my opinion - you might actually like it. If you'd like to give it a try, Savage Grace screens again tomorrow, Sunday June 1, 1:30 pm @ Pacific Place. You can buy tickets online here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

SIFF 2008 Favorite: Ben X

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Ben X screens at the 34th Annual Seattle International Film Festival tonight, May 30th, 9:30pm, and Sunday June 1, 4pm @ Uptown Cinema.* You can buy tickets here.

This visually engaging film focuses on Ben, a teenager with a severe case of Asperger syndrome. Through interviews with family, psychiatrists and schoolmates, we string together bits and pieces of his story. Unable to express his feelings easily, Ben retreats into a fantasy game world, imagining himself a demon-slaying hero who can win his dream girl and complete his 'endgame'. In addition to being beautifully shot, this film has a strong script and top-notch performances.

*Director Nic Balthazar is scheduled to attend both screenings.

Juiced and Ripped

BIGGER, FASTER, STRONGER* (***)
(Christopher Bell, US, 2008, 105 mins.)

arnold2.jpg

We were experimenting with it. It was a new thing.
-- Arnold Schwarzenegger

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

In the 1980s, pop culture junkies viewed Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone,
and Arnold Schwarzenegger as entertainment figures. To three Poughkeep-
sie-based brothers, they were heroes who inspired the Bell boys to become bodybuilders and power-lifters. While USC grad and former Gold's Gym employ-
ee Christopher Bell doesn't use steroids, his heroes have and his professional wrestler siblings do, leading him to look closer at this growing phenomenon.

stallone.jpg
Though Bell explores the health costs, he's mostly concerned with the moral consequences, and speaks with doctors, lawyers, congressmen, gym rats, and
pro athletes to get to the bottom of the conundrum. He also includes a wealth of archival material, notably footage of the congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball (prompted by Jose Canseco's Juiced). The personal nature of his enter-
taining inquiry elevates Bigger, Stronger, Faster* above the average expose.
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
The best activities for your health are pumping and humping.
-- Arnold Schwarzenegger
arnold.jpg
Bigger, Faster, Stronger* plays Pacific Place on 5/30 at 4:15pm (the asterisk in the title stands for "The Side Effects of Being American"). Director in attendance. The movie opens in Seattle on 6/6 (venue TBA). Click here for The New York Times review. Images from CBS News (Arnold in 1977's Pumping Iron), End Evil, and Film Reference.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

SIFF 2008: Bad Habits

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Bad Habits screens at the 34th Annual Seattle International Film Festival tonight Thursday, May 29th at 9:45pm, and again on Sunday, June 1 at 9:15pm @ The Egyptian. You can buy tickets online here.

The first feature from Director Simon Bross gives us a stark glimpse into one family's fixation and issues with food - exploring how it affects our spirits, lives and relationships.

Mathilde becomes a nun who thinks she can save everyone as long as she doesn't enjoy food; aunt Elena is a mother with an eating disorder, who passes her fear of being fat on to her daughter Linda - which in turn pushes her husband (Uncle Gustavo) to find solace in the arms of a curvy student who shares his love for delicious, fatty entrees.

This beautifully shot film (the scenes featuring food are sure to make you salivate) is hardest to watch when Linda's failure to lose weight results in Elena's extreme anger, exposing her character's disease in excruciating detail.

The end result is a striking, melancholy story that makes you think about how food affects everyone, and about how far some people are willing to go with their obsessions. Definitely recommend - just be aware you won't leave the theater on an uplifting note.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A small break from SIFF: the Sex and the City Movie

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I will probably get a lot of crap for posting about this on SIFFBlog, but I got to see the sneak preview of the Sex and the City movie last night, so I feel compelled to share the experience.

It's always interesting to me that S&tC inspires such division - you either hate it with a burning, fiery passion and insist there is nothing genuine or real about it, or you love, love, love it and identify with every character, frequently commenting that you and your girlfriends are exactly like each of the 4 characters, and even arguing over who is more like Carrie, Samantha, Miranda or Charlotte.

I fall into the latter camp, minus the arguing over characters. And last night, I was in a theater FULL of women (many done up in their best dresses and heels) who love, love, love it, and it was a little insane.

I liken the experience to seeing Snakes on a Plane, only instead of beer-fueled men yelling "motherf**king snakes" every 5 minutes, it was cosmo-fueled women swooning, sighing, giggling uncontrollably, emitting shocked "ohmygods" and oohing/ahhing over the parade of gowns, shoes and bags.
After waiting in the theater through footage featuring Entertainment Tonight's Kojo talking to the crowd outside the NY premi/(R)re of the film, they started the film with,AePEntertainment Tonight's Kojo interviewing the stars outside the NY premiere of the film. Everyone was awkward and slightly irritating (I wanted to neck-punch every member of the paparazzi), including a possibly very drunk Patricia Field. Half and hour later (and a full hour after we were seated) the film FINALLY started.
And what can I tell you without giving anything away? Well, almost nothing. In fact, if you watched any of the trailers, you probably already know most of the "surprises" in store. What I will say is this: if you're a fan of the series, you will love this movie. It is exactly like the show, with a bit more label-whoreage (not being a label-happy consumer, I did find the long fashion montages to be a little much, but most of the audience seemed to love them).
There were a few over-the-top moments that made me go "really???" - but all was redeemed at the end, and the never-ending message of "you're never alone; you can always count on your best girlfriends" was carried throughout (ho-ho, I said 'Carrie-d'). One thing to note: If you haven't seen the series, you might be lost (although - the men with us did say they felt like they now knew everything about the entire series). They tried to recap everyone's lives up till now through the opening credits, but I don't think it quite worked.
All in all, a satisfying way for a S&tC lover to spend an evening - but the running time for the actual film is 148 minutes, so take that bathroom break before it starts, or you'll risk serious injury from rabid fans who might not appreciate you climbing over them.
Sex and the City opens Friday, May 30th, and is playing pretty much everywhere: @ the Meridian, the Guild 45th, Oak Tree Cinemas, and The Big Picture (but I think all the Big Picture showings for this weekend are already sold out,AeP)

Monday, May 26, 2008

SIFF 2008 Favorite: The Fall

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On Sunday I was one of the lucky few who got to see The Fall (well, okay, I guess the Uptown holds more than a few - I just meant, in terms of the probably 100+ people who were in the "Rush" line for tickets). Thank you, online ticket-buying system. You saved me!

In any case, I was a little nervous, I'd seen the preview and was really looking forward to it - but that happened with The Cell, which. Well. Left me more than disappointed. I think the secret here is that the director (Tarsem) just needed a better script - which The Fall definitely has.

If you're up for a lushly detailed fairy tale coupled with the heart-breaking friendship between an injured actor and one of the most adorable little girls on screen, than this is what you're looking for. I am not exaggerating when I say that I LOVED everything about this film, from the screenplay to the direction to the acting (of course, my love for Lee Pace runs deep. Viva la Pushing Daisies!).

Unfortunately, The Fall only screened at SIFF once on Sunday, 5/25, and I can't track down another release date for it (other than that one), but I'd be very surprised if it doesn't get released very, very soon. This was a clear crowd favorite, and I can't imagine it being any other way.

EDIT: Thanks to Annie @ the Stranger, I now know that The Fall opens in Seattle THIS Friday, May 30th at the Metro. And...corrected again: It screened twice already. Geez. Note to self: DO MORE RESEARCH BEFORE POSTING.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lynn Shelton 101

MY EFFORTLESS BRILLIANCE
(Lynn Shelton, US, 2008, 97 mins.)


meb.jpg

I found the texture of the relationships and the sly humor winning and
was impressed with the performances.

-- Sean Axmaker, GreenCine

*****

Local luminary Lynn Shelton's follow-up to her entrancing debut, We Go Way Back, which made its first appearance at this year's SXSW Film Festival, debuts tonight
in Seattle at the Egyptian Theater (805 East Pine St.). According to the press notes, "Two estranged friends and an enigmatic third wheel navigate their way through an awkward weekend with alcohol and sarcasm. Then they go on a cougar hunt."

The semi"mprovised feature stars actor/musicians Sean Nelson (Harvey Danger,
the Long Winters), Basil Harris ("Awesome"), and Calvin Reeder (Private Beach)
and offers cinematography from Benjamin Kasulke (WGWB, Brand Upon the Brain!). Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it to the press screening, but fellow Siffblog-
ger David Jeffers praised Kasulke's work when we discussed it a few days ago.

WeGoWayBack_web.jpg
Maggie Brown and Amber Hubert in We Go Way Back
Click here for my review of We Go Way Back, one of my favorite films of '06, here for my interview with Shelton, and here for Axmaker's more recent Q&A with the director.
shelton.jpg
My Effortless Brilliance plays this evening, 5/24, at 9:30pm and repeats on Mon., 5/26, at 4pm (both screenings at the Egyptian). For more information, please visit the official website. Also, the Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave.) hosts tonight's after-party, starting at 11:30pm. Shelton image from The Seattle Post"ntelligencer.
7/17 Update: IFC has acquired My Effortless Brilliance and
will release the film in August as part of Festival Direct.

SIFF 2008 Favorite: Sita Sings the Blues

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Sita Sings the Blues screens at the 34th Annual Seattle International Film Festival this weekend: Sunday, May 25 1:30pm, and Monday, May 26 6:30pm @ the Uptown Cinemas. You can buy tickets online here.

Two parallel stories - the tale of a modern woman whose husband moves to India and dumps her via email, and the epic Indian tale "Ramayana" - come to life in this beautifully animated masterpiece.

We learn the story of Sita and her husband Rama (AKA: The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told) through the narration of three shadow puppets who can't quite get their facts about the legend straight (which is just one of the many great things about the script). Sita sings us the blues to help the tale along, and in-between we get comedic snippets of the modern tale of Nina, her husband - and her cat.
Multi-talented Writer, Director, Producer, Designer and Animator Nina Paley has given us an amazing first feature mixing complimentary animation styles, the 1920's vocal styling of jazz great Annette Hanshaw, and humor throughout the entire length, including a super-cute 2 and half minute intermission.
Even if you're not normally a fan of animation, I highly recommend you give this film a chance. It's more than worth 82 minutes of your time.

Opulent and Radiant: The Saga of Anatahan

THE SAGA OF ANATAHAN (***1/2)
(Josef von Sternberg, 1953, Japan, 92 mins.)

Though language is not always the best way to communicate an idea, its use should not be ignored entirely.
-- Josef von Sternberg (1894-1969)

***** *****

It's just like Viennese director Josef von Sternberg (Morocco, Shanghai Express) to go out in style. Populated by an all-Japanese cast, his final film plays like a cross between Woman in the Dunes, Underground, Letters From Iwo Jima, and ABC's Lost. (Though Sternberg narrates in English, the dialogue is not translated; an initially off-putting, but effective choice.)

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Michiro Maruyana, the story begins in 1944 when 12 sailors, ranging from captain to cook, are shipwrecked on the volcanic island of Anatahan. They are not alone. The tiny speck of land is inhabited by a grumpy gentleman (Tadashi Suganuma) and his common-law wife (Akemi Negishi, Akira Kurosawa's I Live in Fear and The Lower Depths), who were stranded years before. The new arrivals are inexor-
ably drawn to Anatahan's Queen Bee. And she to them. Well, some of them, at any rate.

Years pass, and the war ends, but the "Drones" remain forgotten, so they continue to drink coconut wine and to compete for Keiko's favors, but she stays faithful to her longtime companion because, as Sternberg tells us, that's what good Japanese women do. Keiko may like to flirt, but that doesn't make her a bad gal.

Simmering tensions finally come to a boil when a plane crashes on the island. The passengers seem to have landed elsewhere, but the vessel parts contain pistols, ammunition, cords for a shamisen (a traditional Japanese stringed instrument), and a printed parachute, which someone--presumably Keiko--stitches into spiffy new outfits.

The fun doesn't last long. The armed men
try to make Keiko their own, but the island
has other plans, and the bodies start to
drop. Though filmed in Kyoto, this expres-
sive picture transpires primarily on studio sets, and the moss and shell-covered lo-
cations are obviously fake, but Sternberg uses the limitation in his favor, living up to Andrew Sarris's claim, in classic auteurist text The American Cinema, that the Pan-
theon Director was "a lyricist of light and shadow." Or as Ephraim Katz puts it in The Film Encyclopedia, he "used the camera as a painter's brush or a poet's pen."

Sarris adds that the filmmaker's sharp-
dressed protagonists tend to "retain their
civilized graces despite the most desperate
struggles for psychic survival, and it is their
poise under pressure, their style under
stress, that grants them a measure of he-
roic status and stoic calm." And Sternberg's sympathies for a proud and sensuous woman make Keiko a worthy successor to the regal angels and empresses Marlene Dietrich once embodied for her favorite director.

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

One of his greatest talents lay in making everything appear opulent
and radiant when in fact he worked on a very thin shoestring.

--Dietrich on Sternberg

The Saga of Anatahan plays the Harvard Exit on Sun., 6/1, at 1:30pm. Click here for a more in-depth analysis of Sternberg's narration. As Phil Hall notes, "In a strange way, the constant and often mysterious narration gives The Saga of Anatahan a uniquely odd quality...as if we are eavesdropping into a bizarre parallel universe." Images from Accelerated Decreptitude and Cinematheque Ontario.

Friday, May 23, 2008

SIFF 2008 Opening Night

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Although it's true that the title Battle in Seattle sounds like a monster truck rally (as noted by Andre Benjamin's character in the film), I have to admit, it surprised me. I went into this screening prepared to hate what I assumed would be a melodramatic, over-acted, heavy-handed piece on the WTO riots - but what I saw was actually pretty good.

Did I love it? No. But did I hate it? No, again. It's an easily digestible, multiple character story without much depth, but it does its job. I learned more about the WTO, the protestors, the political maneuvers and the aftermath than I ever knew, so that's something. Sure, some of the dialog was abysmal, but I thought Townsend did a good job his first time out, showing us all aspects of what was happening. In the end, what I got out of it was this: any one of those characters could be us. And what happened, and what continues to happen, affects everyone. So there you go.

Now, let's talk about the Gala party,AeP

Please don't misunderstand me when I say this, because I dearly love SIFF, and I always have. I know they're a Non-Profit, and as such don't have big money to throw out on these things, but let me just say: if I had a nickel for everyone I ran into last night who was severely pissed off about the replacement of open bars with cash ones, I'd be at least a couple hundred dollars richer this morning (Gillian said something in her post about it being a fundraiser, so maybe that's why? But, that's the first I'd heard of it).
For the 4 previous opening night parties I've been too, there's always been free-flowing Bombay Gin, Vodka, Champagne, Wine & Beer. Everyone tipped their bartenders generously, of course - the dance floor was always full, and by the end of the night, EVERYONE loved the movie. This year, after poking around a bit, my party-going companion and I found out there were three levels of wristbands:
VIP, which got you all the free booze you wanted + the good food, AKA: sushi from Nijo (keep In mind, the paying customers forked out $200 for this)
Faux-VIP, which got you 2 free drink tickets + the good food (not quite sure what the qualifications were for this one)
Regular Gala, which got you $5-$7 drinks, + a few food items like tiny sandwiches and some kind of crostini thing, and,AePa mysterious free champagne cocktail with peach and Dungeness crab (???), which no one was touching. (paying customers forked out $50 for this)
So, going back to my Non-Profit understanding - SIFF, I get it, I really do. However, it was probably not wise to go from EVERYTHING to NOTHING in the course of one year, without any type of warning. A "hey, we need to cut back this year so the bars will be cash" statement might have been nice. Or, how about easing those ticket buyers into the idea with at least a few free drinks? Last night's party was almost empty at 11pm - I have the pics to prove it.
Also, the irony of the upper crust being so segregated from the regular people didn't escape anyone. I suspect you'll being a see a lot of blogs addressing this same subject today!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

SIFF 2008 Favorite: Mermaid

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Mermaid screens at the 34th Seattle International Film Festival on Saturday May 24, 1:15pm @ The Egyptian, and Monday May 26, 9pm @ Pacific Place. You can buy tix online here.

From the whimsical opening credits through the gorgeously colored dream sequences, this visually stunning modern fairy tale draws you in.

Six year old Alisa Titova has an active imagination, spending hours in her sleepy seaside shack dreaming of being a ballerina and rushing out to meet arriving ships of servicemen in hopes that the father she's never met will be among them. Her charm and enthusiasm are undeniable, but the most unusual thing about Alisa is that she has the ability to control weather and grant wishes - at a high cost.



After her family's house burns down, Alisa decides to remain silent forever, and we pick up her story again when she is 17 years old. Opportunity for a new life strikes in the form of a hurricane, and the family moves to the big city of Moscow. Love with a stranger named Sasha sparks her ability to communicate, but everything is not as it seems. Alisa's purpose in life is much grander than she realizes.
Director Anna Melikman deftly applies an uplifting spin to the multiple tragedies that occur, and both actresses (Anastasia Dontsova as the 6-year-old and Mariya Shalayeva as the 17 year old) bring Alisa to adorable, brightly shining life. Comparisons to Amelie are inevitable, but this brilliant Russian film firmly stands out on its own.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

SIFF 2008 Picks

It's been awhile since the Press Launch kicked off, but I was impressed by many of the previews I got to see for the upcoming fest. Films that grabbed me (and that I've made a mental note to see) are:

The Fall - (which looks absolutely stunning, and hopefully has a stronger script than Singh's previous effort, The Cell)

The Mother of Tears (Argento FINALLY completes his trilogy - YES!)

Savage Grace (this looks severely traumatizing)

Baghead (could be great, could be terrible, but I'm willing to give it a chance)

Towelhead (no relation to Baghead, but just watching the preview made me want to punch Aaron Eckhart)

American Teen (dubbed the real life Breakfast Club - I have a fascination with teen documentaries right now, so I have to see this one)

and: Patti Smith, Dream of Life (Although I love her music, I don't know that much about her life, so I'm looking forward to it).

In addition, I've seen a few of the press screeners - so far my favorites are Ben X and Mermaid.

I can't believe opening night is so close! Only two more days until red carpet madness will hit. I expect security will be at an all-time high this year since we have some pretty big deals rolling in (I'm most interested in seeing Ms. Michelle Rodriguez, but I'm betting the majority of the gawkers show up for Theron). I'll try my best to get some good photos - but my tolerance for pushing through swarms of people is low, so we'll have to see. ;)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Note to Vice



I've been looking forward to the Vice Magazine produced doc, Heavy Metal In Baghdad, for some time and wish I could be in Seattle to see it at SIFF, but is this the proper way to promote a screening?

Friday, the feature-length version of Vice/VBS's five-year-long investigation into the lives of Iraq's best metal band begins a limited theatrical release in New York and LA ...and for all of you who live somewhere bogus like Austin or Seattle, for once you're in luck. Tomorrow night and this weekend we are hosting screenings in each of these cultureless cesspools. You're welcome.


I mean, okay, I agree about Austin. I lived there for three-and-a-half years and it is a cultureless cesspool [and it's too fucking hot], so there's no love lost there, but Seattle? Hey, those are my people! So, on behalf of Seattle, fuck you, Vice Magazine!

Oh, and congratulations on what looks to be a terrific film.

Heavy Metal In Baghdad
USA, 2007, 84 min.
SIFF Cinema
Saturday May 24, 9:30 PM
Sunday May 25, 11:00 AM

Note to Vice



I've been looking forward to the Vice Magazine produced doc, Heavy Metal In Baghdad, for some time and wish I could be in Seattle to see it at SIFF, but is this the proper way to promote a screening?

Friday, the feature-length version of Vice/VBS's five-year-long investigation into the lives of Iraq's best metal band begins a limited theatrical release in New York and LA ...and for all of you who live somewhere bogus like Austin or Seattle, for once you're in luck. Tomorrow night and this weekend we are hosting screenings in each of these cultureless cesspools. You're welcome.


I mean, okay, I agree about Austin. I lived there for three-and-a-half years and it is a cultureless cesspool [and it's too fucking hot], so there's no love lost there, but Seattle? Hey, those are my people! So, on behalf of Seattle, fuck you, Vice Magazine!

Oh, and congratulations on what looks to be a terrific film.

Heavy Metal In Baghdad
USA, 2007, 84 min.
SIFF Cinema
Saturday May 24, 9:30 PM
Sunday May 25, 11:00 AM

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Hit and a Miss

ELITE SQUAD / Tropa de Elite [***1/2]
(Jose Padilha, Brazil, 118 mins.)

Captain Nascimento (Wagner
Moura
, Lower City, SIFF '07)


Though Jose Padilha's action-packed crime drama won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival, a steady stream of controversy and acclaim has followed in its wake. Some critics have even accused the director of promoting fascism, while Padilha (Bus 174) contends that Elite Squad argues against totalitarianism (in this sense, it recalls Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist). Based around the activities of three special police battalion members, this brutal, bleakly funny film depicts 1990s Rio de Janeiro as Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell. Nonetheless, Brazilians made it an even bigger sensation than City of God, to which it serves as an essential companion piece.



Elite Squad plays the Uptown Cinema on Fri., 5/23,
at 9:30pm and Sat., 5/24, at 1:30pm (click the link for
ticketing information). For an examination of the furor
surrounding Padhila's film, this essay is worth a look.

OPIUM: DIARY OF A MADWOMAN [**1/2]
(János Szász, Hungary, 109 mins.)

[image]
Ghostly white virgin Gizella (Kirsti Stubø)

Too often films about the mentally ill focus on symptoms to the detriment of the person behind them. Occasional exceptions occur in which seemingly normal people descend into madness, as in Iris or Away From Her. In those movies, the characters register as fully-rounded individuals before sickness takes hold. Though Kirsti Stubø gives it her all, the mental patient she portrays in Opium never becomes much more than a collection of ticks and tricks. Ulrich Thomsen (Brothers) plays the opium-addicted doctor who takes charge of her case. Their strange relationship sets off a few small sparks, but neither is especially compelling. A missed opportunity.

Opium plays the Harvard Exit on Fri., 5/23, at
7pm and SIFF Cinema on Sun., 5/25, at 4:15pm.



Endnote: Images from Galeria & Photoma-
ton
, McClatchy, Mediawave, and Mixzona.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chekhov's Gun

SHOTGUN STORIES
(Jeff Nichols, US, 2007, 35mm, 90 mins.)


shotgun%20stories.jpg

If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the
following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there.

-- Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

*****

Back in the 1970s, an abusive, alcoholic Arkansas man named Hayes fathers
three sons. Then he leaves, finds God, cleans up his act, marries another woman, and fathers four more sons. Shortly after Shotgun Stories begins, Hayes dies.

The first three sons, now fully grown, show up at his funeral. Son (Kentucky
native Michael Shannon) speaks briefly to his estranged father's lousy parenting skills, spits into the coffin, and leaves with his younger brothers, Boy (Douglas
Ligon) and Kid (Barlow Jacobs). The rest of the family sits in stunned silence.

[Check out the way The San Francisco Chronicle's Walter Addiego describes Shannon,
break-out star of Bug and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: "He has a face made
for Westerns-you can picture him in Peckinpah's movies-and when he's on-screen, the other actors might as well just grab a chair, sit and wait till he's finished.]

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Son and Kid toil at a fish farm; Boy coaches a middle-school basketball team.
While the first act is devoid of guns, the title indicates that a family feud is in the offing. It is, though Son states flatly, "This started a long time ago." Nonetheless, calm reins for awhile. The sun beats down on the cottonfields, the skies are clear.
Then one afternoon, six of the seven men-Son, Boy, Kid, Mark (Travis Smith), Stephen (Lynnsee Provence), and John (David Rhodes)-run into each other at a carwash and fists fly (only the level-headed Cleaman is missing). No one is badly hurt, and the fight ends before the cops arrive, but the gauntlet has been thrown.
A firearm appears in the next act while the youngest Hayes hunt for snakes. Once
a knife enters the picture, the cycle begins in earnest. Ultimately, someone fires
a shotgun, but not in the expected manner. In the meantime, Jeff Nichols ex-
pends his energies on the rhythms of rural life, the quiet intervals between outbreaks of violence. Deaths, both human and animal, occur off-screen.
shotgun%20stories4.jpg
On the one hand, this removes his archetypal, borderline-Biblical scenario from the realm of cliche. Nichols neither shies away from nor revels in violence. On the other, there's only so much depth to these characters (the second set of siblings are mostly ciphers). That may be intentional, and the actors are persuasive, but Son, Boy, and Kid are more interesting-even occasionally amusing-than genuinely sympathetic.
Lovingly shot in widescreen by cinematographer Adam Stone (longtime associate
of producer David Gordon Green), Shotgun Stories may not cut as deep as Nichols intends, but it does exemplify the way a fresh eye can create something new from the remnants of something old. Revenge dramas, after all, are a dime a dozen.
If some critics have gotten a little over-ecstatic about the filmmaker's first
feature, it's not hard to blame them. Comparisons to Bob Rafelson's Five Easy
Pieces
and David Cronenberg's A History of Violence might seem overblown, but they're not that far off the mark, and those weren't debuts (though Rafelson's only previous movie was the Monkees oddity Head). Premiering in Seattle at SIFF '07
and arriving on DVD in July, Shotgun Stories is best enjoyed on the big screen.
shotgun%20stories5.bmp
Shotgun Stories continues at the Northwest Film Forum through Thurs., 5/15,
at 7 and 9pm. As a side note, tonight is the final evening for John Boorman's
rarely-screened Leo the Last (Wed., 5/14; show times at 7 and 9:15pm). The
NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine. For
more information, please click here or call 206-329-2629. Images from CSPV,
The House Next Door, and Internet Movie Poster Awards Gallery.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

SFIFFBLOG - Week Two - The Forks, The Lap, The Fur

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My Winnipeg

SFIFF51 closed May 8th with a screening of Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. A week ago, Saturday, I went to the Pacific Film Archive to see Guy Maddin present his latest, My Winnipeg.

The last time I saw Guy Maddin in-person was at the Brand Upon The Brain! screening in Seattle, a few months before I moved to San Francisco. The time before that was at a screening of Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary, at the New York Video Festival, a few months before I moved to Seattle. I think I must be stalking Guy Maddin.

Maddin told the audience San Francisco was his favorite city in the United States. But wait, I recall him telling us at the Cinerama that Seattle was his favorite city. Perfidious wretch! Actually, I think San Francisco may be his favorite. He has a longstanding relationship with the the San Francisco Film Society and the PFA. He's appeared at numerous SFIFFs and received the Film Society's Persistence of Vision Award in 2006. He's also appeared at the PFA a number of times and did a residency, curating a series of films in 2004. He also, by his own admission, once passed out in a local bar, trying to catch-up on some sleep. If Guy Maddin is comfortable enough to lay his weary head upon the countertop of one the city's drinking establishments, well then, I consider it a compliment.

I grew up in Leonia, New Jersey, a town with a 400 year history. A few things happened there, most notably George Washington's retreat from the British army; and a number of well-known people lived there, including Anthony Bourdain, Alan Alda and, my favorite, Sammy Davis Jr., who took up residency during his stint in Golden Boy. I can only imagine him, shopping at the Acme or checking out the produce at the Co-Op saying, 'Hey man, look at these mangoes.' For all that, I can't imagine doing a film, My Leonia. Sad to say, the subject of my hometown doesn't inspire any flight of fancy in me. Guy Maddin has no such problem. My Winnipeg was commissioned by Canada's Documentary Channel as a personal history. Well, what they got was personal, but there isn't much history. At least, not of the factual sort. Maddin did a ton of research and quite a bit of the film is archival footage, but he so thoroughly mythologizes and fictionalizes his subject, that you would have an easier time discerning the history of Edwardian England from the novels of Ronald Firbank.

Indeed, I used to think of Maddin as the Firbank of film, with his whimsical pastiches of Russian Constructivism and German Expressionism, bordering on the twee, but something in him broke with Twighlight of The Ice Nymphs and ever since, with the exception of The Saddest Music in the World, he's headed into deeper, more personal, territory and his work has gotten darker, richer, kinkier and more kinetic. Cowards Bend The Knee kicked off the trend with a heavy dose of oneiric perversity [like chasing shots of chartreuse with sips of absinthe], but Brand Upon The Brain! introduced a depth of emotion, mostly oedipal, that gave it gravity. With My Winnipeg, Maddin becomes lyrical. It's rare to see a filmmaker with an equal command of the surreal, in imagery and language and, I imagine, George Toles leant a hand in this, but the voiceover narration, improvised by Maddin, is a Joycean riff of repetitive phrases [The Forks, The Lap, The Fur, The Forks, The Lap, The Fur] and ideas, lulling the viewer into a dense meditation on nostalgia, aging, the mortality of people and places, memory, family, hockey, the past and how, even such a seemingly mundane place can hold a tight grip on you if you call it 'home.'

Oh, and Maddin. Yes, he was there. Charming as usual. Sanguine yet witty, in his Bill Irwin sort-of way, solicitous of the audiences questions, eveready with an insightful, yet humble quip. The fucker.

Theman3.jpg
Erika B/>=k contemplates borscht.
As peculiar as it may be to transform a Midwestern, Canadian town into the stuff of high art, it may seem more unusual to press Georges Simenon into the realm of Dostoevsky, but this is what Bela Tarr attempts with The Man From London. This is not entirely uncalled for. The film is adapted from a novel by Simenon, a writer known for having penned over 400 works of fiction and having slept with nearly as many women. Simenon was a half-generation removed from Camus and saw himself, not as a scribbler of potboilers, but as the heir to Balzac. In fact, when Camus won the Nobel prize in 1957 Simenon is reputed to have flown into a rage, screaming "Can you believe that asshole got it and not me?" Though largely known for his Maigret novels, he wrote a series of books, referred to as his romans durs, that were fatalistically noirish, full of marginal characters often spiraling towards oblivion.
And so, "The Man From London" is an apt source for Tarr and Tarr is correct in freighting it with all the existential weight he can muster but, for technical reasons, the film doesn't properly work. A good deal of this can be attributed to a difficult birthing. Plagued by a host of problems, the film was, at one point, put on hold, after the producer Humbert Balsan, committed suicide. Despite the scattershot production, the film feels complete. The story is there and is told. The film looks gorgeous, the camerawork is fine. As for the movie itself, some parts work well, while others come off as a Bela Tarr parody which, I'm sure, is not what he intended. The dubbing is particularly to blame. Having worked with a largely Hungarian cast that also includes a Czech, a Romanian and Tilda Swinton, Tarr chose to dub the film into French and English [every review I've read says the film is in Hungarian but, I could swear, the print I saw was in French], so the end result comes off like one of those Italian movies from the 60's where everyone is dubbed, usually with somebody else's voice. During some of the more heated scenes it comes off like an old Your Show of Shows routine. This was particularly distracting with Tilda Swinton. It was like seeing her act in one movie, with the soundtrack from another plopped on top of her. Istv/*n Len/*rt, who plays the investigator, Morrison, seems to have been dubbed by two actors. When he speaks English it's with the voice of Michael Lonsdale, but when he speaks French, it's with another voice entirely.
As for the visuals, well, if you've seen Tarr, it's more of the same. Long, beautiful tracking shots, lots of footage of people walking, sitting in cafes, drinking. There's a shot of Erika B/>=k eating a bowl of borscht, of such duration, it had me thinking, "Borscht, yes, where can I find borscht in San Francisco? That piroshki place on Capitol Hill had good borscht. I miss that place." [BTW, if anyone can recommend a good place to get borscht in SF, let me know]. The film, however, lacks the balance and pacing of his other movies. It's not that it's overly long, it's that it's needlessly slow. Scenes that could have been half as long are overly drawn-out and lines of dialogue are delivered with dramatic pauses so protracted, they make Christopher Walken sound like John Moschitta. Interestingly, the direction is co-credited to Tarr's wife/editor /Agnes Hranitzky. Whether this signals a half-cocked gesture towards the formalism of Straub-Huillet or a directorial partnership that has yet to gel, I can't tell but, whatever the case, in The Man From London, Tarr & Hranitzky are not on their game.
Endnote: I would be remiss if I didn't credit Paul Theroux's recent article in the Times Literary Supplement, 'Georges Simenon, the existential hack', as a source of Simenon-y goodness.

SFIFFBLOG - Week Two - The Forks, The Lap, The Fur

mywinnipeg2.jpg
My Winnipeg

SFIFF51 closed May 8th with a screening of Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. A week ago, Saturday, I went to the Pacific Film Archive to see Guy Maddin present his latest, My Winnipeg.

The last time I saw Guy Maddin in-person was at the Brand Upon The Brain! screening in Seattle, a few months before I moved to San Francisco. The time before that was at a screening of Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary, at the New York Video Festival, a few months before I moved to Seattle. I think I must be stalking Guy Maddin.

Maddin told the audience San Francisco was his favorite city in the United States. But wait, I recall him telling us at the Cinerama that Seattle was his favorite city. Perfidious wretch! Actually, I think San Francisco may be his favorite. He has a longstanding relationship with the the San Francisco Film Society and the PFA. He's appeared at numerous SFIFFs and received the Film Society's Persistence of Vision Award in 2006. He's also appeared at the PFA a number of times and did a residency, curating a series of films in 2004. He also, by his own admission, once passed out in a local bar, trying to catch-up on some sleep. If Guy Maddin is comfortable enough to lay his weary head upon the countertop of one the city's drinking establishments, well then, I consider it a compliment.

I grew up in Leonia, New Jersey, a town with a 400 year history. A few things happened there, most notably George Washington's retreat from the British army; and a number of well-known people lived there, including Anthony Bourdain, Alan Alda and, my favorite, Sammy Davis Jr., who took up residency during his stint in Golden Boy. I can only imagine him, shopping at the Acme or checking out the produce at the Co-Op saying, 'Hey man, look at these mangoes.' For all that, I can't imagine doing a film, My Leonia. Sad to say, the subject of my hometown doesn't inspire any flight of fancy in me. Guy Maddin has no such problem. My Winnipeg was commissioned by Canada's Documentary Channel as a personal history. Well, what they got was personal, but there isn't much history. At least, not of the factual sort. Maddin did a ton of research and quite a bit of the film is archival footage, but he so thoroughly mythologizes and fictionalizes his subject, that you would have an easier time discerning the history of Edwardian England from the novels of Ronald Firbank.

Indeed, I used to think of Maddin as the Firbank of film, with his whimsical pastiches of Russian Constructivism and German Expressionism, bordering on the twee, but something in him broke with Twighlight of The Ice Nymphs and ever since, with the exception of The Saddest Music in the World, he's headed into deeper, more personal, territory and his work has gotten darker, richer, kinkier and more kinetic. Cowards Bend The Knee kicked off the trend with a heavy dose of oneiric perversity [like chasing shots of chartreuse with sips of absinthe], but Brand Upon The Brain! introduced a depth of emotion, mostly oedipal, that gave it gravity. With My Winnipeg, Maddin becomes lyrical. It's rare to see a filmmaker with an equal command of the surreal, in imagery and language and, I imagine, George Toles leant a hand in this, but the voiceover narration, improvised by Maddin, is a Joycean riff of repetitive phrases [The Forks, The Lap, The Fur, The Forks, The Lap, The Fur] and ideas, lulling the viewer into a dense meditation on nostalgia, aging, the mortality of people and places, memory, family, hockey, the past and how, even such a seemingly mundane place can hold a tight grip on you if you call it 'home.'

Oh, and Maddin. Yes, he was there. Charming as usual. Sanguine yet witty, in his Bill Irwin sort-of way, solicitous of the audiences questions, eveready with an insightful, yet humble quip. The fucker.

Theman3.jpg
Erika B/>=k contemplates borscht.
As peculiar as it may be to transform a Midwestern, Canadian town into the stuff of high art, it may seem more unusual to press Georges Simenon into the realm of Dostoevsky, but this is what Bela Tarr attempts with The Man From London. This is not entirely uncalled for. The film is adapted from a novel by Simenon, a writer known for having penned over 400 works of fiction and having slept with nearly as many women. Simenon was a half-generation removed from Camus and saw himself, not as a scribbler of potboilers, but as the heir to Balzac. In fact, when Camus won the Nobel prize in 1957 Simenon is reputed to have flown into a rage, screaming "Can you believe that asshole got it and not me?" Though largely known for his Maigret novels, he wrote a series of books, referred to as his romans durs, that were fatalistically noirish, full of marginal characters often spiraling towards oblivion.
And so, "The Man From London" is an apt source for Tarr and Tarr is correct in freighting it with all the existential weight he can muster but, for technical reasons, the film doesn't properly work. A good deal of this can be attributed to a difficult birthing. Plagued by a host of problems, the film was, at one point, put on hold, after the producer Humbert Balsan, committed suicide. Despite the scattershot production, the film feels complete. The story is there and is told. The film looks gorgeous, the camerawork is fine. As for the movie itself, some parts work well, while others come off as a Bela Tarr parody which, I'm sure, is not what he intended. The dubbing is particularly to blame. Having worked with a largely Hungarian cast that also includes a Czech, a Romanian and Tilda Swinton, Tarr chose to dub the film into French and English [every review I've read says the film is in Hungarian but, I could swear, the print I saw was in French], so the end result comes off like one of those Italian movies from the 60's where everyone is dubbed, usually with somebody else's voice. During some of the more heated scenes it comes off like an old Your Show of Shows routine. This was particularly distracting with Tilda Swinton. It was like seeing her act in one movie, with the soundtrack from another plopped on top of her. Istv/*n Len/*rt, who plays the investigator, Morrison, seems to have been dubbed by two actors. When he speaks English it's with the voice of Michael Lonsdale, but when he speaks French, it's with another voice entirely.
As for the visuals, well, if you've seen Tarr, it's more of the same. Long, beautiful tracking shots, lots of footage of people walking, sitting in cafes, drinking. There's a shot of Erika B/>=k eating a bowl of borscht, of such duration, it had me thinking, "Borscht, yes, where can I find borscht in San Francisco? That piroshki place on Capitol Hill had good borscht. I miss that place." [BTW, if anyone can recommend a good place to get borscht in SF, let me know]. The film, however, lacks the balance and pacing of his other movies. It's not that it's overly long, it's that it's needlessly slow. Scenes that could have been half as long are overly drawn-out and lines of dialogue are delivered with dramatic pauses so protracted, they make Christopher Walken sound like John Moschitta. Interestingly, the direction is co-credited to Tarr's wife/editor /Agnes Hranitzky. Whether this signals a half-cocked gesture towards the formalism of Straub-Huillet or a directorial partnership that has yet to gel, I can't tell but, whatever the case, in The Man From London, Tarr & Hranitzky are not on their game.
Endnote: I would be remiss if I didn't credit Paul Theroux's recent article in the Times Literary Supplement, 'Georges Simenon, the existential hack', as a source of Simenon-y goodness.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Southerner Looks to the North: Part Six

A Chat with David Gordon Green: On Bill Anderson
and Pineapple Express
(click here for part five)

snow%20angels8.jpg

I've been trying to do a comedy for years, and nobody would take the leap with me.
-- David Gordon Green

*****

I noticed in looking at the crew for Snow Angels, that you worked
with
[editor] Bill Anderson. The name didn't ring a bell until I look-
ed at a list of his movies. How did you come to work with him?


[The Northern Ireland-born Anderson has worked
extensively with Bruce Beresford and Peter Weir.]

I wanted to switch it up a little bit, and get a guy who could be a kind of mentor.
I really admired the movies he worked on, and talked him into working for donuts.
It was a really fun relationship, because he's of a different generation and-just as on Undertow, we had [Terrence] Malick and Ed Pressman to talk us through some things, because they were tremendous influences on movies we all liked-I think
it's important sometimes to reach out to people who aren't necessarily your best friends, but they obviously come from a soulful place you want to learn from.

tender%20mercies2.jpg
Tender Mercies (1981)
His editing rhythms in Snow Angels are really interesting, and I noticed some-
body already said this in a review, so I'm not the first person to spot it, but they mentioned that every scene ends a beat or two sooner than you think it will. It's different from the editing in Undertow. I really liked it. You get what you need from each scene, but instead of the camera hanging on someone's face, it moves on.

Sometimes it cuts in the middle of a word.
You still get the gist. It works really well.
It brings a little anxiety to it, which I think is pretty cool.
It's almost the opposite of Undertow, because you have a lot of freeze-
frames in that, and you even say in the commentary that you were look-
ing at The Dukes of Hazzard, so there's a tiny bit of that kind of thing.

Yeah, that's more genre and cliches and goofball stuff, but with this I wanted-
I'm a big fan of Tender Mercies, which Bill edited. It has a lot of cool touches to it.
Were you a fan of No Country for Old Men?
I was.
A friend of mine mentioned that the same actress from
Tender Mercies is in No Country. In a way, it just makes the
ending that much better. She's the tie between the two.

[Tess Harper plays Robert Duvall's wife in Mercies, Tommy Lee Jones's in No Country.]
She's good.
So finally, how did you end up doing Pineapple Express?
Well, I've been trying to do a comedy for years, and nobody would take the
leap with me. Then while editing Snow Angels in Los Angeles, through some
friends I was hanging out on the Knocked Up set, and watching how they work-
ed, I was kind of inspired, because it was very similar to the way that we work: everybody trusts everybody, it's open collaboration, and people are throwing
ideas. Everybody's energetic, it's loose and improvisational, and sitting down
and talking with Judd [Apatow] and Seth [Rogen] on that set, they knew where
I was coming from and I knew where they were coming from. We just said, if
there's something that fits down the line, and then two weeks later, Seth sent
me this script that he and his buddy Evan Goldberg had just finished...
Who also worked on Superbad. But this isn't from when they were 13 years old.
No, it's from them now. [laughs] It's a wild, pretty far-out-it's a great blend of the two teams. It was a lot of fun, and we found a studio to take the risk and go for it.
And it's finished, right?
It's totally done.
eddie%20rouse.jpg
Green's good luck charm
Are any of the actors you've worked with before in it?
Eddie Rouse [above] is in all my movies, except Snow Angels.
He's really interesting. He's got that 'thing.' You just want to watch...
I love Eddie. Who else is in it? Robert Longstreet, who has a little role in Under-
tow
and is in Great World of Sound, who's awesome. He has a role in it. The mom
from Snow Angels-Jeanetta Arnette. She was on Head of the Class, the TV show.
Maybe that's where I know her from.
And Boys Don't Cry.
That's probably what I'm thinking of. So, people who've seen your
other films might feel a little more at home. Is it a stoner comedy?

It is.
I read a description of it as a stoner comedy,
but I wasn't sure if they were just assuming that.

It's gonna be the first stoner action movie.
This year also sees the second Harold & Kumar movie.
That first one was surprisingly great.
Gregg Araki's film was also supposed to come out this year.
Smiley Face?
Yeah. It went straight to DVD. I think it was an issue with his studio [which went out of business]. That was a stoner comedy, too, so there could've been three in a row.
We could've made history. Maybe we'll put our trailer on Harold & Kumar.
That's all I've got, and our time is up. Thanks for talking to me.
Sweet. It was good talking to you, too.
pineapple%20express2.jpg
To start at the beginning, please click here. The Green-produced Shotgun Stories continues at the Northwest Film Forum (and as mentioned previously, Pineapple Express opens on 8/8). The NWFF is located at 1515 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill between Pike and Pine. For more information, please click here or call 206-329-2629. For more about Snow Angels, I'd recommend this great backgrounder.
Images from Green Key Management, Love Film, and The New York Times.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

SFIFFBLOG - Week One

romance_astrea_critica1.jpg
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon

The 51st San Francisco International Film Festival began a week and a half ago with an opening night screening of The Last Mistress. Due to time limitations [work] and fiscal constraints [relocation debts] I had to be a bit selective when choosing my SFIFF tickets. Fortunately, two of those tickets were given to me as a birthday present by Siffblog commenter, Ratzkywatzky. As an additional stroke of fortune, I received a rebate check from Verizon, allowing me purchase three additional tickets for a total of five, five screenings, ah, ha, ha!

So, last Sunday, I went to the Sundance Kabuki and saw Eric Rohmer's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon . Interestingly, it was showing in two adjacent theaters, simultaneously [or near simultaneously, the projections were 30 seconds apart], so if you were going to meet someone at the film, you had to contact them and let them know which theater to find you in. Anyway, the film. I'm embarrassed to admit, I've never seen one by Eric Rohmer before. The closest I ever came was in college, when I had a crush on my freshman composition instructor, Claire, and one of my classmates told me I should see Claire's Knee, because I would really relate to it. And you know, Rohmer's only made 50 movies, so I have some catching up to do. Anyway, the film. Rohmer adapted it from an early 17th century text, by Honore d'Urfe, set in 5th century Gaul. An Arcadian tale of shepherds and shepherdesses, druids and nymphs, one would expect 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' sort-of romp and there's something of that in the tale of romantic misunderstandings, mistaken identity and lovers separated and rejoined, but there's very little of the supernatural in evidence. Instead it plays very flatly, albeit charmingly, like a lighter version of Bresson's Lancelot du Lac. Rohmer sought inspiration from the 16th century imagining of classical virtues, but he infuses it with the sensibility of his era. To put it simply, it's what you get when you combine 60's/70's French cinema with a Baroque vision of the Roman era. It's slow, it's languorous, it's offhandedly funny and it's sprinkled with casual nudity. I loved it.

asia.jpg
Go Go Tales
Speaking of nudity, one expects to see a bit of that in a film set in a strip club. What isn't expected is something tasteful and sensitive. Not only is Go Go Tales the most un-sleazy film I've ever seen in such a setting, it's the most warmhearted film I've seen from Abel Ferrara. A couple of critics have compared it to The Killing of A Chinese Bookie and I can certainly see the ghost of Cassavetes in it, but it's got the shaggier, six-conversations-at-once spirit of Altman. I mean, it's like Prairie Home Companion, but with strippers. It's got Willem Dafoe, holding court as an embezzling, lottery-ticket addicted manager; Roy Dotrice as his accountant/partner"n-crime; Sylvia Miles as the landlady, constantly threatening to sell the place to turn it into a Bed Bath & Beyond and a bottle-blonde Matthew Modine, trying to score a lap dance from Asia Argento's Monroe, a stripper with the poise, elegance and grace of Sandra Bernhard [which, come to think of it, is pretty damn sexy]. Oh, and it's got Bob Hoskins, chasing a guy in a lobster suit. It's a masterpiece.
Micke.jpg
A rare moment of happiness in You, The Living
"Be pleased then, you the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe's ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot." --Goethe

With these words Roy Andersson begins You, The Living, but he could as easily have quoted Woody Allen's opening observation from Annie Hall :
There's an old joke. Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of 'em says: "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know, and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly."

Indeed, with its use of Dixieland jazz, its absurdist surrealism, its manner of verbally setting-up visual jokes and its Kierkegaardian dread, the film shows what an actual marriage of early Allen and Ingmar Bergman would look like and boy, is it funny. And depressing. It's not so much a bittersweet view of life, it's just plain bitter. It's not that the people in the film are suffering some endless horror, they're just listless, alienated, despairing and devoid of redemption. What life affirming moments there are, are presented as fantasies. The dreariest comedy ever, it might as well have been titled 'You, The Miserable Bastards' and you, the audience goer, will laugh and feel eminently thankful that you are not one of the people in this film.
Next up, an appearance by Guy Maddin and two hours with Bela Tarr.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

On the Road to SIFF '08

battle%20in%20seattle.jpg
Filmed in the city of...Vancouver!

A few basic facts:
SIFF '08 runs from 5/22 - 6/15
This is the 34th year of the festival
The opening night film is Battle in Seattle (Stuart Townsend)
The closer is Bottle Shock (Randall Miller)
Press screenings began on 4/28

herzog.jpg
Master filmmaker and notorious chicken hater
Best films so far:
Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)
The Saga of Anatahan (Joseph von Sternberg; review to come)
Frozen River (Courtney Hunt; with Melissa Leo in peak form)
The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat; with Asia Argento)
Argento also appears in father Dario's The Mother of Tears, which looks just as lurid as you would expect (and co-stars Suspiria's blue-eyed monster Udo Kier). In addition, Herzog appears in non-SIFF entry Mister Lonely, opening at the NWFF on 5/16.
Best quotes so far:
"We were scolded, of course. Since when has alcoholism
been cured by scolding?" (The Saga of Anatahan)
"I loathe the sun both on the celluloid and on my skin."
(Encounters at the End of the World)
*****
For the sixth time in the past seven years, I wrote several blurbs for the
SIFF program guide and Seattle Times supplement. In his otherwise inform-
ative fest introduction, The Weekly's Brian Miller notes that the Times "guide"
(his quotes) collects "canned and uniformly positive blurbs written by SIFF."
Like we're gonna trash the line-up? Please. I can't imagine a festival any-
where in the world that would diminish their own offerings. What would be
the point? To scare audiences away? That's the job of the critics who cover
the fest-or it's the job of those critics who choose to "trash" films in the
first place (quotes provided by me; I have no interest in trashing anything).
That said, he's right about SIFF's lack of love for the Eastside. Somehow
that escaped my attention. I'm guessing the demand, expense, and/or
inconvenience didn't justify further bookings at Lincoln Square. If you're lo-
cated on the other side of the water, and feeling disenfranchised by the
ommission, I suggest giving the SIFF staffers a (polite) shout. They're
great about taking such considerations into account for future events.
rickman.jpg
This velvet-voiced smoothie stars in Bottle Shock
Images from Cinema Clock (Battle in Seattle; copyright Rem-
star), Rickman Paradise, and Vice (click for Herzog interview).