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.
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.