Monday, May 16, 2011

SIFF Dispatch #1

"You have to
be crazy to pro-
duce a movie."
-- Mathieu Amal-
ric on his charac-
ter in On Tour

The 37th Seat-
tle Interna-
tional Film Festival
, which runs from May
19 – June 12, begins on Thursday with a gala screening of The First Grader. After that, the fest will screen 440 features and shorts from 74 countries over 24 days throughout Seattle, Renton, Everett, and Kirkland.

Unlike years past, I missed the screening of the opening night film, but it’s
worth noting that Justin Chadwick directed episodes of MI-5, The Other
Boleyn Girl
with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johannson, and the marve-
lous BBC/Masterpiece Classic adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House.
His second full-length feature centers on the efforts of a former Mau Mau
fighter, 84-year-old Kimani (Oliver Litondo), to secure an education.

I’m quite fond of co-star Naomie Harris, who gave such spirited turns
in White Teeth, Small Island, and Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later. I’m less
enamored by her work in the last two Pirates of the Caribbean entries,
but that endless series can suck the talent out of the hardiest of souls.

The screen-
ing of the
yan co-prod-
uction takes
place at Seat-
tle Center’s
McCall Hall,
with a recep-
tion to follow
at the Cen-
ter’s Exhibi-
tion Hall. Sponsors include Don Q, Stella Artois, Cupcake Royale, Dil-
ettante, and Ivar’s, so expect plenty of booze, seafood, and sweets.

The First Grader opens May 27 at the Metro Cinemas (4500 9th Ave. NE).

Because I write for the program guide (this marked my eighth year),
I had already seen 13 films before press screenings began on May 2.
Of those selections, my favorites were actor/writer/director Mathieu
Amalric’s On Tour (Tournée), which I described as “joyous and gen-
erous,” and Sally Rowe’s A Matter of Taste - Serving up Paul
, which I described as “suspenseful and revealing.”

Until I read up on the film, I had no idea that On Tour, which revol-
ves around an American burlesque troupe's tour through France, rep-
resented Amalric’s fourth film as director. Though I’m familiar with ma-
ny of the films in which he’s appeared, I’m unfamiliar with his other direc-
torial efforts. In reviewing the premiere at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, Patrick Z. McGavin wrote, "The movie has a documentary realism and sharpness that carries it through the rough spots and dramatic lulls."

Though On
has e-
licited mixed
reviews, and
Amalric does-
n't always
combine the
cinéma véri-
té and fiction-
al elements
as elegantly
as he could,
he won the
best direc-
tor award at Cannes. Writes David Hudson, "The crowd pretty much
went wild when Jury President Tim Burton announced the decision."

On Tour plays the Admiral Theatre (2343 California Ave. SW) on May 28 at 9pm
and the Neptune (1303 NE 45th St.) on June 9 at 9:30pm and June 11 at 3:30pm.

Furthermore, I had never heard of Paul Liebrandt, but the chef has
spent most of his life working in the kinds of high-end eateries I could
never possibly afford. As Rowe proves, though, even superstars like
Liebrandt don’t always have the easiest time of it, and she documents
a decade of ups and downs until the tide finally turns in his direction.

Though I don't mention it in my blurb, I would recommend that vegetar-
ians think twice before attending A Matter of Taste. I may be an omni-
vore, but I draw the line at calf brains and foie gras. Still, I have nothing
but respect for Leibrandt's artistry, and Rowe does a fabulous job at pho-
tographing the chef's dishes as if they were--and they are--works of art.

A Matter of Taste plays SIFF Cinema (321 Mercer St.) on May 20 at 7:30pm
and the Admiral Theatre (2343 California Ave. SW) on May 22 at 1:00pm.

Other films I would recommend include Tom Tykwer’s Three (Drei), Robin Aubert’s Crying Out (À L'Origine d'un Cri), Mark Meily’s Donor, Philip Neel and David H. Jeffery’s Lesson Plan, Ryan Redford’s Oliver Sherman, Louise Alston’s Jucy, Alain Corneau’s Love Crime (Crime d'Amour), and the final film from Jean Becker, My Afternoons with Margueritte (La Tête en Friche).

Click here for SIFF Dispatch #2.

Endnote: Images from BBC Films,, and The Wall Street Journal (via Sally Rowe). For more information about SIFF '11, please click here.

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