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Chantal Akerman

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

“How far can a filmmaker push an awkward premise? What situations and complications can be extracted from it? What surprises and transformations can divert the seemingly stable course of the plot? Despite its humble appearance as a minor work made for television, The Man with the Suitcase is not short on answers to these questions. The film (which Akerman also wrote) turns its premise into a goldmine, cruising the full range of possibilities: from verbal implosion to gestural explosion; from ignoring the man when he’s present, to fixating on him when he’s absent; from controlled order to engulfing chaos.” Though its hour-long length and origin as a TV movie have tended to rank The Man with the Suitcase as one of Chantal Akerman’s minor works, Cristina Álvarez López finds it a thorough exploration of one of the director’s key themes, the value and hazard of routine.

“As the title implies, in its aggressive-casual way, A Very Natural Thing wants its viewers to share in the easygoing mundanity of gay male love. And though that title may make it seem like the film has been geared toward liberal hetero audiences as a kind of teaching moment (see this year’s “I’m just like you” normie-bullying in the narration and trailers for the otherwise sweet Love, Simon), A Very Natural Thing was primarily intended as a sight for sore eyes, a source of identification for gay viewers.” Christopher Larkin’s A Very Natural Thing has stayed off straight movie audience’s radar for the same reason it’s fairly central to gay ones, Michael Koresky argues: a casual, nonjudgmental insistence that all aspects of gay life are matter of factly, marvelously normal.

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Seattle Screens: Remembering Chantal Akerman

Chantal Akerman

The legacy of filmmaker Chantal Akerman, who took her life in 2015, is celebrated in a brief retrospect co-sponsored by SIFF and NWFF. It begins on Friday, April 22 at SIFF Film Center with screenings of No Home Movie, a personal documentary on her mother, a Holocaust survivor sharing her memories with her daughter, and I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman, a documentary by Marianne Lambert. They play in rotation for a week, and then the series shifts to NWFF for single screenings of three more films.

NFFTY 2016 marks the 10th anniversary for the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. It launches on Thursday, April 28 with an event at the Cinerama, which is already sold out, but the festival continues with screenings and events at SIFF Uptown through Sunday, May 1. Complete schedule his here.

Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days plays for a week at NWFF. Showtimes and tickets here, and read Robert Horton’s review at Seattle Weekly.

As Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some opens wide, Dazed and Confused (1993) comes back for a midnight showing at the Egyptian on Saturday, April 23.

Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003) screens on Tuesday, April 26 at NWFF to mark the 17th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre and the 9th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting with a pre-screening discussion with Professor Frederick P. Rivara, MD.

SIFF Uptown presents encore screenings of four films from the Wim Wenders retrospective—The American Friend (1977), Paris, Texas (1984), Wings of Desire (1988), and Until the End of the World: Director’s Cut (1988)—playing through Wednesday, April 27. Schedule here.

The Seijun Suzuki retrospective continues with screenings of Ziguernerweisen (1980) on Saturday, April 23 and Kagero-Za (1981) on Sunday, April 24 at Grand Illusion and Tattooed Life (1965) on Wednesday, April 27 at NWFF.

Fathom Events presents On the Waterfront (1954) on the big screen in select theaters across the country for two nights this week: Sunday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 27. You can find participating theaters in your area here.

The Things of Life (1969), directed by Claude Sautet and starring Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider, plays on Thursday, April 28 at SAM’s Plestcheeff Auditorium. It’s the first of five films by Sautet featured in the series. Individual tickets are available on the day of show on a first come, first served basis.

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.

VIFF 2011: Jungle Fever

ALMAYER’S FOLLY

After getting up early and driving for three hours, perhaps the first film you watch in the Vancouver International Film Festival should not be Chantal Akerman’s Almayer’s Folly, all two-plus hours of it. Akerman is not the liveliest of directors; her style is lengthy staring, to frame a scene and contemplate it with lacerating intensity, as though seeing clearly could be an acid test for truth.

Here, in her first narrative feature in seven years, she takes on Joseph Conrad’s first novel, which unfortunately I have not read; I’m assured that Akerman is wrestling its meaning to the ground, making the novelist’s fiction about a corrupt white colonialist living and dying in Malaysia her own.

In any case, tired as I was, this provocative director’s exploration of cultural, ethnic and gender powerplays held me captive for much of its long running time, though it seemed to me that Akerman’s central issues ran out of steam pretty early on. It’s just that her visualizations are often amazingly rigorous, so rigorous you are mesmerized, almost shamed into sticking out extended scenes which handsomely emphasize white-imperialist-corruption-of-brown-people-at-home-in-nature significance.

The film’s opening dazzles: the camera follows a man into a nightclub, through lights, tables, dancers, to the stage where a slick young stud lip-synchs to Dean Martin’s seductive “Sway with me.” He’s backed by a line of hotties, their hands moving prettily to the beat. Cut, and we see the impassive face of the silhouette who’s been our guide into the club. He watches the performance, a cheapening of Asian beauty, a cultural corruption. Cut, and he’s sliding across the state to knife the singer. Like a curtain, his act moves the body and all but one of the back-up singers off the stage. The remaining woman continues to move her hands as though she’s in a trance, until someone offscreen calls “Nina, Dain’s dead.” It’s as though a Sleeping Beauty has been freed from a curse: this stunning brown woman walks toward the camera and in CU, delivers a gorgeous rendition of Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” (Hail, true body…”).

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