Sunday, March 1, 2009

New films by Carlos Reygadas, Steve McQueen, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
and Jia Zhang-Ke at NWFF : Mar 27 - May 8

Northwest Film Forum once again brings the cinema to Seattle that none other than the SIFF
festival will touch. Ironically, the cinema we're talking about here is the Cannes Jury Prize
winner from 2007 (in the form of the Reygadas), the newest from Japanese Horror maestro
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the 2008 Cannes award winner for 'Camera d'Or' (in the form of the Mc
Queen) and the newest from the youngest winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film
Festival (that would be Jia Zhang-Ke). Considering this, you see the kind of quality and
globally considered film they've gotten their hands on for the spring schedule! Again, this
is all work of a progressive nature that outside of the festival circuit, we generally wouldn't
have a opportunity to see. All of which has yet to be released domestically on DVD. That
said, onto the films!:

Link to Northwest Film Forum's "Silent Light" site

From the very (six minute, dialog-less) opening shot, you know you're in for something special
with this one. Centered around the daily rituals (and marital struggle of a husband and wife) in
a family of the Mennonite community in Northern Mexico, the film is overtly religious in ways
beyond just the subject matter, but in no way set off my 'God Morality Alarm', (which is a kind
of 'miracle' of sorts in itself). It's of the sort of New Global Cinema that sets personal drama to
massive, startlingly beautiful landscapes and makes a statement about society/nature/man/
existence delivered as more than just a well-put-together aesthetic gesture. This Cannes Jury
Prize winner from 2007 weighs in pretty heavily on the 'miraculous' with it's reference to Dreyer's
"Ordet" at the end, but is still unlike any other experience to be had in the cinema this year.

Link to Northwest Film Forum's "Tokyo Sonata" site

Departing from the psychological horror that he's built his filmography on, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
delivers a strange, genre-defying meditation on urban alienation and the disintegrating family
in modern Japan. Mixing in some gestures almost direct from the narrative vocabulary of novelist
Haruki Murakami, along with his own typical idiosyncrasies (dilapidated architecture, growing
psychic and physical distances between people), he manages to produce his most mature,
complex and 'adult' work to date.

Link to Northwest Film Forum's "Hunger" site

Visual artist Steve McQueen addresses the IRA hunger strikes at Northern Ireland Prison
in 1981, made that much more notable by the death of Bobby Sands. Reports from Cannes
suggest this is a Sokurov-style minimalist tale told from an unflinching perspective and
delivered (no big surprise considering the director's history) with a strong eye for space,
texture and light. Won the Camera d'Or (best first feature) at Cannes.

Link to Northwest Film Forum's "24 City" site

Called 'China's greatest living filmmaker' by the New York Times, Jia Zhang-Ke is back
with more cinematic investigations of contemporary China's split-personality rift between
their People's Republic history and the fast encroaching boom of Global Capitalism. A
precarious rift that threatens to allow much of China's populace to fall between the massive
cracks developing in the divide between newly forming economic classes. Choosing to mix
documentary with dramatic re-creation the film is grounded by interviews with real factory
workers and performances by three of the country’s most recognized actors in independent
cinema (Joan Chen, Lu Liping, Zhao Tao). It's fantastic that Jia has been making these films
going on a nearly 15 years now, while not only garnering massive recognition in the global
festival circuit, but also that he has yet to face imprisonment or being banned altogether from
making cinema (as some of his contemporaries have; Lou Ye and "Summer Palace" comes to
mind), contributes to not only the anomalous, but 'important' nature of his work: somehow
riding the balance between social criticism and depicting the beauty, complexity and richness
of Chinese life and what's currently at risk in their modern gamble.