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SFSFF 2013 Premieres: ‘The Half-Breed’ and ‘The Last Edition’

I surveyed the 2013 San Francisco Silent Film Festival for Fandor a few weeks ago, covering the highlights and landmarks in brief. But it was always my intention to explore the films, and my experience with them, in a little more detail, time permitting. As it turns out, time has not permitted much opportunity, so I’ve carved a few hours out of a weekend to collect my notes and my thoughts over a few of the films.

The San Francisco International Film Festival has been expanding its size and its mission from the very beginning, when it was a single film showing with live music. Since then, it has expanded to four days, playing new restorations and rediscoveries, bringing in the finest silent film accompanists from around the world, commissioning original scores, and offering presentations from archivists walking us through their latest projects.

This year marks the latest and most exciting expansion of their mission: the world premiere of two new restorations undertaken by the SFSFF in collaboration with international film archives.

Douglas Fairbanks in ‘The Half-Breed’

Allan Dwan’s 1916 The Half-Breed, a California frontier western starring Douglas Fairbanks in the title role, has been available before in a largely complete but partially re-edited 1924 re-release held by the Cinématèque Française (that version was released on disc a few years ago in Flicker Alley’s marvelous Douglas Fairbanks box set). Rob Byrne set about attempting to reconstruct the original, longer 1916 cut with the help of an incomplete (and very damaged) print of the original release held by the Library of Congress and a radically re-edited reduction print found by Lobster Films in France. Research into the scant documentation verified a few incomplete sequences and a couple of completely missing scenes, which Byrne, collaborating with Cinématèque Française, was able to reconstruct with the additional prints. (At the “Amazing Tales from the Archives” presentation on Friday morning, Byrne presented a step-by-step look at the process of not just finding footage, but doing detective work into finding the original titles, the original narrative, and the editing as seen on the original release; it was the most detailed presentation I have seen on the work and research that goes in to restoring a silent film.)

The result is not necessarily one of Fairbanks’ best films, but the restored film shows a more nuanced and interesting drama than heretofore seen, a conflicted portrait of racism and prejudice through the filter of history that decries intolerance without defying it (the film can’t let even as noble a half-breed as Fairbanks walk off into the sunset with a white woman), yet vividly lays out the hypocrisy of prejudice and white superiority in scene after scene. The film was adapted from a Bret Harte short story by Anita Loos, whose distinctive wit is evident in the surviving original intertitles (most of them are lost and the difference between the deft language and satirical edge of Loos and the bland writing of the rewritten titles of the reissue is unavoidable).

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San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2013 Wrap

I knew that San Francisco Silent Film Festival is the premiere silent fest in America, but I was elated to learn from Céline Ruivo, curator of the film collection at the Cinématèque Française and a special guest at this year’s festival, that in Europe, SFSFF has a reputation as one of the premiere silent film festivals in the world. It has earned that reputation. In its now four-day length (three full days plus a gala opening night), it is both selective and expansive in its programming, with rediscoveries and new restorations along with well-known audience favorites and world masterpieces.

‘Prix de Beauté’

The opening night program qualifies as both rediscovery and revival. Prix de Beaute (1930, France), directed by Augusto Genina from a screenplay by G.W. Pabst and Rene Clair (who originally developed the project for himself), is famous largely for its star: it was Louise Brooks‘ third and final starring role in her brief European vogue. It was also released in both silent and talkie versions, and the sound version (with La Brooks dubbed by a French actress) is what most people have seen. The recently restored silent version is both longer and more interesting, even while it remains a minor coda to her Pabst masterpieces. The story of a newspaper secretary who wins the Miss Europe beauty contest takes abrupt tonal turns from bubbly romantic comedy to high-society spectacle to working class drama to operatic melodrama. But at its best it offers a look at working class life at work and at play in 1930 Paris and it sweeps us up in the rush of Brooks’ fairy-tale journey to stardom. Her fresh, natural presence in the world of late silent-era acting makes her all the more guileless and innocent in a culture where every man wants to possess and control her.

The programmers are as careful with the musical component as they are on the film materials. Every film is accompanied by live music from world-class silent film musicians. The opening night films was accompanied by Stephen Horne, a solo musician as one man band: he plays piano, flute and accordion (often two at once), and plucks strings of piano to suggest a Spanish guitar in a nightclub scene. The affectionate joke around the theater is that Horne returns to SFSFF every year because they get a combo for the price of a solo act! Also returning this year are the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra from Colorado and the Mattie Bye Ensemble from Sweden, while German pianist and organ player Günter Buchwald made his SFSFF debut on four programs.

Continue reading at Keyframe

SIFF 2013: The Finish Line

The thirty ninth annual Seattle International Film Festival came to a close on Sunday, June 9, day twenty five of the marathon event, with the closing night film The Bling Ring, fresh from its debut at Cannes. Its two young stars, Katie Chang and Israel Broussard, were on hand to introduce the film and send the festival off to its gala closing night party.

Sofia Coppola has done marvelous work in ethereal studies of disconnection and emotional confusion, of people lost in their worlds or blinded by celebrity and affluence.

Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Bling Ring’ closes SIFF, fresh out of Cannes.

The Bling Ring fits in very nicely thematically to her growing body of work, but these kids don’t actually yearn for anything beyond fashion accessories and the thrill of robbing the rich and famous and lack any capacity for self-reflection. The dispassionate observation, intercut with social media alerts and pop culture snaps and stories, makes them a reflection of that world without offering us a character underneath worth caring about, or at least fascinated with enough to follow through.

Like Toronto’s, SIFF’s top awards—the Golden Space Needles, this year designed by local artist and sculptor Piper O’Neill—are voted on by the audiences. This year, with plenty of high-profile American indies and international imports on display, the surprise Best Picture winner was the warm-hearted Fanie Fourie’s Lobola, a South African romantic comedy that explores racial and social tensions through laughs (I sadly missed this one; the final show conflicted with my own rare appearance on a festival panel). Director Henk Pretorius, accepting the award via phone, said he would change the title because nobody gets it right. First runner: The Rocket, an uplifting Australian drama shot in Laos.

Continue reading at Keyframe

SIFF 2013 – Midfest Dispatch

The Seattle International Film Festival is, as its organizers are proud to trumpet, the biggest and the longest film festival in the United States. It is also the most well attended in the country. Some of that is due to its size, of course, but SIFF is also a festival pitched to the hometown audience rather than attracting visiting film critics.

The thirty ninth edition of SIFF kicked off on Thursday, May 16, with a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, and complete its twenty five-day run on Sunday, June 9 with Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring as the Closing Night Film. Over 270 feature films (fiction and documentary) and 175 short films will play over twenty five days and more than 600 screening events.

SIFF doesn’t have an identifying specialty—it is by design trying to please everyone with a little bit of everything—but it does commit itself to a few worthy sidebars, notably documentary, and specifically the Face the Music programming.

Her Aim Is True is technically not a part of the latter but spiritually it fits right in. The documentary portrait of Jini Dellaccio received its world premiere at SIFF, and fittingly so. In the early 1960s, at age forty, self-taught fashion photographer Ms. Dellaccio snapped her first rock photo (of Seattle garage rockers The Wailers) and began a new career. She took bands out of the studio and into the distinctive northwest light of Washington State’s great outdoors, anticipating the mod style of A Hard Day’s Night with a distinctly American character and energy. I wish director Helen Whitehead offered a wider array of shots (the same iconic photos repeat throughout) and more context on how her work influenced the character of rock photography in the industry, but the film is nonetheless a vital tour through a most unusual, creative and fulfilling life, and Ms. Dellaccio’s voice guides the portrait. She’s still alive and taking photos at the age of ninety six.

Continue reading at Fandor

SIFF 2013: ‘Byzantium’

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed in Neil Jordan’s second coming to the vampire myth, Byzantium. Even seen solely as a vampire film Byzantium far surpasses Jordan’s 1994 Interview with the Vampire—and pretty much everything else in the genre. But while Jordan’s and scenarist Moira Buffini’s expansion of Buffini’s stage play A Vampire Story can be enjoyed as a straightforward—albeit narratively complex—vampire tale, it is much more. The familiar tropes of vampire lore (to which Irish folklore has contributed at least as much as middle-European) become, under Jordan’s skilled hand and eye, haunting visual metaphors for the tyranny of the body, the marginalization of the outsider, the economic suppression of Ireland, the subjection of women, and, most importantly, the means of rebellion against all of these. Vampires and whores, predators and victims—how can we tell the dancer from the dance?

In Byzantium, Jordan works wonders setting his outsiders apart from the environment they only half inhabit, while out-of-focus light sources dance in the background like leukocytes under a microscope. And when he isn’t creating conflicting layers with long lenses, he is choreographing motion on two or three planes of deep-focus activity. Background action cuts the vectors of foreground characters, which are themselves cut by the moving camera, keeping the viewing eye constantly alive, the viewing mind constantly questioning which movements are real and which are only suggested. One amazing shot, a lateral track of a beach conversation between two characters with a line of fishing boats moored behind them moves along the line of boats, gradually seeming to forget the characters altogether (and enabling us to do so as well), arriving at one boat boldly named “Our Lady,” then suddenly reverses its movement, as if the camera, Jordan’s eye, our eye, has gone too far, done too much, forgotten what it is about, and returns to the characters as if little or nothing had happened. It’s a delicious detail in an endlessly delicious movie, a celebration of color and light, a matrix of Irish anger and Irish love, with a satisfying, thrilling rightness about every move, gesture, and event. And if you remember that Bram Stoker was Irish, and that a guy named Yeats wrote poems about Irish rebellion and about a place called Byzantium—well, so much the better.

Copyright © 2013 Robert C. Cumbow

SIFFing: Parallax View’s SIFF 2013 Guide

The 39th Annual Seattle International Film Festival opens on Thursday, May 16, with a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, and complete its 25-day run on Sunday, June 9 with Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring as the Closing Night Film. Here is Parallax View’s coverage and guide to SIFF resources for all 25 days.

SIFF Week by Week, Day by Day:
Seattle 2013: The Finish Line (Sean Axmaker, Keyframe)
Seattle Film Festival Wrap (Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood)
Week 4 Picks and Pans (Seattle Weekly)
SIFF week 4: Nine movies to see (Seattle Times)
Closing Weekend Highlights (Three Imaginary Girls)
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Previewing SIFF 2013 – UPDATED

2013seattleifflogo_mainIt’s back. The Seattle International Film Festival, the biggest, the longest, and the best attended film festival in America, opens on Thursday, May 16 with Joss Whendon’s Much Ado About Nothing. That was announced a few weeks and news that the director and much of his cast (drawn from various orbits of the Whedonverse) would appear with the film on opening night helped make this the fastest sell-out opening event SIFF has seen.

Announced today is the closing night film: The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s new feature with Emma Watson as the ringleader of a gang of teenagers who target celebrities to rob via social networking tools, simply for the kick of rubbing up against the famous while taking them for all they are worth. It’s based on a true story and seems ready made as a tale for our celebrity-obsessed times.

In between these films is 24 days of screenings with over 200 feature films (that includes the four Secret Festival screenings), 67 documentaries, and 175 shorts. (SIFF is an Academy qualifying festival for live-action, animated, and starting this year documentary shorts.) 18 features make their respective world premieres.

Gala showings include two films with Seattle connections: Touchy Feely from Seattle’s own Lynn Shelton (which kicks off six days of screenings in Renton) and Decoding Annie Parker, which dramatizes the true story of cancer research breakthrough guided by UW geneticist Mary-Claire King (played in the film by Helen Hunt).

Touchy Feely

Other galas and special event screenings include The Way, Way Back from writers / directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “Gay-La” event G.B.F., Fanie Fourie’s Lobola from South Africa (the centerpiece of the African Pictures section), Populaire from France, Papadopoulos and Sons from the U.K., Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies with Anna Kendrick and Olivia Wilder, and the documentaries Twenty Feet from Stardom, Inequality for All, and Somm.

Thanks to a grant from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, SIFF will present a special section of 15 films from Africa, including the North American premiere of Last Flight to Abuja from Nigeria: the first Nollywood film to play SIFF.

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Now That’s More Like It: A Report on the 20th San Francisco Film Festival

In honor of the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, Parallax View offers a festival flashback: the Movietone News report from the 20th SFIFF.

[Originally published in Movietone News 53, January 1977]

The 20th San Francisco International Film Festival was … lively.

A half-dozen outstanding films from Europe were perhaps the most newsworthy events (and my list does not include the two popular successes of the festival, Truffaut’s Small Change and Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala, whose screenings I was unable to attend). But it was also a memorable festival because of its stimulating variety. Last year’s program was singularly dull, and even its high points seemed to confirm a sense of despair and dead ends, artistically and otherwise. [See “Out of Season”, MTN 46.] But this year San Francisco not only came up with good movies; it also managed to be festive in a way that livened one’s sense of the art and its possibilities.

Films by Alain Tanner, Alexander Kluge, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Claude Miller, Eric Rohmer, and Marco Bellocchio all demonstrated that, contrary to well-founded rumors, the cinema is not dead yet. And there was more: Hollywood on Trial, a documentary, became the catalyst for some revealing “political” moments; Pierre Rissient’s One Night Stand drew an audience reaction which suggested that Nouveau Puritans are everywhere, still; a goodly number of short films reaffirmed the value of work being done in that less-publicized area of filmmaking; and recent Spanish cinema, thanks to some special screenings, began to look like a significant factor in current moviemaking.

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VIFF 2012: Vancouver Wrap

Vancouver isn’t the critical/awards bellwether that Toronto or Venice or New York or even Telluride can claim to be, but this year its international line-up offers an interesting contrast in temperaments.

Mad Mikkelsen in ‘The Hunt’

On the one hand, there is the cinema of issues and big statements carried by a dour seriousness and emotional heaviness (one might say manipulation), defined in particular by Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Denmark/Sweden) and Michael Haneke’s Amour (France/Germany/Austria). On the other is the serious engagement of cinematic creativity and narrative mystery and surprise in Leos Carax’s Holy Motors (France/Germany) and Raul Ruiz’s Night Across the Street (Chile/France). Here the themes are not hammered into the skulls and skin of the audience but juggled through celebrations of joyous filmmaking and deft play with the possibilities of the medium.

Vinterberg’s The Hunt, a study in rumor and fear fueling self-righteous hysteria, and Haneke’s Amour, an unflinching, almost clinic portrait in the physical deterioration and emotional fallout of old age and debilitating illness), frame their subjects with a mix of objectivity and compassion, and then stack the decks to set out protagonists in opposition to the world. It’s not enough that they face such dire predicaments, but their allies all turn against them. In The Hunt, best friends turns their backs on Mads Mikkelsen, and in Amour, the daughter of the ailing old Emmanuelle Riva repeats clichés instead of educating herself on her condition or offering substantive help in caring for her.

Continue reading at Fandor’s Keyframe

VIFF 2012: Vancouver’s Dragons & Tigers and More

It might be an exaggeration to say the well-attended 16-day Vancouver International Film Festival is the greatest little-known film festival on the continent, or it might not be. It is, by design, an audience festival rather than a film critic destination. Opening just weeks after the Toronto International has closed, it offers few major premieres but plenty of quality films shuttling between Venice, Cannes and Toronto, before heading into wide release or traveling further onto the festival circuit.

This year’s edition kicked off on Thursday, September 27, with a gala screening of Midnight’s Children, a Canada-India co-production from Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, and closes on Friday, October 12, with Leos Carax’s Holy Motors. In between are screenings of Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winner Amour, Ken Loach’s Cannes Jury Prize winner The Angel’s Share, Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Best Actor at Cannes), Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills (Best Actress and Best Screenplay, Cannes), Christian Petzold’s Barbara (Best Director, Berlin), Ben Lewin’s Sundance winner The Sessions, Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, Pablo Larrain’s No, Olivier Assayas’s Venice premiere Something in the Air, Raul Ruiz’s final film, Night Across the Street, the international premiere of Any Day Now (an audience-award winner at Seattle and Tribeca), and the North American premiere of I, Anna, starring Charlotte Rampling and directed by her son, Barnaby Southcombe, just to name a few of the over 230 features playing over two-plus weeks. I resist the temptation to use the old term “unspool” because only a fraction of the films are presented on 35mm—a sign of the times. Most films are digital now, but unlike a certain major American event, not a single DCP screening in my five-day visit was cancelled for equipment failure.

My focus is and has for years been the Dragons and Tigers sidebar: the biggest focus on contemporary Asian cinema in North America. The Dragons and Tigers lineup is valuable as both an introduction to new films from young filmmakers and a snapshot of commercial cinemas of Asia, from South Korea and Japan to China and the Philippines. It comprises 45 features, a handful of mid-length (under an hour) films, and dozens of shorts—too many to do anything more than sample. Armed with a catalogue, a few recommendations and my own instinct and tastes, that’s what I did.

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VIFF 2012 – Dispatch 1

The Vancouver International Film Festival is one of the overlooked gems of North American film festivals. Opening weeks after Toronto, it screens over 230 features and 150 shorts over 16 days across ten theaters, all within strolling distance in downtown Vancouver. (An eleventh theater, the Park Theater across the bridge, is drafted into service for a few days of special 3D presentations; it’s easily accessible via the Tram.)

Because of its proximity to Toronto, the behemoth that launches the North American premieres of most of the award season favorites, Vancouver manages to grab some of the year’s most anticipated films: Michael Hanake’s Amour, Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, Pablo Larrain’s No, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, some of them screening before their American premiere at the New York Film Festival.

But even more interesting for me is the “Dragons and Tigers” section, the biggest focus on contemporary Asian cinema in North America. The Dragons and Tigers line-up is valuable as both an introduction to new films from young filmmakers and a snapshot of commercial cinemas of the Asia, from South Korea and Japan to China and the Philippines. 45 features, a handful of mid-length (under an hour) films, and dozens of shorts. Too many to do anything more than sample. Armed with a catalogue, a few recommendations, and my own instinct and tastes, that’s what I did.

Nameless Gangster

South Korea in particular arrives in force: 11 features (including three in competition for the Dragons and Tigers award) and two “Special Presentation” screenings: Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time (dir: Yoon Jong-bin) and A Werewolf Boy (dir: Jo Sung-hee), both bright, energetic, soundly commercial films.

Nameless Gangster is an organized crime drama that is more character piece and offbeat drama than action thriller. It plays on the definition of daebu – godfather – in Korean culture, meaning both an elder member of a clan and a crime boss. Choi Ik-hyun (played by Choi Min-sik of Oldboy), a petty customs officer on the docks who pads his income with bribes, discovers that he is related to a yakuza-connected gangster when he stumbles across contraband heroine and decides to sell it himself. But establishing himself as a clan elder to a genuine gangster isn’t the same as being an actual mob godfather, as he finds out when he tries to flex his power over the men working for his “partner.” Choi isn’t quite a clown and he’s savvy in the ways of bureaucratic bribery and clan affiliations, but he’s out of his depth when it comes to flexing gang muscles in the power games as he greases the rails in a plan to get into the Seoul casino business.

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Preview: San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2012

17th Annual SF Silent Film Festival will be my fourth go round at what is generally considered the top film festival dedicated exclusively to the art of silent cinema in the United States.

Compared to the glories of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, the largest silent film festival in the world, and Il Ritrovato, the magnificent celebration of classic cinema in Bologna every years, SFSFF may seem modest at 15 features films and a couple of programs of short films over four nights and three full days. But from the opening night screening of Wings (1927), the very first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, on Thursday, July 12 through closing night film The Cameraman (1928) with Buster Keaton, the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco comes alive with (mostly) glorious 35mm film prints preserved and restored by archives from around the world, with live scores by some of the finest silent film accompanists around at each screening.

Buster Keaton in ‘The Cameraman’

I’ve seen many of the films before, though few of them on the big screen with live accompaniment, I’ve long wanted to see a few others, and there are few that are new to me (and I hope will be revelations). Philip Kaufman, the “guest festival director” this year, will present one of those: The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna, a 1928 German drama from director Hanns Schwarz starring Brigitte Helm and Francis Lederer, on Friday, July 13. Earlier on Friday is a screening of Ernst Lubitsch’s The Loves of a Pharaoh (1922) with Emil Jannings, the director’s final lavish German production before he left for Hollywood, considered lost for many years. It shows in a newly restored DCP print, one of the few digital presentations of the festival.

It’s a marvelous mix of landmark films with the greatest stars of the golden age, like Pandora’s Box (1926) with Louise Brooks and the original The Mark of Zorro (1920), the first swashbuckler that Douglas Fairbanks ever made, and rarities like The Overcoat (1926) from Russia and the original screen version of Stella Dallas (1925) from director Henry King, a giant of the silent, and actor Ronald Colman.

Here are some notes on some of the films I have seen before, and I hope to follow up with reports on the discoveries I make over the weekend.

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SIFF 2012 Award Winners

The 2012 Golden Space Needle Award, voted on by audiences of the Seattle International Film Festival, goes to Travis Fine’s Any Day Now for Best Picture, with Seattle filmmaker Megan Griffith’s superb Eden taking the first runner up spot.

Audiences gave the Best Documentary award to Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War, Best Actor to Any Day Now‘s Alan Cumming, Best Actress to Jamie Chung for Eden, Best Director to Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Best Short Film to Catcam by Seth Keal.

Among the juried awards, Eden took the Lena Sharpe Award for Persistence of Vision (presented by Women in Film/Seattle) and the Reel NW Award.

Eden was, to my mind, the finest film in the strongest collection of Seattle and Washington-born and -based filmmaking ever screened at SIFF, in a line-up that was framed by opening night film Your Sister’s Sister (from hometown hero Lynn Shelton, whose recent work put independent Seattle filmmaking on the map) and closing night film Grassroots, shot in Seattle and based on the book by former Stranger political reporter Phil Campbell.

Ira Finklestein’s Christmas, from Seattle filmmaker Sue Corcoran, and shot-in-Seattle productions Safety Not Guaranteed and Fat Kid Rules the World also placed high in audience voting for the Space Needle awards.

For those who missed some of these Seattle films, Eden is coming back in the “Best of SIFF” program on Wednesday, June 20 at The Uptown. Also returning is Fat Kid Rules the World (Friday, June 15) and Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas (Sunday, June 17), among others.

Garret Dillahunt and Alan Cumming in 'Any Day Now'

But I would also like to congratulate Travis Fine and his very fine picture Any Day Now. I saw the film on a whim because it was convenient (I had screenings before and after in the same theater) and I liked the cast. I did not have high expectations and yet I was moved by the depth of Fine’s portrait of a love between two people. It’s a period film, set in a pre-gay rights era of 1979 San Francisco, with two men who are very different (Alan Cumming  plays a flamboyant drag performer and Garret Dillahunt is a buttoned-down professional just beginning to accept his identity but keeping it a secret from the rest of the world) and yet so committed to one another, and to the all-but-abandoned boy they take in, that those differences become their strength. And it’s awfully timely as well, as it turns on the effort two gay men to adopt a child in a culture that would prefer to see an otherwise unwanted boy with Down’s Syndrome dropped into the indifferent system of social services than raised by two gay men. It could easily have tipped into a preachy tearjerker but for the commitment of the film to be about people, not about issues, and not about scoring points. I had the good fortune to run into the director at the water pitcher stand at the Harvard Exit after the film and inarticulately gush over the film.

There was a time when gay cinema focused on sexual relationships but missed the everyday intimacy of a loving couple, the nonchalant physicality of people comfortable with each other, the easy intimacy of people who live together and make a life together. Any Day Now is a powerful drama of people in love that puts the love and commitment before the sexual orientation to show two men who live their love in every moment, not in displays for the camera. And that strength even tempers a tragedy with a sense of endurance and hope. It’s the most powerful, convincing, commited portrait of two people in love I have seen on screen all year.

The complete press release is below.

Parallax View’s guide to SIFF 2012 coverage is here.

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Seattle Screens: William Friedkin Comes to SIFF

William Friedkin

The final weekend of SIFF was sent off with a tribute to Sissy Spacek on Thursday, June 7, consisting of an onstage Q&A and a screening of Badlands.

Coming up on the final three days is the festival’s second tribute, to director William Friedkin on Saturday. An audience Q&A is followed by a screening of his new film Killer Joe. Emerging Master Andrea Arnold is not coming but SIFF has screenings of her new Wuthering Heights and her debut feature, Red Road. And there a few dozen more films to pick from as well. Visit the website for more screenings. Parallax continues to feature links to notable SIFF coverage from around the web here.

This weekend also launches N-E-X D-O-C-S, a festival of new works from American documentary filmmakers at Northwest Film Forum. Features the Seattle premieres of seven nonfiction features over seven days, including James Benning’s Small Roads (it opens the series on Friday, June 08) and two by Jon Jost (The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima on June 12 and Dissonance on June 14) with the filmmaker in attendance. Complete schedule here.

Prometheus, a mix of genuinely ambitious science fiction ideas and Hollywood spectacle, is sure to be the buzz film of the multiplexes and show palaces this weekend. How can Ridley Scott have such a sophisticated visual intelligence, creating screen worlds engineered in such detail as to suggest entire cultures behind the designs and technology, and then fill those worlds with so-called intellectuals who act like kids in a playroom? Seriously, the reason these supposedly top scientists of the late 21st century keep yelling “Don’t touch anything” to each other is because otherwise they’ll fingerpaint their way through the most important discoveries since the mapping of the human genome. The script fails to match its ambition, but at least give it credit for big ideas and unexpected conceptual turns and for a dense and dramatic visual experience. And for all its failures in the realm of human behavior, the cosmic mystery behind the story is enigmatic and remains so to the end. And in leaving us with mysteries, it offers something far more satisfying than a reductive answer. It leaves us with possibilities. Scott’s quasi-prequel to Alien is his first 3D production and it opens in Seattle at Cinerama and the Pacific Science Center’s IMAX theater in 3D as well as multiplex screens in both 2D and 3D presentations.

The Day He Arrives

The Day He Arrives from South Korea satirist Hong Sang-soo opens for a week at NWFF. I always forget how funny Hong’s films are until I’m in the middle of their deadpan variations on a by-now-standard-theme of immature, self-involved men and accommodating women who fool themselves into buying into their crap, at least as long as the drinks are being poured. This one, shot digitally in B&W (which gives it a kind of Woody Allen quality), is like Hong abstracted down to his essence and put on endless loop, like Groundhog Dayas a South Korean mumblecore production. A former filmmaker now teaching in the countryside returns to Seoul for a visit and ends up in a cycle, going in circles with the same friend, restaurant, bar, absent owner, even former student who crosses his path like a stalker in the streets. The only difference: don’t expect any emotion growth from this guy. Kampai!

If you haven’t yet noticed, the Sundance Cinema, located in the former Metro multiplex in the U-District, snuck in what they call a “soft opening” last week. A big Grand Opening will follow later this summer, but it’s currently open for business with a mix of titles not all that different from what the Metro showed up until it closed.


Colin Trevorrow’s made-in-Seattle Safety Not Guaranteed, which played SIFF in May, opens in theaters this weekend. Moira Macdonald interviews the director for The Seattle Times and Kathleen Murphy reviews the film for MSN Movies: “Only audiences hooked on quirky romantic comedy unruffled by grown-up passion or personality will sink happily into the warm bathwater that is Safety.”

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