Saturday, June 4, 2011

SIFF Dispatch #4

Click here for
SIFF Dispatch #3

The Seattle
al Film Fes-
has been
underway for
over two weeks
now, and I've
gotten my sec-
ond wind. I
don't tend to
see as many films as your average full series pass holder, but it's still a chal-
lenge to balance the fest with a trio of freelance/part-time gigs.

Other than a couple of interviews that fell through, though, things
have been going pretty well, and to be on the safe side, I've decid-
ed not to request any others, though it might've been fun to speak
with Magic Trip's Alex Gibney or Bellflower's Evan Glodell.

There are no more screenings of Bellflower, a high-octane,
blood-drenched road-trip romance that feels like an instant cult
classic, but Glodell's debut found a distributor in Adam Yauch's
Oscilloscope Labratories, and opens in limited release on 8/5.

In the Beastie Boys, Yauch goes by Ad Rock, and Santigold guests on the
trio's new record. Considering that Bellflower was shot over three years
for approximately $17,000, I was surprised to find her songs listed in the
credits. I'm guessing that Yauch pulled a string or two to keep the music
costs down. At the Q&A, Glodell, who plays passive-aggressive Mad Max
fan Woodrow, says that Oscilloscope will also be releasing a soundtrack.

As for Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place, there's one
screening left on Sat., June 4, at the Egyptian. An Oscar winner for Taxi
to the Dark Side
, Gibney has also made films about Enron (The Smartest
Guys in the Room
), Hunter S. Thompson (Gonzo: The Life and Work of
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
), Jack Abramoff (Casino Jack & the United Stat-
es of Money
), and Eliot Spitzer (Client 9), all of which are worth a look.

I had hoped to make it to the Magic Trip press screening, but I was up
late the night before after watching The Last Circus (Balada Triste de
Trompeta), and had too much work to do the next day. Unfortunately,
there are no more screenings of this Álex de la Iglesia horror movie
mash-up, which references everything from Freaks to Pan's Labyrinth.

Granted, I always end up missing a few films, but that's hard to avoid,
unless you can afford to take time off work. In the 1990s, I approach-
ed the fest that way, but as a freelancer, it's no longer an option...not
as long as I want to pay the rent. A short list of other SIFF '11 misses
include Mika Kaurismäki’s Mama Africa (about the late Miriam Make-
ba); Michael Winterbottom's The Trip (with Steve Coogan and Rob Bry-
don); Sophie Fiennes' Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow; The Night
of Counting the Years
; Bill Morrison's Spark of Being; and Kevin
Macdonald's Life in a Day, the closing night selection, which screen-
ed for the press on Friday. The Trip opens 6/17 at the Harvard Exit.

Fortunately, I've been able to see everything else that's attracted my
attention, either through press or public screenings. DVD screeners are
also available to the press corps, but since the publicity department now
requires writers to submit a credit card to check them out, I've decided to
opt out. It's not that I don't trust the staff or their system to keep my da-
ta safe, but that I disagree with this approach, and would rather miss a
film than hand over my card. I don't usually complain about SIFF's inner
workings, because I'm a longtime volunteer, contributor, and member. I
know how hard it is to put on a festival, but…growth comes at a price.

Frankly, I'd rather talk about the films. In reviewing the Tehran-set
Circumstance for Amazon, I wrote, "Filmed in Beirut, American-born
writer/director Maryam Keshavarz's feature-film debut is pitched some-
where between [Udayan Prasad's] My Son the Fanatic and [Bahman
Ghobadi's] No One Knows about Persian Cats. If less overtly political,
she's equally sympathetic towards her protagonists and just as critic-
al of the individuals and institutions that would stand in their way."

The beautifully shot entry stars Nikohl Boosheri, Sarah Kazemy, and Re-
za Sixo Safai, all of whom are very good (and also quite beautiful). Kesh-
avarz and Safai are scheduled to attend the screenings at the Harvard
Exit on Sat., 6/4, at 6:30pm and the Egyptian on Mon., 6/6, at 4:15pm.

Britain's Andrew Haigh will also be in attendance at the 6/5 screening of
Weekend at SIFF Cinema at 4:30pm. The first took place yesterday at
the Harvard Exit. For Amazon, I wrote, "Most everyone has had the exper-
ience of meeting someone new and feeling an instant connection. Transfer-
ring that phenomenon to the big screen, however, tends to fall flat when
the cast and the script aren't up to the task. As in Richard Linklater's the-
matically similar Before Sunrise, director Haigh has no such problem."

Since the film is largely a two-hander, it helps that Tom Cullen and Chris
New work so well together. In addition to Sunrise, I was reminded of Brief
, while a friend cited Friday Night. The comparison to David Lean
might seem a stretch, since Haigh's protagonists are neither heterosexual
nor married...but the climactic scene does take place at a train station.

Other recommendations include Christopher Munch's environmental-
ly-oriented Letters from the Big Man with Lily Rabe, the daughter
of Jill Clayburgh and David Rabe, and S.J. Clarkson's hilarious and
heartbreaking Toast with Oscar Kennedy and Helena Bonham Carter.

Munch, who directed The Hours
and Times
and Color of a Brisk
and Leaping Day
, will be in at-
tendance. I'm also fond of his
semi-autobiographical Sleepy Time Gal with Jacqueline Bisset.

plays SIFF Cinema on
Fri., 6/10, at 6:30pm and Sat.,
6/11, at 4:30pm, while Toast,
an adaptation of chef Nigel Slat-
er's memoir, plays the Neptune
on Sat., 6/11, at 6:30pm and
Sun., 6/12, at 11am. It's one
of my favorites of the festival.

In an echo of Sweeney Todd's
Mrs. Lovett, Bonham Carter is
expectedly great as Nigel's bras-
sy, manipulative stepmother, but
I believe young Mr. Kennedy gives one of the year's finest child perfor-
mances (Finding Neverland's Freddie Highmore, also good, plays the 16-
year-old version). Ken Stott, as his father, and Lark Rise to Candleford's
Victoria Hamilton, as his mother, are equally strong. Clarkson, who has
helmed episodes of Life on Mars and House, will be at the screenings.

Click here for SIFF Dispatch #5.

Endnote: Toast still from Iain Stott's The One-Line Review.

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