Saturday, June 30, 2007

"From the Tsars to the Stars" Russian Sci-Fi series at NWFF : July 28 - Aug 12

Link to Northwest Film Forum 'From the Tsars to the Stars' Site

A rare opportunity to see many of these in their unedited, uncersored, un'coldwar' forms - and on the big(ger) screen! Series includes a personal highlight; Andrei Tarkovsky's excellent visually poetic adaptation of Stanislav Lem's 'Solaris'. Along with other more camp, absurd and surrealist offerings from the genre.

From the Northwest Film Forum:

"Wind demons and crystal palaces… Shimmering aquatic gill-men and limitless vistas of outer space… For over eight decades Russian cinema has had an inspired tradition of filmmaking that encompasses science fiction, folkloric fantasy and horror, and produces stunningly beautiful and entertaining movies -- only now being seen by American audiences in their original form.

Beginning with the pioneering animation of Ladislas Starewitch, through the silent classic AELITA: QUEEN OF MARS, and on to the astonishing visions of master filmmakers Alexander Ptushko and Pavel Klushantsev in the 1940s and 1950s, Russian genre cinema was amazingly colorful, technologically advanced and thematically ambitious. During the Cold War, sci-fi elements dominated, keeping with the Sputnik era space race between Russia and the U.S. More than a decade before 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, visual-effects pioneers Pavel Klushantsev and Mikhail Koryukov created breathtaking visions of man's voyage to outer space in such films as THE HEAVENS CALL and PLANET OF STORMS, drawing upon the latest technical advances to present a highly detailed and optimistic view of space exploration. And in 1962, Kazansky and Chebotarev’s charming THE AMPHIBIAN MAN, a cross between Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen, became one of the biggest hits in Soviet film history. Ironically, many of these astonishing works did end up on Western screens -- mauled almost beyond recognition. At the height of the Cold War, enterprising U.S. producers like Roger Corman purchased Soviet sci-fi films at bargain prices and gave them to up-and-coming American directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Curtis Harrington and Peter Bogdanovich, to re-fashion using newly shot footage. With added scenes of space vampires and tentacled monsters, the Russian films were released in American drive-ins with titles like VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN and QUEEN OF BLOOD. Our series features prints of the legendary Russian originals (with English subtitles), seen for the very first time in the U.S.

This series examines the history of Russian Fantastika with rare screenings of many of the aforementioned films, as well as Aleksandr Rou’s classic adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s Christmas story, EVENINGS ON A FARM NEAR DIKANKA; a newly restored print of Richard Viktorov’s TO THE STARS BY HARD WAYS; and Alexei Fedorchenko’s pristine FIRST ON THE MOON. It’ll be revelatory, it’ll be mind-expanding, and it’ll be fun."

Monday, June 25, 2007

"New Crowned Hope" film series at SIFF Cinema : July 20 - August 2

Link to SIFF Cinema 'New Crowned Hope' Site

Seems that cinema is the only thing I've been writing on recently - likely because of the abundance of films of this calibre that have come through this little city in the past month(s):

Seattle's new SIFF theatre will host four of the six feature-length film selections from theatre impressario Peter Sellars' "New Crowned Hope" festival - which took place in Vienna this past winter in celebration of Mozart's 250th anniversary. The festival featured not a single note of Mozart's music, but instead commissioned new works of dance, visual art, music, theatre, architecture and film from across the globe. What Sellars is quoted as wanting of the fest and the work submitted in general was; "A high level of self-searching and stylistic innovation in pieces that deal with the themes of transformation, truth, reconciliation and redemption such as those that run through the composer's final works." If Sellar's wanted six artistically daring films then to look beyond the largely industrial/commercial cinemas of the US, India, Europe and Japan was an intelligent choice for both aesthetic and economic reasons. The films of 'New Crowned Hope' originate from Kurdish Iran/Iraq (Bahman Ghobadi), Chad/South Africa (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Teboho Mahlatsi), Indonesia (Garin Nugroho), Paraguay (Pan Encina), Thailand (Apitchatpong Weerasethakul), and Taiwan/Malaysia (Tsai Ming-Liang). The festival with the aid of film curators Simon Field and Kieth Griffiths commissioned works by some of the most distinct and innovative new voices currently to be found in the scope of international cinema.

These films were some of my personal faves from this year's Seattle Intl. Film Fest and its an inspired bit of curatorial work on the part of SIFF to see them showing collected together as a series. I'm anticipating catching at least the Weerasethakul and the Tsai Ming-Liang again. Knowing me, I'll likely just go and see them all for the effect of that 'definitive second viewing'.