Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Seattle Screens

Seattle Screens: Cinerama’s First Annual Science Fiction Film Festival

Cinerama’s First Annual Science Fiction Film Festival opened Thursday, April 19 with a screening of Fritz Lang’s restored Metropolis accompanied live by The Alloy Orchestra, a show repeated for Friday evening and Saturday matinee shows. This same program played at the old SIFF Cinema a couple of years back, complete with the Alloy, but it’s hardly the same experience compared to seeing Metropolis across the big screen of the Cinerama. I reviewed the restoration and the Alloy score for Parallax View here.

Metropolis is presented from a HD-Cam digital master – there is no film print of the restored edition available in the U.S. – but the rest of the festival is all film, all the time, with five 70mm prints (including a new 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey playing Saturday and Sunday this week) and a new 35mm print of the original 1953 War of the Worlds (playing Sunday afternoon). Also screening this week: Silent Running and Barbarella on Monday, Omega Man and Close Encounters of the Third Kind on Tuesday (the website doesn’t specify which cut of Close Encounters is being shown), and a matched set of apocalyptic burning rubber thrillers on Wednesday: Mad Max and The Road Warrior. The series picks up again on Friday for another six days of screenings.

Most tickets are $12 a show, higher for Metropolis, 2001, and War of the Worlds. Complete schedule and ticket information is at the Cinerama website here.


Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger is coming to Northwest Film Forum with his Globalization Trilogy, three documentaries about the underclasses around the world. Megacities, which looks at Mexico City, Bombay, Moscow, and New York, plays Tuesday, April 24, and Workingman’s Death, about manual labor in the 21st century, plays Wednesday, April 25, and Glawogger will discuss Werner Herzog and the film Fata Morgana at the Thursday, April 26 event “Herzog at Inspiration.” Whore’s Glory, his most recent film, plays for a week starting Friday, April 27. Details at NWFF website here.

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Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, Contributors, Film Festivals, Film Reviews

VIFF Dispatch No. 6: ‘What is this darkness?’

The best films I saw during my week at the Vancouver Film Festival were Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Béla Tarr’s incomparable The Turin Horse. Both ran two hours plus. The storytelling in the former unreels slowly, cumulatively, so mysteriously that if you don’t watch with intense concentration, you’ll miss moments when everything racks focus. The narrative in Tarr’s masterpiece is terrifyingly repetitive and monotonous, in the Beckettian sense, like a great engine grinding itself ever deeper into a hole, in circular slow motion that you fear might go on forever.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

And, yes, each movie was mesmerizing, formally stunning in its exposure of the human condition. These are works that show us the skull beneath every skin, the darkness that threatens all our light, and the absurdity of our strivings to signify. I know what you’re saying: Why would I want to sit through such downers, deliberate excursions into angst and despair? My answer is always the same: How can you not? What would a thinking person do without artists like Tarr or Ceylan or Shakespeare or Goya who challenge futility and chaos by framing and composing every cause of existential hopelessness? Even nihilism can be shaped into story, made beautifully and truthfully subject to mind. Stories like Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and The Turin Horse (count Lars von Trier’s Melancholia in this company) keep us alive and sane. Call them spiritual sustenance.

Sadly, long, challenging films like these will never garner larger auds after their festival showcases. That’s the tragedy of film as art, or art as film: the more it’s art, the less it will be seen. Both movies should have pride of place on any critic’s Ten Best List this year. But what would be the context for sharing such a list? Who would even recognize these titles?


The first framed image in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is seen through a dirty window pane: a blear of yellow light slowly resolves to show three comrades hunkered down for the night in a truckstop oasis, drinking, talking, laughing. Those are the stylistic elements that define the long pilgrimage that follows: darkness mitigated by camaraderie and revelations amid pools of golden light. This stylistic formalism recalls Howard Hawks, who brings his beleaguered communities into circles of light where friendship, music, and professional skill are often the only hedges against oblivion.

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Posted in: by Jay Kuehner, Contributors, Film Reviews

Watching Movies in the Mountains and Enjoying the ‘ride: the 2011 Telluride Film Festival

My arrival by car to the high altitude, low attitude Telluride Film Festival is understandably, even fittingly, late, given the fest’s relative proximity to the expansive, vermillion grandeur of Monument Valley, otherwise known as John Ford country. Loiter there, however, and you’re liable to miss the festival’s opening night rollout of Werner Herzog’s latest doc Into The Abyss or the Dardenne brothers’ Cannes honoree The Kid With a Bike, which proved to be the weekend’s hardest ticket, by virtue of popularity or having been slotted into the town’s notoriously intimate venues. One kiosk board went so far to anoint it “the new 400 Blows”.


On Main Street I witnessed a risible exchange – one not even the cine-literate Telluride is exempt from – in which a young man effusively intended to praise Herzog, only to mistakenly address Jean-Pierre Dardenne, who was calmly nonplussed. Telluride invites such confusion, playing the popular and the obscure, pitting a George Clooney tribute adjacent the magisterially bleak The Turin Horse (begging the question: how would you like to spend the next two and a half hours of your life?). Like its guest director Caetano Veloso – a totally welcome appointment in my opinion – the festival is decidedly august while resistant to claims that it isn’t edgy anymore. It’s fruitless to take sides or imply an Auteur-versus-Hollywood polarity, considering that the festival has historically been witness to much of the former’s transformation into the latter. But it does make sense to set an agenda that eschews the soon-to-be-released for the never-to-be-seen again, even if the modest Chilean Bonsai, with its punk Proustian attitude, never seems exactly antithetical to Alexander Payne’s project of familial folly (The Descendants).

It may be somewhat ironic that I’m competing with Colorado housewives for seats at the Dardennes’ film – where, oh where I wonder are these people when the film goes into theatrical release?! – but bless the Belgians’ expanding audience nonetheless. So I’m fated to watch Wim Wender’s Pina, in 3-damn-D no less, and fearing what may become of Café Muller’s sense of subversion in the hands of someone who’s lost his own anxiety at the prospect of a penalty kick. Some clever framing devices immerse us in Bausch’s production while affording some context from her resident dancers, and the 3-D elasticizes dance’s spatial dynamic, welcome or not, but there is little insight into the genesis of Bausch’s feverishly abstract, melancholic, and playfully choreographed theatre. An instructive aspect is cleaved open by the dance/film division: of how dance is powerfully suggestive and preempts the necessity of so much (film) acting, and how dancers are so often susceptible to bad acting. Bausch devotees may wonder just what this Wenders guy is contributing to a legendary artist’s aesthetic legacy, beyond exposure. Wenders fans, those of you who stuck it out into the ‘90s, may be chagrined by too many leaps into the unknown that aren’t padded with proper context (even if Bausch’s own elusive style would eventually solidify into an homage of itself).

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