Monday, June 18, 2018

David Lynch Movie Night with "Blue Velvet" at Seattle Art Museum: Jun 21


As part of the contractual details of directing the 1984 adaptation of Frank Herbert's "Dune" for producer Dino De Laurentiis, David Lynch was under obligation to direct two more films, the first of which was to be a planned sequel. In the wake of the film's poor box office and mixed critical reception, the sequel was never developed beyond the stage of its initial script. The Herbert project then aborted, opportunity opened for the  second of the two films to be developed as a more personal work. Expanding on ideas that Lynch had been gestating as far back as 1973, and a screenplay that had been shopped around by the director since the late 1970s, De Laurentiis became both its producer and distributor. Where other studios declined the screenplay due to its tarnished depiction of smalltown American life, foreground presentation of violence, and strong sexual content, the Italian independent gave the director free reign within it's budgetary constrains. And most importantly, power of final cut. Not limited to his early shorts, boldly experimental feature length effort, and Academy Award nominated "Elephant Man", the premise of a subconscious underworld buried beneath the facade of everyday existence remains one of the reoccurring themes throughout the totality of the director's work. Nowhere in David Lynch's filmography is this dichotomy more explicit in it's depiction than in "Blue Velvet". In the decades following it's release, the film would go on to be considered one of the most notable, and influential, independent American works of the 1980s. Not only significant within the independent cinema landscape of the decade, "Blue Velvet" earned David Lynch his first Academy Award nomination, as well as consideration at Cannes. The film gaining further appreciation in the new century, indicative of its inclusion in the BBC's 2015 global critical assessment of the 100 Greatest American Films Ever Made.

While it relaunched Dennis Hopper's career, and made the daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini a household name, "Blue Velvet" was powerfully divisive at the time of its release in 1986. Much in the way a decade later Lynch's underappreciated "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me", disturbed and alienated fans who had joined on for the television series' global phenomena. Star critic Gene Siskel included "Blue Velvet" on his list of the best films of 1986, asserting that; "Blue Velvet" crosses the line of good taste, but so does real life. It also contains some of the year`s best filmmaking". Like was often the case, his companion and cineaste sparring partner, Roget Ebert had quite other things to say on the subject. Writing for The New Yorker, Pauline Kael was engrossed with the film's contrarian tides of humor and horror, citing that; "this is possibly the only coming-of-age movie in which sex has the danger and the heightened excitement of a horror picture. The charged erotic atmosphere makes the film something of a hallucination". Searing first encounters with "Blue Velvet" aren't only limited to 1986, to this day the film remains spellbinding and dreamlike in it's hallucinatory representation of the underside of the American smalltown life. Three decades from it's release, David Lynch's American dream continues to garner pieces like Peter Bradshaw's "David Lynch's Blue Velvet: Why I Still Can't Take My Eyes Off It" for The Guardian. Seattle Art Museum's annual summer David Lynch Movie Night pairs the new restoration of the original with Peter Braatz' behind the scenes making-of documentary "Blue Velvet Revisited". Braatz' documentary drawing from an amassed array of period super-8 footage and photographic stills, set to a new soundtrack supplied by post-punk luminaries Tuxedomoon.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Nate Wooley & Ken Vandermark, Broken Shadows Quartet and Thomas Strønen's "Time is a Blind Guide" at Chapel Performance Space, The Royal Room & Cornish Poncho Hall: Jun 13 - 16 & 23


Again, as seen in a recent stretch of summer programming, Seattle's Earshot Jazz organization has insightfully culled from Vancouver International Jazz Festival's expansive global roster of all things orbiting the world of jazz. In a lineup featuring members of the The Bad Plus, the first of the month's offerings from Broken Shadows Quartet bring their reinterpretations of timeless sounds originating from the rural south and heartland to The Royal Room. Channeling American luminaries like Ornette Coleman, Julius Hemphill, Albert Ayler, Dewey Redman, and Charlie Haden, their invigorated and often blistering jazz reconfigurations of influences span the avant-garde, folk art, and the deep southern blues. Earlier the same week at Chapel Performance Space, the locus of the American free jazz and improv world, Ken Vandermark, will be performing in a new duo setting with trumpet stalwart Nate Wooley. Vandermark's last two decades have seen him in arrangements with some of the heaviest hitters in global free jazz, including the prolific Scandinavian centerpiece, Paal Nilsen-Lovelegendary drummer Hamid Drake, saxophone colossus Peter Brötzmann, and extended technique and electro-acoustic pioneer, Evan Parker. Vandermark's trajectory has also taken him deep into the influence of the burgeoning late 20th and 21st Century central European and Scandinavian free jazz scene. Including trio and quartet settings with the aforementioned Paal Nilsen-Love, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten, Per-Ake Holmlander, Axel Dörner, and Fredrik Ljungkvist.

By way of introduction to this scene, there is probably no better document than Johannes Rød's recent, "Free Jazz and Improvisation on Vinyl 1965-1985", published by Norwegian vanguard imprint Rune Grammofon. Tracing independent free jazz and improv labels between 1965 and 1985, from the beginning of ESP-Disk through to the current era of vinyl revival and ascendant digital formats. With some 60 labels are covered in the volume, and forewords by Mats Gustafsson and label founder, Rune Kristoffersen, the edition perfectly encapsulates this particular brand of what The Guardian's Richard Williams calls, "Norwegian Blues". The significance of the ECM label to the extended Scandinavian scene and it's embracing of classical, jazz, improvisation and chamber music experimentation, can't be overstated. Dana Jennings "ECM: Albums Know that Ears Have Eyes" for the New York Times mines the ensuing four decades following those detailed in Rød's chronicle. Another significant marker of in "The Sound of Young Norway" came in the form of ECM sister label's 150th release, The Quietus hailing the far-seeing benchmark of graphic and sonic synergia that was, "Rune Grammofon: Sailing To Byzantium".

Returning to Cornish Poncho Hall, another central figure of the Scandinavian scene plays bandleader to a different arrangement of his soaring performance in last year's trio with Mats Eilertsen. Known for his dynamic and detailed moodscapes as Food's percussion and electronics wing, Thomas Strønen's chamber jazz five piece is fleshed out by the eloquence and sensitivity of bassist Mats Eilertsen, pianist Ayumi Tanaka, Håkon Aase and Leo Svensson Sander on violin and cello respectively. "Time Is A Blind Guide" is both the title of Strønen’s new ensemble album, and the name of his new Norwegian-British five piece. As depicted in a recent series of recordings for ECM, their all-acoustic chamber music sound is a more timorous, searching affair than many of their contemporaries in the American free jazz scene. Central to it's fabric are piano and bass studies in rhythm and texture that circumnavigate the orthodoxies of piano trio and quartet playing, melodically heightened by the finesse of a duo strings, with Strønen's drumming acting in expressive, detailed counterpoint. For Jazzwise, Stuart Nicholson spoke with Strønen for their "Time Bandits" feature. Mapping the drummer's varying settings of music making, from Food's electro-acoustic tapestries, to his own Time Is A Blind Guide ensemble, and the influence of former bandmate, the late great pianist John Taylor.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Northwest Terror Fest at Neumos, Barboza & The Highline: May 31 - Jun 2


After a successful inaugural year, Northwest Terror Fest returns to Seattle in it's second year at the end of May. Some of the most potent sounds from the heavier end of the 21st Century have issuedcfrom the mutating offshoots of black metal. The sound's ongoing and burgeoning development has encompassed melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, eruptions of heavy psych rock, industrial drumming, electronic atmospheres, and pure experimental noise. What may be the epitome of this cross-genre hybridization can be heard in the dynamic solar magma of guitar riffs and rhythm-play of Deafheaven. With other compatriots in the sound to be found in Oathbreaker, as well as the turbulent rock of Nothing and their fusion of metal drumming and spacerock guitar blur. Taking the sound down more melancholy and pop-referencing paths, there's the crushing shoegaze blues of True Widow. More true to it's black metal origins, bands like Krallice, Agalloch, and Pallbearer represent the darker, heavier school of hybridized metal pouring forth from sources like the Profound Lore label. The global expansiveness of this sound and scene is probably best detailed in Brad Sanders' overview for The Quietus, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". Further showcased in the past half-decade of excellent curation seen in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus, dominantly originating from labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. A all-things-metal festival with a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days and nights host a lineup featuring no small quantity of metal issuing from this particular low-lit landscape of black and doom metal mutations. Initially launched under the opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers", Rodger's wider curatorial vision for the festival, was detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True". Hosted at Neumos, Barboza and The Highline over the course of the first weekend in June, the three night lineup encompasses everything from gloaming atmospheric ambiance and doom riffs, blistering thrash and hardcore, and heavy psych rock, dark pagan and neofolk explorations. A cross-genre spectrum of metal sounds and weighty atmospheres as heard in sets from Celeste, Thou, Full of Hell, Necrot, Gatecreeper, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Panopticon, Subrosa, The Atlas Moth, White Hills, Great Falls, and Emma Ruth Rundle.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Seattle International Film Festival: May 17 - Jun 10


Seattle International Film Festival once again arrives bringing a spectrum of cinema from across the world. In working through the program, this year continues the decade long diversity dip seen in the per-capita of all things cutting edge foreign cinema, deep genre gems, auteur, arthouse and experimental. These were content agendas that once had prominence within SIFF, on occasion approaching the programming on offer in Toronto and New York. Those times though, are now decades in the past. That said, it's worthy of note that this year's festival isn't as painfully omissive as 2011 or 2010 for that matter. We saw string of years that suggested relief from the lackluster programming described above which waned a bit in 2012 and a further positive trend in that direction in 2013. For the 2014 festival, their 40th Anniversary was celebrated with SIFF's strongest programming in almost a decade, suggesting a renewed vision for the festival. That year marked a trend away from the previously seen glut of middle ground contemporary romances and knowingly clever dramas for the sub-Sundance sect. Thankfully, 2017 also saw a slight return to some of the strengths of seasons past. One can speculate that this middle road approach to programming, which returned in 2015 and 2016 after it, has been taken to entice some imagined Northwest demographic out of their suburban hobbles and inner-city condos. With the inclusion of showcases in the outlying areas of Bellevue and Kirkland indicative of such. One can't help but consider these factors alongside the changing economic and cultural landscape of Seattle and what may be SIFF's bid at strengthening ties with it all.

This year sees that same disheartening trend continue, with many of the most notable, and award-winning films from Rotterdam, Locarno, and Berlin, overlooked. SIFF has chosen to bypass opportunities to program Hu Bo’s astounding debut, "An Elephant Sitting Still", Sergei Loznitsa's documentary and dramas, respectively, "Victory Day" and "A Gentle Creature", a recently unearthed Raúl Ruiz' film from 1990 "The Wandering Soap Opera", Barbet Schroeder's timely documentary, "The Venerable W", Ted Fendt’s "Classical Period", Adina Pintilie's Berlin award-winning "Touch Me Not", Lav Diaz' "Season of the Devil", the newest in a grand series of films by Aleksei German Jr, "Dovlatov", Narimane Mari’s Le Fort des Fous", Huang Hsin-Yao’s "The Great Buddha", Yui Kiyohara's "Our House", Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias' much talked about "Cocote", and Philippe Garrel's New Wave-inspired, "Lover for a Day". Also, no sign of "Insect", the purportedly final film by Jan Švankmajer, "Grass" the newest by highly prolific Hong Sang-soo, Locarno award-winner Wang Bing's "Mrs. Fang", Małgorzata Szumowska's "Mug", Ilian Metev's "3/4", Fabrizio Ferraro's "Les Unwanted de Europa", Donal Foreman’s "The Image You Missed", Romanian New Wave mainstay Corneliu Porumboiu’s "Infinite Football", Ere Gowda's "Balekempa", Luise Donschen’s "Casanova Gene", "Transit" from New German Cinema frontman Christian Petzold, ...and lastly, what ever became of Agnieszka Holland's much hailed "Spoor"? We can observe, year in and year out, that Seattle continues to go astray of the high standard of the international festival circuit, embodied by the programming seen in New York, Cannes, Toronto, Vienna, and Venice.

Seattle International Film Festival in the past has existed as a focal point of visionary cinema curatorialship, with the resources, funds and legacy to be a hugely influential institution. One can can adduce from their contents that even San Francisco, Portland, and our neighbors in the north in Vancouver, continue to program festivals of a caliber that SIFF has seemingly un-learned. Yet there remain a handful of legitimate, original, well crafted cinema to be found in here too. Largely culled from the Contemporary World Cinema, Asian Crossroads, Archival Presentations, Midnight Adrenaline, Alternate Cinema, Documentary Films, FutureWave, African Pictures, and China Stars sections. This year I was able to generate an approximate 25 films of interest, curiosity or critical gravitas. These run the spectrum from directors of note, archival restorations and new developing artists. As a consequence the majority of the titles listed below are simply films of interest, rather than essential viewing. Not the least compelling year in recent memory, but not approaching the par established with SIFF's own stellar run spanning the decades of 1987-2007. Nonetheless, I continue to be enthused about their home at the SIFF Cinema Uptown and expanded screens between the recently acquired SIFF Cinema Egyptian and Film Center. Their curation for these year-round venues has exhibited the scope of SIFF, with a visionary course forward for the institution once exemplified in the short-lived Recent Raves series. As the series has been discontinued in the past year, SIFF's venture down this path appears to have come to a conclusion. Note: The list below contains the totality of this year's festival viewing, as well as a set of this month's short-run films at regional arthouse cinemas.

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Thursday, May 3
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7:15 PM - Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub "The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach"
Northwest Film Forum

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/chronicle-of-anna-magdalena-bach-huillet-straub/

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Friday, May 4
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9:00 PM - Rotanak Oudom Oum & Raw Music International "Cambodian Rock n' Roll: Film, Talk & DJ Party"
Northwest Film Forum

https://nwfilmforum.org/events/cambodian-rock-n-roll-film-talk-dj-party-with-rotanak-oudom-oum-aka-oro/

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Sunday, May 6
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9:00 PM - William Friedkin "The Devil and Father Amorth"
The Grand Illusion Cinema

http://grandillusioncinema.org/

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Thursday, May10
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7:00 PM - Olexa & Francesca ScalisiHalf-life in Fukushima
Northwest Film Forum

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/half-life-in-fukushima-naoto-matsumura-documentary/

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Friday, May 11
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6:30 PM - Masaaki Yuasa “Lu Over the Wall
SIFF Film Center

https://www.siff.net/year-round-cinema/lu-over-the-wall

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Saturday, May 12
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4:30 PM - Chantal Akerman "News From Home"
Northwest Film Forum

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/home-movies-news-home/

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Tuesday, May 15
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7:00 PM - Masaaki YuasaMind Game
The Grand Illusion Cinema

http://grandillusioncinema.org/

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Thursday, May 17
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6:50 PM - Wim Wenders "Pope Francis: A Man of His Word"
AMC Pacific Place 11

https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/pope-francis-a-man-of-his-word-56297/showtimes/amc-pacific-place-11/

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Friday, May 18
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6:00 PM - Simon Chung "I Miss You When I See You"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
IMIS1818

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45053

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Saturday, May 19
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10:00 AM - Rainer Werner Fassbinder "Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day"
SIFF Film Center
EIGH1918

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44968

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Saturday, May 19
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12:30 PM - Warwick Thornton "Sweet Country"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
SWEE1918

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45381

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Saturday, May 19
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3:45 PM - Mohammad Rasoulof "A Man of Integrity"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
MANO1918

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45121

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Saturday, May 19
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6:30 PM - Malene Choi "The Return"
AMC Pacific Place 11
THER1918

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45398

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Saturday, May 19
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8:30 PM - Julia Nash  "Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records"
Majestic Bay Cinemas
INDU1918

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45057

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Sunday, May 20
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2:00 PM - Kenji Mizoguchi "Sansho the Bailiff"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
SANS2018

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45320

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Sunday, May 20
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6:45 PM - Sebastian Lelio "Disobedience"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
DISO2018

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44956

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Monday, May 21
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7:15 PM - Sara DriverBoom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat"
Northwest Film Forum

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/boom-real-late-teenage-years-jean-michel-basquiat/

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Monday, May 21
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8:30 PM - Qaushiq Mukherjee "Garbage"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
GARB2118

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45003

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Tuesday, May 22
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4:00 PM - Rungano Nyoni "I Am Not a Witch"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
IAMN2218

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45051

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Tuesday, May 22
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8:30 PM - Derek Jarman "Edward II"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
EDWA2218

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44963

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Wednesday, May 23
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4:00 PM - Filipe Matzembacher "Hard Paint"
AMC Pacific Place 11
HARD2318

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45041

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Wednesday, May 23
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9:30 PM  - Shireen Seno "Nervous Translation"
AMC Pacific Place 11
NERV2318

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45162

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Friday, May 25
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6:30 PM - Hirokazu Kore-eda "The Third Murder"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
THIR2518

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45400

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Saturday, May 26
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7.45 PM - Hong Sang-sooThe Day After
Northwest Film Forum

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/the-day-after-hong-sangsoo-kim-min-hee/

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Saturday, May 26
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9:00 PM - Yang Ya-che "The Bold, The Corrupt, and The Beautiful"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
BOLD2618

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44898

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Sunday, May 27
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1:30 PM - Andrei TarkovskyStalker"
The Grand Illusion Cinema

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Sunday, May 27
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6:30 PM - Claire Denis "Let The Sunshine In"
AMC Pacific Place 11
LETT2718

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45095

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Monday, May 28
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6:30 PM  - Luis Bunuel "Belle de Jour"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
BELL2818

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44877

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Monday, May 28
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9:00 PM - Cai Chengjie "The Widowed Witch"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
WIDO2818

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45444

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Tuesday, May 29
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7:00 PM - Stephen Nomura Schible "Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda"
AMC Pacific Place 11
RYUI2918

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45316

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Wednesday, May 30
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7:15 PM - Jacques Davila "Qui Trop Embrasse"
Northwest Film Forum

https://nwfilmforum.org/films/qui-trop-embrasse-who-kisses-too-much-jacques-davila-35mm/

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Wednesday, May 30
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9:15 PM - Vivian Qu "Angels Wear White"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
ANGE3018

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44856

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Thursday, May 31
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6:45 PM - Sylvia Chang "Love Education"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
LOVE3118

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45108

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Thursday, May 31
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9:30 PM - Shôjirô Nishimi & Guillaume Renard "Mutafukaz"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
MUTA0531

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45680

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Friday, June 01
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11:59 PM - Various / Peter Strickland "The Field Guide to Evil"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
FIEL0118

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44991

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Saturday, June 02
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9:00 PM - Lukas Feigelfeld "Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
HAGA0218

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45032

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Sunday, June 03
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2:00 PM - Jean Renoir "Le Crime de Monsieur Lange"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
THEC0318

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45392

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Sunday, June 03
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8:30 PM - Rustam Khamdamov "The Bottomless Bag"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
BOTT0318

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=44901

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Tuesday, June 5
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7:15 PM - Paul Schrader  "First Reformed"
AMC 10

https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/first-reformed-56310/showtimes/amc-seattle-10/

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Thursday, June 07 
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4:00 PM - Marcelo Martinessi "The Heiresses"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
HEIR0718

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45045

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Thursday, June 07
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9:30 PM - Muayad Alaya "The Reports on Sarah and Saleem"
AMC Pacific Place 11
REPO0718

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45292

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Friday, June 08
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5:00 PM - Ari Aster "Hereditary"
AMC Pacific Place 11

https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/hereditary-56106/showtimes/amc-pacific-place-11/

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Friday, June 08
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9:30 PM - Yukun Xin "Wrath of Silence"
AMC Pacific Place 11
WRAT0818

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45455

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Saturday, June 9
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7:00 PM - Matthew Porterfield "Sollers Point"
The Grand Illusion Cinema

http://grandillusioncinema.org/

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Sunday, June 10
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11:15 AM - Bart Layton "American Animals"
AMC Pacific Place 11

https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/american-animals-56272/showtimes/amc-pacific-place-11/

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Sunday, June 10
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2:00 PM - Hu Jia "The Taste of Betel Nut"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
TAST1018

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=350&id=45384

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Sunday, June 10
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7:30 PM - Calin Peter Netzer "Ana, mon Amour"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
ANAM1018



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Moritz Von Oswald & Strategy at Kremwerk: May 3 | Carla dal Forno & Tess Roby at Kremwerk: May 30


Two preeminent shows bracket the month of May at Kremwerk. The first of them sees electronic artists from the Blackest Ever Black and Italians Do It Better labels in a showcase featuring the minimal synthwave and pop of Carla dal Forno and Tess Roby. Dal Forno's music speaks to a post-punk production quality expressed through its rough-hewn edges, yet there's a timeless, earthly and sensual quality to its stony, rounded forms. Her strength lies in a lack of braggadocio and showmanship, its a music of sensual intimacy, a vantage into a darkly flowing internal electronic songscape. The second night is a more unprecedented affair with the founder of Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, Rhythm & Sound and Berlin's Hard Wax and Dubplates & Mastering institutions. Hailed as the razor-sharp summit of techno's cutting edge in the 1990s, most notably in the pages of The Wire and their March 1998 cover story given over to "The Future Sound of Berlin". Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus' Basic Channel project stomped out some of the most sublime, bass heavy, grainy, extended and minimalist excursions into minimal techno and post-house ever dedicated to wax. By way of introduction, The Quietus' "The Strange and Frightening World of... Basic Channel", establishes the parameters of their early transmissions, and the mystery of their cryptic and austere aesthetic approach to the visual element and design, which only aided the impenetrable mystery of the productions. Through a near-absolute lack of engagement with any press, Ernestus and Von Oswald created a body of work divorced from the persona of any identifiable producers, a music of deep organic personality, seemingly running on freefall, pursuing it's own oblique and abstract goals. This mystery only recently rectified decades later with Von Oswald's extensive interview "Channeling Rhythm & Sound, Basically", in the July 2009 issue of The Wire. They remain vinyl advocates, and espouse it as the ideal format for their productions; it's inherent distortion, surface noise, and analog warmth lending variance and depth as the stylus passes across the surface of their horizontally progressive technoscapes. Not content at the time with releasing their own music and opening Hard Wax to cater to the growing German scene, they then established their own mastering studio Dubplates & Mastering, set up to ensure a desired dynamic quality for the vinyl and in-house control of the releases. In short time, both becoming mainstays of the scene and ground zero for all high quality cutting and mastering of underground music throughout central Europe.

Basic Channel ceased transmissions in 1995 but were followed by a string of other German variations on the Detroit techno/Jamaican dub themes inspired by their trailblazing work. Biba Kopf's "Underground Resistors" mapping the new territory and artists populating the expanse left in the wake of Basic Channel's initial forays. Among the most notable were the releases issuing from Chain Reaction which released a tide of non-Von Oswald & Ernestus productions, and helped launch the careers of minimal techno producers such as Monolake, Scion, Vladislav Delay, Substance, Vainqueur and Thomas Köner's Porter Ricks project with Andrew Mellwig. While in the throes of Chain Reaction's productive boom, Von Oswald & Ernestus manifest their own next venture into a music more closely aligned with the source of their inspiration; Jamaican dub and reggae. Overtly paying homage to the wellspring of Caribbean music from the 1970s and early 1980s which they revered, the two also established the Basic Replay and relaunched Wackies label to reissue rare and luminary works by the likes of Keith Hudson and Wayne Jarrett. Concurrently with this reissue venture, they marked out their own modern, minimalist territory in the realms of dub and vocal reggae with the initiation of Rhythm & Sound and Burial Mix. These dub and reggae projects gave platform to some of the greatest vocalists in the history of Jamaican music; Sugar Minott, Love Joys, Chosen Brothers, Paul St. Hilaire and Cornell Campbell, all stepped up to the mic to collaborate with the German gentlemen. Ernestus and Von Oswald have since largely gone their separate ways, yet each have continued to express their love of, and debt owed to electro-acoustic improv, jazz, indigenous peoples, afro-soul and rhythm music. Von Oswald with a improvisational trio comprising himself alongside Sasu Ripatti, and Max Loderbauer, as well as a project with long-standing musical collective, Ordo Sakhna devoted to the roots music of Kyrgyzstan. Ernestus' transnational ventures have brought him into the heart of African rhythm music, as the producer and locus of the Dakar-Berlin collaboration, Ndagga Rhythm Force. Their pan-cultural meeting best described by Ernestus himself in his synopsis of Yermande; "Rather than submitting to the routine, discrete gradations of recording, producing and mixing, the music is tangibly permeated with deadly intent from the off. Lethally it plays a coiled, clipped, percussive venom and thumping bass against the soaring, open-throated spirituality of Mbene Seck’s singing. Six chunks of stunning, next-level mbalax, then, funky as anything." Photo credit: Yusaku Aoki

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygène Trilogy & "Electronica" US Tour: Apr 9 - 21


In one of his first-ever North American tours, a seminal voice from the astronomical, psychedelic, French early synthesizer music culture performs next week at Seattle's Paramount Theatre. A revival of interest seen in the French analog for Krautrock's Kosmische offshoot, the equally conceptual Space Music, inspired by the interstellar vibe of Fantastique cinema, progressive and psychedelic rock, Bande Dessinée comics, and the psychological, political, science fiction pulp literature of the mid-to-late 1970s is very much afoot. Reissues of pivotal albums from the era by the likes of Space Art, Heldon, Bernard Fevre and Richard Pinhas have all surfaced in recent years. As well as vanguard compilations like the two volumes of "Cosmic Machine: A Voyage Across French Cosmic & Electronic Avantgarde (1970-1980)". No discussion of French synth music of the 1970s would be complete without Jean-Michel Jarre and his becoming swept up in the zeitgeist of Fantastique themes and cosmic sounds, with the massive breakout releases of 1976's "Oxygène" and the following "Equinoxe" of 1978. Touching on early studies in academic composition, adoption of sampling technology in the 1970s, Italian Futurism, musique concrète pioneer Pierre Schaeffer, Miles Davis, and revealing fascination with musical diversity, Jarre spoke with The Quietus', for their "Oxygène Of Collaboration: Jean-Michel Jarre's Favourite Albums". Not limited to culture, music and the arts, Jarre's life has been lived as avid political voice and activist, utilizing his profile to heighten awareness of environmental issues like that of last year's "Anti-Donald Trump, Dead Sea Performance at the Ancient Masada Fortress". Further discussion of his bewildering and immense live performances of the 70s and 80s, and the completion of what is now a four-decade spanning Oxygène Trilogy following closely on the heels of his "Electronica 1: The Time Machine" and "Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise" of 2016, can be found in the extensive interview with The Guardian, "Jean-Michel Jarre Explains How He was ‘Vampirized’ by the Epic Outdoor Shows that Made Him Famous".

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bruno Dumont's "Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc", Hong Sang-soo's "Claire's Camera" & Guy Maddin's "The Green Fog" at Northwest Film Forum: Mar 13 - 22


Northwest Film Forum hosts the larger per-capita of this months notable limited runs beginning with Hong Sang-soo's second bilingual feature starring French actress Isabelle Huppert. Shot on the fly over the week of Cannes 2016, "Claire's Camera", is another of his scathing observations on film culture and gender dynamics, delivered in his paradoxically breezy yet bitter comic tone, in which, "Isabelle Huppert Plays a Cannes Newbie". Both a highly prolific year for Hong, as well as a typically qualitative one, the stretch of 2017 also saw the release of "On the Beach at Night Alone", "The Day After" and most recently, 2018's "Grass". This first trifecta of films, "On the Beach at Night Alone", "The Day After", and "Claire's Camera" contains theme and preoccupations that course throughout Hong's recent work; female-centric narrative perspectives, gender frictions (in which men make themselves the fool), and a shifting, subjective sense of chronology and event-authority. It is this last element that most defines the otherwise innocuous "Claire’s Camera". As Richard Brody's analysis of Hong's recent filmography for The New Yorker posits, it is his emphasis on long scenes of jousting dialogue between the sexes have brought comparisons to the films of Eric Rohmer. Arguably, it is another French director who Hong's work most resembles explicitly in regard to its slippery cinematic architecture; that of Alain Resnais. In this regard, like Resnais' storytelling mechanics, a new majority of Hong's films  offer intricate narrative structures that reassemble and twist timelines over their course.

A universe away from Rohmer and Resnais, Guy Maddin's most recent is an exercise in examining one of the great films of cinema history, with a lesser, but intriguing enterprise within his own filmography. Gone are the frenzied and psychedelic digressions found in Maddin's past work, particularly the passionate reverence for German Expressionism and lost films of the silent era. The ecstatic chaos of technical mastery and oblique meetings of analog and digital process seen in his and Evan Johnson's "The Forbidden Room", are also largely excised. What remains in "The Green Fog", much in the way of 2007's "My Winnepeg", is a wonder of footage excavation and urban history. Utilizing clips from abundant cinema and archival sources, Maddin and Johnson recreate a lost object of obsession, the city of San Francisco from the time of Hitchcock's masterpiece. In many ways, rather than a homage to the director, or the film itself, "The Green Fog is a Fitting Salute to Hitchcock’s San Francisco", or more precisely, the cinematic idea of the city as seen in films of that era. Jonathan Romney's Film Comment Film of the Week review focuses on the heightening of discontinuity in Maddin's juxtaposition of source material and scene, in classic Surrealist mode often constructed with an eye for the bizarre and joyously perverse. 

An altogether differently inclined cinema of perversity can be found in the oeuvre of Bruno Dumont. The formerly somber Dumont’s turn to the comedic, and outright surreal since 2014’s perfectly pitched "L’il Quinquin", has marked a creative rebirth, as detailed by Senses of Cinema in their, "The New Extremism in the Street of Comedy: An Interview with Bruno Dumont". While imbalanced as a knockabout comedy in his previous costume drama satire, "Slack Bay", his newest "Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc", finds its footing anew in taking liberties adapting Charles Peguy's "The Mystery of the Charity of Jeanne d’Arc". Sharing an equation as that detailed by Mubi's "Cracking Up: A Conversation on Bruno Dumont", Dumont's newest is sublimely parsed in Jordan Cronk's Cannes reporting for Cinema-Scope; "pitched somewhere between Straub-Huillet and Headbangers Ball, Monty Python and Olivier Messiaen, Bruno Dumont’s new feature marks a near-perfect synthesis of the French iconoclast’s many disparate interests and obsessions". Cronk also citing "Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc" in its relation to its cinematic forebears. Where films by Bresson, Dreyer, Rivette, and Preminger have focused on Joan’s perils in battle, trial on charges of heresy, and eventual execution by the church, Dumont’s story centers on an (musically adept) adolescent Jeanne. Depicting a passage spanning the throes of her spiritual awakening, to her decision to leave home and take up arms as a musical comedy, Dumont is dancing "On the Verge of Heaven". Richard Brody's New Yorker review also finding perfection in the peculiar equilibrium of the film's unrestrained genre mashup; "The effect is moving. It’s also very funny, but in a way that sparks not laughter but astonishment. Jeannette’s visionary heroism is both clear-minded and absurd; in the extravagant possession of a child playing, completely earnestly, with the forces of history, Dumont catches the celestial comedy of disproportion and realizes that comedy with an apt sense of wonder and awe."

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Lucrecia Martel's "Zama" & Abbas Kiarostami's "24 Frames" at Northwest Film Forum: Apr 21 - May 3



Much like the set of notable titles from Cannes that arrived stateside in the month of March, April sees a stretch of films from competition in last year's Cannes, Venice, Berlin, and Rotterdam. While not a work of narrative cinema, the late, great, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's final visual exercise watches as a series of 24 four and a half minute segments, most of them depicting animals in landscapes, each one slowly developing within a single static framing. Through digital post-production, "The Persistence of Abbas Kiarostami’s Vision in ‘24 Frames’" is obliquely expanded into suggestive live-action tableau. The borders of which acting as very much a literal "frame", with the very first of the images being Pieter Bruegel the Elder's “The Hunters in the Snow”. Watching more like the video installation work of many of his modern art world compatriots, what follows in the ensuing 23 frames of "24 Frames", is Kiarostami's final abstract statement on love, cinema, time, technology, censorship, and how we watch and consider the world. In the way of other expressions of the frame, and it's role in visual art of previous eras, two exceptional period dramas have utilized new technology to realize a striking recreation of 18th Century visual style. Sitting neatly within his filmography, "The Death of Louis XIV" is another of Albert Serra's maneuvering around the traditional narrative locus of his historic figures and settings. Serra has built a filmography of counter-intuitively selecting characters from some of the most iconic of western history, epics and fable. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in "Honor of the Knights", the trek of the three Magi in "Birdsong", Casanova and Count Dracula in "Story of My Death", and strips these high tales of their central events. What remains is a atemporal in-between state of extended middle passages and arching slow journeys across time and space. Often at a great remove from these figures' defining characteristics, and the drama of their established destinations. His most recent, "A Quietly Amazing Portrait of the End of Life" in which Jean-Pierre Léaud depicts the last two weeks of the monarch's life as a "Long Goodbye". While Léaud remains prostate for most of it's length, this painterly, recreation of 18th Century interiors, fashions, social mores, courtly hierarchy and (misguided) medical science, the gravitational pull of Serra's film originates from the "Riveting Performance at Its Heart".



Another painterly exercise in framing events of the 18th Century can be found in "Lucrecia Martel's Return After a Long Journey", with her first new feature film in nine years, following 2008's "Headless Woman". Returning after nearly a decade, to great aclaim at it's premier in Venice and Toronto, her new work can be seen in the light of a resistance to the rationalized time of industrial modernity, sharing a lineage of non-chronological considerations of time, thought and memory found in the works of Marcel Proust, and vitalist philosopher Henri Bergson. As detailed in the pages of Film Comment and Sight & Sound, between the two projects the Argentinian director spent an extended period adapting Héctor Germán Oesterheld’s science-fiction graphic novel "El Eternauta", which ground to a halt when financing fell through. The leap between the time continuum-hopping sci-fi setting of "El Eternauta", and "Zama"'s journey across the landscape of colonial Paraguay might seem in high contrast, but as Martel explains in "Breaking Time’s Arrow: Lucrecia Martel and Zama", both undertakings are adaptations of Argentine source materials from the 1950s that involve an act of temporal projection. Whereas the former imagined a future journey across timelines as a consequence of the extraterrestrial invasion of Earth, "Zama", based on Antonio di Benedetto’s classic 1956 novel of the same name, follows the protracted travails of 18th Century bureaucrat Diego de Zama. Posted to a remote backwater as he lobbies to be returned home and escape the enveloping atmosphere of colonial folly, Zama's desperation grows as his relation to chronology unwinds. Events of past and future intermingle, becoming increasingly hallucinatory, the journey culminating in a state that is as much dream as waking life.