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by Sean Axmaker


The Haunting

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, October 21

“Each table is crowded with sinister figurines as well as examples of that creepiest of all nineteenth-century fads, dead flowers under glass. The rooms seem to oppress the characters with all these things. The main staircase and the hallways are emptier, it’s true, but who wants to hang out in the hallways, where every door looks alike and is ready to swing shut without warning?” Farran Smith Nehme gets her seasonally appropriate production design love on, praising (for Library of America) how Robert Wise, cinematographer Davis Boulton, and designer Elliot Scott crafted images in The Haunting to somehow match Shirley Jackson’s implicitly sinister prose; then at Film Comment saluting one of the essential elements of Hammer horror. (“Every time characters walk outside or ride in a carriage, on their way to investigate, to rescue, flee or pursue—no one is ever just out for a walk or a drive in a Hammer movie—the wheels send dead leaves flying and half-bare branches curl toward the road like fingers. The travelers clutch their wraps and look up at menacing, usually gray skies. And when they arrive, what should greet them, but the sets of Bernard Robinson.”)

Film Comment also has Steven Mears on Deboarah Kerr’s unique aptitude for playing governesses (“This reciprocity (or, at worst, codependency) [with her charges] infuses all of her governess portrayals, and is one reason why her creations are miles apart from Julie Andrews’s impeccable Mary Poppins or concurrent TV domestics like Shirley Booth’s Hazel and Alice from The Brady Bunch: Kerr’s nannies need their children, perhaps even more than they’re needed by them.”); and Margaret Barton-Fumo applauds Harry Nilsson’s soundtracks, from Skidoo’s tellingly old-fashioned tunes to Popeye’s on-the-money raggedness, as well as the rare “concert” films the stage-fright afflicted Nilsson only allowed to be filmed without an audience.

Deborah Kerr in 'The Innocents'
Deborah Kerr in ‘The Innocents’

“[At] certain points in the story, particularly early on, the footsteps are louder than the dialogue, and there are stretches when you can’t make out any single word. It is imperfect and messy, just like the frontier, just like the film itself, just like life. In McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Altman did not so much reproduce a lost past as create a new world, with its own logic and texture. This is the source of the film’s honesty, which is to say its beauty.” At Criterion, a pair of idiosyncratic takes on genre that wind up masterpieces of the forms they’re deconstructing. Nathaniel Rich finds McCabe’s heroic but inevitably doomed stand against the system a parallel to Altman’s own; while Michael Atkinson sees the rich interplay between reality and fantasy, politics and personal journey, metaphor and mental landscape in del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth as its own justification, rather than the facile question of what’s really happening. (“[The Spanish Civil War] was, for many, a loss of innocence, which for a piece of pop-genre filmmaking with a preteen heroine might be symbolic load enough. But the action of the film also reverberates beautifully as a metaphor for the incomprehensible mysteries and wholesale savageries of the adult world, as seen from four feet off the floor.”)

Night at the Crossroads resembles no other movie made before it: smoky, foggy, and visually very dark. It represents a key step between the detective film, which is supposed to be resolved logically, and the purely filmic thriller, which trades in atmosphere and seduction.” Often written off as minor Renoir, Night at the Crossroads is remarkable, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky attests, not just as a harbinger of film noir, but the embrace of a cinema built on mood and effect, not plot and character.

Night at the Crossroads
Night at the Crossroads

Lyon’s Lumière Festival certainly seems to be doing at least one thing right: getting filmmakers to speak freely and openly about matters that interest them. From this last week, highlights are offered (by John Hopewell and Jamie Long) from Walter Hill’s frank, rousingly apolitical career overview (“I feel very strongly… that a lot of filmmakers seem to want credit for throwing themselves on the side of good intentions. Then when the films don’t work, they kind of ask for a kind of pity. I totally reject this.”) and (by Nick Vivarelli) of Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic obsession, which he has whittled down to a fascination with the year 1970 (“There was a promise in 1970 that a new genuine black cinema would emerge…. That ended up not happening. Blaxploitation ended up taking its place. I’m known as a fan of blaxploitation, but now I’m seeing that blaxploitation did derail a true black voice [from] rising in cinema as much as I appreciate it.”).

“Certain things are destiny, like when he [pointing at Michael] showed up at the door for his first audition—I opened the door and thought “Henry’s here.” It was not a process of sifting through ideas and going through things that I had thought of over the years. When I left the building that day, there was a 7-11 down the street and I went there and bought some lottery tickets because I figured this was my lucky day.” John McNaughton and Michael Rooker (who, yeah, really should have kept the suitcase), interviewed by Peter Sobczynski, look back from 30 years on at Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

“On his way into a California Pizza Kitchen on the less glamorous side of Wilshire Boulevard, a young woman on her way out of the restaurant instantly recognized him: ‘Oh my god, you’re my favorite actor!’ ‘And you’re mine,’ Beatty fired back. Warren Beatty seduced the world, and the world still seems to be in love with him.” The seductiveness of Warren Beatty still persists, apparently, enough to receive a remarkably glowing profile from Sam Kashner, in which tossing out a handful of details on his lothario past is taken as a sign of his discretion (consider how many he didn’t name!), and dragging out—till her agent finally had to call and ask if she had the part—Lily Collins’s interviews and rehearsals for Beatty’s new film Rules Don’t Apply only shows how marvelously he can take moviemaking at his own, unhurried pace.

“And [being told the teen residents of an Austin shelter were ‘the throwaways of America’] had a huge resonance for me. I wanted to find people whose lights hadn’t gone off—where despite their hard starts in life, you could still see their potential, their beauty, and their spirit, and see they’re not throwaways at all. I guess on some level, if the film is trying to show anything, it’s that.” Andrea Arnold discusses her unorthodox filming methods—on her latest, American Honey, no less than her previous films—with Robbie Collin; and even manages to do that distinctively, perching on her hotel room’s windowsill where previous interviewees had all talked with Collin on the couch.

Andrea Arnold
Andrea Arnold

“It’s not the most luxurious place in the world…. Everyone who is here is here because they need to live, because they have an urgency, they have a sense of purpose, which is very basic. It’s ‘I need to feed my family’, ‘I need to make enough money to make things work’. So we all understand each other.” Christopher Doyle, lugging camera equipment, lost among the labyrinth, and enjoying a beer at 11am, guides an unidentified South China Morning Post reporter through Chunking Mansions, hoping to stop development from making a memory of the iconic residence where Chunking Express was filmed. Via Movie City News.

Adrian Curry celebrates the 54th New York Film Festival with a selection of posters from films that played 50 years ago, at the 4th.


Pierre Etaix
Pierre Etaix

Circus acrobat, clown, cabaret star, artist, actor, and for a brief time director, Pierre Etaix was one of the great comedy treasures of France. He trained and performed as a clown, became a star on the cabaret circuit in the fifties, and worked with Jacques Tati as both gag man and a graphic artist on the classic Mon Oncle (1958), where he sketched the legendary caricature that Tati continued to use through his career, before making his own films. He won the Academy Award for his second short film, Happy Anniversary (1962), and went on direct four feature comedies, including The Suitor (1962), Le Grand Amour (1966), and his masterpiece Yoyo (1965), where he played both a ruined millionaire and his son, who grows into a celebrated clown. Celebrated on their release, the films all but disappeared for four decades due to legal issues and his legacy dimmed until they were freed only in 2009, restored in 2010, and rereleased to great acclaim. Though he never directed another film after the documentary Land of Milk and Honey (1971), he took roles in a number of films, including Jerry Lewis’ notorious and uncompleted The Day the Clown Cried (1972), Nagisa Oshima’s Max mon amour (1986), Philip Kaufman’s Henry & June (1990), Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs (2009), and Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre (2011). He passed away at the age of 87. Ronald Bergen for The Guardian.

Ted V. Mikels produced and directed dozens of low-budget exploitation movies over his 50 year-plus career, earning cult status with films The Astro-Zombies (1968), The Corpse Grinders (1971), Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973), and The Doll Squad (1973). In later years he made films directly for the home video market, cashing in on his most memorable titles with such sequels as The Corpse Grinders 2 (2000) and Mark of the Astro-Zombies (2004). He continued making movies right up to his death at the age of 87. William Grimes for The New York Times.

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

Kuroneko - Photo credit: Janus Films

Seattle Screens: Japanese horror in 35mm and ‘The Battle of Algiers’ restored

The Japanese horror classic Kuroneko (Black Cat) (1968), directed by Kaneto Shindo, is both an eerie ghost story and a ferocious horror tale of righteous revenge. Set in feudal Japan, in a bamboo forest perpetually shrouded in fog and shadow as ethereal as the ghosts that seem to float through it, the film chronicles the spirits of two women, raped and murdered by scruffy samurai who are more like feral bandits, driven to revenge themselves on all samurai, which they lure to their ghost house, itself a spirit that moves through the forest like a supernatural creature. It’s one of the greatest of Japanese ghost stories, a horror film of elemental drive, feminist rage and visual grace. It plays three shows at Grand Illusion this week from a 35mm print.

Also at Grand Illusion in 35mm is Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1965), a quartet of ancient ghost stories. It may not be strictly speaking a horror film—it’s not scary or particularly unsettling apart for a few exquisitely created images—but it is breathtakingly lovely, visually composed like a painting, scored and sound designed by Toru Takemitsu with a spareness that leans on silence, and suffused in sadness, regret, and loss. The 160-minute film plays twice this week.

Gillo Pontecorvo merges documentary and drama in his 1966 masterpiece The Battle of Algiers, his shattering portrait of Algeria’s struggle for independence from France. Shot in a second generation neo-realist style on the streets of Algeria with a cast of professionals and non-professionals, it follows the experience of a longtime petty thief in the Casbah who becomes politicized while in jail in 1954 and rises to the top of the resistance. His “nemesis” is Colonel Mathieu, a French Paratrooper who brings his experience in Indochina (which became America’s Vietnam War) to the fight: he uses torture, coercion and the suspension of civil rights to get the job done and he doesn’t pretend otherwise to supporters and critics alike. “The question you should ask yourself is: should France stay in Algeria? If the answer is yes, then you have condoned my methods.”

Directed with a newsreel immediacy and a documentary seriousness, it could be used by young revolutionary groups as a guide to creating the political structure of a resistance movement. Its unflinching engagement with the realities of the violence and the moral quandaries that such a movement will face is part of the lesson. But in addition to its searing political statement of resistance against colonial occupation, The Battle of Algiers is a gripping tale of a people’s fight for independence. The film is so effective that the Pentagon used the film as a teaching tool in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The new restoration of opens for a week-long run at Sundance Cinemas.


Seattle’s own Mel Eslyn produces Blue Jay, starring Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, plays through the week at SIFF Film Center and SIFF Cinema Uptown.

The documentary Do Not Resist, winner of the Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, plays this week at NWFF.

The concert film Oasis: Supersonic plays one night only on Wednesday, October 26. The 7pm show at SIFF Cinema Egyptian is already sold out (standby tickets may still be available) but a second show has been added at 8pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Earshot Jazz and NWFF present the Seattle premiere of the documentary The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith on Wednesday, October 26.

Archival and revival screenings:

Central Cinema presents Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) and the teen witchcraft film The Craft (1996) from Saturday through Monday.

Professor Fred Hopkins hosts a double feature of Roger Corman films, Ski Troop Attack (1960) and Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), screened from 16mm prints at NWFF on Saturday, October 22.

Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments (1995), a feature-length Canadian science fiction thriller shot on video for a reported $250, screens for one show only at Grand Illusion on Saturday, October 22.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) returns to the big screen in select theaters across the country for two nights this week through Fathom Events: Sunday, October 23 and Wednesday October 30. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

Curt McDowell’s underground cult classic Thundercrack! (1975), plays on Tuesday, October 25 at Grand Illusion from a new digital restoration. Greg Youmans, assistant professor of Film Studies at Western Washington University in Bellingham, is scheduled to introduce the film.

The Northwest African American Museum presents Blacula (1972) at Central Cinema on Tuesday, October 25.

Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise (1945) kicks off the Seattle Art Museum’s Yves Saint Laurent film series, a companion to the “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style” exhibit. It screens on Wednesday, October 26 at Plestcheef Auditorium at the downtown Seattle Art Museum from a 35mm print. Series tickets available.

The Unsuspected (1947), directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Claude Rains, plays at 7:30pm on Thursday, October 27 at Plestcheef Auditorium at the downtown Seattle Art Museum as part of the “Shadowland,” the 39th edition of the longest-running film noir series in the world. Screens from a 35mm print from the Library of Congress and includes a film discussion with critic Richard T. Jameson.

The Sprocket Society presents “Election Cavalcade: Democracy on 16mm, 1932-1977,” a program of election-themed shorts—cartoons, news clips, campaign films, and other films—on 16mm. NWFF on Thursday, October 27.

Festivals: Twist 2016, the Seattle Queer film festival, concludes on Sunday, October 23 with the closing night film The Pass at Cinerama. Also playing through the weekend and concluding on Sunday are The Seattle Polish Film Festival and The 11th Annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival.

More openings:

Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women opens at SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Ti West’s western In a Valley of Violence opens at Sundance, and the Australian feature Tanna plays over the weekend at SIFF Film Center.


SIFF has announced a new executive director. Sarah Wilke, who has spent 12 years as managing director of the Seattle performing arts organization On the Boards, will transition into her new position over the next two months.

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.

Simone Simon in 'Cat People'

Blu-ray: The original ‘Cat People’

catpeopleThe original 1942 Cat People (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) was made on a low budget for RKO’s B-movie unit, the first in an amazing series of B-horror films from producer Val Lewton that transcended its origins. It’s a masterpiece of mood and psychological ambiguity masquerading as a cheap exploitation knock-off. Cheap it is, but Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur create mood not out of what is seen, but what isn’t.

Simone Simon is a kittenish young artist from a rural Siberian village who has moved to urban America but still believes in the legends and superstitions of her homeland. Kent Smith is the generically charming American engineer who meets her in the zoo, where she obsessively sketches the black panther prowling its small cage, and they marry, but her fears prevent her from consummating the marriage. She believes that she comes from a cursed bloodline of the devil-worshippers and that any form of romantic passion will transform her into a jungle cat. That’s not exactly how the film frames it—she won’t even allow a passionate kiss out of her fear—but the film slyly makes the connection between sex (both repressed and unleashed) and horror. Smith sounds more parental than partner as he dismisses her superstitions and fears with a superiority that comes off as insensitive as best and arrogant at worst. The only transformation we see is in the character of the suddenly aggressive Simon when she becomes jealous of her husband’s coworker (Jane Randolph). Everything else is left to suggestion and imagination, using feline snarls and shadows on the wall and ingenious art direction (her apartment is filled with art featuring cats) to hint at transformation. Tom Conway is both slickly sophisticated and a little sleazy as a psychiatrist who becomes too interested in his troubled patient.

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Have a Freudian Field Day with ‘Spider Baby’

Spider Baby (1967), more formally known as Spider Baby, or The Maddest Story Ever Told, is a magnificent film maudit of exploitation cinema, a true American independent vision, and an eccentric triumph unappreciated (and in fact largely unseen) in its own time. Think of Lord of the Flies by way of Freaks, a mix of horror and comedy with a nod to Psycho and a dash of Freud. It’s one of the greatest blasts of B-movie creativity to get dumped into American drive-ins and grindhouses—and get rediscovered decades later in the era of home video by genre-movie mavens. (That’s how I first stumbled upon the film and fell in love with its invention and inspiration.)

This was the official directorial debut of Jack Hill, who apprenticed under Roger Corman (shooting uncredited scenes for Dementia 13 and The Terror), and went on to make his name in cult-movie circles with films including Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), both starring Pam Grier, and Switchblade Sisters (1975), a girl-gang picture that Quentin Tarantino rereleased under his Rolling Thunder banner in the late 1990s.

Continue reading at Keyframe

Mortuary (2005)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Shown: Price Carson

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, October 14

October as always brings horror to movie blogs, with two pieces this week aiming to rehabilitate Tobe Hooper. Noel Murray’s the more conventional of the pair, saluting the director’s command of cinema and his deliberate assaults on audience expectations while letting everything Hooper directed after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 fall under the one-sentence dismissal of “hackery,” while offering some well-grounded insights into how Hooper’s unconventionality and seeming distracted air onset probably harmed his career. (“The problem—at least from Cannon’s point of view—is that while Hooper was evolving as a craftsman and artist, he was moving away from what the horror fans of the mid-‘80s expected. […] Lifeforce and Invaders From Mars in particular are self-conscious throwbacks to the more theatrical and expressionistic genre pictures of the ‘50s and ‘60s.”) While Mike Thorn goes all-in, claiming masterpiece status for the likes of Mortuary and The Mangler. (On the latter, it “showcases an even more mature, sophisticated, and focused artist, though, wearing its crazed aspirations in every scene like a badge of honor. However, it’s worth noting that the film doesn’t simply revel in formal excess; rather, it finds the potential for serious and damning social allegory in its source text.”) Not to pick sides, since Murray’s piece is damned fine and the better observed of the two, but if you can’t go whole hog unsubtle in your praise of Tobe Hooper, when can you?

“When characters sleep, the plot of the film comes to a standstill. All we can do is wait. That Kiarostami deliberately lingers over these moments of narrative vacancy reveals more than his aversion to Hollywood pacing. As he explained in [a] 1997 interview: ‘Whenever I make a film, it’s the content that determines the film’s style.’ And the content that makes up most of Kiarostami’s work is the granular moments of the everyday: a car ride, a walk, a boy trying to get his mother’s attention, an idle taxi driver waiting for his passenger to return, and, of course, sleep.” Kiarostami made more than a few tongue-in-cheek comments over the years about putting his audiences to sleep, but Xueli Wang argues that when you consider the many scenes of slumber in his films, and their warmly soporific pacing, you get less a joke than one of the keys to Kiarostami’s cinema.

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The Double Life of Veronique

Seattle Screens: Festival season – Twist, South Asian, Polish Film Festivals

Twist 2016, the Seattle Queer film festival, has its opening night at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian on Thursday, October 13 with the world premiere of Seattle artist Clyde Petersen’ debut feature Torrey Pines and continues through Sunday, October 23 with screenings and events at the Egyptian, NWFF, 12 Ave Arts Building, Pacific Place, and other venues. The closing night film The Pass screens at Cinerama on Sunday, October 23. Complete schedule and other details at the website here.

The 11th Annual Seattle South Asian Film Festival opens on Friday, October 14 with a screening of Aynabaji (India) at Seattle Art Museum, moves to SIFF Film Center for a weekend of screenings, and screens films at Thompson Hall at the UW, Carco Theater in Renton, and other venues through Sunday, October 23. It closes with Waiting, a Hindi-language film from India. Complete schedule and other details at the website here.

The Seattle Polish Film Festival plays at SIFF Cinema Uptown this weekend with screenings of Cellin Gluck’s Persona Non Grata, Tomasz Wasilewski’s The United States of Love, Jerzy Skolimowski’s 11 Minutes, and revivals of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing (1988) and The Double Life of Veronique (1991) among other films. It plays through Sunday, October 23. Complete schedule and other details at the website here.

Not technically part of the festival but perfectly timed as a companion event, Krzysztof Kie?lowski’s complete Dekalog (1988), originally produced and presented as a ten-part mini-series for Polish television, plays at SIFF Cinema Uptown between Monday, October 17 and Thursday, October 20. The series, which has been newly restored and remastered for theaters and disc, plays in entirety twice over the four days. Reviewed here on Parallax View.

Ghosts, Spirits and Miracles of a Summer Night is a collection of animated shorts from Polish filmmaker Joanna Polak. It plays on Tuesday, October 18 at Polish Home (1714 18th Ave.) in a presentation co-sponsored by NWFF and Seattle Polish Film Festival.

Taxi Driver returns to theaters for its 40th Anniversary on October 16 and October 19 as a Fathom Event. Along with the screening of the film is the Q&A with director Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster form the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival screening earlier this year.

John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994) plays two shows at Grand Illusion from a 35mm print. Screens on Saturday, October 15 and Tuesday, October 18.

Central Cinema presents Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945) and the Japanese surreal horror freakout Hausu (1977) through Monday, October 17.

More openings: the Polish horror Demon and the Iranian horror Under the Shadow play at Sundance and The Greasy Strangler plays for a week at Grand Illusion.

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.

Margarethe von Trotta's 'The Displaced World'

Seattle Screens: Kinofest and Irish Reels

Kinofest Seattle, a collaboration between The Portland German Film Festival and Northwest Film Forum, opens on Friday, October 7 with Margarethe von Trotta’s The Displaced World and continues through Sunday, October 9 at NWFF, screening seven German language features and a collection of shorts over three days. Among the featured films: Windstorm 2 by Katja von Garnier, the documentary Then Is it the End? from Dominik Graf, and the American premiere of Exit Oerlikon from director Paul Riniker. Complete schedule and ticket information here.

The Irish Reels Film Festival opens Friday, October 7 at SIFF Film Center with the coming of age drama My Name is Emily and ends on Sunday with You’re Too Ugly. Complete schedule here.

Phantasm: RaVager, the fifth film in the cult horror series, opens at Grand Illusion along with the new restoration of Don Coscarelli’s original 1979 Phantasm.

Northwest Film Forum just added a screening of Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s Suture (1993) in a new 4K digital restoration. One day only on Friday, October 7.

Also at NWFF is the Polish children’s film Mr. Blot’s Academy (1983) presented in the “Puget Soundtrack” series with live musical accompaniment by Chris Cheveyo and Garrett Moore. It’s co-presented by Seattle Polish Film Festival on Wednesday, October 12.

The French Truly Salon, presented by SIFF and French Truly, reconvenes for an evening of French food, wine, culture, and cinema, with a screening of Violette (2014) with Emmanuelle Devos on Wednesday, September 14 at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

The 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows plays through the week at SIFF Cinema Egyptian, with festival curator Ron Diamond in person for the Friday shows.

The animated feature Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, featuring the voices of Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their roles from the 1960s Batman TV series, plays one day only in theaters as a Fathom Event on Monday, October 10, the day before it debuts on Blu-ray and DVD. You can find participated theaters near you at the Fathom Events page here.

At Central Cinema this week is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and Joe Dante’s The ‘Burbs (1989). Showtimes here.

More openings: Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation (including a run at Cinerama) and Andrea Arnold’s American Honey open in multiple theaters, London Road at Sundance.

And a final note: we bid farewell to Carl Spence, SIFF’s Chief Curator and Festival Director for over a decade. Spence, who began working with SIFF in 1994, oversaw the creation of SIFF Film Center and the expansion of SIFF to the Uptown and Egyptian. He leaves the organization to explore new opportunities. Beth Barrett, SIFF Festival Director of Programming, will step in as interim Artistic Director. The official press announcement is here.

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.


Blu-ray/DVD: Olive Signature editions of ‘Johnny Guitar’ and ‘High Noon’

johnnyguitarJohnny Guitar: Olive Signature (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD) – Joan Crawford’s Vienna is the most masculine of women western heroes. A former saloon girl who earned her way to owning her own gambling house, she’s a mature woman with a history and she’s not ashamed of what she did to carve out her claim for a future.

Directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge as frontier entrepreneurs in a war of wills, the 1954 Johnny Guitar is one of the most unusual westerns of its era, or any era for that matter. It’s dense with psychological thickets and political reverberations (including a not-so-veiled allegory for the McCarthy witch-hunts in Hollywood), designed with color both expressive and explosive, and directed with the grace of a symphony and the drama of an opera.

Sterling Hayden plays the title character, a lanky, affable cowboy who wanders into Vienna’s saloon in the opening minutes and serves as witness to the dramas bubbling up in this frontier community in the hills. But his acts of heroism aside, he’s the equivalent of the stalwart girlfriend watching the showdown between Vienna and the Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge). She’s the town banker and moral arbiter whose power is threatened by Vienna (her saloon is built on the site of the railway line) and whose shameful desire for a bad boy miner (Scott Brady) flares up into vengeance against Crawford, the object of his desire.

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Dekalog: Four. Photo credit: Janus Films

Blu-ray/DVD: ‘The Dekalog’ from Criterion

dekalogThe Dekalog (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)

Krzysztof Kieslowski is best known for his lush, plush art-house Three Colors trilogy, a celebration of grand emotions from beautiful people, but the The Dekalog (1989), an ambitions ten-part project made for Polish TV, is arguably his masterwork: a delicate, intimate epic of tragedy and triumph among the emotionally battered proletariat of a dreary brutalist apartment complex in Warsaw. The ten stories inspired by the Ten Commandments and loosely connected by place and time are not Sunday School fables illustrating simplistic moral lessons—the connections to the individual Commandments are not always obvious—but powerful, profound stories of love and loss, faith and fear. Each hour long drama, which Kieslowski wrote with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, stands on its own as a fully conceived film

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, September 30

“He tails Madeleine quite efficiently, to be sure, but he also displays a casual awareness of his surroundings. He pauses to look at a gravestone or two in Mission Dolores. He bends over to examine a painting (Allegories of the Arts: Architecture, by Charles-Andre van Loo) in the gallery. When he sets off to the McKittrick Hotel, he turns his head to look behind in one swift move, although his prey is well ahead of him. What on earth is he looking at? What can be more interesting than Madeleine? Many things, one might respond—and correctly. Scottie is falling under Madeleine’s spell, but he still retains control over his attention, where it might linger, and where retreat. She remains at the center of his vision, but also occasionally recedes. All is well. It is in the post-Madeleine phase that things go wrong.” Paroma Chatterjee, sticking up for the poor, defenseless necklace thrust into the role of plot point, finds in Vertigo more than a hint that the titular affliction is, for Scottie and Judy’s well-being, very much a good thing, and Scottie’s “cure” by the end cause mostly for regret.

At Criterion, the wages of sin, Euro arthouse and Hollywood camp (both intentional and otherwise). Paul Coates shows how Kieslowski’s weaning himself from documentary informed the content and means of production of Dekalog. (“[After] the brief visit of a philatelist living in another apartment, Zofia’s translator, El?bieta, says, “‘Interesting block’; Zofia’s response is ‘Like any other. Everyone has a story to tell, and so on.’ ‘And so on’ abbreviates the script’s ‘and so on and so on and so on . . .’ Ten films cannot possibly tell all the stories the block contains, as its multiple windows remind one continually. Even one story may not necessarily be taken in all at once—so we see Magda viewing her own life from another angle at the end of A Short Film About Love.”) While Glenn Kenney does the honors for both Valley of the Dolls and its out-of-the-blue, up-from-the-underground nonsequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. (“A longtime fan of the comic strip Li’l Abner, [Meyer] was making live-action cartoons, but it is clear that he didn’t feel intellectually superior to his own product. Ebert, while possessing some of the qualities of a Chicago wise guy at the time, was also a young and eager Hollywood outsider. The latter’s account of the creation of the movie describes an attitude of anything-goes exuberance, not calculated mean-spiritedness.”)

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Seattle Screens: French Cinema Now, a Sundance workshop, and Multiple Maniacs

French Cinema Now kicks off a series of French language films from France and Canada at SIFF Cinema Uptown with on Thursday, September 29 with opening night feature Lost in Paris from filmmaking team Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon. Among the highlights: the romantic comedy Two Friends from actor/director Louis Garrel, Don’t Tell Me the Boy was Mad from Robert Guediguian and set in 1970s Paris, the documentary Reset which takes viewers behind the scenes at the Opéra National de Paris, and the drama After Love with Be?re?nice Bejo and Ce?dric Kahn as a married couple sticking through a failing marriage for their kids. The series plays through Thursday, October 6. The complete schedule and ticket and festival pass information is here.

The 19th Local Sightings Film Festival screens its final films at NWFF on Friday, September 30, including a new restoration of Kelly Reichardt’s River of Grass (1994), and on Saturday it presents the first-ever Sundance Institute Artist Services workshop in Seattle. The day-long event for filmmakers begins at 10am at NWFF and features panel discussions and presentations. Details here.

Mink Stole presents a midnight screening of the new restoration of John Waters’ trash classic Multiple Maniacs (1970) at SIFF Egyptian on Friday, September 30. The event is hosted by Peaches Christ and features a special performance by RainbowGore Cake.

A new restoration of Geoff Murphy’s apocalyptic The Quiet Earth (1985), the first science fiction movie from New Zealand, plays through the week at Grand Illusion.

On Wednesday, October 5, NWFF celebrates American Archives Month with a selection of rarely-seen shorts from archives around the city of Seattle. Also at NWFF this week: the short films program Memory Presents: Program No. 2 from award-winning and emerging filmmakers and Desert Cathedral, a mix of found footage and dramatic thriller, both on Thursday, October 6.

Young Frankenstein (1971) returns to cinemas across the country for a special one-night-only screening on Wednesday, October 5 from Fathom Events. This screening features a live introduction by director Mel Brooks, who co-wrote the film with his star and good friend Gene Wilder. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

This week, Central Cinema goes classic with Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and crowd-pleasing with The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Showtimes here.

Back for another go: The Art of the Story: The Hero’s Journey is a workshop that looks at the power of myth and the hero’s journey in storytelling through Star Wars (1977) and its relationship to Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Conducted by media educator Malory Graham. Sunday, October 2 at SIFF Film Center.

More openings: Cameraperson, a personal documentary from filmmaker Kirsten Johnson and A Man Called Ove (winner of the Golden Space Needle for Best Actor) at SIFF Cinema Uptown

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 Neon Demon

Blu-ray/DVD: The Neon Demon

neondemonThe Neon Demon (Broadgreen, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) – “I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I can’t write… no real talent. But I’m pretty, and I can make money off pretty.” We first meet Jesse (Elle Fanning), a 16-year-old girl from Middle America looking to leverage her youth and innocent beauty into a modeling career in Los Angeles, made up as a glamorous victim of a decadent world. Sprawled out in designer clothes across an expensive couch with fake blood slathered across her neck and dripping down her arm, she could be shooting the ad for her own fate in the big bad city.

Nicholas Winding Refn, who wrote and directed his social commentary-as-heady horror film, isn’t big on subtlety. Elle Fanning is an enormously talented young actress who has become shorthand casting for innocence, youth, and authenticity, and that serves Refn’s purposes perfectly. She does indeed have that “deer in the headlights” look, as her agent says in one of the on-the-nose lines that fills the script, and her fresh look, not yet jaded by LA decadence, makes her the next big thing in a culture where the supermodels du jour age out of their prime at 20.

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Oscar Micheaux

Videophiled: Pioneers of African-American Cinema

pioneersafricanamPioneers of African-American Cinema (Kino, Blu-ray, DVD) – The legacy of African-American filmmaking—specifically films made by and for African-American audiences before Hollywood integrated its casts and gave leading roles to African-American actors—is largely unknown to even passionate films buffs, in part because the films were rarely seen by white audiences in their day, and in part because so few of the films had been preserved with the same dedication given to the maverick films of Hollywood. This landmark box set is the first serious effort devoted to collecting and preserving feature films and shorts produced between 1915 and 1946 for black audiences, most of them made by African-American filmmakers. The scope of the set embraces drama, music, adventure, comedy, and documentary.

Independent director/producer Oscar Micheaux, the most successful and prolific black filmmaker of his day, directly confronted race and racism in such movies as Within Our Gates (1920), which took up the cause of education while broaching such taboo subjects as miscegenation and lynching, The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920), his response to Birth of a Nation, and Birthright (1938). The set includes nine features and a short from Micheaux, including his most famous film Body and Soul (1925) starring Paul Robeson playing brothers (one good and the other a con man in a priest’s collar) in his film debut.

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Jean Gabin in 'Touchez pas au grisbi'

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of Friday, September 23

“Every country inflects noir with its own accent, adapts the form to its own climate. In American noir, people are undone by ambition and desire, convinced that they can have what they want if they grab hard enough and run fast enough. In French films, people often succumb instead to exhaustion, melancholy, nihilism: most poetic realist films contain some version of the line “living is hard,” or “life’s a bitch.”” Imogen Sarah Smith reminds us the French didn’t only name film noir, they contributed mightily to it; not least by gracing us with one of the genre’s iconic actors, Jean Gabin. Also at Criterion, Geoffrey O’Brien praises Cat People as a film of more than just some memorable scenes, but one steeped in the uncanny. (“Fans and commentators have sifted every shot and every situation of this seventy-three-minute feature, pondering each line of dialogue and taking note of each editing gimmick and trick of lighting, speculating on the implications of every archetypal motif and psychosexual frisson. Yet a fundamental mysteriousness remains, a slippery unwillingness to submit to final explanation. Cat People’s most famous gesture—keeping the object of dread concealed in the shadows, and trusting to the human impulse to people the dark with the most unspeakable fears—is only the most blatant of the many ways in which the film leaves spaces deliberately blank. It presents us with a series of unforgettable moments and obliges us to imagine connections among them.”)

“William Dean Howells famously remarked, ‘What the American public wants is a tragedy with a happy ending.’ In his version of The Natural, Levinson made that a good thing—and ultimately, Malamud agreed with him. This son of Jewish immigrants and serial portraitist of social outsiders frequently got lumped with Saul Bellow and Philip Roth as “Jewish novelists.” According to his daughter, Janna Malamud Smith, when the author left the movie theater after seeing The Natural, he turned to his wife and said, ‘Now I’m an American writer.’” How Levinson and his collaborators pulled that off is why Carrie Rickey feels The Natural is only now getting its critical due, being dismissed at the time as an unacceptable softening of a great novel.

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Nightmare Alley

Seattle Screens: Film noir ‘Nightmare,’ Local Sightings at NWFF, and Arthouse Theatre Day

The 19th edition of Local Sightings, “Seattle’s only festival dedicated to Pacific Northwest films and filmmakers,” continues at NWFF with over 100 features and short films, including 26 world premieres (four of them features), plus workshops and panels and other events. Plays through Saturday, October 1 at NWFF. Complete schedule and other details here, and Robert Horton’s preview is at Seattle Weekly.

The 39th edition of the longest-running film noir series in the world kicks off on Thursday, September 29 with a screening of Nightmare Alley (1947). Matinee idol Tyrone Power is brilliantly cast as the opportunistic carnie who tramples his partners to climb out of the sideshow and into nightclub glamour and high society in one of the most offbeat examples of film noir. Opening and closing in the dregs of a two-bit carnival, the rise and fall of a drifter who connives a mind-reading act from a rummy has-been and transforms it into a scam targeting the gullible rich straddles the chasm between sleaze and class, thanks to the oddly interesting miscasting of studio stalwart Edmund Goulding as director. He never manages to sink to the depths suggested in Jules Furthman’s screenplay (behold the Geek!) but his studio elegance has its own rewards. Tyrone Power’s self-conscious screen persona perfectly fits his character, a phony whose entire life is a performance, and Colleen Gray is film noir’s baby-faced innocent, though she’s anything but naïve here. Joan Blondell and Mike Mazurki co-star as Gray’s protective carnie pals and Helen Walker proves herself just as ruthlessly cunning as Power’s scam artist in the role of a corrupt analyst. It screens from a 35mm film print at 7:30 pm at Plestcheeff Auditorium at the Seattle Art Museum. More information here, and the series continues on Thursday nights through December at SAM.

French Cinema Now kicks off with on Thursday, September 29 with opening night feature Lost in Paris from filmmaking team Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon. The series plays through Thursday, October 6. The complete schedule and ticket and festival pass information is here.

Cameraperson, a personal documentary from filmmaker Kirsten Johnson, screens at SIFF Cinema Uptown on Wednesday, September 28 with a Skype Q&A with the filmmaker. The film opens for a theatrical run on Friday, September 30.

SIFF Cinema Uptown celebrates Arthouse Theatre Day with a screening of the newly restored cult horror film Phantasm (1979) on Saturday, September 24 at SIFF Cinema Uptown, with a live stream Q&A with director Don Coscarelli joined by J.J. Abrams.

A new digital restoration of I Drink Your Blood (1973) plays on Friday, September 23 at Grand Illusion as its anti-Arthouse Day offering. Then on Saturday, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981) is the official Arthouse Theatre Day offering.

Central Cinema gets back to school with repertory runs of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) and Mean Girls (2004). Showtimes here.

More openings: The conspiracy thriller Operation Avalanche at Sundance Cinemas, the French drama Come What May at Guild 45, the romantic comedy/fantasy Zoom at Grand Illusion, and the documentaries Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary at SIFF Film Center and Three Days in Auschwitz at Sundance Cinemas.

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.