Sunday, January 2, 2022

:::: FILMS OF 2021 ::::



TOP FILMS OF 2021 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
-----------------------------------------------------------
Jane Campion  "The Power of the Dog"  (New Zealand)
Joanna Hogg  "The Souvenir Part II"  (United Kingdom)
Ryusuke Hamaguchi  "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy"  (Japan)
Ryusuke Hamaguchi  "Drive My Car"  (Japan)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul  "Memoria"  (Colombia)
Phil Tippett  "Mad God"  (United States)
C. W. Winter & Anders Edström  "The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin)"  (Japan)
Jóhann Jóhannsson  "First and Last Men"  (Iceland)
Mia Hansen-Løve  "Bergman Island"  (France)
Pedro Almodóvar  "Parallel Mothers"  (Spain)
Ahmir Thompson  "Summer of Soul  (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)"  (United States)
Dalibor Barić  "Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus"  (Croatia)
Anocha Suwichakornpong & Ben Rivers  "Krabi, 2562"  (Thailand)
Kyoshi Sugita  "Haruhara-san's Recorder"  (Japan)
Yang Lina  "Spring Tide"  (China)
Mohammad Rasoulof  "There is No Evil"  (Iran)
Masashi Yamamoto  "Robinson's Garden"  Restored Rereleased  (Japan)
Ulrike Ottinger  "Freak Orlando"  Restored Rereleased  (Germany)
Claire Denis  "No Fear, No Die"  Restored Rereleased  (France)
Edmund Goulding  "Nightmare Alley"  Restored Rereleased  (United States)
Raúl Ruiz & Valeria Sarmiento  "The Wandering Soap Opera"  Restored Rereleased  (Portugal)
Paul Schrader  "The Card Counter"  (United States)
Paul Verhoeven  "Benedetta"  (France)
Julia Ducournau  "Titane"  (France)
Cary Joji Fukunaga  "James Bond: No Time to Die"  (United Kingdom)
Rolin Jones, Ron Fitzgerald & Tim Van Patten  "Perry Mason"  (United States)
Álex de la Iglesia & Jorge Guerricaechevarría  "30 Coins"  (Spain)

For decades this annual entry has acted as an overview of music, dance, theatre and performance art attended, films seen in the cinema, visual art exhibitions and fairs, festivals covered, and international and domestic destinations traveled. Due to the necessary and elementary considerations of the global coronavirus pandemic, and its effect amplified and protracted by the initial federal response and the politicization of the pandemic, very little of which transpired, again, this year. As a product the overview for 2021 will have a brevity not seen in almost twenty years of adventures in sight and sound. Born of necessity, and almost instantaneously early in the pandemic, the web became the surrogate for these experiences. With both live and archival music performances and the streaming of theatrical and festival offerings. Yet these deliver only a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of cultural happenings. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged. Yet these are poor surrogates, even temporarily. Subsequently, the first eight months of the year involved taking armchair routes to the year's memorable sights and sounds, devoid of the richness found in experience, in-person social engagement, and cultural context.

With the larger part of life being spent in our homes, the paths to engaging with film and music have been almost exclusively limited to those offered online. And while it’s role may be reduced in the age of streaming, the magazine, both print and digital can still be a defining tastemaker amid the multitude of channels in which to discover new music. For those not finding compelling sounds via their internet trawls, streaming platforms and online retailers like Boomkat, online institutions like The Quietus, and print entities like Blank Forms represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find coherently brought together online outside the framework of such vision and publishing legacy. Evolving righ along with the times from a free improv, modern classical and jazz magazine in the 1970s, by the 1980s The Wire  expanded its scope to include post-rock and electronic music. Coming to the 1990s to evolve into the all-inclusive hip hop, dub and reggae, noise, punk, post-everything, jazz, black and doom metal, bass music, dance, techno and house, free folk, psych, kraut and nipponese rock, minimalism, sound-art, and out-sounds publication it became by the conclusion of the 20th century. A particular advantage at year's end, is that the magazine offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2021. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a worldly scope, compiling the life’s work of people who have made watching their enterprise. Year and year again, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage have brought focus to the year of moving pictures from around the globe.

With the arrival and wider availability of the various vaccines, after a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, in-person programming returned in August and September to many of the regional arts venues. Early fall saw the first major steps towards reopening after nearly eighteen months of closure for the regional independent music venues, and Seattle's independent cinemas. Prioritizing the safety of their patrons, proof of vaccination, facial coverings and capacity limits were established as prerequisites by the majority of these community cultural settings. In many cases, their future remaine uncertain until as recently as this past February when the federal stimulus bill was approved and the funding for arts and culture that came with it. Relief funding became available with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally beginning to arrive, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have come in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions.

:::: ALBUMS OF 2021 ::::



TOP ALBUMS OF 2021 IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
-------------------------------------------------------------
Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra  "Promises"  (Luaka Bop)
Coil  "Love's Secret Domain: 30th Anniversary Edition"  Reissue  (WaxTrax!)
The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble  Reissue Series  (Denovali)
Portico Quartet  "Terrain"  (Gondwana Recordings)
Gustav Mahler  "The Symphonies of Gustav Mahler"  Box Set  (Berliner Philharmoniker)
Klein  "Harmattan"  (Pentatone)
Akira Rabelais  "À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu"  (Argeïphontes)
John Cage  "Number Pieces"  (Another Timbre)
Marina Rosenfeld  "Teenage Lontano"  (Room 40)
Various Artists  "Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Minimalism & Shadow Sounds of Japan 1980-1988"  (Light in the Attic)
Georgia Anne Muldrow  "Vweto III"  (Epistrophik Peach Sound)
Sofa  "Source Crossfire: 1993 - 1997"  (Constellation)
Midwife  "Luminol"  (Flenser)
Moor Mother  "Black Encyclopedia of the Air"  (Anti-)
L'Rain  "Fatigue"  (Mexican Summer)
Circuit des Yeux  "io"  (Matador)
HTRK  "Rhinestones"  (N&J Blueberries)
Various Artists  "Sounds Of Pamoja"  (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
DJ Black Low  "Uwami"  (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
The Bug  "Fire"  (Ninja Tune)
aya  "im Hole"  (Hyperdub)
Space Afrika  "Honest Labour"  (Dais Records)
Alabaster DePlume  "To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1"  (International Anthem)
John Coltrane  "A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle"  (Impulse!)
Chelsea Wolfe & Converge  "Bloodmoon: I"  (Deathwish)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma & Félicia Atkinson  "Un Hiver en Plein été"  (Shelter Press)
My Bloody Valentine  "Loveless" / "Isn't Anything" / "EPs"  Reissues  (Domino UK)
 
For decades this annual entry has acted as an overview of music, dance, theatre and performance art attended, films seen in the cinema, visual art exhibitions and fairs, festivals covered, and international and domestic destinations traveled. Due to the necessary and elementary considerations of the global coronavirus pandemic, and its effect amplified and protracted by the initial federal response and the politicization of the pandemic, very little of which transpired, again, this year. As a product the overview for 2021 will have a brevity not seen in almost twenty years of adventures in sight and sound. Born of necessity, and almost instantaneously early in the pandemic, the web became the surrogate for these experiences. With both live and archival music performances and the streaming of theatrical and festival offerings. Yet these deliver only a modicum of the sensations, social engagement, and sensory thrills and satisfactions of cultural happenings. The pragmatic response would be to accept the inherent losses and embrace what vestiges of a cultural life that could be salvaged. Yet these are poor surrogates, even temporarily. Subsequently, the first eight months of the year involved taking armchair routes to the year's memorable sights and sounds, devoid of the richness found in experience, in-person social engagement, and cultural context.

With the larger part of life being spent in our homes, the paths to engaging with film and music have been almost exclusively limited to those offered online. And while it’s role may be reduced in the age of streaming, the magazine, both print and digital can still be a defining tastemaker amid the multitude of channels in which to discover new music. For those not finding compelling sounds via their internet trawls, streaming platforms and online retailers like Boomkat, online institutions like The Quietus, and print entities like Blank Forms represent the kind of expertise you’ll not find coherently brought together online outside the framework of such vision and publishing legacy. Evolving right along with the times from a free improv, modern classical and jazz magazine in the 1970s, by the 1980s The Wire  expanded its scope to include post-rock and electronic music. Coming to the 1990s to evolve into the all-inclusive hip hop, dub and reggae, noise, punk, post-everything, jazz, black and doom metal, bass music, dance, techno and house, free folk, psych, kraut and nipponese rock, minimalism, sound-art, and out-sounds publication it became by the conclusion of the 20th century. A particular advantage at year's end, is that the magazine offers the opportunity to Listen to The Wire Top 50 Releases of 2021. Similarly, film institutions like those below offer a worldly scope, compiling the life’s work of people who have made watching their enterprise. Year and year again, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cinema-Scope, Criterion Collection's The Current, and The Guardian's excellent film coverage have brought focus to the year of moving pictures from around the globe.

With the arrival and wider availability of the various vaccines, after a year and a half of navigating the complexities of the pandemic restrictions and closures, in-person programming returned in August and September to many of the regional arts venues. Early fall saw the first major steps towards reopening after nearly eighteen months of closure for the regional independent music venues, and Seattle's independent cinemas. Prioritizing the safety of their patrons, proof of vaccination, facial coverings and capacity limits were established as prerequisites by the majority of these community cultural settings. In many cases, their future remained uncertain until as recently as this past February when the federal stimulus bill was approved and the funding for arts and culture that came with it. Relief funding became available with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally beginning to arrive, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, alongside regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have come in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Blood Incantation at Substation and Wolves in the Throne Room at The Crocodile: Jan 8 & 11


The month of January sees two shows in town at Substation and the newly reopened The Crocodile stradling the
heavier end of sounds issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. The related global scene's ongoing and burgeoning development have encompassed melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, eruptions of heavy psych rock, industrial drumming, synth exploration and electronic atmospheres, and pure experimental noise. The expansiveness of this sound is further detailed in Brad Sanders' essential overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". Beyond this primer, deeper reading and curation from this spectrum can be found in the past decade of excellent selections in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus column, covering releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, 20 Buck Spin, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. First among these two nights is Blood Incantation performing from their The Quietus 2019 Albums of the Year charting, "Hidden History Of The Human Race". This assembly of tracks took their already explorational sound into truly progressive, inventive death metal with variegated song structures and a haunting intergalactic bent to the lyrical themes. Technical and occasionally delirious in its precision, the performances are precise without being flashy, and occasionally ornate in their psychedelia without the encumbrances of gaudiness. Tangents are taken into doom and meditative synth workouts, which then return to death metal riffs and unexpected structural shifts, all executed with assurance. The second of the shows features the Northwest's own brand of doom and folk-inflected psychedelia from Wolves in the Throne Room, a further refinement of their embracing fusion of these sounds can be heard on their newest album "Primordial Arcana" for Relapse. As detailed in the interview with The Quietus, "Beyond the Darkness: An Interview With Wolves in the Throne Room", their seventh studio album disregards distinctions between their previous metal and ambient characteristics, finding a newly organic, free-flowing hybrid in the process. Breaking down the dichotomy between these two sounds, the album creates an often melodious interplay that washes with an uplifting grace rarely heard in music of this darkness and weight.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Ryusuke Hamaguchi's "Drive My Car" at SIFF Cinema: Dec 10 - 23 & Northwest Film Forum: Jan 5 - 9



In just the last year, Ryusuke Hamaguchi has delivered a set of two new films, exhibiting an even higher nuance and complexity than that previously seen in his already notable body of work. Hamaguchi is part of a new 21st century corpus of filmmakers from Japan, this "New Wave of Japanese Filmmakers" dominates much of Taste of Cinema's "The 25 Best Japanese Movies of The 2010s (So Far)", with Hamaguchi's 5-hour domestic tranquility stunner, "Happy Hour", ranking highly. The first of this year's films took home the best screenplay award at Cannes for it's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short story of the same name published in the "Men Without Women" anthology. As Peter Bradshaw's review in The Guardian states, this "Mysterious Murakami Tale of Erotic and Creative Secrets" has a through-line of related concerns also explored in “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy”. More than a "Triptych of Light-Touch Philosophy", "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy" is a deceptively unassuming movie, which watches as a mildly subversive observation on the goings-on between men and women, and at its core is an exploration of, "What We Talk About". By this, Manohla Dargis means to say that the film maps a geometry of desire expressed in sometimes casual and cruel intimacies that are divulged through three extended segments. As men and women circle one another, they exchange confessions and accusations, through a cascade of words, gestures, and glances. It is through these effusive dialogues that they slowly come to unveil the nature of their central yearnings, fears, and intentions. Taking a major prize amidst the abundance on offer at, "Berlin Film Festival 2021: The Most Impressive Selection in Years", this would be the first of the year's awards for Hamaguchi, with more to come in the following months. The second of these films premiered at Cannes to outstanding reviews, foremost for its deftness in navigating the complexities of “Haruki Murakami and the Challenge of Adapting His Tales for Film” and bringing "The Mystery of Murakami" to the screen. Manohla Dargis also reviews this entry from Hamaguchi, praising it as a quiet masterpiece, in which the director utilizes the rather slight story by Murakami to consider grief, love, work and the soul sustaining, life-shaping power of art. There will be two regional opportunities to experience this award-winning turn of "A Director Taking Your Heart for a Spin", first of which at SIFF Cinema in December, and the Northwest Film Forum the following month.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Jane Campion's “The Power of the Dog” at Landmark Theatres: Nov 24 - Dec 16



Returning with her first movie in 12 years, the Australian filmmaker who brought us into the abyssal darkness of "Top of the Lake", and it's sequel, "Top of the Lake: China Girl", now ventures into the American West and the inner worlds of Thomas Savage. Adapting his novel of the same name, "The Power of the Dog", brings viewers deep "Inside Jane Campion’s Cinema of Tenderness and Brutality". In preparation for her newest exploration of the outer realms of the human psyche, she returned multiple times to the New Zealand mountain range she had chosen as a location, and went to visit the Montana ranches where Thomas Savage himself grew up. Campion sent Benedict Cumberbatch to Montana as well, as a process of getting into the skin of the character to learn roping, riding, horseshoeing, whittling, banjo and cattle wrangling. In a turn from the varied, whimsical, charismatic eccentrics on which Cumberbatch has built his career, here he stars as a determined, viciously self-made, hypermasculine rancher by the name of Phil Burbank. A recent set of roles outside his more common parameters have brought out greatness in the actor, as detailed in interview with The New York Times, "Benedict Cumberbatch and the Monsters Among Us". For Campion, a decade into her life as a filmmaker, her 1993 film "The Piano" won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and became one of that era's zeitgeist defining cinema experiences. In the years since she has become the most decorated living female filmmaker, producing a body of work that is both ethereal and intensely physical, establishing herself as an auteur with a corpus in the lineage of Luis Buñuel, François Truffaut and Pedro Almodóvar.

"The Piano" offered a blueprint of Campion's creative preoccupations; the feminine entangling and confronting the masculine in exchanges of heightened violence and desire, vast and often beautiful landscapes to evoke psychological states, and individuals struggling against societal and personal constraints in their pursuit of love above the teetering precipice of alienation and betrayal. Campion read Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel for pleasure, not thinking initially of adapting it for film, but the story stayed with her. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the themes in the book,” she told Sofia Coppola at the New York Film Festival this year. The material is ideally suited to her sensibilities, and even further enriched by this dichotomy of tenderness and brutality on which the New York Times interview focuses. Tenderness and it's dark reflection drive the drama of "The Power of the Dog", made that much more raw by the unforgiving vastness of the landscapes outside the rough-hewn pioneering homes and small towns that offer shelter and a vestige of far-off civilization. Campion has said that she wanted to make work about what “has always been on those margins of what’s acceptable … what we as wild creatures really are, as distinct from what society wants us to buy into.” This is especially true in “The Power of the Dog,” where these contradictory forces amplify each other painfully. Campion's art has been in showing the unpredictable mix of wounding damage and nurturing care in human activity, and in the moment of opening to one, it can lead to the possibility of the other. This is also one of the great achievements of her newest film. In the same soil where the beginning of an interwoven security of family has been formed, a seed of violence and resentment has already sprouted something much deeper, darker and malign, “'The Power of the Dog': Jane Campion’s Superb Gothic Western is Mysterious and Menacing”.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Ryusuke Hamaguchi's “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” at Northwest Film Forum: Nov 17 - 21



Two decades have elapsed since the Japanese cinema explosion of the 1990s. The directors who led that wave; Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Takeshi Kitano, Naomi Kawase, and Takashi Miike, are still among the industry's most high profile faces on the international festival circuit. Contemporaneously, a new generation of filmmakers are also making themselves heard. Taste of Cinema's 2017 overview goes some way to assert this, with their substantial serving offered in the "The 25 Best Japanese Movies of The 2010s (So Far)". 2015 was a standout year for this set of rising new directors. It saw the domestic release of Shunji Iwai's disorienting urban drama, "A Bride for Rip Van Winkle", Ryusuke Hamaguchi's 5-hour domestic tranquility stunner, "Happy Hour", and Koji Fukada taking home the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes for “Harmonium”. Fukada utilizing the global platform of his Cannes win to state that, "Japanese Cinema Must Adapt to Survive". Of this new batch of directors, it could be said that "Fukada’s Filmmaking is a Breath of Fresh Air" that can be seen to follow explicitly in the footsteps of Kiyoshi Kurosawa in his darkly pessimistic take on the concerns that comprise modern Japanese life. Another string of films in the last half decade that have been rich in character nuance, and high in drama have distinguished Kazuya Shiraishi, particularly that of his most recent, "'Last of the Wolves': A Sequal With as Much Bite as the First". There have also been strong returns offered by "Sion Sono's Set of Films That Don’t Fit His Bad-Boy Label", and Takahisa Zeze's miraculous transformation seen in "The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine", offering up a whole new array of concerns around, "Takahisa Zeze's Crime, Punishment, and Transcendence".

In many regards, this "New Wave of Japanese Filmmakers Matches the Old", with new films by both Fukada and Hamaguchi premiering at Cannes to outstanding reviews in 2020 and 2021. Ryusuke Hamaguchi has particularly delivered higher nuance and complexity than previously seen, with a set of two new films in the year. The first of which took home the best screenplay award for it's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short story of the same name published in the "Men Without Women" anthology. As Peter Bradshaw's review in The Guardian states, this "Mysterious Murakami Tale of Erotic and Creative Secrets" has more than a resemblance to the concerns explored in “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy”. More than a "Triptych of Light-Touch Philosophy", this deceptively unassuming movie instead watches as a mildly subversive observation on the goings-on between men and women, and at its core is an exploration of, "What We Talk About". By this, Manohla Dargis means to say that it maps a geometry of desire expressed in sometimes casual and cruel intimacies that are divulged through three extended segments. As men and women circle one another, they exchange confessions and accusations, through a cascade of words, gestures, and glances. It is through these effusive dialogues that they slowly come to unveil the nature of their central yearnings, fears, and intentions. Taking a major prize amidst the abundance on offer at, "Berlin Film Festival 2021: The Most Impressive Selection in Years", this first of the year's films from Hamaguchi is the director's most solidly constructed and satisfying to date. "Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy" is the newest installment in a filmmography of challenging narrative choices, extended durations, understated visuals, and a rejection of the kind of dramatic problems, moral instruction and visually appealing dressing meant to ease the complexity of interpersonal relationships too often encountered in American independent cinema. Western film culture in general could look to Hamaguchi, as in just a year he has given us two works that represent superior routes out of the impasse of this particular brand of storytelling bankruptcy.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Peace Simulation Northwest and Rain City Doom Fest at Substation: Nov 12 & 20


With the postponement of Northwest Terror Fest and the closing of Seattle's premiere metal, hardcore, industrial, punk and doom venue The Highline due to the protracted effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Substation have risen to fill the programming void left in their wake. Two showcases in the month of November will highlight a particularly Northwest strain of sounds from the heavier end of the 21st century issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. The related global scene's ongoing and burgeoning development have encompassed melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, eruptions of heavy psych rock, industrial drumming, electronic atmospheres, and pure experimental noise. The expansiveness of this sound is further detailed in Brad Sanders' essential overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". Beyond this primer, deeper reading and curation from this spectrum can be found in the past decade of excellent selections in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus column, covering releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, 20 Buck Spin, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. These two showcases at Substation feature metal issuing from this particular low-lit landscape of experimental sludge, noise, and doom variations. The first of which presented by Peace Simulation as a popup Northwest Showcase, featuring experimental fusions by Thrill Jockey label artist The Body, doom riffs from Seattle's UN, dark ambient industrial sounds from Sutekh Hexen, Relapse Records doom metal from Portland's Usnea, and sludge and ur-metal by Denver's Primitive Man. The second of these showcases focused explicitly on the low tempos and weighty, gloaming masses of sound billed as Rain City Doom Fest. The night will feature sets from Witch Ripper, Montana's Wizzerd, and the volcanic melting of hardcore and sludge of Seattle's Heiress.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Joanna Hogg's "The Souvenir Part II" at AMC 10 & Landmark Theatres: Nov 12 - Dec 9



Opening the third week of November at regional AMC Theaters, and later at Landmark's The Crest Cinema, Joanna Hogg's second entry in a set of tales surrounding Julie, a film school student in 1980s London, follows the young protagonist (superbly played by Honor Swinton-Byrne) working out her voice as an adult and a director. A rare opportunity in being given the greenlight for a two-part drama, Hogg has been developing the project since initially conceiving the semi-autobiographical tale in the late 1980s, which she details for the New York Times, “A Filmmaking Life Gets a Sequel”. Until recently, her films have been a relative arthouse secret, "Joanna Hogg, where have you been all my life?" wrote Manohla Dargis in response to her first three features comprising "Unrelated", "Archipelago", and "Exhibition" being released domestically in 2014. Yet, it was only with the first part of "The Souvenir", that a wider audience experienced this same revelation. This "absolute joy to watch" as described by A.O. Scott was the first encounter with Hogg's rich vein of storytelling for many viewers. On its release, Monica Castillo cited "The Souvenir"'s depiction of a troubled romance and it's divisive qualities for Roger Ebert.com, particularly among contemporary audiences unwilling, or unable to parse such contradictions. "From its Sundance premiere, I heard grumblings about its main character, Julie, and the frustrations some felt with her decision to stay in a clearly toxic relationship. For me, “The Souvenir” is perhaps the most empathetic movie to capture that kind of bad romance, the way it seeps into every aspect of your life, the way it changes your behavior, how you hold onto the memories of good times when things get rough and how after it ends, you're a changed person. “The Souvenir” doubles as a reference to the unseen but still painful bruises you can get with a relationship as rocky as theirs. Some days, I miss those rose-colored glasses, but I have the bruises to remind me why I took them off in the first place."

Fathomed in her interview with Film Comment, through Hogg's sympathetic eye for shots, pacing and structure, the film delivers a mature and nonjudgmental observation on the joys and heartbreaking pain of these contradictions. Resembling in some ways the cinema of the French auteurs Eric Rohmer and Claire Denis, themselves of differing generations and sensibilities, this newly-ardently admired oeuvre truly came into being with complex tableau of, "Joanna Hogg Revisiting Her Past Selves". More than just, "A Great Movie About a Bad Boyfriend", as the title of A.O. Scott's review of the first entry implies, Julie and Anthony's shared intellectual passion, artistic questing, aspirations and humiliations initially are found to pivot around his undisclosed and secretive life troubles. Punctuated by the arrival of postcards as stopgaps, implying the passage of time and shifting relations between its protagonists, the structure of "The Souvenir" is largely linear, with brief poetic digressions voicing moments of inner reflection. Over time we witness Julie begin to break loose from the constraints of these influences, as her denial gives way to necessary recognition and an, "Opening Up the Privileged World From Which She Emerged". Through loss and pain, coming to recognize herself outside of these external conditions, we see a decisively different course for her own art and pursuit of identity. The cumulative effect of this great film of small moments, is Joanna Hogg's "'The Souvenir' is a Masterly Coming-of-Age Portrait", that invests great belief in its audience and the unguarded candor of experience lived. With "The Souvenir Part II" the director picks up where Julie's struggling with her life and the form of her art left off, this is instead in many ways, “Life As She Imagines It”. In this "Near-Perfect Sequel About Loss and Art", we revisit the young filmmaker in a form which Peter Bradshaw finds less detached, more emotionally engaging in its immediacy, as we are enticed into Julie’s world for a second time, “The Souvenir Part II:  A Flood of Austere Sunlight in Joanna Hogg’s Superb Sequel”.

Friday, October 1, 2021

All Monsters Attack at Grand Illusion Cinema: Oct 1 - Nov 4 | Orcas Island Film Festival: Oct 7 - 11| William Kennedy Memorial Screening at Grand Illusion Cinema: Oct 9


September marked the first significant return to programming after nearly eighteen months of closure for the regional independent music venues, and Seattle's independent cinemas in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, their future remained uncertain until as recently as the February federal stimulus bill and the approval of funding for arts and cultural venues that came with it. Over a year later relief funding became available for many of these same institutions with the benefits of the Save Our Stages Act finally beginning to arrive, alongside the newly implemented Shuttered Venues Grant. The benefits of the various pandemic relief bills, with regional infrastructure like the 4Culture Relief Fund, awareness efforts like the Washington Nightlife Music Association, crowdfunding and philanthropy like the ArtistRelief, ArtsFund grant, and GiveBig Washington have come in the 11th hour for many of these venues and institutions. North of Seattle, one of the region's most compelling cinephile events is scheduled to return the second weekend in October. As an example of festival programming featuring diverse and qualitative content, the current body of the Seattle International Film Festival could take a page or two from the Orcas Island Film Festival. While running only five days, and featuring less than one thirtieth of the films on offer during the three weeks of SIFF, the regional microfestival is an exemplar representation of contemporary programming. In the unlikely setting of the rural beauty of the San Juan islands, chief programmer Carl Spence, has produced a small 16 film program to rival that of its Seattle goliath. As the Seattle Times states, it is the case that "Orcas Island Film Festival: Small Fest, Big Movies" which draws largely from this year's Cannes Film Festival, alongside a number of the notable films from Venice, Sundance, and Toronto. Among the films on offer in Orcas, there's Mia Hansen-Løve's "Bergman Island", Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Cannes Jury Prize winning "Memoria", Italian maestro Paulo Sorrentino's newest, "The Hand of God", the always riveting Asghar Farhadi's "A Hero", auteur Céline Sciamma returns with "Petite Maman", Pablo Larraín's most recent historic biodrama, "Spencer", Todd Haines music documentary on, "The Velvet Underground", Joachim Trier's "The Worst Person in the World", Mike Mills' "C'mon C'mon", and the life of feline portraitist Lois Wane in Will Sharpe's "The Electrical Life of Louis Wain".

To my mind, the months of October and November could always do with more in the way of programming around Halloween season genre film and its disorienting frights, crepuscular surrealism, and discomfiting atmospheres. Thankfully, Scarecrow Video annually steps up with their curated Halloween section of domestic and international horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and psychotronic selections. The Psychotronic Challenge also returns in its sixth installment, challenging viewers to select a new theme category for every day in October from the deep trivia of the cues on offer. While we're here, lets talk the incomparable one-of-a-kind resource that is Scarecrow, and how if you live in the Northwest and are a fan of cinema, it's essentially your personal obligation to ensure their doors stay open for business. For horror and genre aficionados, there is no other resource in North America like that offered by Scarecrow Video and their abundant catalog of obscure, foreign releases, out of print, and ultra-rare editions, and with nearly 140,000 films on offer, no singular online streaming resource can compare. In previous years, the annual citywide cinematic offerings for the months of October and November have seen a great set of films exploring desolate worlds, classic Japanese horror, a vampiric romaticism double feature and a night of music from a maestro of Italian horror. Also in the way of recent Halloween seasons of note, the local arthouse cinemas presented a an abundance on the theme of the haunted house in 2015, and 2013 saw no small number of invaders from beyond. 2017 was heavy on 1970s psychedelic and psychological horror from Europe, particularly from the era of abundance seen in the subgenres of French Fantastique and Italian Giallo. 2018's programming taking a cue from Nick Pinkerton's feature for Sight & Sound, and their "The Other Side of 80s America" focus on the decade of independent and genre cinema issuing from the United States. Concurrent with the pop culture revelry of Reaganite family-oriented dramas, action, teen movies, and sci-fi blockbusters, a more rebellious and independent strain of US movie making explored the darkness on the edge of mainstream society. While the final pre-pandemic installment in 2019 presented an abundance of films from this era of American horror alongside a bold mix of decades of classic European, Asian, and Italian genre material.

One of the longest running, and most consistently satisfying of the local Halloween series has been The Grand Illusion Cinema's monthlong All Monsters Attack calendar of horror, creature features, classic thrillers, sci-fi, and cult cinema. Rather than the usual mix of new releases and archival prints, this year's installment is programmed almost exclusively around films that were released in the past eighteen months and subsequently denied a theatrical run. The proceedings begin with a memorial night for Seattle's most dedicated cinephile, music lover, and man-about-town, William Kennedy. Before his passing earlier this year, Bill wished for nothing more than his friends and cultural compatriots to join together for a screening of David Cronenberg's classic techno-horror thriller, “Videodrome”. Also up on the slate, is the most recent work by the junior member of the Cronenberg family, Brandon Cronenberg, with his "Possessor: Uncut", featured in an alternate director's edition. The United Kingdom's mastermind of genre cinema, Ben Wheatley, returns to his smaller-budget roots after the major production of adapting J.G. Ballard, with the psychedelic eco-horror of In The Earth”. We also get a documentary on the personification of the genre, "Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster", alongside a set of tales of earthy pagan cults, familial curses, a mirror maze reflection on the British "video nasties" of the 1980s, extraterrestrial possession, postmodern spins on the gore slasher, and an astute horror-comedy lycanthrope tale with Jaco Bouwer's "Gaia”, Natalie Erika JamesRelic”, Prano Bailey-Bond's “Censor”, Egor Abramenko's "Sputnik", Steven Kostanski's "Psycho Goreman", and Jim Cummings' "The Wolf of Snow Hollow". Not limited to new releases, All Monsters Attack will also feature the annual tradition of multiple analog media nights. These begin with VHS Uber Alles presenting William Szarka's "Phantom Brother" on its original release format, and The Sprocket Society programming an all-undead Halloween show on 16mm celluloid, including George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead". Other mind-warping traditions at Grand Illusion are to be found in the annual Scarecrow Video Secret Screening, hand picked and hosted by Scarecrow's one and only Matt Lynch, and beholding the excesses of Shinya Tsukamoto's body-horror cyberpunk classic and it's sequel, "Tetsuo: The Iron Man", and "Tetsuo II: Body Hammer", both of which are rarely seen on the big screen.