Archive for November, 2010

Luis García Berlanga 1921 – 2010

November 16, 2010

Luis García Berlanga passed away last Saturday, November 13. Along with Juan Antonio Bardem – oh, and Bunuel – he defined post-war Spanish cinema under the iron fist of Francoism. His filmmaking was of a classic mold but suffused with wicked and biting satire that often got him into trouble with censors and the government. He is perhaps best remembered for his hilarious 1952 film, Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall (Welcome, Mr. Marshall), in which the residents of an Andalusian village get wind that a delegation of Americans will visit. In hopes of getting some loose Yankee dollars, the village prepares by becoming a stereotypical Spanish town, building fake theatrical building sets and dressing up everybody in 18th century Majo and Maja costumes – all bought on credit. The day arrives and the Americans zip through town in big American cars without stopping. His 1963 film, El Verdugo (The Executioner) was a succès de scandale when Spanish authorities tried to stop its screening at the Venice Film Festival. El Verdugo is a morbidly black comedy about a man who inherits the job of state executioner from the father of his new bride. By the late 60s, between genuine problems getting financing and permission to shoot films and the rise of a new generation of filmmakers – the likes of Carlos Saura, Victor Erice, Jose Luis Borau and Manuel Gutierrez Aragon – his star was eclipsed. However, after the death of Franco in 1975, Berlanga hit his stride again with 1978’s La Escopeta Nacional (The National Rifle) where his acerbic humor and take-no-holds skewering of Francoist Spain gave him another lease on his long film career. He continued making films films until 1999, when he officially retired.

A real stumper – how many of these trivia questions can you get?

November 12, 2010

Whew, this quiz from David Thompson is a toughie.  But give it a go:

1. Who said, “I know things about people, Lily?”, and in what film?

2. Who played Louis Mazzini, Jeeves and Lord Byron?

3. Which actor made at least one film with Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Rene Clair and John Ford?

4. She was born in Assam, India and he was born in Hampstead. What did they do together, and who are they?

5. What film did Upton Sinclair pay for?

6. Name a director who has filmed material from Ed McBain, Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare.

7. Who is the link in Stavisky, Reds and Beat the Devil?

8. Who won the Sarah Siddons prize?

9. Find the thread: James Jones, Michael Ondaatje, Colette?

10. Who had an Uncle Jack and an Aunt Fanny?

Full quiz and answers here.

Big news from director Danny White and his $600 “The Middle of the Middle”

November 12, 2010

This just in:

Seattle Filmmaker’s $600 Feature Lands at Zero in NY and LA

Self-financed, indepedent Seattle filmmakers continue to quietly flex their creative muscles on the international film festival circuit. The latest, a $600 feature film offering by Seattle director Daniel L. White, opens in New York on November the 15th and in Los Angeles on December the 11th as part of the 3rd Annual Zero Film Festival.

John Phillips and Hannah Johnson

Quote startthere’s a real focus on creativity rather than just rehashing the same old thing…Quote end

Seattle, WA (PRWEB) November 12, 2010

While perhaps most famous for coffee and grunge music, Seattle filmmakers have quietly been racking up festival accolades around the world. Largely centered around the iconic Northwest Film Forum, the last few years have seen self or community financed films by Seattle filmmakers such as Lynn Shelton, Linas Phillips, David Russo and Robinson Devor play to audiences from Sundance to Cannes.

The latest addition to the roster, a quiet little art-house feature titled “The Middle of the Middle” by Seattle director Daniel L. White. The film, which was shot for only $600, centers around a young woman, known only as “The Girl”, who is in love with two different men. Set in Hollywood, the film offers a stark portrayal of modern love against a backdrop of urban blight.

Selected from over 1000 submissions, “The Middle of the Middle”, chosen as the closing night film in Los Angeles, is one of 10 feature and nearly 150 short films from around the world that are being presented by the Zero Film Festival. In its 3rd year, the Zero Film Festival is one of the fastest growing festivals in the world, with a diverse roster of films debuting from across North America, Western Europe, the Middle East and Japan. The festival is noteworthy in that it requires films be completely self-financed to avoid becoming what festival founder Richard Hooban decries as “the Hollywood marketing campaigns” disguised as “independent” or “underground” film festivals.

Regarding the Seattle independent film scene and his film’s festival inclusion, director Daniel L. White states that “I’ve been so impressed with the film community in the Seattle area. I think it is easily one of the most supportive, vibrant and creative filmmaking scenes in the country. I’ve met some of the most incredibly talented and visionary filmmakers, but they’ve all got this wonderful humility and love of art to them. Seattle filmmakers and festivals like Zero are just what the film industry needs because there’s a real focus on creativity rather than just rehashing the same old thing. I think we’re a perfect fit with the Zero Film Festival and I’m proud to be a part of both.”

“The Middle of the Middle” will premiere in New York on Monday, November 15th at 8:00 p.m. at the Invisible Dog Art Center, 51 Bergen St. Brooklyn, NY 11201. Admission is free. Complimentary drinks will be served. Space is limited.

The West Coast premiere of “The Middle of the Middle” will be Saturday, December the 11th at 6:00 p.m. at The Silent Theater, 611 N. Fairfax Ave. Hollywood, CA 90036. Tickets are $12 in advance. Complimentary drinks will be served. Tickets can be purchased via the web at:

The 3rd Annual Zero Film Festival runs in New York from November 13-20, Miami from December 2-5, and Los Angeles from December 8-11.

On the web:


Tokyo Calling

November 10, 2010

The Tokyo International Film Festival wrapped last week. TIFF is a sort of vertically sprawling film festival commanding 8 days, several screens and a story or two of the Mori Tower at Roppongi Hills, a post-modern plaza, shopping mall, art museum, cinema, office center in the heart of Tokyo. Its programming is all over the place, too. There are several sections: the Competition, Special Screenings, Winds of Asia – Middle East (highlighting new work from the Asian continent), a sidebar on contemporary Taiwanese cinema, Japanese Eyes, World Cinema and natural TIFF (highlighting nature docs and any number of thing that they can loosely crowbar in). Beyond that there’s the TIFFcom market festival (where I’m amusingly mistaken as a film buyer) and about 20 other subfestivals, seminars and events that fall under the rubric of TIFF.

It’s big.

I spent several nights and days catching a mixed bag (what can one expect?) of offerings. This is the sort of festival that shows stuff like Tron Legacy 3D and Shrek Forever After in addition to quality films that will open in Japan soon (for example The Social Network played as the festival opener) and obscure offerings from the Philipines (good buzz on Halaw/Ways of the Sea!) and Uzbekistan. This year’s TIFF left me pleasantly surprised. Of course, there are some gems that may forever remain unseen by me, but I’ll note the things that impressed me most.

First off, hidden in the eco-ghetto of natural TIFF was what has become for me the best film of the year, if not for several years. I went and saw Michelangelo Frammartino’s The Four Times for the program still alone. It won the Europa Cinemas Label, whatever that is, at Cannes. It should have won the Golden Palm. What starts off deceptively as a somewhat slow meditation on rural life becomes a profound essay on life, death and goats. Between its brilliant sound design and some truly astounding mise-en-scene, The Four Times posits Frammartino as a post-modern Bresson. If you don’t weep in the goat sequence, you’re not qualified to be called human. I would suggest that it takes Au Hassard Balthazar to the next step, where unlike the donkey of Bresson’s masterpiece, the goat in question becomes not merely a moral witness, but the nexus of our own morality.

Other films of note were Hossein Keshavarz’s Dog Sweat, a Cassavettes-like Iranian look at youth in Tehran. In Keshavarz’s fiction, they’re after the same things most young folks are after – sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Though with a few religious, cultural and ideological impediments in the way. It’s a little light, but great performances, tight editing and an energetic and passionate style make for an incisive slice of life. Also, Jose Luis Guerin’s exploration of documentary modes and ideas, Guest, stood out. What starts off in a seemingly self-indulgent place (Guerin documenting his 2 year worldwide tour to film festivals with the success of City of Sylvia) turns into thrilling and heartfelt docu-journal that speaks about film, religion, politics and a whole lot more.

My one assignment was to see new Japanese product. And as usual, TIFF, had a number of dogs, including one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It’s called Into White Night. Based on an obscenely popular novel it’s bound to do good box office. However, there were two standout films, one by an old master, Kaneto Shindo (maker of Onibaba) and one by a relatively young auteur, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri.

Shindo, now 98, has said that Post Card is his last film. Perhaps he should heed the career of Oliviera and pump out a few more masterpieces before he hits 110. Post Card is a broadly played anti-war story that bounces audaciously between broad black comedy, tragedy, big symbolism and tender chamber drama. It’s all done in sort of old-fashioned declamatory style of acting, that after years of naturalism and method-acting, looks surprisingly fresh. It’s also one of the most passionate and cutting of anti-war films committed to screen. Etsushi Toyokawa plays the duty-bound soldier delivering his dead comrade’s long-delayed post card to his widow, played by Shinobu Otake, hardened by too much tragedy in her life. They are both magical.

Kumakari’s Kaitanshi Jokei (Sketches of Kaitan City) moves the soul in a different way. A sprawling omnibus film, following 6 different stories, brings to life a fictional place, Kaitan (based on Hakodate, a port city in Hokkaido). Built less on a Babel-like series of random connections, Kaitanshi Jokei, uses place as the metaphor and connecting point between the different stories. The stories are all pretty much downbeat – though there is a little ray of hope with a tale of an old woman and her lost cat. But for a slice-of-life in post-boom post-recession contemporary Japan, Kaitanshi Jokei, lays it out bare. It’s POV is entirely unsentimental, which is a welcome change from the forced sentimentality of most Japanese cinema.

Neil Jordan headed the competition jury which handed out the Sakura Grand Prix Award to Nir Bergan’s Intimate Grammar. I didn’t have the opportunity to see it.

A satisfying few days of film immersion. If there’s any complaint, it’s the incessant green-themed eco-nonsence that accompanies each and every film,  press release and hack article written about the fest. The Green Carpet runway! “TIFF screens with green energy.” Hybrid car promotions! Give me a break. I’m all for green things, but there’s something going to one of the most excessive inner-city developments (Roppingi Hills was where Lehman Brothers was located) in the least green of world cities, that leaves some false notes and off-flavors in one’s mouth. A small complaint for a week of cinematic indulgence.

Winter calendar time

November 8, 2010

Northwest Film Forum’s Winter 2010-11 cinemas calendar is now available online! Click here to take a look at the many gems in the upcoming quarter.

Highly anticipated bookings include D.A. Pennebaker’s new documentary Kings of Pastry; a 50th anniversary screening of Hitchcock’s Psycho; the ever-popular Holiday High Notes with the Northwest Boychoir; a return visit from Crispin “Hellion” Glover; and, of course, our annual Children’s Film Festival Seattle.

Take a peek, and members: expect your personal copy to be delivered next week!

Couch Fest is coming!

November 5, 2010
(Warning: slight conflict of interest and abuse of power here.  I am coordinating Couch Fest this year, but I would have wanted to share it with you regardless, so just ignore this little detail.)
Greetings Couch Fest Fans!

Couch Fest 2010 is coming your way in t minus 2 days! Start stretching.
We are finalizing host homes now – stay tuned for more information about what’s playing where.  But plan to be ready to see some mind-blowing short films from around the globe this Sunday, November 7 with programs beginning on the hour, 12pm-5pm.
We can tell you that for the first time Couch Fest will be in Seattle’s Central District and Capitol Hill!
We are pleased to also announce that the Official Unofficial After Party will be held at the Bottleneck Lounge (2328 Madison Street) beginning after the last movie program wraps up, around 6pm.  Come find out who wins the coveted Golden Couch trophy, and Silver and Bronze Couch medallions.
You can read more about the festival at, and wait with baited breath for the posting of the festival map and program info.
Tell your friends by friending and sharing us on Facebook and Twitter!

Meanwhile, enjoy this photo of previous Couch Fest filmgoers having a ball, and a photo of our Team CF staff readying the ballot boxes for your voting pleasure this Sunday.

Bilocalism (win free tickets!)

November 4, 2010

NW Film Forum is pleased to be a co-sponsor of Bilocal: Seattle-New Orleans, happening November 12 and 13 at Town Hall Seattle.  The event brings together writers and artists–including Seattle’s own Ben Kasulke–from Seattle and New Orleans, to present new work on the theme of community.  This geographical mash-up also features filmmaking posse Court 13 (New Orleans), as well as musicians Robin Holcomb (Seattle) and Coco Robicheaux (New Orleans), plus a slew of writers including Riz Rollins, Molly Wizenberg, Megan Kelso (Seattle), and James Nolan, Dedra Johnson, Asia Rainey (New Orleans) and more.  Chefs Tom Douglas, Matthew Dilllon, Where Ya At Matt and others will be making food for the pre-show receptions.  Tickets and info are available at

Want to win 2 free tickets?  Be the first to send an email with BILOCAL in the subject to!


New trailer for “Little Blue Pill”

November 4, 2010

Check it out:

Hoodies! Get yer hoodies here.

November 3, 2010

Northwest Film Forum is now slinging our goods on  Your holiday shopping challenge is over!  Get your mugs, tote bags, hoodies and a variety of t-shirt options, all with our 15th anniversary limited edition design, now.

The Glory Days of Terrorism

November 3, 2010

Vainglorious? Sexy? Overblown? Olivier Assays’ Carlos has got ’em talking:

“About 15 minutes into “Carlos,” Olivier Assayas’s excited, exciting, epic dramatization about the international terrorism brand known as Carlos the Jackal, the title character takes a long, loving, vainglorious look in the mirror at his naked body. It’s 1974 and after a bungled assassination attempt and an ineffectual bombing, Carlos has just headed down the flamboyant career path — riddled with bodies, rutted by explosions and festooned with publicity — that will inspire pulp fictions, detailed biographies, hyperventilated conspiracy theories and lasting myths. As he luxuriates in his own image, you see how Carlos saw himself: the terrorist as pinup.” Read the whole article at the NY Times

“Olivier Assayas is part of a generation of filmmakers who frequently try to drain their movies of traditional seductive melodrama, although he also knows how to turn that stuff on when he wants to. In the case of Carlos, Assayas has built a five and a half hour TV miniseries around the misadventures of the notorious and highly visible terrorist Carlos the Jackal, and the plain recounting of various facts (and some speculation) about Carlos’s life makes for a less than romantic take on the criminal career. Assayas emphasizes the more absurd interludes in the arc of this career, as well as Carlos’s egocentric taste for the glory of infamy, so that most viewers will be unlikely to come out of this movie impressed by the coolness of the villain.” —Robert Horton

“Carlos, the miniseries by Olivier Assayas, is a pleasure to watch. Every shot is filled with erotic pleasure. It’s terrorism as sex.” —Charles Mudede (over Twitter)

“Does for international terrorism what “The Sopranos” did for organized crime.” —Seattle Post Globe


Screening in three parts in order daily, November 5-7, at Northwest Film Forum.
Special admission price for all three films is $15/NWFF members, $25/general (can be used on different days).
Individual admission is also available for regular ticket prices ($6/NWFF members, $6.50/seniors & students, $9/general).