A Helpful Guide To SIFF

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If you haven’t made your selections yet for the city’s behemoth festival set to hit Seattle screens next week, this is my rough guide to the best of the nearly 400 strong program as well as a list of those to skip in favor of seeing them when they’re released later this summer. Hopefully I’ll see you at some of these screenings.

All Tomorrow’s Parties, a doc on the London based music festival directed by Tarnation filmmaker Jonathan Caouette, Featuring Belle and Sebastian, Sonic Youth, Portishead, Animal Collective and Mogwai, this film is an intoxicating paean to good times and great music.

Le Amiche – The international breakthrough of Michelangelo Antonioni in the 1960s, which made him the world’s most notorious cult filmmaker, also largely overshadowed his earlier films, including this gem, which has rarely been shown in this country.

Beaches of Agnes-a retrospective journey for Agnes Varda which details her personal evolution in Sete, France during and after WW2, then the beginning of her career as a film-maker and, most importantly, her connection to the French novelle vague and subsequent marriage/relationship with Jacques Demy, detailing his death from AIDS in 1990.

Bluebeard – Catherine Breillat ‘s latest playful, intoxicating and highly personal rumination on Charles Perrault’s 17th-century fairytale about a gloomy nobleman with a penchant for murdering his wives.

Exploding Girl-Once in a while a film coheres around an acting performance in such a way that it’s difficult to tell whether the director’s sensibility is radiated through the actor, or whether the actor’s contribution is comprehensive enough to qualify as direction. Zoe Kazan is a phenomenon as the rather ordinary college girl Ivy in Bradley Rust Gray’s The Exploding Girl: she acts so completely from within the character that her smallest, least significant bits of business are as vivid as her dramatic peaks. See it for that reason alone.

Four Boxes– By Wyatt McDill, a friend from Minneapolis actually. Really glad to see he’s screening in the festival. Try to catch this great piece of regional cinema!

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle– Our own entry into SIFF this year is 0dd, puzzling, emphatic, ambiguous, invigorating and truly hilarious. What other time in your life could you feel your stomach churn with empathy, or anything at all for that matter, for a man sitting on his kitchen counter staring into the sink at a little blue fish that has recently exploded out of his butt?!

Madrona by Kusturica– I haven’t seen this one yet, but I’ll be there. Serbian director Emir Kusturica’s (UNDERGROUND) documentary reveals the many facets of controversial world soccer legend Diego Maradona.

Mesrine: A Film In Two Parts– Again I haven’t seen this one but have heard good things. It charts the outlaw odyssey of Jacques Mesrine (played by Vincent Cassel), the legendary French gangster of the 1960s and 1970s who came to be known as French Public Enemy Number 1 and The Man of a Thousand Faces.

Modern Life– One of the finest films in Cannes last year came from photographer and film-maker Raymond Depardon, he has the unparalleled reputation as chronicler of French rural life.

Raging Sun, Raging Sky- In February the film debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival and walked away with the Teddy Award. The Teddys recognize the best gay and lesbian cinema at the festival. The Mexican director won his first Teddy with his 2003 debut film, A Thousand Clouds Encircle the Sky, Love, You Will Never Stop Being Loved, which depicted a young gay Mexican man’s longing for love.

Rembrandt’s J’Accuse Peter Greenway’s latest documentary takes up the role of champion of visual literacy by conducting a forensic search of Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch.”

Still Walking-The sixth feature film from the acclaimed director, Hirokazu Kore-ada. The film is a probing look at an average middle class Japanese family like many of the director’s previous works. Best described to western viewers as the Japanese Terrence Malick for the meditative tone that runs constant throughout his films, he is also known in his native land as the fitting successor of Yasujiro Ozu, the auteur behind such Japanese classics as Tokyo Story. For those patient enough to allow the film to seduce and hypnotize through its serene temperament, it will be an unforgettable movie viewing experience.

We Live In Public-Following up on her 2004 rock-doc DiG!, which charted the perpetual downward trajectory of The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe, director Ondi Timoner finds herself an arguably even more insane creative-genius übermensch to profile: conceptual artist/web pioneer Josh Harris, whose life-long obsession with surveillance and voyeurism manifested in projects that delightfully and horrifically obliterate the boundaries separating performance art from social experiment.

World’s Greatest Dad– You might remember last summer’s appearance of Bobcat Goldthwait in our theatre to introduce Hal Ashby’s The Landlord. Well this is the reason he was in Seattle. I’ve heard its hysterical!

THE BEST OF ALTERNATE CINEMA AT NORTHWEST FILM FORUM

California Company Town- James Benning disciple Lee Anne Schmitt’s much-anticipated essay film casts a probing, clear-eyed gaze at the landscape of California towns abandoned by the industries that created them—onetime boom-towns now haunted by the twilight of the American promise.

Our Beloved Month of August-A tantalizing mix of documentary, fiction and everything in between (including music video), Miguel Gomes’ 150-minute love song to rural Portugal, Our Beloved Month of August, scores viscerally as well as intellectually. Gorgeously photographed performances by semi-pro Portuguese dance-music bands at the summer Pardieiros festival set one’s eyes ablaze and toes tapping, but Gomes goes further to work the brain as a narrative slowly, sneakily emerges out of the verite melody-making.

FILM IST. a girl & a gun- A meticulous montage of footage mined from the world’s film archives. A testament to the art of cinematography and its powers of mythical constructionas well as being a stunning audiovisual journey through the first four and a half decades of film history.

FILMS I SUGGEST BUT WILL BE PLAYING IN SEATTLE AFTER SIFF

Humpday– The much anticipated feature from local favorite Lynn Shelton will open Landmark this July. But if you’re just dying to see it, I suggest getting tickets early cause it will sell out!

$9.99– A stop-motion animation film which tackles the meaning of life in an intriguingly surreal manner. This is one of the most irreverently funny films I’ve seen in a long long time. Also opening in July.

Headless Woman-As pure filmmaking, The Headless Woman is indisputably superb, non-stop evocative; there’s scarcely a shot that doesn’t throb with ambiguous menace and/or portent. Absolutely one of the finest films of the year. Look for it later this fall.

Tulpan A deceptively simple but captivating story about a group of nomadic shepherds in the poverty-stricken Betpak Dala region of southern Kazakhstan. Opens Landmark in late June.

Summer Hours– A quiet, carefully observed film from writer-director Olivier Assayas, a former Cahiers du cinéma critic. A return to form for the great French master. Opening May 29th, the end of the first week of the festival, at Landmark.

OPENING AT NORTHWEST FILM FORUM THIS SUMMER

Burma VJ– A dramatic documentary film by Danish director Anders Østergaard about the Burmese reporters who risked their lives covering the Saffron revolution in Burma in September 2007. Østergaard assembled the film almost entirely from handheld footage shot during the protests. We’ll open this one in late August.

Art & Copy– The new documentary from Doug Prey (Scratch) about the best ad agencies on the planet. It’s a wonderful film, full of great stories about the creative process and the origins of the 20th Century’s most memorable ads. A must see for Mac fans, this includes a brilliant blow-by-blow for how Apple’s amazing “1984” commercial was created, courtesy of TBWA Chiat-Day Chairman Lee Clow. Again opening here in August.

Treeless Mountain– A delicate, shimmering little gem about two young girls, six year old Jin (Hee Yeon Kim), and her four year old sister, Bin (Song Hee Kim), who are left with their Big Aunt (Mi Hyang Kim) while their mother (Soo Ah Lee) goes in search of their deadbeat father. We screen in late June.

Know Your Mushrooms-This is it, shroomers: your technicolor, unicorn-in-space prayers have been answered and by none other than an ecentric Canadian Ron Mann. Opening June 13th!

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One Response to “A Helpful Guide To SIFF”

  1. Glenn Fox Says:

    I just wanted to second some of the films Adam recommends for SIFF. I saw these films in Toronto last fall and they are all great: SUMMER HOURS, MODERN LIFE, TULPAN and STILL WALKING. Recently I was able to see THE HEADLESS WOMAN and it is mesmerizing. I’m looking forward to seeing all of these films a second time. Just this week I saw THE EXPLODING GIRL and it is my favorite smallish American film in ages. Dennis Lim said that the film was “realistic” and “poetic”. Often the smallish American films get the realistic part right, but they can’t seem to reach the poetic. This one has both and the last ten minutes are sublime. – Glenn

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