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by Sean Axmaker

Contributor

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.

Sergei Bodrov Jr. in ‘Brother’

“I must add here, however, that I am not a Buddhist myself, and that I don’t have the least intention of being didactic or evangelical in my approach to this matter. All I am interested in is presenting the flavor of a particular experience.” Criterion posts King Hu’s director’s note for A Touch of Zen as included in the press kit for the film’s 1975 Cannes screening.

“In cinema, I cannot think of any film more effective and sublime about Iran and the entanglements of beauty and agony in its history than these 18 short pieces. This historical evaluation includes all the moving images made about Iran by westerners from Raoul Walsh (Esther and the King) to Agnès Varda (Plaisir d’amour en Iran) and Albert Lamorisse (Le vent des amoureux), whether partially talking about Iran or fully, treating it fictionally or depicting it in a direct realist approach. During the last years of his life, Brakhage found in that land something that truly “prompt[s] a chaotic display of illumination into vision” and he scratched every little bit of it on the celluloid stripe.” Ehsan Khoshbakht traces the illuminating connections between Brakhage’s late abstract series Persians and the history of Iranian art by which it was inspired. Via David Hudson.

Stan Brakhage’s ‘Persians’

Jim Knipfel has a busy week over at The Chiseler, commenting on the cultural forces that have made a familiar trope—the noir film scored by mournful jazz saxophone—out of a pairing that never really existed (“It’s telling that nowadays the producers behind compilations of supposed original noir jazz themes (and these are plentiful), are often forced to plunder ‘60s TV series like 77 Sunset Strip, AIP features like Beat Girl, and even Hollywood comedies like The Apartment to fill out the proceedings. Because simply put, with the exception of the two Preminger films and I Want to Live!, authentic noir jazz never existed”); and offering a tongue-in-cheek salute to William Girdler, who turned some profits on the seamier side of the industry but never had the originality to really inspire a cult (“In extremely low-budget terms, Girdler, it must be said, started out with a good deal of energy and some promise. He was even a little ahead of the curve. Just a smidgen. Problem is, if you’re only ten minutes ahead of your time, you’re pretty well screwed”).

“‘If it’s nothing more than The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles’ second film that made no money, I’ll be a very happy man,’ Hopper said [in the documentary The American Dreamer]. ‘If the audience doesn’t accept it then it will be a long, long, long time before we can dream about that audience that I thought was there.’ ‘In that scene he’s already telling us that he’s going to fail,’ Schiller said, looking back on it now.” Jason Guerrasio’s recounting of Hopper’s The Last Movie is a once-over-lightly cut-and-paste of familiar stories, but it does add the wrinkle that Jodorowsky now claims, with a modesty to match Hopper’s own, to have edited together a “magnificent version” of the film.

Dennis Hopper shooting ‘The Last Movie’

“After the morning’s shoot, we drove across the lot to film another scene. In the back of the van, Kos-Read scrolled through photos on his phone of some of the roles he has played over the last two years, each with a distinct facial-hair style. They included: an American engineer who worked on the first locomotive in China; Gen. Douglas MacArthur; an “[expletive] lawyer”; a World War II radio announcer; a hip-hop dancer; a wisdom-dispensing alcoholic barfly; a Mafia boss; an antiquities expert; a sleazy Russian lounge lizard; a cowboy; a bisexual fashion designer; and a French detective.” Mitch Moxley offers a unique take on the Chinese movie industry by profiling Jonathan Kos-Read, an actor whose all-American good looks have kept him working there since, as a young expat bumming around Beijing, he auditioned for a movie on a whim. Via Matt Fagerholm.

“You’re going to Discover a Miracle! A Miracle of Laughter! A Miracle of Tenderness! A Miracle of Entertainment!” To celebrate his birthday, David Bordwell looks at what was playing in Madison, WI (his home town for more than 40 of his 69 years) on July 23, 1947, with some interesting digressions on how the theater distribution business has changed since those bad old days. (That the movie industry’s changed can be determined by the wealth of interesting options our theoretical Madisonian had for his evening out—including Stairway to Heaven, Miracle on 34th Street, and Song of the South.)

“I agree with [Zanussi], you know, in the way that I think there are two ways of making a social statement as a director, as an artist—that you can either decide to criticize the system, the regime, and the authorities, or you can decide to criticize society. I don’t want to judge or to say which is best, but I happen to be more in the second category. I think that the awareness or the thinking of a society that can question and can reflect upon its own functioning and its own destiny wouldn’t allow a totalitarian regime to come and rule it. So I prefer to pay attention and question the society itself rather than the rulers. For me, a political film is a film in which politics are not explicitly stated.” Asghar Farhadi discusses with Amir Ganjavie the political dimensions of maintaining an apolitical stance, returning to Iran to shoot his latest movie The Salesman, America, and Arthur Miller.

Obituary

Marni Nixon

Classical and concert singer Marni Nixon provided the singing voices of Hollywood’s biggest stars in some of the most popular musicals of the 1950s and 1960s, all of them without credit at the time. Among the actresses she ghosted in the movies: Margaret O’Brien in The Secret Garden (1949), Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956) and An Affair to Remember (1957), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964), and select high notes for Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman Prefer Blondes (1953), who otherwise did her own singing. Her contracts stipulated that she was not reveal her work but it soon became the worst kept secret in Hollywood and was common knowledge by the 1970s. She also sang on such diverse films as Disney’s animated Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Mulan (1998), played a nun in The Sound of Music (1965), and provided wordless vocals on the eerie low-budget horror Dementia (1955) and the sunny Mediterranean adventure Boy on a Dolphin (1957), among many other vocal performances. She passed away at the age of 86. Margalit Fox for The New York Times.

Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Khan was one of the leading filmmakers during the realist movement of Egyptian cinema in the 1980s. His films The Street Player (1984), The Wife of an Important Man (1987), and Dreams of Hind and Camilia (1988) were named among the “100 Greatest Arab Films of All Time” by the Dubai International Film Festival. His 2013 film Factory Girl was Egypt’s selection for the 2014 Academy Awards and his last film, Before the Summer Crowds (2016) was released just months before his death at the age of 73. Nick Holdsworth for The Hollywood Reporter.

Commercial artist Jack Davis drew some of the most famous horror comics of the 1950 for E.C.’s “Tales from the Crypt” and gained even greater fame working for Mad Magazine in the 1960s and 1970s, illustrating movie parodies among his many contributions. But to movie fans he’s even better known for his memorable movies posters for such films as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971), American Graffiti (1973), The Long Goodbye (1973), and The Bad News Bears (1976). He also designed the characters in the animated musical horror spoof Mad Monster Party? (1967) and the animated series Jackson 5ive (1971), and of course his caricatures were featured on the covers of Time and TV Guide. He passed away at the age of 91. Bill Chappell for NPR.

Seattle Screens—Parallax View’s weekly listings of cinematic events, revivals, festivals, and select film openings—can be found here.

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.

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

Blu-ray: ‘Batman v Superman’ – Dawn of the DCU

BatmanvSuperThe smartest thing about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition (Warner, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, Ultra HD Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, VOD) is its revisionist take on the destruction that concluded Man of Steel, Zach Snyder’s reboot of Superman as a harder, more troubled hero in a darker big screen superhero universe than previous incarnations. After an unnecessary (but at least relatively brief) recap of the origin of Batman laid under the opening credits, we are plunged back into the battle and this time Superman (Henry Cavill) is not the protagonist. This perspective comes from the ground. He’s simply an agent of destruction in the sky as Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck with a hint of stubble and gray in the temples) roars through the street in what is surely, at least under the hood, the civilian answer to the Batmobile. Man of Steel quite rightly was slammed for its insensitive portrait of epic destruction in an urban center without a thought for the victims below and Snyder, in all his heavyhanded Olympian grandeur, seemed just as oblivious as Superman. Both were so caught up in the personal fight with the demons of Krypton that neither could be bothered to notice civilians crushed like ants in a battle of the titans.

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Seattle Screens: NWFF brings the filmmakers

Lewis Klahr’s ‘Sixty-Six’

NWFF is bringing the filmmakers this week. On Friday, July 15, Lewis Klahr presents his feature-length stop motion anthology Sixty-Six (2002-2015), on Saturday, July 16, filmmaker and musicians Rob Beloved & Eleni Binge present their theater/film/comedy/music hybrid #comments along with performances by local bands Black Giraffe and Ichi Bichi, and on Thursday, July 21, Robert Greene accompanies his 2014 fiction/documentary hybrid Actress.

Hong Sang-soo’s Right Now, Wrong Then, winner of the Golden Leopard at Locarno, plays through Sunday at NWFF.

Life, Animated, a documentary about a father using Disney movies to communicate with his autistic son, opens at Uptown and at Seven Gables.

Also at the Uptown is the Israeli comedy The Kind Words, and the documentary NUTS! from filmmaker Penny Lane opens at SIFF Film Center.

The documentary Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt opens for a week at Sundance Cinemas, and the Mexican wresting documentary Lucha Mexico opens for a week at Grand Illusion.

A new restoration of Lucio Fulci’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin plays at Grand Illusion on Friday and Saturday. Projected from the new Mondo Macabro Blu-ray, and Mondo Macabro will be there on Saturday night.

Also at Grand Illusion this week is Industrial Musicals, a collection of rare musical promotion films produced for corporate retreats and events, curated and presented by Steve Young. One night only on Thursday, July 21.

David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) plays at the Seattle Art Museum in a 35mm print, along with some Lynch shorts, on Wednesday, July 20.

The Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President continues with The Philadelphia Story (1940), co-starring Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. It screens on Thursday, July 21 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.

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.

Japanese Gangster Movie Freakout!

Tokyo Drifter

The explosion of Japanese gangster films in the 1960s was the great genre freakout of the era, and the rest of the world missed out on it for decades. While films by Kurosawa andKobayashi and Naruse played film festivals and art cinemas, and those by Oshima andImamura drove the Japanese New Wave, the domestic industry was turning out samurai movies and erotic dramas—which spawned the even more disreputable “pink films”—and colorful, high-energy gangster films. Where the samurai movie as a type had some cachet and international exposure, thanks to a decades-long history and a sense of being “the Japanese western,” the gangster movie was modern, urban, and immediate—a pop-culture response to economic anxiety and youth culture. At first these films failed to break out of the Asian market, either as arthouse curiosities or commercial genre artifacts. They were practically unknown in the west until the stateside “rediscovery” of Seijun Suzuki in the 1990s led fans to further exploration in the genre.

Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest film studio, was the home of the nation’s wildest crime dramas and gangster thrillers of the sixties. They were shot quickly and cheaply, cast from a stock company of actors who would become genre icons (Jo Shishido, Testsuya Watari, Akira Kobayashi), and driven by the energy and anxiety and nihilism of the “sun tribe” genre of youth-gone-wild movies—Japan’s answer to the teen-rebel drama—that also proliferated in sixties. No one at Nikkatsu topped the insanely prolific Seijun Suzuki.

Continue reading at Keyframe

Blu-ray: ‘Try and Get Me’ and the 1946 ‘The Chase’ restored

A couple of months back I reviewed two Film Noir Foundation restorations of orphaned films—that is, films that were produced independently, outside of the studio system, by entities that no longer existed. With no one left to protect and preserve them, they fell into the public domain and the original elements were lost or neglected. Here are two more film noir rescues and restorations, these by Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation.

Try and Get Me!Try and Get Me! (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD), originally released under the title The Sound of Fury, is a 1950 take on the lynch-mob dramas of the thirties dosed with post-war anxiety and sociopathic anger. Frank Lovejoy, one of the everyman actors who took the lead in low-budget crime and action movies of the 1940s and 1950s as the straightforward moral center, stars as Howard Tyler, an out-of-work husband and father in a small California town, desperate to find any job to get his family out of debt (they owe the grocer and the landlord). Killing time over a beer in a bowling alley bar, he meets snazzy-dressing, glib-talking Jerry (Lloyd Bridges), a preening narcissist who flexes his muscles and admires himself in mirrors as he dresses up, slaps on cologne, and parades in front of Lovejoy as if fishing for compliments. He knows a guy, he says, who needs a guy for a job. He’s the guy, it turns out, and the job is wheelman on a gas station robbery. It’s the first step in a lucrative but doomed partnership with a sociopathic peacock who has plans for a big score.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of July 8

Olivia de Havilland

“As soon as she filed suit, Jack Warner wrote to every studio in town to remind them that she was still effectively under contract. In court the studio didn’t hesitate to fight dirty, insinuating that an affair was the real reason the actress had turned down one movie. The Warner attorneys, however, hadn’t reckoned on the de Havilland sang-froid. She had spent years on set with Michael Curtiz, one of the most notorious yellers in the business; these guys were nothing. So when one lawyer thundered, ‘Is it not true, Miss de Havilland, that on the morning of January 16, you wantonly refused to show up for work on Stage 8?’ ‘Certainly not,’ came the reply in that musical de Havilland voice. ‘I declined.’” In this week that has seen cinema lose so much let’s begin with a tribute to one of its enduring survivors, Olivia de Havilland, whose 100th birthday is aptly celebrated by Farran Smith Nehme.

“But even character does not exist in isolation. It is formed by an environment. And the immediate environment for noir is the world of capitalism. Of course, the majority of American films made during this period were set in capitalist societies, but noir is notable for stripping its milieu of any features not directly related to the circulation of money.” Staying at Sight & Sound, Brad Stevens limns some of the narrative tropes of film noir as played out in that quintessential example, Out of the Past.

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Seattle Screens: Czech films, a Messiah (of Evil!) and a Cat (in the Brain!)

The legacy of Abbas Kiarostami will be discussed at Framing Pictures this month.

Framing Pictures is back and thus month the discussion promises to engage the legacies of Abbas Kiarostami and Michael Cimino (who both passed away within the past week), the life and career of Olivia De Havilland (who turned 100 last week), and more. Discussion begins on Friday, July 8 at 7pm at the screening room of Scarecrow Video on 5030 Roosevelt Way. More details at the official Facebook page.

Czech That Film Festival plays over the weekend at SIFF Film Center this weekend, opening on Friday, July 8 with The Way Out (2014), winner of seven Czech Lion Awards. It returns on Sunday to close the festival, and in between six features screen. Complete schedule here.

Filmmakers Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker and film subject Steven Wise will attend the opening night screening (Friday, July 8) of the documentary Unlocking the Cage, about the efforts of animal rights lawyer Steven Wise to challenge the legal definition of animals as “things” with no legal rights. Opens at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

The new restoration of Lucio Fulci’s A Cat in the Brain (1990) plays at Grand Illusion for two days this weekend, on July 8 and 9 at 9pm only.

The documentary Above and Below plays for one night only at NWFF on Wednesday, July 13, with filmmaker Nicolas Steiner in attendance.

A new 35mm print of the 1973 horror film Messiah of Evil plays on Wednesday and Thursday at NWFF.

The Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President continues with My Favorite Wife (1940), co-starring Irene Dunne and Gail Patrick. It screens on Thursday, July 14 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:

The supernatural thriller The Wailing from South Korea opens for a week run at SIFF Film Center.

Sultan, a nearly three-hour sports drama from India about a wrestler & mixed martial arts, opens in multiple theaters.

Alex Gibney’s documentary Zero Days opens at Sundance Cinemas.

Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a comedy from New Zeland, is at The Uptown and 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.

Blu-ray: ‘99 River Street,’ ‘Shield for Murder’ and ‘Hidden Fear’

99 River Street99 River Street (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray), released in 1953, is one of most underappreciated film noirs of the 1950s and arguably the greatest film by Phil Karlson, the toughest film noir director, and certainly his most beautifully brutal, a film driven by the fury of a man who is tired of being life’s punching bag. Karlson developed the film with John Payne, the former star of musicals and light romantic comedies who remade himself as a tough guy star. They had worked together in the lean, mean, twisty cult film noir Kansas City Confidential (1952), a film that inspired Quentin Tarantino, and hatched the story for this follow-up together.

The film opens on a boxing match shot Weegee style: spare, bright, all close-ups and hard light on our boxer hero, Ernie Driscoll (John Payne), getting one of the fiercest beatings I’ve seen in a classic Hollywood film. The kicker to this prologue is too good to spoil, but suffice it to say that it is just one of the inventive storytelling inspirations that both enlivens the film and informs the character. Ernie was once a contender and while he still relives that fight in his head, he’s rolled with the blow and come up with a new plan. Not so his wife (Peggie Castle), who hitched herself to this rising star in anticipation of the high life and ended up in a crummy apartment and a job slinging drinks at a cocktail bar. She’s got plans and it involves a sleazy thief (Brad Dexter, playing it with an arrogant, greedy twinkle) and a fortune in jewels that his own arrogance has made worthless. He needs a patsy and Ernie is his guy.

Keep Reading

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads and Seattle Screens for the week of July 1

John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’

The new issue of Offscreen is dedicated to so-called “quiet” science-fiction. Robert Fuoco takes a close look at two startling moments from The Thing and an exhaustive look at a third—the blood test scene that never fails to freak even after multiple viewings—to show how carefully Carpenter sets up and sometimes subverts the expectations of what the director himself cheekily dismisses as “cheap tricks.” (“Rather than adding new elements to blatantly distract us, Carpenter and the film’s editor Todd Ramsay gradually remove old ones. After all, we rarely think about what we aren’t seeing, yet this growing absence of shots works just as well to guide our attention in the direction the film wants.”) Daniel Garrett considers isolation, survival, and scientific skepticism—and science-fiction as a genre—as portrayed in Z for Zachariah and The Martian. (“The striking thing about [these films] is that they clear away most of the attributes of civilization, forcing lone individuals to sustain themselves using basic intellectual rudiments and resolute spirit.”) And Randolph Jordan dissects the precise use of sound in Stalker, and how it separates and unites the worlds inside and outside the Zone. (“Tarkovsky’s use of ambiguous offscreen sound often serves to call into question that which is seen on the screen; in Stalker, the reverse is often true: by using non-ambiguous sounds attached to sources we see on the screen, he calls into question everything that lies outside of the frame.”)

“Tarzan’s exercise in nomenclature [i.e., “Me Tarzan—you Jane”] has long been used to characterize the traditional model of sexual relations, the dominant man and the subservient woman, and, in the process, to mischaracterize what must be one of Hollywood’s happiest portraits of the satisfactions to be found in convention. The six Tarzan and Jane movies starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan produced by MGM between 1932, when the series began with Tarzan the Ape Man, and 1942, when it concluded happily with Tarzan’s New York Adventure, add up to an anatomy of a creature even rarer than those with whom Tarzan and Jane share their African escarpment: a marriage that works.” Charles Taylor sings the praises of a series that always had more erotic frisson and comic awareness than its camp-minded cultists cared to admit.

Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan in ‘Tarzan and His Mate’

At Film Comment, Margaret Barton-Fumo commends the eclecticism of Ryuichi Sakamoto, finding surprising yet thematically appropriate ways to soundtrack his films’ themes. (“A representative sampling of Sakamoto deep in the groove of his career comes with two films he scored for Brian De Palma, Snake Eyes (98) and Femme Fatale (02)…. Poignant and neo-classical, Sakamoto’s scores for these two films stage a fine counterpoint to the director’s unrelenting cynicism.”) And Graham Fuller finds the dedicated Brechtian always peering out from inside Alan Clarke’s searing social portraits. (“Sympathetic to social misfits and family casualties (as is Loach), youths especially, and antagonistic to patriarchal institutions (the Church, governments, the courts, prisons, schools, hospitals, multinationals), he was the telly auteur as roving anarchist—not an ideologue, however, but a director who approached the cinematic space representing Britain as a hectic ontological battleground.”)

R. Emmet Sweeney is celebrating summer by going through the films of the most seasonably appropriate director, Rohmer. He kicks off with La Collectionneuse (“Daniel and Adrien have reached a state of decadence and rot, ready to concede the end of the ’60s dream. They wear ratty nightgowns while Haydée is grasping for the future.”) and Claire’s Knee (“La Collectionneuse depicts the curdling of male desire outside of Saint-Tropez, while the male protagonist of Claire’s Knee is trying to trigger his lust in an attempt to overcome it.”). Abbey Bender has pretty much the same idea, offering a gallery of the definitive Rohmer fashion, the female bathing suit. (“Rohmer swimsuits often embrace imperfection. The orange bikini bottom in La Collectioneuse bunches slightly, and the bikini that Haydée (Haydée Politoff) wears in the film’s opening rides up and twists in the back. In the world of Rohmer such imperfections add a down-to-earth allure.”) Via David Hudson.

‘La Collectionneuse’

“So it’s finished. A structure to house one man and the greatest treasure of all time.” “And a structure to last for all time.” “Only history will tell.” History’s been less than kind to one of Hawks’s oddest, darkest structures, Land of the Pharaohs, though Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, without denying its occasional corniness (how could you), finds it “a perfect example of a movie organized in images, some so overwhelming that they manage to absorb its flaws.”

“In one part [of the script], Jiang described a chase through a mine with the characters riding mine carts. Frakes pointed out that the scene was cribbed directly from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Jiang insisted that it stay in. ‘He was arguing with me adamantly, like the thing he had written was Holy Scripture,’ Frakes recalls. ‘I said, “Your story doesn’t make any sense. People will see it’s a grab bag of all these movies.”’ Jiang didn’t debate; instead, Frakes says, he took Frakes down to the parking garage to show off his Lamborghini.” Mitch Moxley reports on one of the stranger movie shoots in recent years, the mermaid adventure Empires of the Deep, written and produced by a Hong Kong real estate mogul hoping to break into movies and bridge east and west, cycling through four directors (with others like Irvin Kershner courted for the project but never hired), plagued by onset cultural conflicts and funds drying up that have one of the stars sneaking off location and out of the country with the help of the American embassy, and still unreleased half-a-dozen years after having wrapped. Via Longform.

Taking a break from ‘Empires of the Deep’

“The problem with period films is that they just look pretty. Well, that’s not interesting. I want it to look as though these people live in these spaces and wear these clothes. When we did the Emily Dickinson film in Belgium, there’s a shot where she turns around to wave goodbye to her friend. You see the edge of her dress, and it’s slightly frayed. That’s wonderful, because it’s her best dress. It’s got to be true to the period, but it’s got to have texture.” Terence Davies talks about his old familiars—nostalgia, repression, suffering, forgiveness—as filtered through Sunset Song and his upcoming Emily Dickinson film with Steve Erickson. And throws in some interesting anecdotes about budgeting to boot.

“Then we realized that we were getting into an obsessive behavior. But we enjoyed the nuance in each take. That made it very difficult to edit the film. I was working on the film shot by shot, scene by scene, character by character. I was working on the levels of hostility and civilized behavior, the mixture of those. Today, I heard an artist on NPR say that he was working some place, and was causing a bit of a disturbance. The interviewer asked, ‘Did they allow that?’ Because he was [obstructing] the exit or something. And the artist said, ‘Well, I was invited to leave.’ In effect, that’s King of Comedy. ‘They threw you out!’ ‘No, I was invited to leave.’” Martin Scorsese discusses The King of Comedy, and his unhappy realization how much he identified with Rupert Pupkin, with Simon Abrams.

Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese

“I am so shy, and, at the same time, I kind of expose myself literally to thousands of people. I don’t really understand why I do that. I need to go through therapy!” Discussing Burton, Bertolucci, and Bond, Eva Green explains to Lynn Hirschberg the paradox underlining her career even the actor can’t understand: how such a retiring, even shy, person in real life is so free being naked, emotionally and literally, in front of the camera. Via Movie City News.

Obituary

Michael Herr

Author and journalist Michael Herr wrote the memoir Dispatches, praised by many as the greatest book about the Vietnam War. On the strength of that, he wrote the narration for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) and collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Full Metal Jacket (1987), which earned an Academy Award nomination. He later wrote personal biography of the director: Kubrick, published in 2000. Herr died at the age of 76. Bruce Weber at The New York Times.

Italian actor Bud Spencer, born Carlo Pedersoli, was a beloved star of Italian genre films. He came to the movies from sports—he was a swimmer who competed in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic games and a champion water polo player—and he shot to fame with a series of films he made with Terence Hill, beginning with God Forvives… I Don’t (1969) and taking off with Ace High (19680 and They Call Me Trinity (1970). They acted together in 18 films, from westerns to crime films to straight-out comedies, and Spencer made dozens of other films without Hill. When his film career slowed down, he turned to television in the 1980s, starring in the series Big Man, Extralarge, and Recipe For Crime. Nick Vivarelli for Variety.

Experimental filmmaker Peter Hutton made his first films in 1971 and continued making his films, mostly portraits of cities and landscapes in the U.S. and around the world, for more than four decades while teaching filmmaking at various colleges and working as a professional cinematographer on the documentaries of Ken Burns (a former student) among others. He passed away at the age of 71. J. Hoberman for The New York Times.

Seattle Screens

Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart (China, 2015) opens at SIFF Film Center for a week.

The documentary And When I Die, I Won’t Stay Dead (2015) plays Friday and Saturday at NWFF.

Grand Illusion revives the Japanese martial arts revenge classics Lady Snowblood (1973) and Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (1974) for a week. Dates and showtimes here.

SIFF presents “An Evening with Steve De Jarnatt,” with the director presenting newly-remastered versions of his films Cherry 2000 (1988) and Miracle Mile (1989), on Wednesday, July 6 at SIFF Film Center.

Bringing Up Baby (1938), the screwball classic starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn and directed by Howard Hawks, kicks off the Seattle Art Museum summer film series Cary Grant for President. It screens on Thursday, July 7 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.

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.

Your weekend reading list, courtesy of @Bruce_E_Reid and Parallax View

The Modern Breakthrough of ‘Mala Noche’

Doug Cooeyate in ‘Mala Noche’

The feature debut of Gus Van Sant, adapted from the autobiographical novel by Portland author and street poet Walt Curtis, is an intimate black-and-white tale of l’amour fou steeped in the culture of Portland’s (now long gone) skid row. Shot on 16mm, on a tiny budget of $25,000, Mala Noche is a true American indie, made before the term was ever coined, let alone used as a marketing hook. It’s a modern beat movie of lust and friendship and unrequited love among the down-and-outs. And it’s also a groundbreaking landmark of queer cinema thanks to its offhanded acceptance of a gay character as a protagonist. Walt’s homosexuality is a given, a simple matter of fact, rather than a statement. Rare enough at the turn of the 21st century, this was unheard of in 1984, when Van Sant shot the film on the streets of his adopted home of Portland, Oregon.

Continue reading at Keyframe