The 42nd Seattle International Film Festival opens on Thursday, May 19 with a gala screening of Woody Allen’s Café Society, direct from Cannes where it was the opening night event. That would generally be considered a coup for SIFF but the glitz is tarnished thanks to allegations of child abuse by Allen against the children of Mia Farrow. The controversy isn’t new but was effectively swept under the rug by a willing media until Ronan Farrow turned the spotlight back on his biological father and called out the media for letting the accusations slide as the film opened at Cannes. Nicole Brodeur writes about it at The Seattle Times, and I recommend Matt Zoller Seitz’s personal essay on his struggle to grapple with the art of Allen versus the actions of the artists. As for Seattle, neither Allen nor any of the stars will be attending the film.
What does any of this have to do with the film? Maybe nothing, maybe everything, depending on how you separate your engagement with popular art from the artists who create it. But by putting the film in the opening night spot, SIFF has made a statement of sorts whether it meant to or not. It was announced weeks before the embers of the controversy were fanned back to life, but those embers were always there, even if we (and I include myself) were willing to conveniently forget about it.
The festival really begins on Friday, May 20 as movies play in eight venues radiating out from Seattle Center to Capitol Hill, Ballard, and Bellevue. On Thursday it adds Renton and Friday it leaves Ballard for Shoreline, with Kirkland and Columbia City taking part later. But for now, let’s take a look at some of the highlight in this first week.
Singer Samantha Montgomery, aka Princess Shaw, the subject of the documentary Presenting Princess Shaw, will perform at the opening night gala before the film and will scheduled to attend screenings of Presenting Princess Shaw on Friday, May 20, 7pm, Egyptian and Saturday, May 21, 1pm, Pacific Place.
You can spend An Afternoon with Molly Shannon on Sunday, May 22, 4:30pm at The Egyptian, where the onstage conversation with the actress will be followed by a screening of Other People, a comedy co-starring Jesse Plemons, Bradley Whitford, and June Squib. SIFF also presents the world premiere of Miles, starring Molly Shannon, on Saturday, May 21, 7pm and Sunday, May 22, 1:30pm at the Egyptian.
SIFF celebrates its Renton Opening Night on Thursday, May 26 with a screening of the comedy My Blind Brother at the IKEA Performing Arts Center, followed by a party at the Renton Pavilion Event Center. Because SIFF isn’t just about the movies. It likes to party too.
Linas Phillips, who spent some time living and working on film projects in Seattle in the past decade, is coming back to present his new feature Rainbow Time (U.S.), which he wrote, directed, and starred in. The film, produced by the Duplass Bros., had its World Premiere at SXSW. Phillips also has a small role in Megan Griffiths’ The Night Stalker, which will have its World Premiere at SIFF on Saturday, June 4.
Friday, May 20, 9:15pm; Saturday, May 21, 2:30pm at Uptown.
Director Kathlyn Horan is scheduled to attend screenings of The If Project, a documentary about a prison writing program developed by a Seattle police officer.
Saturday, May 21, 3:30ppm, Pacific Place; Sunday, May 22, 11am, Pacific Place.
The documentary Finding Kim profiles Seattle transgender man Kim B. and his late-life transition after years of identity issues and addiction. Filmmaker Aaron Bear and subject Kim B. are scheduled to attend.
Monday, May 13, 6:30pm, Uptown; Tuesday, May 31, 3:30pm, Uptown.
Michel Gondry dials back his whimsy a little for Microbe and Gasoline (France), which lets the imagination of the two best friends in Versailles carry the creative fantasy while he observes life for two boys out of step with their provincial culture and the adventures their impulses take them on with a realistic style and a light touch.
Saturday, May 21, 1pm, Majestic Bay; Monday, May 23, 7pm, Egyptian.
Our Little Sister (aka Umimachi Diary, Japan), the most recent from Hirokazu Kore-eda, follows three sisters as they connect with a shy teenage half-sister when they travel to the countryside for their father’s funeral.
Friday, May 20, 6pm, Uptown; Saturday, May 21, 8:30pm, Lincoln Square
Sunset Song (UK), from Terence Davies, is an adaptation of a classic 1932 Scottish novel and Davies, whose films have such a delicate and rich visual texture, shoots on 65mm. Will possibly return for a theatrical run.
Friday, May 20, 4pm, Egyptian; Saturday, May 21, 6:30pm, Majestic Bay.
Director Whit Stillman adapts Love and Friendship from a novella by Jane Austen and reunites Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, the two stars of The Last Days of Disco, in the lead. Likely to return for a theatrical run.
May 21, 5pm, Uptown Festival; May 22, 4pm, Pacific Place.
Documentary filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg were given unprecedented and intimate access to Anthony Weiner in Wiener, which profiles the disgraced politician’s attempt to resurrect his political career with a new run for office. Definitely returning for a theatrical run.
May 20, 4:30pm, Uptown; May 22, pm, Uptown.
Director James Schamus scheduled to attend of his directorial debut Indignation, adapted from the Philip Roth novel.
Saturday, May 21, 6:30pm, Pacific Place; Sunday, May 22, 3pm, Lincoln Square.
A Scandal in Paris (U.S., 1946) – Before becoming the maestro of Technicolor melodrama, director Douglas Sirk brought a light touch and continental flair to a series of small productions like this immensely entertaining romantic comedy starring George Sanders as suave con man and criminal mastermind Vidocq, who becomes chief of police of Paris while continuing his life of crime. The sumptuous sets are cramped but richly dressed with the merest suggestion of a world outside the frame, giving it the feeling of a miniature and the great Eugen Shuftan gives uncredited assistance to the sparkling cinematography.
Sunday, May 22, 1:30pm, Pacific Place.
Orson Welles’s Chimes at Midnight (Spain, 1965) is surely the masterpiece of the archival section. Welles developed the film from a stage production drawn from Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” and “Henry V” (as well as “Holinshead’s Chronicles”) centered on Falstaff (played with bedhead and bulbous nose red with drink) and his bad father relationship with young Prince Hal (Keith Baxter) is his wastrel years. “If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of one movie, that’s the one I would offer up,” Welles said of the film, which suffered from distribution issues, competing claims of ownership, and degraded prints almost from the time it was completed. Now it has been lovingly remastered from the negatives and Janus films (a partner with Criterion) has applied digital technology to create a new digital restoration for the U.S. It should look and sound better than it ever has (even on opening night) but don’t sweat it if you miss its SIFF screening. It will be back for a week-long revival run after the end of the fest. The opportunity to see it on the Egyptian screen, however, is pretty tempting.
Tuesday, May 24, 7pm, Egyptian.
Director Clay Liford scheduled to attend Friday, May 20 and Saturday, May 21 screenings of Slash at the Uptown.
Director René Frelle Petersen scheduled to attend May 20 and May 22 screenings of Where Have All the Good Men Gone (Denmark).
Director Lloyd Kramer scheduled to attend Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22 screenings of the documentary Midsummer in Newtown.
Director Fernando Salem scheduled to attend Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22 screenings of How Most Things Work (Argentina).
Japanese filmmaker Iwai Shunji is scheduled to attend screenings of his three-hour film A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Japan).
Tuesday, May 24, 9:30pm, Egyptian; Thursday, May 26, 3pm, Egyptian.