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.