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by Sean Axmaker

Contributor

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, August 19

Joan Crawford

Via Criterion, a pair of tributes to iconic (in one case at least, for all the wrong reasons) actors. Bilge Ebiri salutes Jeff Bridges for having grown into the rugged outsider that was the promise and undercurrent of his career all along. (“Bridges has finally eased into the part of the western hero. But he’s still, somehow, that same questioning, restless kid. And it’s that quality that lends these roles a kind of otherworldly complexity—that takes them out of the realm of cliché or caricature. He’s still playing a man whom the times have passed by—a survivor who recognizes that there’s no place for him in this world.”) And Sheila O’Malley revisits Sudden Fear to remind us that dismissing Joan Crawford as camp or a perfectionist obscures how much emotional truth she could pack into her carefully planned bits of physical business. (“There is a sequence that is up there with the best work Crawford ever did: Myra hides in a closet, face drenched in sweat, hand clamped over her mouth to suppress the sound of her breathing. Even more astonishing, there is only a thin band of light illuminating just a portion of her face. Crawford does more within that thin band of light than most actors can do in full spotlight.”)

While at Criterion itself, an excerpt from Arthur Hiller’s autobiography recalls in breezy, conversational tones the making of The In-Laws (“As wonderful as Peter and Alan were in the firing squad scene, they were equally wonderful in so many others, whether it was an action scene or a normal one. I shouldn’t say “normal,” because each scene was offbeat. What I liked about the picture was that it was rooted in reality. As outrageous or off-the-wall as most of the scenes were, you felt they could happen. You even felt Peter was driving backward on the freeway into oncoming traffic.”); and Imogen Sara Smith tackles that eternal question of film criticism, What Makes a Film Noir a Noir?, by arguing for the inclusion of The Red Shoes into the canon. (“Don’t get me wrong: I love these iconic elements as much as the next noir addict, but I also see the essence of noir in films that look and sound very different. This essence lies below the surface of crime and violence, in an interior world of alienation, anxiety, obsession, disillusionment. Or as crime writer David Goodis sums it up in his novel Nightfall: ‘a certain amount of confusion, some despair mixed in, and some loneliness, and some bitterness, and topped with a dash of desperation.’”)

The Red Shoes

“Utilizing characters and landscapes in such a way, Reichardt’s films resist an easily definable tone. Action is anecdotal rather than decisive, fragmentary rather than fluid: not quite gestural or symbolic, but a little too improvised or elliptical to seem fully realistic. Favoring the quotidian over the set-piece, the writer-director makes us work: at the beginning of Meek’s Cutoff, all we get in terms of exposition is Oregon, 1845—which appears on the title card—and one character etching “LOST” into a tree trunk. Dialogue is frequently off-screen: some exchanges unfold solely through reaction shots, which effectively frustrates our scene-to-scene orientation.” Michael Pattison stalks the mysteries and unspoken motivations that tie Kelly Reichardt’s films together in a “cinema of misfits and margins.”

“Nowadays this story might be taken by James Gray, casting Mark Wahlberg in the smooth-talking Bourke role and the more earnest Joaquin Phoenix as Kennedy, a quintessential 1930s brotherhood standing on each side of an urban moral divide. Except Gray would linger on the grave splendor in these men’s beings, the operatic challenge of being a cop, a husband, a man. Edward L. Cahn is no less serious but achieves a leanness which bares the emotion and the tenseness of these two lives, Kennedy’s and Bourke’s, without lingering for a single extra moment on something beyond themselves—or too deep within. When Kennedy sees himself in uniform in the mirror we don’t get a richer psychology, a flashing psychic charge, or a forceful, sculpted mythos. We see a man looking at himself in uniform.” Daniel Kasman argues the budget-dictated leanness of Radio Patrol—or rather Cahn’s ingenious employment of it—is one of its great strengths.

Group photo: ‘Tin Cup’

“When you do sports movies, it’s really a bummer to take fields of play away from people, so we hunted for new courses that people hadn’t played yet. That’s how we got Kingwood and Deerwood, in Houston, as our U.S. Open site. We had the USGA come in to lay out the course in real U.S. Open conditions. And we fell in love with Tubac Golf Resort and La Paloma, in Arizona, for Roy’s local driving range and for the qualifying-round scenes. We could’ve muscled our way into a lot of places, but you don’t want to shit on golf fans just to make a movie.” Chris Nashawaty’s oral history on the making of Tin Cup pales compared to previous such articles on Ron Shelton films, whose sports environs and themes of competition tend to inspire a fun, macho garrulousness when their makers look back. Though it is interesting to learn that out of all Shelton’s movies, the one explicitly designed to appeal to a female audience might have been the most hell-razing offset, thanks mostly to Don Johnson avoiding downtime boredom.

“One day, Marty announced that next week’s movie was Rear Window. This caused quite a stir. No one had seen Rear Window in years. Hitchcock refused to allow any public screenings. How was Marty going to pull it off? That Tuesday, the class was packed. People were sitting on the floor, in the aisles, and on the radiators when Marty entered the room wearing a cowboy hat and firing a cap gun into the air. Now that he had our attention, he had a confession to make. He had lied to us. We were not going to see Rear Window until next week. Groan. Instead we were going to see a John Wayne western in which the Duke plays a racist bastard. ‘If you leave the room, you fail the course,’” Marty said. Big groan. The Green Berets was in release, and only Richard Nixon was less popular than John Wayne. Is this what we had gone to the barricades for? Marty guarded the only exit with his cap gun. ‘This movie is called The Searchers and you will never see a better western.’” Leonard Maltin reprints a wonderful 1983 reminiscence by Allan Arkush of NYU film school in the ‘60s: from pretentious student films and porno films covertly shot on campus to the manic-talking teacher whose enthusiasm for American genre films proved so infectious; and who would later would wear these influences on his sleeve in the likes of Mean Streets, New York, New York, and Taxi Driver. Via Matt Fagerholm.

Three autobiographies

“We had only one moment of confrontation. There was a gorgeous picture of her on the front cover, and on the back I showed her with Bogart. Absolutely not, she exploded; this was her book, not his. That really pushed my buttons. ‘Listen, Bacall,’ I said, ‘people want to know about you and him, and you’ve written hundreds of pages about him. It’s my job to sell your book, he’s the major selling point, and he’s going on the back cover.’ ‘Fine,’ she said. Like most actors she responded positively to a strong directorial hand. By then, of course, we had developed a real . . . friendship? Not exactly, because I don’t think she had a talent for intimacy; she was too wary. But she was a good, loyal pal, so I suppose what we had was a real palship, and it lasted for decades.” In an excerpt from his autobiography, Robert Gottlieb recalls editing the memoirs of Lauren Bacall, Irene Selznick, and Selznick’s (ultimately Gottlieb’s as well) hated forced companion, Katherine Hepburn.

“In each case [of reaction to her successive films], it was too much. Too much love and then too much hate. The Artist was not the best film of its year, and The Search was not the worst. You realise you’re in the middle of something that has nothing to do with you.” Ryan Gilbey interviews Bérénice Bejo about how she deals with lack of control, whether over the critics turning on her and husband/director Michael Hazanavicius or dealing with the existential blow of terrorist attacks on French soil.

Bérénice Bejo

“The way I generally work is that I do try to leave as many decisions as I possibly can to the day of, because it feels like that’s where you’re most in tune to what’s going on. I sort of feel like my job is to be a conduit to opportunities, to maximize the creativity of the day itself—because that’s when the cameras are running. That’s the important thing to me. Some of these shots you need to think about it advance; you need to have some ideas for them. And some of them are things where you just go, ‘Well, let’s try that.’” Hell or High Water’s David Mackenzie talks with Ignatiy Vishnevestsky on the benefits of shooting quickly and on the cheap.

Obituary

Arthur Hiller

Director Arthur Hiller was part of the class of Playhouse 90, developing his craft directing live TV drama before moving to such TV shows as Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Rifleman, Naked City, and Route 66. He made his feature debut with the 1957 film The Careless Years but remained primarily a TV director until the mid-1960s and directed his biggest hit in 1970: Love Story, which earned Hiller his sole Academy Award nomination. He directed two Paddy Chayefsky scripts (The Americanization of Emily, 1964, The Hospital, 1971), brought two Neil Simon plays to the big screen (The Out-of-Towners, 1970, Plaza Suite, 1971), and directed Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder in Silver Streak (1976) and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989). He directed a musical (Man of La Mancha, 1972), a horror film (Nightwing, 1979), and one of the first serious studio dramas to explore a gay relationship (Making Love, 1982), and was picked by Alan Arkin to direct The In-Laws (1979), considered by many (this writer included) to be one of the funniest American films of its era. He also served as president of the Director’s Guild of America and of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award in 2002. He was 92. Dave Kehr for The New York Times.

Kenny Baker was the man in the R2-D2 suit in Star Wars (1977) and its next five sequels and prequels (as well as the notorious made-for-TV The Star Wars Holiday Special). The British actor, who measured 3’8″ high, spent his life in show business, skating in ice shows, performing stand-up comedy, and appearing in variety shows. On the big screen, his biggest role outside of the Star Wars universe was playing Fidgit in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981). He had small roles in Flash Gordon (1980), Amadeus (1984), Mona Lisa (1986), and Labyrinth (1986) and co-starred in the BBC adaptation of Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1989). He passed away at the age of 86 after a long illness. Nicola Slawson for The Guardian.

Fyvush Finkel had a long career in Yiddish theater before he broke through to mainstream audiences with a featured role in the TV series Picket Fences and later on Boston Public, both from creator / producer David E. Kelley. On the big screen he appeared in Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986), Q & A (1990), For Love or Money (1993), Nixon (1995), and in the prologue of the Coen Bros.’s A Serious Man 92009). He died at the age of 92. Joseph Berger for The New York Times.

Seattle Screens is on Parallax View here.

Seattle Screens: French Animation – ‘Phantom Boy’ and ‘Fantastic Planet’

Fantastic Planet

Werner Herzog tackles the Internet in Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, opening at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Robert Horton reviews it for Seattle Weekly.

The new animated features Phantom Boy from France plays for a week at SIFF Film Center.

A 35mm print of the award-winning animated French feature Fantastic Planet (1973) plays on Saturday, August 20 and Thursday, August 25 at Grand Illusion. Andrew Wright reviews it for The Stranger: “… its combination of seriously trippy illustrations and groovy jazz-porny musical score creates a stunning, vividly potent sensation. Once it hits your brain, it’s there to stay.”

Midnight movies: Clue (1985) plays Friday and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) is Saturday night at The Egyptian.

This week’s free outdoor movie at Cal Anderson Park is Roger Vadim’s Barbarella (1968) with Jane Fonda. The screening begins at sunset on Friday, August 19, around 8:30 pm, but viewers are encouraged to arrive early for a good seat, concessions, and entertainment by a DJ playing from 7pm.

Seattle Center Movies at the Mural continues with a free outdoor screening of West Side Story at the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheatre on Saturday, August 20. The film begins a dusk, around 8:30 or 9pm, and seating is first come, first served.

On Tuesday, August 23, Magic Society presents Super Duper Video, a curated collection of Puppet-centric clips from films and TV shows interspersed with live puppet performances. One show only at SIFF Cinema Uptown at 7pm.

The documentary Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho plays one show only on Tuesday, August 23 at Grand Illusion.

Wedding Doll from Israel plays one show only at NWFF on Wednesday, August 24.

The Seattle Erotic Society presents the uncut version of Radley Metzger’s Score (1972) on Wednesday, August 24 at Grand Illusion.

The Cinerama has announced its 70mm Film Festival schedule. Along with the usual suspects (Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spartacus) are some oddities: Starman, Lifeforce, and Year of the Dragon). Which is cool. It begins September 9.

SIFF has announced the Cinema Dissection schedule for the 2016-2017 season has been announced. The deep dish dive into movies, hosted by a critic / facilitator who stops the film to dig into images, scenes, details, is a six-hour experience, and two Parallax View contributors are among the hosts this season.
September 18: Moonrise Kingdom with Lyall Bush
October 29: Ghostbusters with Diane Mettler
November 12: The Matrix with Malory Graham
January 21: The Third Man with Sean Axmaker
February 18: Mad Max: Fury Road with Mita Mahato
March 26: Vertigo with Robert Cumbow

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

Seriously Though, What Have You Done to Solange?

Have you heard about Solange?

What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) is celebrated by fans and genre historians alike as one of the masterpieces of giallo. An Italian-German coproduction shot largely in England, it’s directed by Massimo Dallamano, who visualized the stark intensity of Sergio Leone’s arid anti-hero epics as cinematographer of A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965), and directed salacious adaptations of Devil in the Flesh (1969) and The Secret of Dorian Gray (1970) before turning to giallo.

The international cast includes hunky Italian Fabio Testi (The Garden of the Finzi-Continis), German stars Karin Baal (Fassbinder‘s Lili Marleen) as his wife, krimi veteran Joachim Fuchsberger (Dead Eyes of London) as the police detective, Spanish beauty Cristina Galbó (The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue) as Testi’s schoolgirl mistress, and American model-turned-actress Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave) as Solange. The lovely and tender score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone adds an eerie elegance and haunting edge to film. All told, it’s one of the most disturbing examples of the genre, and not for the reasons you might assume.

Continue reading at Keyframe

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, August 12

La Jetée

“What kind of time machine is it that involves little more than covering the eyes? (To be precise, the hero was given some intravenous injections, too, but these served likewise to numb the senses, unraveling “the present and its certainties.”) My hunch is that covering the eyes and putting a record on may contain something of the time machine in and of itself.” The release of La Jetée’s soundtrack on a collector’s LP prompts Matthew H. Evans to a lovely exegesis of the bottomless philosophical meanings of memory in Marker’s half-hour short.

Wise Blood sticks exceptionally close to the incidents and dialogue of its source. Its great faithfulness to O’Connor lies elsewhere, though: in the actors’ tactile realization of her characters, in the uncanny sense of being in a place that exists both in real time and outside of it, and in Huston’s determination to preserve the inexplicable mystery of Hazel Motes.” Stuart Klawans finds John Huston made just about every right directorial choice you could hope in the impossible task of adapting Flannery O’Connor to the screen—especially the proverbial 90% of the job that’s casting.

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Seattle Screens: ‘Private Property’ rediscovered, ‘Blood Simple’ restored, ‘The General’ rescored

Warren Oates in ‘Private Property’

Framing Pictures is back and this month the discussion topics include Warren Oates (who stars in the newly rediscovered Private Property), Hirokazu Kore-eda’s new film Our Little Sister, the Kino Lorber Video box set Pioneers of African-American Cinema, Brazilian director Hector Babenco (who passed away this month), and more. Discussion begins on Friday, August 12 at 7pm at the screening room of Scarecrow Video on 5030 Roosevelt Way and it is free. More details at the official Facebook page.

The recently rediscovered and restored 1960 film Private Property, directed by Leslie Stevens and starring Warren Oates and Corey Allen as homicidal drifters who wander into the Beverly Hills home of an unhappy housewife, plays for a week at Grand Illusion.

Blood Simple (1984), the debut feature by Joel and Ethan Coen, plays for a week at SIFF Cinema Uptown in a new 4K restoration. Also at the Uptown for a week is David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), arriving for a 30th anniversary run.

Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter (1974), based on the novel by Charles Willeford and starring Warren Oates, plays for one day only on a 35mm print at Grand Illusion on Saturday, August 13.

Buster Keaton’s The General (1926) returns in a newly-restored edition featuring a new orchestral score composed and conducted by Joe Hisashi, who scored the great animated features of Studio Ghibli and the classic gangster films of Takeshi Kitano. It was announced to play SIFF last month but an older version was shown, so this is the first time Seattle audiences will be able to experience this new presentation. Plays matinees Saturday and Sunday only.

NWFF reopens (after a brief closure for renovations) for a screening this week of ‘Til Madness Do Us Part, an epic documentary about the inmates of an isolated mental institution in rural Zhaotong directed by Wang Bing. It plays on Wednesday, August 17, and then again on Thursday, August 25.

The documentary Tattoo Nation plays one show only on Thursday, August 18 at SIFF Cinema Uptown, presented by Bloodworks Northwest and timed to kick off Seattle’s Tattoo Expo. Director Eric Schwartz and renowned tattoo artist Jack Rudy are scheduled to attend and will hold a Q&A following the film.

This week’s free outdoor movie at Cal Anderson Park is Mel Brooks’ Star Wars spoof Spaceballs (1987). The screening begins at sunset on Friday, August 12, around 8:30pm, but viewers are encouraged to arrive early for a good seat, concessions, and entertainment by a DJ playing from 7pm.

Seattle Center Movies at the Mural continues with a free outdoor screening of Galaxy Quest at the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheatre on Saturday, August 13. The film begins a dusk, around 8:30 or 9pm, and seating is first come, first served.

Asian Invasion:

Operation Chromite, a South Korean take on the Battle of Inchon from director John H. Lee starring Hak-soo Jang, Gye-jin Lim, and Liam Neeson as Douglas MacArthur, opens at Regal Meridian 16 and the Alderwood Mall 16.

My Best Friend’s Wedding is a romantic comedy from Hong Kong starring Shu Qi and Feng Shaofeng. It opens at Pacific Place.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries and Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

‘Pete’s Dragon’: A Different Sort of Beast

Pete’s Dragon

From one perspective, director David Lowery seems like an unlikely choice for Disney to remake their partly animated 1977 musical fantasy Pete’s Dragon. An independent filmmaker in every sense of the term, Lowery came up through short films that encompassed the phantasmagorical and the practical with a sometimes dark imagination. His signature seemed to be a sensitivity to the tactile quality of his physical world, and to the texture and quality of light in his southwestern locales. Lowery explored his philosophy of filmmaking as a handmade art in Some Analog Lines (2005), a short that lingered on the tactile dimensions of creation, and that philosophy also guided A Catalog of Anticipations (2008), which could be an American Southern Gothic take on the netherworlds of the Quay brothers—as seen through the prism of memory and the primal imagination of a young girl spinning myth from found objects in her rural Texas landscape.

Yet from another perspective, this director is an ideal choice to remake the goofy, sunny adventure of a lonely boy and a forest dragon that no one else can see (except an old man played by Robert Redford).

Continue reading at Keyframe

Étaix and Tati

Mon Oncle

The French celebration of Jerry Lewis as an American artist is a lazy punchline and a gross oversimplification of a genuine appreciation, but there is a telling truth to the cliché. Historically, French critics favored the visual over the verbal, and stylistic sensibility over plot and performance, in American movies; in the sixties and seventies, when Lewis was seen as little more than a crudely juvenile comic and a show-biz caricature, the French saw a particular cinematic ingenuity and innocence that was lacking in other American comedies. Plus, he seemed culturally kindred with a classic comic figure: the clown. Not the circus brand, but the kind that flourished in the cabarets and music halls of Europe.

That’s a rather longwinded introduction to a tradition that gave birth to a pair of great French filmmakers: Jacques Tati and Pierre Étaix, comic actors turned directors whose films draw from silent movies, mime, and cabaret performance, and carry on the traditions of Chaplin and Keaton. They were silent movie clowns in the contemporary world, and their movies presented a unique and elaborate comic universe that operated on its own skewed logic.

Continue reading at Keyframe

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of August 5

“Herzog grins as he takes a seat in a conference room at UCLA, which has been set up for an event later this evening. His eyes droop, but his skin is remarkably smooth, like the surface of a slightly underinflated balloon. And then there’s that voice—silky, portentous—you can imagine it coming out of a GPS system giving driving directions to Valhalla. ‘I like to look back at the evolution of modern human beings,’ he says of his interest in the Internet. ‘Using fire or electricity was an enormous step for civilization, and this is one of those. And I think the poet must not avert his eyes.’” Jason Tanz’s profile of Werner Herzog makes a lot of hay over the meme-ification of its subject, the fun the Internet has mocking his somber philosophical ramblings. But almost accidentally the piece also shows what a level-headed hustler the director has to be to constantly keep working, convincing his backers to expand their plans for online advertisements and finance his latest documentary feature—Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World—the outtakes from which themselves are now lined up to be a television series.

“Luis Buñuel is usually regarded as quintessentially Spanish, yet he only made three films that fully qualify as Spanish — a short documentary called Land without Bread (1932) and two features, Viridiana (1961) and Tristana (1970). Furthermore, Viridiana created such a scandal in Franco Spain that when it was rejected by the censors there, it was identified exclusively as a Mexican feature, simply because it had a Mexican coproducer and by then all its Spanish credentials on paper had been destroyed (a tale told by one of its two Spanish producers, Catalan filmmaker Pere Portabella). Tristana, on the other hand, stars Catherine Deneuve in the title role, a French actress whose Spanish lines had to be dubbed by someone else. And every other film by the “most Spanish of Spanish directors” is either French or Mexican.” Jonathan Rosenbaum has posted an interesting 2008 article he wrote on expatriate filmmakers—both those who thrived and some (including Fuller and Makhmalbaf) whose filmmaking suffered outside their native lands as if they’d been cut off from their source. Via Criterion.

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Seattle Screens: Free movies, Godard and Fassbinder restorations, and Mike Birbiglia

Kamikaze ’89

Filmmaker Mike Birbiglia will appear at the Uptown for the opening night screenings of his new film Don’t Think Twice on Friday, August 5.

A new restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders (1964) plays for three days only this weekend at SIFF Film Center. So does the restoration of a true rarity: almost forgotten sci-fi noir oddity Kamikaze ’89 (1982), which stars legendary New German Cinema director Rainer Werner Fassbinder in his final screen appearance as a cop in a leopard skin jumpsuit.

Three Dollar Bill Cinema is back with a program of free outdoor movies at Cal Anderson Park on Friday nights through August. This week: Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (2011). The screening begins at sunset, around 8:30pm at the southeast corner of Cal Anderson Park, but viewers are encouraged to arrive early for a good seat, concessions, and entertainment by a DJ playing from 7pm.

Seattle Center Movies at the Mural continues with a free outdoor screening of Mad Max: Fury Road at the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheatre on Saturday, August 6. The film begins a dusk, around 8:30 or 9pm, and seating is first come, first served.

SIFF joins French Truly for a monthly event they call French Truly Salon, which celebrates French language, culture, history and cinema with a keynote speech, a reception featuring wine, cheese, and hors d’oeuvres, and a movie. It kicks off with Francis Veber’s La Chèvre (1981) starring Gérard Depardieu and Pierre Richard. The event is on Wednesday, August 10 at SIFF Film Centre and begins at 6:30.

The Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President concludes with Stanley Donen’s Charade (1963), co-starring Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau. It screens on Thursday, August 11 at 7:30pm at Plestcheeff Auditorium and is shown on 35mm. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis.

NWFF is temporarily closed for renovations.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 29

Rio Bravo

“One cannot make films if he does not like life, if he does not believe, above all, that the physical manifestations are privileged. The body does not lie, nor does the human face: this is the strength of the cinema and its health as opposed to literature.” Kino Slang has provided translations of two rapturous appreciations by Alexandre Astruc on Howard Hawks—specifically on Rio Lobo (“Unlike so many young people whom we know only too well, this old, super-silvered fox, Howard Hawks, is not going to permit his action to slow down and spoil our pleasure under the pretext of philosophizing or of making crocodile tears flow by lingering on rows of corpses which are barely cold and which he just lined up”) and Rio Bravo (quoted above). Via Mubi.

“The thing about Brother is that it’s stubbornly linear, but so suggestive that it just begs for inconclusive allegorical readings: a plot as simple and elemental as dirt, seeded with Freudian overtones, unaddressed nationalist subtexts, and black humor. The good stuff, in other words. Everything looks salvaged or secondhand. In most cases, it was.” Ignatiy Vishnevetsky revisits Balabanov’s Brother and finds the film still so spare and ingenious it overcomes its budgetary and thematic limitations—and even its “deranged” sequel, so crude and nationalistic it smashes to rubble the former film’s ambiguities.

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Seattle Screens: ‘Black Girl’ at Grand Illusion, celebrating Thanhouser Studio at SIFF Cinema Uptown, STIFF 2016 returns

Mbissine Thérèse Diop in ‘Black Girl’

A new restoration of Ousmane Sembène’s debut feature Black Girl (1966) plays for a week at Grand Illusion. It was inspired by a news item he spotted in a French language paper, Sembène turns the brief mention into a painful portrait of a young woman who suddenly loses her freedom and her identity when transplanted from her native Dakar to France, where she toils as a maid. Sembène’s attack on neo-colonialism and “the new slave trade” (Sembène’s words) of African workers in Europe won a number of awards and was widely praised, and has since come to be regarded as the first important film of the black African cinema.

Seattle Transmedia and Independent Film Festival (STIFF) returns with a new venue—Factory Lux in the Rainier Brewery Building on Airport Way—for an abbreviated 2016 run. Opens Thursday, July 28 with the documentary Screenagers and plays through Sunday, July 31. Full schedule and more information at the STIFF website here.

Portland-based film preservationist Ned Thanhouser presents “The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema,” a presentation of films produced by the short-lived but influential studio that thrived between 1909 and 1918 with a slate of professional and inventive short films and serials that gave the Hollywood studios a run for their money. The program plays at SIFF Film Center on Saturday, July 30 and is free to SIFF Members.

SIFF partners with KCTS 9 and Seattle Center for two free outdoor screenings on the Seattle Center Mural Amphitheatre lawn this weekend. On Friday, July 29 is preview screening of the “American Experience” documentary Boys of ’36 and on Saturday, July 30 is an interactive “quote-along” screening of The Princess Bride (1987). Shows begin around dusk.

The Australian road movie Last Cab to Darwin plays for three days only at SIFF Film Center this weekend.

San Francisco-based filmmaker Paul Clipson presents a collection of his experimental films on Friday, July 29 at NWFF, with live musical accompaniment by Seattle musician Liz Harris of Grouper, and on Sunday, July 31, Sabine Gruffat & Bill Brown accompany their impressionistic documentary Speculation Nation (2014).

The Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President continues with Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House (1948), co-starring Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas. It screens on Thursday, August 4 at 7:30pm at Plestcheeff Auditorium and is shown on 35mm. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details here.

Tommy Wisseau’s The Room, currently in the running as the worst American movie ever made, is back for another round of heckling at Central Cinema on Thursday, July 28.

Openings:

Michel Gondry directs Microbe and Gasoline, a French road movie built on a lawn mower engine by two imaginative schoolboys. Plays for a week only at The Uptown.

Also from France is The Innocents from filmmaker Anne Fontaine, set in Poland at the end of World War II. At the Uptown.

The South Korean thriller Train to Busan, a zombie apocalypse drama set on a bullet train through the country, opened without fanfare in a couple of suburban multiplexes last week. Now it opens at The Uptown, which isn’t keeping the film such a secret. Andrew Wright reviews it for The Stranger.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries and Seattle Screens curated by Sean Axmaker, and other contributions from friends of Parallax View.

Blu-ray: A Touch of Zen

TouchZenA Touch of Zen (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), King Hu’s romantic chivalry adventure, is a masterpiece of Hong Kong cinema, a magnificent epic with grand battles fought with the grace of a ballet with swords, and the most significant cinematic inspiration for Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The three-hour film took the uniquely Chinese genre of wuxia pian (literally “martial chivalry”), a genre he practically defined with Come Drink With Me (1966) and Dragon Gate Inn (1967), into the realms of poetry and epic adventure. 45 years after its completion, A Touch of Zen has been restored and it is as glorious and grand and dreamily beautiful as ever.

The very opening tells you that this is something different, from the ominous spiderwebs stretched across the dark to a sunrise over the mountains of the rural inland in a remote part of China. There’s six or so minutes of scene-setting, glorious images and music that flow with a sense of grace, before we see a sign of civilization. It’s almost like an intrusion on the purity of this world. Almost. That same slow, sublime storytelling continues as a poor but honorable scholar, Gu (Chun Shih), sets up his shop and welcomes a stranger, who sits for a portrait and asks about some of the recent arrivals in this remote village. When the stranger slips away to follow one of these newcomers, we observe the trajectories of the followed and the followers and see an intelligence network of spies and agents emerge from the lazy rhythms of the sleepy town square. Every new arrival adds to the web, especially a young woman, Yang (Feng Hsu), who moves into the haunted manor next door and a blind beggar (Ying Bai) who suddenly seems to be everywhere.

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

‘A Touch of Zen’

Among the new Criterion releases, a pair of films that engage history and/or national myth with radical, indelibly modern style. David Bordwell outlines many of the innovations that make King Hu’s A Touch of Zen so different from its supposedly less “classical” contemporaries. (“This long opening not only builds up curiosity but also asks us to enjoy the visual values of Hu’s sumptuous costuming, chiaroscuro sets, and widescreen compositions full of graceful character movement. In one shot, the mysterious stranger dodges out of sight. Why? The monks’ saffron robes ease into the frame as a subdued burst of color in the pale street landscape, setting up a motif that reaches fruition, ninety minutes later, when golden blood streaks down a sash.”) While James Quandt finds Muriel the culmination of Resnais’s denied but obvious fascination with time and memory. (“Like the man who asks where the center of the city is only to be told that he is already in it, Muriel’s viewer may be left grasping for narrative and temporal coordinates. The film’s anxious, shardlike editing—Resnais claimed that the cuts numbered close to a thousand, though others have subtracted a hundred or two from that total—detailed in Cayrol’s script and ostentatiously announced by that initial cubist fusillade, further confounds the sense of duration and chronology, despite the scenario’s linear, symmetrical five-act structure. With its disorienting ellipses, compressions, attenuations, and its obsessive repetitions, Muriel anticipates the “shattered time” of that other Resnais masterpiece 1968’s Je t’aime, je t’aime but, without the latter’s memory machine and use of flashbacks, can be all the more confounding.”)

If any question remained of Leo McCarey’s place in the pantheon, MoMA’s retrospective of the director should finally put paid to any respectful but ultimately dismissive appreciations of him as an impeccable craftsman. The series has Nick Pinkerton considering the contradictions of McCarey’s career, and the beautiful music he could coax, both out of his onset piano, played during down time, and his actors on the screen. (“McCarey was parochial and universal. His approach was, as the saying goes, “revolutionary,” though like more than a few revolutionary artists he found the prospect of actual revolution abhorrent. He was both devout Catholic and a right-winger—and a sharp satirist of the institutions which he held dear.”) For Aaron Cutler, the humanism he showed for all his characters is paramount. (“McCarey was fundamentally a comic filmmaker, and he used comedy to help create sympathy and compassion for basic human efforts. Humor often arises through the beautiful personal recognitions that take place for the characters in his films—the small, wordless instances of revelations in which peoples’ faces show realizations that their entire lives have changed.”) While a 2012 essay on Ruggles of Red Gap has Dan Sallitt tracing McCarey’s character-based, observational humor back to his silent days. (“It’s fascinating that McCarey sweats over a scene like this as if he were still building laughs for Laurel & Hardy, even as he fully exploits the benefits of dialogue to craft detailed and unusual characterisations. One doesn’t feel a clash between particularised observation and the universal language of gags and comic effects – perhaps because McCarey finds ways of placing even individualised traits in a universal context.”)

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Seattle Screens: Noir City returns, King Hu at the Uptown, and more Seattle film events

Noir City returns to Seattle, after going on the run in 2015, for a week-long program at The Egyptian titled “Film Noir from A to B.” “The satellite festivals were growing around the country at such a rate that I wanted to take a break from Seattle with the expectation that we would return there bigger and better than ever,” explains Film Noir Foundation founder and Noir City MC Eddie Muller. “My idea for coming back and retooling was to—and this is the first place in the country that I’ve done this—do “Film Noir From A to B” matching an “A” film from a particular year with a “B” film from the same year, to try and recreate a microcosm of film noir in one series. Which I have found is a pretty amusing thing to do.” One exception: Tuesday is “the Edith Head show. The wardrobes for both of those films were designed by Edith Head.” Seattle authors (and film noir obsessives) Vince and Rosemary Keenan will cohost the evening and do a book signing for their debut novel Design for Dying, which features Edith Head as a detective.

The program opens in 1940/1941 with I Wake Up Screaming (seriously one of the greatest titles ever for a film noir) and Stranger on the Third Floor, which has been called the first true film noir by many historians, and it ends with a newly-struck print of Southside 1-1000 (1950), directed by Boris Ingster, who began the fest with Stranger. It presents the Seattle premiere of two Film Noir Foundation restorations—The Guilty (1947) and Woman on the Run (1950)—and six films that are unavailable on home video (disc, streaming, or VOD)—Dr. Broadway (1942), Night Editor (1947), The Guilty, Desert Fury (1947), The Reckless Moment (1949), and Southside 1-1000. All films screened on 35mm. I wrote a preview for The Stranger here.

New restorations of Chinese filmmaker King Hu’s influential Dragon Inn (1967) and sublime A Touch of Zen (1970), considered a masterpiece of Chinese cinema, play for three days only this weekend at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

NWFF and Scarecrow Video present selections from Kino’s Pioneers of African-American Cinema, a box set of rare preserved and restored films from African-American filmmakers, most of them produced between 1915 and 1946. This is a members-only event for NWFF and Scarecrow $100+ members on Wednesday, July 27 at Northwest Film Forum.

Filmmaker Bob Hannam will be on hand to show his documentary The Colossus of Destiny: A Melvin’s Tale on Saturday and Sunday at Grand Illusion.

“Cinememory: Negotiating the Past Through Film” is a program of local and international experimental films, presented by Emerald Reels at Grand Illusion on Tuesday, July 26.

Legend (1986), Ridley Scott’s fantasy starring Tom Cruise, plays on Saturday, July 23 at NWFF as part of the Puget Soundtrack series. Screened from Blu-ray with a live score by Lazer Kitty.

And on Thursday, July 28, Puget Soundtrack presents Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) with a live score by Fungal Abyss, also at NWFF. Digital presentation.

Fathom Events presents the original Planet of the Apes (1968) on big screen in select theaters across the country for two nights this week: Sunday, July 24 and Wednesday, July 27. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

The animated feature Batman: The Killing Joke, produced for Warner Home Video, plays one night only before its disc and digital release in numerous theaters in and around Seattle on Monday, July 25.

The Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President continues with Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), directed by Frank Capra. It screens on Thursday, July 28 at 7:30pm at Plestcheeff Auditorium and is shown on 35mm. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis. Details here.

Openings:

César Augusto Acevedo’s Caméra d’Or winning film Land and Shade plays for a week at Grand Illusion.

The documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You and the Israeli psychological drama Tikkun play for a week at SIFF Film Center.

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

Noir City 2016: Existential Dread and Urban Corruption

Victor Mature in ‘I Wake Up Screaming’

After going on the lam for a year, Noir City is back in Seattle, and this time it takes up residency at SIFF Cinema Egyptian (is there a movie house better suited to noir atmosphere?) and expands to 18 films in seven days (July 22–28).

Why does noir hold such a fascination in 2016? There’s the style and energy and Damon-Runyon-gone-to-seed repartee of tough guys and brassy dames, of course. There’s something cathartic about wallowing in the bad decisions and bad behavior of bad guys and bad dames scheming and cheating in the dark corners of the urban jungle, too. But pulp-fiction pleasures aside, the films are dangerous and daring and savvy thanks to a combination of desperation and pessimism, and the implied sex and violence that filmmakers snuck past the censors of the time. Even audiences too jaded for the quaint conventions of old Hollywood movies are captivated by noir portraits of existential dread and urban corruption. These disillusioned portraits of the American dream gone sour are, at their best, too jaded to believe their own studio-mandated happy endings. They may look nostalgic, but they sure feel like a reflection of our own anxious times.

Continue reading at The Stranger