SIFFing: Parallax View’s SIFF 2015 Guide

14 May, 2015 (00:33) | capsules, Film Festivals, Links | By: Editor

The 41st Annual Seattle International Film Festival opens on Thursday, May 14, with the opening night gala presentation of Spy, and completes its 25-day run on Sunday, June 7 with The Overnight. In between there are (at last count) 193 feature films, 70 documentary features, 19 archival films, and 164 short films: all told, 450 films representing 92 countries. Here is Parallax View’s coverage and guide to SIFF resources for all 25 days.

* Updated through Wednesday, May 27, with schedule changes below

SIFF Week by Week, Day by Day:

SIFF 2015: 12 highlights of week three (Moira Macdonald, John Hartl, staff, Seattle Times) NEW
SIFFtings 2015 – Week Three (Kathleen Murphy, Sean Axmaker, Parallax View) NEW
SIFF Week Three: Docs, Docs, Docs (Brian Miller, Seattle Weekly) NEW
Picks for Week Two (Josh Bis, The Sunbreak) NEW
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SIFFtings 2015 – Week Three

28 May, 2015 (05:34) | by Kathleen Murphy, by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals | By: Kathleen Murphy

A few short takes on SIFF offerings for the third weekend of the biggest, longest film festival in the United States.

PHOENIX (Christian Petzold, Germany, 2014; 98 minutes)
Fresh from Auschwitz and extreme facial reconstruction, Nelly returns to the noirish backstreets and bars of bombed-out Berlin, looking for what’s left of herself—and the husband whose memory helped her survive hell. Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) doesn’t recognize this gaunt, shell-shocked stranger as his once-glamorous wife, but plots to use her in a scam to inherit wealth left by Nelly’s gassed relatives. Sure to turn up on year-end Ten Best lists, this brilliant film plumbs the nature of identity, post-WWII guilt and denial, death and resurrection—and showcases a shattering performance by Nina Hoss. – KAM
Sunday, May 31, 7:15pm, SIFF Uptown Theater

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Videophiled: ‘Man, Pride and Vengeance’

27 May, 2015 (12:26) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Westerns | By: Sean Axmaker

ManPridevengeanceMan, Pride and Vengeance (Blue Underground, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) – There were hundreds of spaghetti westerns produced by Italian studios in the sixties and early seventies. Only a small percentage of them were particularly good, and fewer still genuinely great. You’d think we’d be running out of discoveries by now but Man, Pride and Vengeance (1967), from director Luigi Bazzoni and star Franco Nero, is a respectable find. Based on the novel Carmen by Prosper Merimee, with Nero as the loyal, straight-arrow soldier José demoted after he’s tricked by gypsy hellion Carmen (Tina Aumont), it’s the rare spaghetti western that is actually set in Spain, where it was shot.

In this take, José is has no fiancée to betray, which perhaps makes him more susceptible to Carmen’s flirtations, and Nero plays him as an affable career man whose equilibrium is completely upset by the surge of emotions—lust, rage, resentment, jealousy—that the wild free spirit brings out in him. Aumont makes a cheeky Carmen, not malicious so much as unapologetically mercenary and sexually independent but with a code of conduct that she follows faithfully. She pays her debts, which complicates José’s life more than he can handle. Soon he’s on the run from a murder charge and joins her criminal gang, where he meets her husband Garcia (Klaus Kinski), fresh out of prison and ready to take charge of the gang and take on anyone he sees as a threat. While José earns the nickname “Preacher” for his insistence on a disciplined plan and a non-violent execution of the stage robbery (both a moral and practical decision; murder brings out the soldiers in force), Garcia is like unstable dynamite pulled from the storage of a long prison sentence and ready to blow at the slightest nudge.

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Review: ‘Amarcord’

26 May, 2015 (05:55) | by Rick Hermann, Film Reviews | By: Rick Hermann

[Originally published in Movietone News 39, February 1975]

“I remember.” Perhaps that’s slightly misleading if you regard memory as purely objective recollection, which this movie obviously isn’t. And yet, no matter how strong Fellini’s tendency toward dissociation of events, scenes, etc. on any sort of rational level may be, I think Amarcord is finally more “together” than its temporal and narrative drift through this brightly colored cross-section of Fellini’s memory and imagination might indicate. People seem to come and go as they please, but after a while one is aware that more or less the same people are doing the coming and the going. In any crowded scene, just let your eyes drift toward whatever part of the frame the gravity of Fellini’s mise-en-scène seems to be pulling them, and you will see a face that looks familiar. No scene is impersonal in the sense of being just a crowd scene, and it might even be argued that the people who appear to be most especially cherished by Fellini are often those on the periphery of the milieu: the old man who recites his poem about bricks, the blind accordion player who fairly oozes an ecstatic agony as he pours his soulful melancholia onto the sidewalk, the whore Volpina who scurries catlike along walls and through dark alleys licking her lips in sexual anticipation, the thirty-ish, fading-but-yet-to-blossom Gradisca whose dreams are realized at the end of the movie when she at last finds her Gary Cooper (as the self-styled Ronald Colman points out in a toast to the newlyweds). Winding his way around this hub of eminently Felliniesque citizenry, travelling through murky labyrinths of time and space, Fellini finally winds up in control of the situation, having in the process integrated his sequences into an organic cycle which encompasses the movement of the entire film and which, by extrapolation, is molded by forces outside Fellini’s cinematic universe: seasons, life, death, youth, love, even madness.

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Orson Welles Has a Daughter Named Rebecca

25 May, 2015 (05:40) | Alfred Hitchcock, by Robert C. Cumbow, Essays, Orson Welles | By: Robert C. Cumbow

[Originally published in Movietone News 38, January 1975]

What do Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) and Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) have in common? Quite a lot, it seems to me. And yet, in all my reading on film, I have run across only one brief speculation on the subject: Andrew Sarris’s, in the context of his rebuttals to Pauline Kael’s Kane articles.

Both films, to begin with, deal with the search for a hidden secret in the life of an important man, and both use a flashback framework as means of narration (though Rebecca maintains a single point of view through most of its story, while Citizen Kane crisscrosses the memories of several characters in a network of flashbacks). Both films are informed by the presence of a dead person, though Charles Foster Kane is the central character in Welles’s film, while Hitchcock’s title character never appears. Nevertheless, each film’s ghostly presence is signaled by the recurrent motif of an initial-monogram, ‘R’ and ‘K,’ respectively. In each film a scandal—hushed up in Rebecca, headlined in Kane—attends the end of the important man’s first marriage, and overshadows his second marriage to a “common” woman.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of May 22

22 May, 2015 (08:51) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

“Considering the very personal tone of Dreams and that Kurosawa was 80 when he finished it, it’s hardly surprising that the film meditates on the balance of life and death. Yet this thematic crux is articulated not as a simple, binary opposition, but as an intricate intertwining: death-in-life and life-in-death.” Godfrey Cheshire has a lovely read on Kurosawa’s Dreams, paying particular attention to the careful balance that structures the individual scenarios. Via Rachel Handler.

Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Dreams’

“The technology was in its infancy, and we had a chance to shape it—but that became fucking Casper the Friendly Ghost.” Alex French and Howie Kahn compile an oral history of Industrial Light and Magic that breaks the news it was hard work, thinking outside the box, and stick-to-it-tiveness that made the special effects company the monster it is today. Also that Lucas, ever the optimist, hopes there’s another Howard the Duck movie: “A digital duck will make that thing work.”

At Film Comment, a pair of articles takes a look at the closest thing peripatetic Orson Welles ever came to calling a home, the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, IL. James Hughes recounts highlights from the town’s centennial celebration of the school’s most famous graduate, and Steven Mears recounts the small but invaluable contribution Welles made to a school project that turned out to be “the first anti-nuke propaganda film on record.”

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Film Review: ‘Good Kill’

21 May, 2015 (04:50) | by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews | By: Sean Axmaker

Zoe Kravitz and Ethan Hawke

What does war become in the remote-control age of drone strikes and remote surveillance? That’s what Andrew Niccol ostensibly asks in Good Kill—a film we know, after watching a few minutes, is going to spin its impersonal military-speak title into bitter irony. There we see Major Tommy Egan (Ethan Hawke) destroying military targets in Afghanistan from the Nevada desert, where he mans the deadliest videogame you ever saw.

This veteran Air Force fighter pilot has been downsized to drone jockey, and Tommy wants nothing more than to get back into the cockpit, even if it means going back to Afghanistan. Or maybe especially if it means going back. It’s not just the G-forces and the rush of speed. There’s something about deployment that makes war more real.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘In the Name of My Daughter’

21 May, 2015 (04:44) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Catherine Deneuve

As evidenced by the success of radio’s Serial and TV’s The Jinx (like anybody consumes things on radio or TV any more, amirite?), our collective taste for true-crime stories remains boundless. If murder is on the menu, so much the better. Which means that veteran filmmaker André Téchiné (The Girl on the Train) ought to have a foolproof picture with this dramatization of a tantalizing real-life mystery. The case is better known in Europe than in the U.S., but that shouldn’t matter much—and like The Jinx, it involves wealth, decades of unanswered questions, and a missing woman who is yet to be found.

Thing is, Téchiné’s approach feels designed to smother the breathless melodrama of Serial and The Jinx.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Film Review: ‘Réalité’

21 May, 2015 (04:41) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Jon Heder

The films of Quentin Dupieux would’ve been a smash in the late ’60s and early ’70s, crammed as they are with surreal tricks and car tires that kill people and questions about how much of what we see is real, man. After the zany shenanigans of Rubber and Wrong, Dupieux takes on the moviemaking business in Réalité, although this movie is about other things too. And possibly about nothing.

A little girl is puzzled by a VHS tape she sees tumbling out of a boar’s belly when her sportsman father cleans the dead animal. But this vignette turns out to be part of a movie being shot by a pretentious director (John Glover), whose French producer (Jonathan Lambert) is growing impatient with the film’s realistic style.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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Videophiled: ‘Day of the Outlaw’

20 May, 2015 (14:44) | by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Film Reviews, Westerns | By: Sean Axmaker

DayOutlawDay of the Outlaw (Timeless, DVD), a 1959 western set in a snowbound mountain town on the high frontier, is one of the toughest, most tension-filled pictures from Andre de Toth, a studio filmmaker who could be counted on to bring a savage edge to his assignments. The town is already coiled like a spring thanks to the tensions between imperious ranch baron Blaise Starrett (Robert Ryan) and a farmer (Alan Marshal) stringing barbed wire across the range—Blaise has come to town to either intimidate the proud farmer into back down or killing him to stop the wire—when an outlaw gang bursts in and essentially takes the town hostage. They’re on the run from the cavalry and their leader (Burl Ives) is bleeding out from a bullet wound, barely keeping his cutthroat gang in check.

The isolation of the town, a few building poking out of the muddy streets and surrounded by mountain ranges in the distance, feels even more adrift in the white blanket of snow cover and the wind howls through most every scene, enhancing the sense of desolation. It’s a spare visual design and de Toth leaves the dramatic compositions lean and simple and uncrowded. Ryan’s wound up stillness makes a great contrast to the increasingly jittery gang members, who pace and fiddle and keep moving toward the women. They look like they are about to fly apart like a bomb and start looting and raping, and the still intensity of Ives, who holds his gaze and his ground has he gives orders and watches over it all, is all that keeps it from combusting. A terrific, underappreciated western, it’s been on disc before in an edition now out of print. Timeless brings it back in a solid DVD edition at a bargain price. No supplements.

More new releases on disc and digital at Cinefiled

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Videophiled: Two by Roger Corman with Ray Milland

18 May, 2015 (10:21) | Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, DVD, Horror, Science Fiction | By: Sean Axmaker

PrematureBVincent Price starred in all of Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations but one. Ray Milland took the lead in The Premature Burial (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD), playing Guy Carrell, an aristocrat with crippling fear that he will be buried alive due to a family history of catalepsy. Corman brings the fear home in the opening scene: an exhumation of an ancestor who shows every sign of having awoken in his casket. The obsession overtakes his life until the rather elderly newlywed moves into the family crypt, which he outfits as a Batcave of escape hatches, much to the horror of his neglected bride (Hazel Court), who observes that he has already “buried himself alive” and makes him chose the crypt or life with her.

Like most of Corman’s Poe films, the script (this one by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell) borrows little more than the central idea and the title from Poe. This one owes as debt to Gaslight and Diabolique, and of course leans on the art direction of Daniel Haller (who created a sense of grandeur on a budget) and the widescreen color cinematography of the great Floyd Crosby, who photographed Tabu (1931) and High Noon (1952) and here gives Corman his atmosphere. While Hammer was reviving the classic movies monsters as gothic horrors with lurid edges and color, Corman was creating his own Gothic horror revival with ideas influenced by Freud and Jung. Corman creates his world completely in the studio, including the grounds outside the manor, a veritable haunted forest of dead trees, ever-present mist hugging the boggy ground, and a pair of creepy gravediggers (John Dierkes and Dick Miller) constantly lurking and whistling the folk song “Molly Malone” as a dirge-like threat.

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‘Moonlighting’

16 May, 2015 (10:41) | by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews | By: Richard T. Jameson

[Originally printed in a February 1983 issue of The Weekly—which is to say, three years before they changed the paper’s name to Seattle Weekly. The film, ultrarare for decades, has just been released on Blu-ray in the United States.]

Jeremy Irons and friends in ‘Moonlighting’

Moonlighting is some kind of masterpiece. Masterpieces of any sort are always welcome, but not in the same way. Some inspire, some gladden, some leave one awestruck. Moonlighting is the kind of film that had me marveling throughout how anyone ever came up with such a great idea for a movie and, having come up with it, proceeded to realize that idea so completely, within almost comically modest means.

Four men, Poles, fly to England in December of 1981. They say they have come to buy an automobile, but what they’re really up to, under cover of their one-month visitors’ visas, is remodeling a flat that their boss has purchased in Onslow Gardens. “They say” actually means Nowak says—the only one who speaks or understands English. It is his responsibility to see the job done properly and to husband the meager living allowance to get them through the month.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of May 15

15 May, 2015 (09:27) | by Bruce Reid, by Sean Axmaker, Links | By: Bruce Reid

Jerry Lewis and friend

“So if a question that might have some pertinence for the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s, “Why do the French love Jerry Lewis”, can be superseded by a question pertinent to the next four decades, “Why do the French and the Americans love Woody Allen?”, the fact that the first question continues to get posed while the second question doesn’t isn’t because an answer to either question is self-evident. Perhaps even more to the point, why do the Americans love and hate Jerry Lewis?” It’s Jonathan Rosenbaum posing the question, so the well-reasoned answer involves class and capitalist forces, while getting at the heart of the slippery contradictions that lie under Lewis’s smooth, gleaming surfaces. Via Girish Shambu.

Satyajit Ray’s biographer Andrew Robinson recounts the making of Pather Panchali, which should have fallen apart a few times over from lack of financing but miraculously, and thankfully, never did.

Speaking of biographers, Simon Callow weighs in on Welles’s centenary as authoritatively as you’d expect, and throws in a great photo of Eartha Kitt resting on the director’s knee to boot. More to read from the NY Review, which has freed up from their archives a quartet of fine pieces, from writers including Gore Vidal and Joseph McBride.

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Film Review: ‘Animals’

14 May, 2015 (04:36) | by Robert Horton, Film Reviews | By: Robert Horton

Kim Shaw and David Dastmalchian

He looks like a junkie, she doesn’t; but maybe that’s the point. Animals seeks to humanize the struggle of two lovers in the throes of addiction by depicting them as ordinary people who fell through the cracks. They drive an Oldsmobile, they go to the zoo, and every so often they run a scam or steal CDs and buy heroin with the proceeds. We don’t witness the preceding days of wine and roses, since when we meet them, Jude (David Dastmalchian) and Bobbie (Kim Shaw) are already living on the street—in the Olds, actually—and shooting up in diner bathrooms. But they speak of their respectable middle-class backgrounds and display enough humor to suggest they weren’t born into this grind.

Addiction dramas tend to unfold along formulaic lines, and Animals is no exception. It does have grit, and it feels rooted in crummy details that lend authenticity.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

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SIFFtings 2015 – Opening Weekend

13 May, 2015 (13:07) | by Kathleen Murphy, by Richard T. Jameson, by Sean Axmaker, capsules, Film Festivals | By: Kathleen Murphy

A few short takes on SIFF offerings on the debut weekend of the biggest, longest film festival in the United States.

SPY (Paul Feig, USA, 2015; 120 minutes)
Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) parlays Melissa McCarthy’s sly likeability and pratfalling genius into a dumb, feel-good spoof of the secret agent genre. When the jolly fat lady—an underappreciated computer-surveillance whiz, deskbound in a rodent-infested CIA basement—is suddenly thrust into the field, she sows useful, sporadically funny mayhem wherever she goes. Hailed by some folks as “feminist” comedy, Spy tickles our funny bone by targeting a heroine so armored up—by poundage and sweet denial—she’s proof against any humiliation. (With Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale) – KAM
SIFF Opening Night, Thursday, May 14, 7pm, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

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