Sunday, November 25, 2018

Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" at Seattle Cinerama: Dec 6 - 19 | Lee Chang-dong's “Burning” at Northwest Film Forum: Dec 7 - 14 | Ali Abbasi's "Border", Yorgos Lanthimos' “The Favorite” & Hirokazu Kore-eda's “Shoplifters” at SIFF Cinema: Nov 23 - 29 & Dec 7 - 27

The fruits of this past summer's Cannes and Venice festivals are beginning to arrive in domestic theaters. The prestigious festival on the French Riviera was accounted for as having the strongest offerings seen in decades. This was represented by the extensive and enthusiastic coverage to be found in the pages of the The New York Times, The Guardian, and roundups from Film Comment and The British Film Institute's Sight & Sound. Venice also had a notable year, with new films by Alfonso Cuaron, Joel and Ethan Coen, Mike Leigh, Luca Guadagninos, Paul Greengrass, Jacques Audiard, Brady Corbet, Julian Schnabel, and the historic premier of a recently completed late film from the legendary American director, "'The Other Side of the Wind': Lost Orson Welles Epic is A Hurricane of Anger and Wit". Questions of inclusion and representation have been dominant in recent years in relation to festival programming and the awards process. One of the most high profile approaches to these concerns was seen in Cannes' Cate Blanchett-led jury, which included a cross race, culture, and gender assembly of notable actors, directors and artists. With such names as Chang Chen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Khadja Nin, Denis Villeneuve, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Ava DuVernay, and Robert Guédiguia, among their numbers. The jury's realization of Cannes mission to represent quality work, regardless of it's origin was elucidated by its president, "Cate Blanchett States that Change Will Come to Cannes, but Not Overnight". With the awards given, further elaborating on the question of representation was made, "Jury Head Cate Blanchett on Gender, Race and Choosing the ‘Right’ Palme D’Or".

Which brings us to the bestowing of Cannes' most prestigious award on Hirokazu Kore-eda's class conscious urban tale of "A Family That Steals Together, Stays Together". It was this most recent in a decades-spanning line of contemporary familial dramas that the Japanese director took home hist first Palme d'Or for "Shoplifters". While closely adhering to the form and content of the larger body of the director's filmmography, spanning his first breakout feature to this most recent, this "Unfancied Japanese Film Took the Palme d'Or", with Blanchett adding at the awards ceremony; “The ending blew us out of the cinema”. From the Italian festival on the Adriatic, Alfonso Cuaron's best director winning, "Roma" stood out as the director's revisiting of his own Central American of decades past. In "Alfonso Cuarón's Return to Venice with a Heart-Rending Triumph", the academy award winning director has made an exquisite study of class and domestic crisis in 1970s Mexico City. In "Alfonso Cuarón’s Masterpiece of Memory", the director uses one hosehold, and the location the the street where they reside as the point of vantage onto an expansive, emotional portrait of life buffeted by violent forces and change. Working on a scale often reserved for war stories and historic period dramas, yet with the sensibility of a personal diarist, "Cuarón’s 'Roma' Surrounds us with the Mexico City of His Youth". As seen in a recent string of releases funded by the platforms of Amazon and Netflix, for all the film's lauded quality, it will be receiving the shortest of theatrical runs at Seattle's Cinerama. Also arriving from Cannes, "Border" is a naturalistically fantastic second film from director Ali Abbasi, based on the short story from "Let the Right One In" author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Like Lindqvist's dark adolescent coming of age vampire story, Abbasi's film spends much of it's time teasingly parcelling out the romantic inclinations, and consequences therein, of the meeting of two mythological outcasts. Only in its closing chapter revealing the true nature of their world and it's consequences in the modern age of man.

Having built a filmography on outrageous premises, a self-conscious deadpan style, and actors skilled in a explicitly cryptic form of straight-faced absurdity, it seemed almost inevitable that Yorgos Lanthimos would work his way to period drama. He arrives fully formed in the genre with “The Favorite”. The newest in a filmography of "Polarizing Visions" from the Greek director, this is a venomous and often hilarious exercise, made that much more disorienting by the distended, off-kilter wide angle cinematography of Robbie Ryan. While, "Olivia Colman is Priceless in Yorgos Lanthimos Punk Historic Romp", it is the conflict between Emma Stone's Abigail Masham and Rachel Weisz' Sarah Churchill on which the film hinges. Weisz plays the Queen Anne's court favorite and intimate, Lady Sarah The Dutchess of Marlborough, deploying every sly and subversive trick to keep the monarch codependent and receptive to the raising of taxes for the ongoing French War. A rivalry arises between the two women of historic proportions with the arrival and influence of Marlborough's cousin, and it is in this that Lanthimos finds his most fertile and scabrous material. Upping his technical form and content, Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" is a sensuously shot and musically scored mystery, taken from a Haruki Murakami short story centering around the (sometimes hallucinatory) fixations of an obsessive love. Where it differs is that its psychological drama is set in the cultural fallout of modern consumerist Korea, with bold diversions into the pastoral and surreal, this visually gripping observation on, "Male Rage Blazes a Chilling Trail on the Korean Border". While desire, both physically ravenous and more romantically sinuous, is the defining theme of Chang-dong's film, it can't be said that "Love Ignites a Divided World". "Burning" foregrounds the uneasy violence that is seen glimpsed through the Murakami, leaving it's central mystery untouched while filling in the larger picture with the fine details of it's protagonists interpersonal and sexual relations, and the class divisions that separate them.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Daughters "You Won't Get What You Want" Tour: Nov 4 - 18 | Uniform "The Long Walk" Tour with The Body and Author & Punisher: Nov 8 - Dec 5

The months of November and December arrive, and with them, the most culturally desolate stretch of the year. Thankfully, Seattle's paramount metal, hardcore and punk venue, The Highline have kept their calendar vital through the holiday season. Even with the eminent consequence of their host building's purchase by a Seattle "lifestyle brand", the venue continues their strong programming into the new year. The second week of November sees a night of post-harcore band Daughters perform their jagged, dynamic take on metal, industrial, and postpunk informed rock. Returning after a 8 year hiatus between albums, they're back with a heavier hitting and more genre elusive collection of tracks that propel them into the hybrid rock contenders of the year. A blistering live show, scaling heights of dynamic power and propulsive hard hitting industrial rhythms is almost guaranteed. If their "You Won't Get What You Want" on their new home of Mike Patton's Ipecac label is any indication, this is likely to be a memorable night for all those into the vituperative, abusive frisson of the heaviest nature. The following month sees the venue host showcases of artists from the always quality 20 Buck Spin, Flenser, Relapse, and Profound Lore labels. These two respective nights spanning post-harcore, black metal, sludge and doom from Fister, Ulthar, Hissing, Heiress, and Ilsa, are a welcome injection of music on the edge, in an otherwise uneventful season. Some of these same bands returning from their last occasion here in during this past summer's notable assembly of progressive black metal, doom and hardcore for the week of Northwest Terror Fest. The festival showcasing sounds from the heavier end of the 21st Century rock and noise music, particularly those heard issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. 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". These multitudinous offshoots encompassing everything from the tangents of psychedelic rock, atmospheres lifted from shoegaze, industrial drumming, electronic textures, and pure experimental noise.

The latter is the case the first week of December, when Chop Suey hosts an equally heavy-hitting night on the razor sharp brink of harcore, postpunk, noise and industrial. Epitomizing the sound of the label Sacred Bones, and their diverse roster of artists spanning indie rock, noise, electronic, neo-folk, and industrial, Uniform return on tour with this year's, "The Long Walk". The furious soundscape of their third album (outside of a set of collaborations with The Body), runs the gamut of a dissonant molasses crawl, passages of substantial lurching weight, and bludgeoning epileptic hysteria. Fitting then that The Quietus' "Killing It In America: An Interview With Uniform", touches on the American genre author, and that this spastic, guttural album is inspired by a dystopic, authoritarian short story by Stephen King. While the New York trio represent for an aspect of the sounds issuing from their Brooklyn based label, founders Caleb Braaten and Taylor Brode of Sacred Bones told their complete story for Red Bull Music Academy this past year. On the eve of Sacred Bones' 10th Anniverary showcase for the New York event, the label's programmers run the gamut of their roster, encompassing; Pharmakon, Zola Jesus, Jenny Hval, The Soft Moon, Marissa Nadler, Föllakzoid, Jim Jarmusch's SQÜRL and collaborations with Jozef Van Wissem, Moon Duo, Blanck Mass, and the music of American cinema mavericks, John Carpenter and David Lynch. As an entrance into their substantive discography, there is probably no better point of access than Billboard's, "Sacred Bones Turns 10: Caleb Braaten Breaks Down Five Key Releases from Zola Jesus, John Carpenter, and More".

Outside of shared label mates Liturgy, there are few acts that fully embody the term experimental metal, quite to the extent of The Body. Through a small abundance of solo and collaborative albums both with Uniform, and blistering noise-thrash of Full of Hell, and their recent "Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light", The Body have carved out a corpus of sounds at the vanguard of the genre's evolution. The Quietus' "Prepare For The Worst: Facing The Apocalypse With The Body" describes the doom-full trajectory that has led to this year's, "I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer". Even further out on the precipice of genre inspecificity, mechanical engineer and artist Tristan Shone's project under the name Author & Punisher, utilizes primarily custom fabricated machines, midi controlling devices and custom monitor speakers to manifest an explicitly 21st century industrial noise. Recently signed to Relapse, Noisey parallels his "Beastland" as an act of "Creating Metal in His Own Twisted Image". In performance, Shone's interaction with the devices draw heavily on aspects of industrial automation, robotics, mechanical tools and human interface, "focusing on the eroticism of the interaction with machine". The constructs and his engagement with their mechanical forms find points of reference in the work of early industrial culture mavens, Survival Research Laboratories. As well as drawing inspiration from the Dystopian Modernity that describes J.G. Ballard's work, and its occupations with "eros, thanatos, mass media and emergent technologies", particularly in relation to how "J.G. Ballard Foresaw Our Strange Present".

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Claudio Simonetti's Goblin perform "Suspiria" Tour: Oct 28 - Nov 25 | Clan of Xymox "Days of Black" West Coast Tour: Oct 31 - Nov 14

The month of November sees a set of influential underground bands on tour across the US, spanning the genres of theatrical progressive rock and gothic wave. Perfect musical accompaniment for the season, yet both of these bands are now in formations and touring as fragmented, disunited iterations of the groups they once were. Of the duo, Goblin are the farthest removed from their inception, being that the band was initially formed in 1972 and saw their successful period span the late 1970s to earliest 80s. Their status as one of the more peculiar of all the progressive rock bands of their decade, came with their rise to greater prominence within Giallo circles in the late 70s with a string of scores to Dario Argento's now classic "Profondo Rosso", "Tenebrae", and "Suspiria". The Italian progressive rock legends made a number of stateside appearances since their reactivation in 2005, and have intermittently toured in fragmented and recombinant lineups in the following decade. Of these iterations, the lineup containing three of the original members, excluding keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, were on tour throughout the fall of last year. The timing of which coincided with the discovery of a uncut print of "Suspiria", which was subsequently restored and screened in a repertory theatrical run. Returning to the United States this month, Simonetti leads a set of musicians from his Daemonia band as his possessively named Claudio Simonetti's Goblin. In the wake of Luca Guadagnino's contemporary remake of the Dario Argento classic, their touring performance of "Suspiria"'s score began at Baltimore's Days of Darkness festival, with west coast dates to follow, including Seattle's El Corazon.

Also returning in a second iteration, and nearly as circuitous in their reformation and fragmentation, the seminal lineup of the Dutch minimal synth wave duo Xymox originally formed as a project of Ronny Moorings and Anka Wolbert in Nijmegen, Netherlands in 1981. The duo produced a single self released mini-album, "Subsequent Pleasures", following a move to Amsterdam in 1983. Having secured a performance in Paris in the wake of the album's positive reception, the lineup enlisted keyboardist and vocalist Pieter Nooten, and second touring guitarist Frank Weyzig. In the following year, this central trio of Moorings, Wolbert and Nooten would become Clan of Xymox for their signing to Ivo Watts-Russell's influential British postpunk label, 4AD. After a chance meeting with Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance at a concert in Nijmegen, the British duo brough Xymox on as their support for a tour of the United Kingdom. The resulting attention produced a commission for a demo by Watts-Russell, and subsequent signing to their shared label, which released Clan of Xymox eponymous album in 1985. Working from the demos, the label's inhouse production team of Watts-Russell and Turner looked to accentuate the unique topography of their sound, positioned between the gothic guitar pop of The Cure, and the synth-driven electronic dance wave of New Order. Refined by Watts-Russell, Jon Turner, and John Fryer's guidance at Blackwing Studios, the sui generis qualities of their sound can be heard across the eight tracks of "Clan of Xymox". Distinguished amidst the abundance of wave, postpunk and gothic at the time by it's complex meeting of acoustic, electric and electronic arrangements, naive sometimes broken English, and a stylistic assertion of the member's bohemian European origins. Their sound was unambiguous to the extent that Wolbert's "Seventh Time" was picked up by the greatest of the underground British radio tastemakers of the time, John Peel.

This led to the band recording two Peel Sessions at the BBC, and a greater focus of resources and time given by their parent label for the sophomore album, "Medusa". An elegant, haunting album of instrumental passages, propulsive synth wave songs, and gothic rock crescendos, "Medusa" would prove to be the apogee of the music Clan of Xymox would produce as a trio. On the following tours across Europe and a first in the United States, inner tensions as to the music's focus and Nooten and Wolbert's respective roles began to force its central trio in opposing directions. This culminated in Xymox leaving 4AD, following a signing to Polydor and the release of 1989's more expressly synthpop influenced "Twist of Shadows", which saw Wolbert and Nooten's contribution increasingly marginalized. From this point forward, Xymox and it's later reformatting as Clan of Xymox, would solely be the project of Ronny Moorings. He has since found new listeners in a second generation of gothic and post-wave audiences across Europe, and massive success at gothic culture events like Wave-Gotik-Treffen festival in his current home of Leipzig, Germany. Signing to domestic gothic label Metropolis, this second iteration of Clan of Xymox has made a number of returns to North America since their formation, with significantly greater frequency than the original trio. Making this year's tour following the release of their "Days of Black" album, an occasion for those who missed such opportunities three decades past.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Luca Guadagnino's "Suspiria" at SIFF Cinema: Oct 26 - Nov 29

Following directly on the heels of the monthlong seasonal programming at The Grand Illusion Cinema and Northwest Film Forum, Luca Guadagnino's adaptation of Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi's "Suspiria" arrives in theaters. Partially inspired by Thomas De Quincey's psychological fantasy, "Sighs from the Depths", the Argento original is assertively of it's era, born from the period of Giallo Cinema spanning the mid-1960s to early 80s. Just last year, The Chicago Cinema Society and their discovery of a uncut 35mm print of Argento’s “Suspiria” that had sat in a storage room of a derelict theater since it was last screened in 1978, produced the material from which a new restoration was cut and released, thanks to Synapse Films. Concurrent with the screening of this new restoration, the Northwest Film Forum also programmed a finely-tuned monthlong series of "The Italian Masters of Shock and Gore", with a selection of Yellow Cinema gems, aptly titled, "Terrore Giallo!". An essential component to the genre are its soundtracks, and of these, few are as uniquely wed to their films as the work of Goblin and Dario Argento. A newfound fascination for the memorable scores created for much Giallo has been fueled by the burgeoning reissue revival. Mining decades of subterranean soundtracks, musique concrete, neofolk, jazz and experimental work that have adorned much of the 20th Century's cult cinema. These rich veins continue to be unearthed by reissue institutions like, Death Waltz, Mondo, and WaxWork, in new editions often corresponding with restorations of their source films issued on quality archival imprints like Arrow Films, Scream Factory, and Powerhouse Films Indicator series.

It is in it's fetishistic eye for texture, surfaces, sounds, form, bodies, buildings, and elemental forces that Luca Guadagnino's adaptation is most similar to the Giallo original. It is maybe more fair to not refer to it as a remake, as it commonly has been, as Guadagnino's film is more concretely set in the waking world, than in the oneric, phantasmagorical theater of the Argento. What little it shares with the original film is in themes assimilated from both "Suspiria", and it's follow-up, 1980's "Inferno", and an aesthete's obsessive fixation on the sensory. Anyone familiar with the director's breakout queer period romance of 2017, "Call Me By Your Name", can attest to his artistry and the sumptuous, corporeal, physical attributes of, "Luca Guadagnino's Cinema of Desire". Among the array of sensory craft on display in the film, it's soundtrack offers a almost baroque reinforcement of the Italian coastline's rapturous beauty. This same locus of attentions and resources are dedicated manifesting form and detail from the subconscious depths Argento and Nicolodi's macabre, psychedelic dream-world. This is both apparent in the film's sound design as well as the prominent role Radiohead's Thom Yorke is given in his score for the film. An audiovisual banquet, it also watches as a showcase for the cinematography of Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, known for his award winning collaborations with Thai arthouse auteur, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Yet, like the mildly feverish fantasia of "A Boy’s Own Desire in ‘Call Me by Your Name’", passions of mind and heart bear influence over the following tumult, sorcery, and inner and outer conflicts of "Suspiria". By setting his adaptation in a concretely placed sociopolitical setting, and a witchily uncanny eye for references within modern dance, Guadagnino's film offers a very different, and deeply melancholic, point of entry into the nightmare of The Three Mothers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"Losers, Loners, Outcasts & Outlaws: An Original Series of the Early Works of Jim Jarmusch" at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Nov 2 - 21

What will likely prove to be the Northwest repertory cinema event of the year begins the first week of November with The Grand Illusion Cinema's original Losers, Loners, Outcasts & Outlaws: The Early Works of Jim Jarmusch series. Much in the way of the independent theater's 2016 Action, Anarchy & Audacity: A Seijun Suzuki Retrospective and Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien of 2015, this is a rare theatrical opportunity to see an assembly of work by what the New York Times called, "The Last of the American Indies". Not a stretch in terminology, as "After 40 Years in Cinema, Jim Jarmusch Remains the Quintessential Leftfield Auteur", who's cinema began as a student of NYU, engrossed with the counter cultural environment of New York City's late 1970's No Wave scene. This pressure cooker of influences, edgy self reinvention, and a vital DIY culture created the setting (and supplied much of the cast) for the director's first feature. Jarmusch utilized the resources of the university to transform his final project, a working short film, into he feature length "Permanent Vacation", an 80-minute preamble about drifting set in and around Tribeca and the East Village. This early work of No Wave Cinema now watches as much a historic document of the era and it's setting as the documentaries on the time, like that of Céline Danhier's "Blank City". As detailed in Senses of Cinema Great Directors profile, a personal cinema was already proposed in this first feature. Much in the way of his German contemporary Wim Wenders, Jarmusch has built a cinematic world on the edge of popular society. From the vantage of these corners of the world, he observes the pursuit of the curious through the travels and ruminations of outsiders, eccentric wayfarers, and poets. In his four decade-long global cinematic journeying, he would expand on "Permanent Vacation"'s template to embrace ensemble works, romantic comedies, and genre film, yet remain true to this consistent set of core concerns. In his working process, he also shared much with another senior contemporary, John Cassavetes. Like the quintessential New York director of a decade before, in his early films Jarmusch adopted an actor-oriented approach to scenario. The characters would develop first, often with a specific actor envisioned for the role, to which Jarmusch credits the genesis of the details of “the plot kind of suggest itself around the character”.

From the DIY success of his first feature, he developed his 30 minute short film into "Stranger Than Paradise", having received recognition and praise for this first work by Wim Wenders himself, who would donate 40 minutes of extraneous film stock for the film's completion. This second feature solidified Jarmusch’s trademark style; minimal sets and long, uninterrupted takes of it's outsider protagonists traversing depopulated and fringe landscapes, overflowing in dialog centered on wry and subtle observations on life, circumstance and love. Occasional intersections of characters and concerns punctuate the low-relief dramatic high points of his storytelling, often with a quietly humanist, comedic flair. At the time of its release, Jarmusch described his methodology and approach to structure as such; "Rather than finding a story that I want to tell and then adding the details, I collect the details and then try to construct a puzzle of story. I have a theme and a kind of mood and the characters, but not a plotline that runs straight through." He would expand this methodology with his next film, and in doing so find an underground hit in 1986's "Down By Law". Described by the filmmaker as a “neo-beat-noir-comedy”, it features musicians and fixtures of the downtown New York scene, John Lurie and Tom Waits, alongside the Italian comedic actor Roberto Benigni. As three men who escape from a prison, who rather than freedom, discover themselves lost in the surrounding dense Louisiana swamplands. The setting and tone of the film cemented by the substance of another of the benefits of Wim Wender's patronage, the work of the German director's longtime cinematographer, Robby Müller.

"Stranger Than Paradise" won the Camera d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and was heralded by critics domestically and abroad as a watershed film in American independent cinema. Alongside the Coen Brothers' 1983 debut, "Blood Simple", Gus Van Sant's 1986 "Mala Noche", Susan Seidelman's Cannes-competing "Smithereens" of 1982, David Lynch's 1986 "Blue Velvet" (though produced by Dino De Laurentiis is still independent from studio funding), and Spike Lee's "She’s Gotta Have It" of the same year, Jarmusch's trio of early 1980's productions proved that the American indie could be a viable audience-drawing commodity. These niche films tonally and thematically nestled alongside a set of European contemporaries, yet expressed their own sense of a life on the margins of America's then-dominant concerns. The view gained on the society of their setting runs parallel, yet outside the prevailing social norms of the time. Jarmusch asserted a quietly countercultural posture by expressing the validity of the lives lived in his fascination with persons and communities on the margins of 1980s Reagan-era America. In 1989's "Mystery Train" he would continue this exploration of America through the eyes of outsiders, with his most structurally ambitious film to date. An anthology film comprising three vignettes that all intersect around a hotel on the industrial fringes of Memphis Tennessee, it features an eccentric cast on international characters who have descended on the city in their various travels from across the globe. This ensemble cast comprises Steve Buscemi from America, Nicoletta Braschi from Italy, musician Joe Strummer from England, and a young Japanese couple played by Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase, who all arrive at the central setting overseen by the hotel's night clerk, portrayed by Rock n' Roll legend, Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Set to the R&B of Otis Redding, early Rock n' Roll of Roy Orbison, American blues of Junior Parker, and a moody contemporary jazz score by John Lurie, this was the first of the Jarmusch's films to place music in a more assertively forward role. Many notable meetings of sound and image in the course of the director's filmography were to follow. With scores composed for 1991's "Night on Earth" by regular collaborator Tom Waits, and Neil Young supplying a set of improvisations for guitar, piano and organ to accompany 1995's neo-western "Dead Man". It was in this film that Jarmusch's late career approach to editing, cinematography, and duration would also make itself felt. As Senses of Cinema have parsed in their review of "Filmmaker, Musician and Poet: Jim Jarmusch: Music, Words and Noise",  the form of this variation on the western was structured around the flowing improvisational work of Neil Young's sonic contribution into "a slow, hypnotic rhythm, which makes a viewing of the film into something akin to a spiritual meditation". It's setting also marked the first non-contemporary film for the director, as well as the first to explore abstracted metaphysical themes. The genesis of this American original is mapped in the three part The Guardian interviews at the BFI: Jim Jarmusch, traversing the path embarked on with his first realization that "not all films had giant crab monsters in them" at age 16, to studying literature at Columbia in New York, following a brief stint in Paris and his personal encounter with the Cinemathèque and international cinema. The earliest riches of this decades-spanning storytelling journey have been only recently disentangled from distribution licensing with Samuel Goldwyn, Island, and the defunct Orion, Fine Line, and Miramax Pictures. Now assembled together by Janus Films, through rereleases by The Criterion Collection, audiences of his late-period masterpieces can once again marvel at "How the Film World's Maverick Stayed True to His Roots".

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

All Monsters Attack at The Grand Illusion Cinema: Oct 11 - 31 | Shock & Awe: Reagan-Era Horror at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 3 - Nov 3

There isn't enough in the way of All Hallows' Eve theme programming and revival series in the local cinema. Which is a shame as this is truly the season for genre film and its frights, surrealism, and disorienting, crepuscular atmospheres. Thankfully, every year Scarecrow Video steps up with their October screening room calendar and curated Halloween selection of domestic and international horror, sci-fi and genre movies. This year, like previous, their Psychotronic Challenge returns for it's third 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 (regardless of genre, era or style) 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 in the depths of their archive. With nearly 130,000 films on offer, there is no singular online streaming resource that 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. Last year 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.

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. This year's installment features the  kind of core genre gems that audiences have come to expect, straight from the horror golden age of the late 70s through early 90s, alongside a small selection of 1930's studio masterworks. This year's set of offerings include Dominique Rocher's valiant attempt at breathing new life into the zombie genre, "The Night Eats the World", Kathryn Bigelow's late-80s cult favorite western/vampire genre mashup "Near Dark", and Antonia Bird's black humor cannibalism western "Ravenous". Both horror westerns additionally notable for their soundtracks by Tangerine Dream and Michael Nyman respectively. The first film adaptation of the Richard Connell story of the same name, and easily the best of them is the pre-code 1932 effort by Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Their realization of "The Most Dangerous Game" would also be a early intersection of Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper, acting a producers. Astoundingly, only a year later the director/producer team would complete and release one of the all-time classic adventure creature features in the 1933 Schoedsack/Cooper "King Kong". In truth the production of both films was concurrent, as the nocturnal jungle sequences of "The Most Dangerous Game" were shot on the Kong set and the former's cast includes both "King Kong" leads, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. Freshly restored and rereleased thanks to The Criterion Collection, Scarecrow Video will be presenting a members-only All Monsters Attack screening of “Sisters”, Brian De Palma's 1973 psychodrama exploring similar themes of multiplicity and psychological doubles as his cult hit of a decade later, "Body Double".

Rounding out the series is the postmodern fare of Drew Goddard's Joss Whedon-funded "The Cabin in the Woods", and a Halloween double feature including an often overlooked, (and of rare quality) production by Roger Corman. An adaptation of the novel by the same name by Brian Aldiss, author of 1969's "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" which later garnered the imagination of Stanley Kubrick, returning after a 18 year hiatus "Frankenstein Unbound" would be Corman's final directorial effort. Starring John Hurt, Raul Julia, and Bridget Fonda, the cast alone is an indicator of the greater-than-usual legitimacy of the Corman project and it's circuitous conception of the classic Mary Shelley novel. Presented by the Sprocket Society, on the 200th Anniversary of the release of Shelly's "Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus", the night will also screen a as-yet disclosed "secret" second feature. This past June's issue of Sight & Sound and their "The Other Side of 80s America" cover feature focused on the parallel faced of the decade's cinema 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 scratched at the darkness on the edge of mainstream society. Anne Billson's supporting article "A Nightmare on Main Street" plumbs the deeper realms of the decade's more assertively subversive low-to-medium budget genre fare, these often “unburdened by notions of good taste". Behind the facade of 80s corporate cinema, upstart movies like Brian Yuzna’s "Society", James M. Muro’s "Street Trash", Abel Ferrara's "Ms. 45", Jack Sholder's "The Hidden", William Lustig's "Maniac Cop", John Carpenter's "They Live", Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead", Steve De Jarnatt's "Miracle Mile", and Larry Cohen, in films such as "Q: The Winged Serpent" and "The Stuff", were making horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies that exposed the toxic underbelly of Reaganomics America.

Seemingly taking a cue from the above Nick Pinkerton feature for the BFI, Northwest Film Forum have assembled a monthlong Wednesday night Shock & Awe: Horror During the Reagan Years series. A gratuitous assembly of subversive political allegory, class conflict, gore and pure mania, Brian Yuzna's "Society" is probably best representative of the series' themes. Also on offer are Greydon Clark's "Wacko" parody of 1980's slasher franchises, and Peter Medak's haunted house classic starring George C. Scott. Of regional interest, "The Changeling" is set in and around the Pacific Northwest, as Scott's protagonist has relocated to the University of Washington for a professorship after the tragic death of his family. Seeking a secluded location to write music and find isolation in his studies, he instead encounters one of the more memorable supernatural houses of the 80s. And no overview of horror of the decade would be complete without the work of both John Carpenter, and the grandfather of zombie films George A. Romero's later entries in his "Dead" franchise. At the height of the Cold War, it's no wonder we find the protagonists of Romero's "Day of the Dead" holding out against the undead hordes in a ICBM silo, as the world rages outside. Following the success of one of the earliest entries in the American slasher genre with "Halloween", and before the career defining "Escape from New York", Carpenter's numerous contributions to 80s genre cinema are represented in the series with "The Fog". While visiting Stonehenge during the UK promotion of "Assault on Precinct 13", Carpenter was inspired to make a ghostly revenge film drawing equally from the horror comics of the 1950s by publishers like EC, and their notorious "Tales from the Crypt", as well as a 1958 British creature thriller titled, "The Trollenberg Terror". Also central to any A-list assembly of the decade's best horror, Sam Raimi's first two "Evil Dead" films are still a visceral, preposterous, and hysterical symphony of low budget innovation. Building a whole career for television and cinema from the boundless invention of these two films, Sam Raimi's reworking of his first "The Evil Dead" into it's even more boundless second generation, "Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn", is the spastic springboard from which this influential American director launched his career.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Orcas Island Film Festival: Oct 4 - 8 | Seattle Polish Film Festival at SIFF Cinema: Oct 19 - 28 | Night Heat: The 41st Film Noir Series at Seattle Art Museum: Sept 27 - Dec 6

A small "Deluge of Fall Film Festivals Will be Unspooling in the Seattle Area" over the course of September, October and November. Among the festivals and various series on offer, Seattle Art Museum's cinema curation deserves a mention. This past year's calendar has been filled with notable repertory and archival works, including retrospectives on two 20th century auteurs from far-flung corners of the world, Yasujiro Ozu and Ingmar Bergman. The museum's annual French and Italian cinema series are also significant, as is their long running winter Film Noir program. Now in it's fourth decade, Night Heat: The 41st Film Noir Series features such all-time classic noir directors like Raoul Walsh, Nicholas Ray, Ida Lupino, Charles Laughton and later period neo-noir by Robert Rossen and Michael Mann. This year's array of titles with an expressly nocturnal theme include, "White Heat", "Leave Her to Heaven", "Force Of Evil", "On Dangerous Ground", "Sudden Fear", "Wicked Woman", "Night of the Hunter", "Lilith" and "Heat". Two smaller but attention worthy festivals showcasing from central and eastern Europe also arrive the third and fourth week of the month. The annual contemporary German cinematic overview of Kinofest opens at SIFF Cinema the same week as this year's Seattle Polish Film Festival. Presenting both restored archival work such as Andrzej Wajda's “Man of Marble” and Polish Film School masterpiece "Ashes and Diamonds", alongside a selection of modern work including Pawel Pawlikowski's “Cold War”, and Malgorzata Szumowska's “Mug”. Agnieszka Holland's imminently curious cross-genre experiment “Spoor” will also be receiving a Seattle screening after being absent from regional programming the year of its release. Concurrent with the Seattle Art Museum's series, north of the city one of the region's most compelling cinephile events will be taking place over the first weekend in October. As an example of programming a festival of diverse yet 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 tenth 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 40-odd-film program in their 5th year 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.

Most significantly, of the films on offer from the prestigious Italian festival on the Adriatic, Alfonso Cuaron's best director winning, "Roma" stood out as the director's revisiting of his own Central American of decades past. In "Alfonso Cuarón's Return to Venice with a Heart-Rending Triumph", the academy award winning director has made an exquisite study of class and domestic crisis in 1970s Mexico City. Also straight from the French Riviera, the recipient of the most notable award on offer from Cannes, "Shoplifters" is Hirokazu Kore-eda's most recent in a decades-spanning line of contemporary familial dramas. While adhering closely to the form and content of the larger body of the director's filmmography, this "Unfancied Japanese Film Took the Palme d'Or". Another retooling of a director's formula was seen in the dialing back of the magic realist bent of her 2014 Cannes Grand Prix-winning "The Wonders". Alice Rohrwacher's "Happy as Lazzaro" is more unsentimental in its depiction of tobacco sharecroppers straining against the dealings of a tyrannous aristocrat. Geoff Andrew draws parallels with Ermanno Olmi’s "The Tree of Wooden Clogs" in the film's "Beguiling Fable of Golden, Rural Italy Trampled by Modernity". Matteo Garrone returns with a film significantly less fantastically fabulist than his last. Instead, the real world concerns of poverty and conflict in "Dogman" come in the form of a local thug who terrorizes everyone, breaking noses and intimidating the local businesses. Yet like much of the director's work, though it might well be darkly bleak, it recognizes humanity when it sees it, and doesn't reject humor in doing so, "Matteo Garrone Nitpicks Gangster Insecurities with Hilarious Flair". Two more social realist works originate from conflict-torn corners of the world in Ciro Guerra & Cristina Gallego "Birds of Passage", and Nadine Labaki's "Capernaum". Shot over the course of six months in Beirut, Labaski's Cannes Jury Prize-winning film aspires to blockbuster status all the while depicting the daily toil of life for it's young protagonist on the streets of his war ravaged country.

Historic and more measured in its study, Pawel Pawlikowski's "Cold War" is an episodic and elliptical tale of imprisonment and escape, as the film's central love affair falls to the opposing forces of state constrictions and the freedom of a foreign country. Much in the way of 2013's "Ida", Pawlikowski’s "Seductive Tale of Love in An Age of Borders", is rendered in a gorgeous monochrome cinematography that vibrantly depicts a whirlwind love between two musicians and eventual succumbing to the gravitational pull of cynicism, exhaustion and state-sponsored fear. Following on the period-perfect setting of his telling of the later life of 19th century painter Joseph William Turner, in which Mike Leigh's visual storytelling skill watched "As if the Artist Put His Brush to Each Take: ‘Mr. Turner’ Aims for Visual Accuracy", the director returns to period settings for a tale of "Grit and Brilliance in Mike Leigh’s Very British Massacre". Centered around the 1819 pro-democracy demonstration in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, "Peterloo" is Leigh's visually lush depiction of the social and political climate that led to the body of 100,000 unarmed protestors in the streets being assailed by armed troops and cavalrymen, who killed 18 and injured hundreds more. Returning to the realm of allegory and fantasy, "Border" is a naturalistically Fantastique second film from writer director Ali Abbasi, based on the short story from "Let the Right One In" author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Like Lindqvist's dark adolescent coming of age vampire story, Abbasi's film spends much of it's time teasingly parcelling out the romantic inclinations, and consequences therein, of the meeting of two mythological outcasts. And straight from the Berlin Film Festival, Aleksei German Jr.'s evocation of the life and times of author Sergei Dovlatov is not a conventional portrait, and even less a biodrama, but an imaginatively realistic recreation of a now-gone era of Russian history. So it is now in the post-Soviet century that "Dovlatov"’s status as one of Russia’s most widely read and cherished modern authors has arrived as the posthumous culmination of nearly a lifetime of rejection and tribulation. Perfect then that the son of Aleksei German, would take a left turn after his science fiction allegorical observation on future-Russia, to deliver this decade in the making observation on the century of his father.