Sunday, November 23, 2008

Venice Film Festival + Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea"

All at once, a bunch of modern greats suddenly have new films that have just premiered at various fests
in Europe. Of note, the Venice Film Festival.

Which included the western premier of Hayao Miyazaki's newest along with new work by Abbas Kiarostami,
Haile Germina, Kathryn Bigelow, Mamoru Oshii, Aleksei German, Werner Schroeter, Claire Denis, and Yu
Lik-Wai. A couple of these have shown in NYC and at the Toronto Fest over the fall, but otherwise haven't
seen stateside release/distribution yet. Hopefully they'll appear at Scarecrow Video in the coming months:

Link to the Venice Film Festival site

Hayao Miyazaki "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" - Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli deliver what looks again
to be another piece of pretty much incomparable animated storytelling. This one involving a Sea
Demon, the Goddess of the Sea and a race of mutant fish that are designed to replace humanity as
Earth's caretakers... that is, until one befriends a young boy and begins to become human her(it)self.
Stateside release is due when? Judging from past delays in Disney's distribution of his films, we may
have to wait upwards of a year:

Link to Studio Ghibli "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea"site

Mamoru Oshii "The Sky Crawlers" - Another animated feature by one of Japan's greats. Oshii is back in
familiar territory with this tale of endless war, dark corporate ambitions to shape society and a race of
immortal youth genetically bred to fight endless (aerial) battles as the backdrop for consumer society,
in this futuristic Orwellian vision:

Link to official "The Sky Crawlers" site

Aleksei German "Paper Soldier" - Won the Silver Lion for Best Director in this period piece depiction of a
Georgian medical officer preparing the first manned travel into space. Apparently, not only exceptional
for its period recreations, but also in its acting, cinematography and ability to convey a pivotal moment
in World History as one distinctly Russian in its richness and depiction of personal sacrifice:

Link to Film.RU "Paper Soldier" site

Werner Schroeter "This Night" - An unnamed man returns to a city under siege to find a woman he
left behind - taking place over the course of one night, the film is said to be a brutal depiction of
desperation told with a mind-bending (nightmarish) surrealistic bent, when his venture brings him
deeper and deeper into the heart of the night and the labyrinth of the city's underbelly:

Link to official "Nuit De Chien/This Night" site

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Cinema from Spain at NWFF : Nov 14 - 20

Short festival of new cinema from Spain screening at the Northwest Film Forum in the month of November.
Adventurous (by degrees, the Serra being the most unclassifiable and genre defying) and critically lauded
(in particular by FIPRESCI in the case of "Yo/Me" and Film Comment for "In the City of Sylvia") narrative
drama from Félix Viscarret, José Luis Guerin, Albert Serra and Rafa Cortés along with relatively new names;
Iciar Bollain, Carles Bosch, Gracia Querejeta, and Jaime Rosales. Check the Northwest Film Forum for
screening times and schedule:

Link to NWFF 'Festival of New Cinema from Spain' site

From the Northwest Film Forum:

"José Luis Guerín nimbly brings moviemaking and moviegoing back to some of their lovely early pleasures
in his masterful In the City of Sylvia. He is so successful at modernizing and rarefing these elements that it
forces one to reconsider the dialogue and special effects in other films as clutter. In the City of Sylvia is an
everyday, yet sublime, vision, one so exquisite you’d think that everything Guerín looks at—the city of
Strasbourg, its flaneurs and shops, even the sun that shines on it-was created for the loving gaze of his
camera. The story also evokes the most blessed moments of a New Wave work like Agnès Varda’s Cleo from
5 to 7. During a few languid summer days, a young foreigner spends his afternoons sketching in an outdoor
café. He is looking for a woman named Sylvia who he’d met years before in the same city. He is also sketching
the many attractive young women he sees everywhere, any one of whom could be her. Then one afternoon,
thinking he’s actually seen her, he sets off through the city to confront his memory. Guerín’s graceful work
eloquently captures the feeling of being in love with love, and the youthful sense of a world filled with an
almost limitless sensuality.

Link to official "In the City of Sylvia" site

From the Northwest Film Forum:

"Named “Revelation of the Year” by FIPRESCI, the international association of film critics at Cannes 2007,
"Me" is the story of a man who, suspecting he is to be accused of something he hasn’t done, sets out to
prove an innocence that nobody yet questions. Every attempt to correct this mistake leads him closer to
the real problem: himself. Set on Majorca island, the atmosphere is supported by strange characters,
suspicious looks, and a surreally nightmarish climate. They begin to build into an unsettling and
meticulously crafted drama. Rafa Cortés’ burgeoning talent is undeniable, creating a palpable
atmosphere with the help of Alex Brendemühl’s (who co-wrote the film) brilliant performance."

Link to official "Me" film site

Tomas Alfredson's new film "Let the Right One In" at Landmark Theatres

I'm promoting a Teen Romance Vampire Movie from Sweden? You know if that's
happening, there's a good reason for it. In this case, a handful of reasons. My thoughts
on why its deserving of a larger audience are namely that for once, Vampirism isn't over-
glamorized in a X-men kind of comic book outsider-superhero nonsense way and more
significantly, that the film doesn't feel any need to impose a moral interpretation (of the
sometimes pretty gruesome acts involved with said Vampirism) on the audience. You are
given time to develop a relationship with the characters and make your own judgments
(something not seem in much genre film, especially 'horror') and that society (as
represented in the film by the comical depiction of the Swedish), isn't there as a 'moral
enforcer' within the narrative to show you, the audience, how to consider these characters,
their actions and ultimately the choices they make. Like any good cinema for adults, this
film knows those considerations should be left to you. Lastly, it should be mentioned
that its simply and precisely shot, with very subdued effects and restrained soundtrack
punctuation, all of which compliment the light-handed narrative delivery.
Well done, Tomas Alfredson.

And yes, "Let the Right One In" is indeed that very same film that showed at SIFF
this past summer - and other than a few positive reviews from those who attended,
it received just about nil in the way of recognition, much less any high-profile press.
Expect that to change in the coming months now that it has national distribution.
Especially with the inevitability of some bullsh*t american remake in the coming year
that manages to lose all the subtlety and balance of the original in its translation.
See the original in the cinema while you can:

Link to official "Let the Right One In" site

Link to Landmark Theatres screening schedule

Sunday, November 2, 2008

20 Years of Zeitgeist Films at SIFF Cinema : Nov 14 - 26

Seattle International Film Festival celebrates Zeitgeist Film's excellence over the course of their 20 years
with this selection of notable releases. Series includes such directors (and some of my personal favorites
among their work) as Guy Maddin, Jia Zhang-Ke, Nuri Bilge-Ceylon, Francois Ozon, Brothers Quay and
Derek Jarman. Check the SIFF site for schedule and screenings:

Link to SIFF Cinema '20 Years of Zeitgeist Films' site

From the SIFF site:

"We celebrate 20 years of extraordinary vision with our tribute to independent distributor Zeitgeist Films.
Founded in 1988, Zeitgeist has consistently sought out and championed films that are both innovative
and challenging—expressions of the best in world cinema. They have embraced such artists as Todd
Haynes, Francois Ozon, Olivier Assayas, and Guy Maddin in the early stages of their careers, introducing
them to American screens; and have revived the works of master filmmakers like Jacques Demy and
Derek Jarman. Happy Anniversary, Zeitgeist!"

Link to Zeitgeist Films site