Sunday, May 5, 2019

Seattle International Film Festival: May 16 - Jun 9


Seattle International Film Festival once again arrives bringing a spectrum of cinema from across the world. In working through the program, this year continues the decade long diversity dip seen in the per-capita of all things contemporary world cinema, deep genre gems, auteur, arthouse and experimental film. These were content agendas that once had prominence within SIFF, on occasion approaching the programming on offer in Toronto and New York. Those times though, are now decades in the past. That said, it's worth noting that this year's festival isn't as painfully omissive as 2011 or 2010 for that matter. We saw string of years that suggested relief from the lackluster programming described above, which waned a bit in 2012 and expressed a further positive direction in 2013. For the 2014 festival, their 40th Anniversary was celebrated with SIFF's strongest programming in almost a decade, suggesting a renewed vision for the festival. That year marked a trend away from the previously seen glut of middle ground contemporary romances and knowingly clever dramas for the sub-Sundance sect. While still lacking, both 2017 and 2018 saw a nominal return to some of the strength of seasons past. One can speculate that this middle road approach to programming, clearly expressed by the programming of the 2015 festival and 2016 after it, has been conceived to entice some imagined Northwest demographic out of their suburban hobbles and inner-city condos. With the inclusion of showcases in the outlying areas of Bellevue and Kirkland suggestive of such. One can't help but consider these factors alongside the changing economic and cultural landscape of Seattle and what may be SIFF's bid at strengthening ties with it all.

This year sees that same disheartening trend continue, with many of the most notable, and award-winning films from Rotterdam, Locarno, and Berlin, overlooked. We can observe, year in and year out, that Seattle continues to go astray of the high standard of the international festival circuit, embodied by the programming seen in New York, Cannes, Toronto, Vienna, and Venice. Seattle International Film Festival in the past has existed as a focal point of visionary cinema curatorialship, with the resources, funds and legacy to be a hugely influential institution. Annually, looking to San Francisco, Portland, and Vancouver, one bears witness to these institutions programming festivals of a caliber that SIFF has seemingly un-learned. Even our neighbors in the relatively rural setting of the Orcas Island Film Festival are more incisive and discriminating in their assembly of a quality festival. Again this year, SIFF has chosen to bypass opportunities to program scores of notable films featured in culturally correspondent festivals from around the globe. Instead, we see a over-large, and under-curated selection spanning some 400+ entries, markedly devoid of the year's most significant work being screened elsewhere on the international festival circuit.

This shortfall includes (but isn't limited to) Phuttiphong Aroonpheng's unambiguous highlight “Manta Ray”, from the Rotterdam and Toronto International Film festivals, as well as two pieces of adventurous and stylistically groundbreaking Latin American cinema lauded in the pages of Film Comment and elsewhere, Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias'Cocote”, and Mariano Llinás "La Flor". In the way of politically notable work, there's the second in a series of follow-ups to the most significant holocaust documentary ever made, Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah: Four Sisters", a rarely seen and essentially lost masterpiece of African American cinema, Bill Gunn's "Personal Problems", and a ultra-contemporary satire of the Ukrainian diaspora, found in Sergey Loznitsa's "Donbass". From here the line list broadens to include new Thai cinema from Wisit Sasanatieng in "Reside", Roberto Minervini's highly anticipated "What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire?", and Chinese auteur Lou Ye's most recent detour into crime drama, "Shadow Play". Also absent are Japanese Independent and arthouse films from, Kôji Fukada in "The Man from the Sea", Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's "Senses 1 - 5", Ishii Yûya's much delayed in the west, "Tokyo Night Sky Is Always the Densest Shade of Blue", and Shinya Tsukamoto's chart-topping, “Killing”. Also missing are the most recent entries from auteurs such as Carlos Reygadas and his "Our Time", Albert Serra's "Roi Soleil", and Lav Diaz' "Season of the Devil". Not that you would know it by looking at the SIFF lineup, but the French provocateur Bruno Dumont has returned with a new entry in his “Quinquin” series, "Coincoin and the Extra-Humans".

Strangely absent are a set of mainland Chinese and Taiwanese film festival highlights from Locarno and Berlin, which include Xiaoshuai Wang's "So Long, My Son", Xu Bing's experimental "Dragonfly Eyes", Siew Hua Yeo's “A Land Imagined", and Tsai Ming-Liang's "Your Face". Japanese horror and thriller maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa returned with another unsettling and exercise "Foreboding", and the increasingly absurdist Sion Sono did as the title describes in "Tokyo Vampire Hotel”. From here this overview of the absent becomes a who's-who of international film figures, all with new and recent works, including in their numbers; Michael Koresky's "Feast of the Epiphany", Wang Bing's "Beauty Lives in Freedom", Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside's "America", Corneliu Porumboiu's "Infinite Football", Gürcan Keltek's "Meteors", Virgil Vernier's "Sophia Antipolis", Yui Kiyohara's "Our House", Renée Nader Messora & João Salaviza's "The Dead and the Others", Shûichi Okita's "Mori, the Artist's Habitat", Fatih Akin's "The Golden Glove", Shô Miyake's "And Your Bird Can Sing", Nadav Lapid's "Synonyms", François Ozon's "By the Grace of God", Agnieszka Holland's "Mr. Jones", Shengze Zhu's "Present.Perfect.", Joanna Hogg's "The Souvenir", Naomi Kawase's “Vision”, Xavier Dolan's “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan”, Paul Dano's “Wildlife”, Paolo Sorrentino's “Loro”, and Emir Baigazin's “The River“.

Yet there remain a small handful of legitimate, original, well crafted films to be found in here too. Largely culled from the Contemporary World Cinema, Archival Presentations, Alternate Cinema, Documentary Films, and Asian Crossroads sections. This year I was able to generate a little more than a dozen films of interest, curiosity or critical gravitas from the program of more than 400 titles. These run the spectrum from directors of note, archival restorations and new developing artists. As a consequence the majority of the films listed below are simply films of interest, rather than essential viewing. Making SIFF 2019 one of the least compelling programs in recent memory. Nonetheless, I continue to be enthused about their home at the SIFF Cinema Uptown and expanded screens between the recently acquired SIFF Cinema Egyptian and Film Center. Their curation for these year-round venues has exhibited the scope of SIFF, with a visionary course forward for the institution once exemplified in the short-lived Recent Raves series. Tellingly, this series was discontinued in 2015.

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Saturday, May 18
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3:30 PM -  Ying Liang  "A Family Tour"
Lincoln Square Cinemas
FAMI1819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50411


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Saturday, May 18
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6:00 PM -  Jafar Panahi  "3 Faces"
Lincoln Square
3FAC1819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50402

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Sunday, May 19
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7:30 PM - Denis Côté  "Ghost Town Anthology"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
GHOS1919

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50553

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Monday, May 20
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7:00 PM - Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier & Edward Burtynsky "Anthropocene: The Human Epoch"
AMC Pacific Place 11
ANTH2019

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50439

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Monday, May 20
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9:30 PM -  Camille Vidal-Naquet  "Sauvage"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
SAUV2019

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50735

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Wednesday, May 22
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6:30 PM -  Louis Garrel  "A Faithful Man"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
FAIT2219

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50409

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Wednesday, May 22
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9:15 PM -  Adina Pintilie  "Touch Me Not"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
TOUC2219

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50877

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Thursday, May 23
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9:30 PM -  Jennifer Kent  "The Nightingale"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
NIGH1819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50841

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Wednesday, May 29
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6:30 PM -  Stanley Nelson  "Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
MILE2919

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50646

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Wednesday, May 29
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9:00 PM - Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnnon Siriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul "Ten Years Thailand"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
TENY2919

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50785

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Thursday, May 30
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7:00 PM - Werner Herzog "Meeting Gorbachev"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
MEET3019

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50634

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Friday, May 31
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9:15 PM -  Peter Strickland  "In Fabric"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
INFA3119

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=51207

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Saturday, June 01
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9:00 PM -  Claudio Giovannesi  "Piranhas"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
PIRA0119

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50705

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Sunday, June 02
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9:00 PM - Macoto Tezuka "The Legend of the Stardust Brothers"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
LEGE0219

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50828

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Monday, June 03
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6:30 PM -  Emilio Fernandez  "Enamorada"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
ENAM0319

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50517

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Tuesday, June 04
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7:00 PM -  Olivier Assayas  "Non-Fiction"
AMC Pacific Place 11
NONF0419

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50670

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Friday, June 07
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6:30 PM - Ho Wi Ding  "Cities of Last Things"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
CITI0719

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50481

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Saturday, June 08
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6:00 PM -  Jim Jarmusch  "The Dead Don't Die"
SIFF Cinema Uptown
DEAD0608A

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=51242

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Saturday, June 08
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7:00 PM -  Alexandre O. Philippe  "MEMORY: The Origins of Alien"
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
MEMO0819

https://myaccount.siff.net/tickets/buy.aspx?fid=354&id=50636


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Mark Ernestus with Kid Hops at Kremwerk: May 18 & North American Tour: May 16 - 25



A year from the rather unprecedented affair of a west coast tour, we see the second of the two founders of Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, Rhythm & Sound and Berlin's Hard Wax and Dubplates & Mastering institutions present a night of music at Kremwerk. Their razor-sharp summit of techno's cutting edge was became known to the larger world outside of dance music circles tanks in no small way to The Wire. The March 1998 cover story given over to "The Future Sound of Berlin" introduced Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus' numerous endeavors to a wider listenership, signifying the broader utility of their particular brand of minimalist techno beyond the dancefloor. The Quietus' "The Strange and Frightening World of... Basic Channel", establishes the parameters of their early transmissions, and the mystery of their cryptic and austere aesthetic approach to the visual element and design, which only aided the impenetrable mystery of the productions. Through a near-absolute lack of engagement with any press, Ernestus and Von Oswald created a body of work divorced from the persona of any identifiable producers, a music of deep organic personality, seemingly running on freefall, pursuing it's own oblique and abstract goals. From 1993 to 1995, their Basic Channel project stomped out some of the most sublime, bass heavy, grainy, extended and minimalist excursions into minimal techno and post-house ever dedicated to wax. This mystery only recently rectified decades later with Von Oswald's extensive interview "Channeling Rhythm & Sound, Basically" in The Wire's July 2009 issue. They remain vinyl advocates, and espouse it as the ideal format for their productions; it's inherent distortion, surface noise, and analog warmth lending variance and depth as the stylus passes across the surface of their horizontally progressive technoscapes. Not content at the time with releasing their own music and opening Hard Wax to cater to the growing German scene, they then established their own mastering studio Dubplates & Mastering, set up to ensure a desired dynamic quality for the vinyl and in-house control of the releases. In short time, both becoming mainstays of the scene and ground zero for all high quality cutting and mastering of underground music throughout central Europe.

Basic Channel ceased transmissions in 1995 but were followed by a string of other German variations on the Detroit techno/Jamaican dub themes inspired by their trailblazing work. Biba Kopf's "Underground Resistors" mapping the new territory and artists populating the expanse left in the wake of Basic Channel's initial forays. Among the most notable were the releases issuing from Chain Reaction which released a tide of non-Von Oswald & Ernestus productions, and helped launch the careers of minimal techno producers such as Monolake, Scion, Vladislav Delay, Substance, Vainqueur and Thomas Köner's Porter Ricks project with Andrew Mellwig. While in the throes of Chain Reaction's productive boom, Von Oswald & Ernestus manifest their own next venture into a music more closely aligned with the source of their inspiration; Jamaican dub and reggae. Overtly paying homage to the wellspring of Caribbean music from the 1970s and early 1980s which they revered, the two also established the Basic Replay and relaunched Wackies label to reissue rare and luminary works by the likes of Keith Hudson and Wayne Jarrett. Concurrently with this reissue venture, they marked out their own modern, minimalist territory in the realms of dub and vocal reggae with the initiation of Rhythm & Sound and Burial Mix. These dub and reggae projects gave platform to some of the greatest vocalists in the history of Jamaican music; Sugar Minott, Love Joys, Chosen Brothers, Paul St. Hilaire and Cornell Campbell, all stepped up to the mic to collaborate with the German gentlemen. Ernestus and Von Oswald have since largely gone their separate ways, yet each have continued to express their love of, and debt owed to electro-acoustic improv, jazz, indigenous peoples, afro-soul and rhythm music. Von Oswald with a improvisational trio comprising himself alongside Sasu Ripatti, and Max Loderbauer, as well as a project with long-standing musical collective, Ordo Sakhna devoted to the roots music of Kyrgyzstan. Ernestus' transnational ventures have brought him into the heart of African rhythm music, as the producer and locus of the Dakar-Berlin collaborations, Jeri-Jeri and Ndagga Rhythm Force. Their pan-cultural meeting best described by Ernestus himself in his synopsis of Yermande; "Rather than submitting to the routine, discrete gradations of recording, producing and mixing, the music is tangibly permeated with deadly intent from the off. Lethally it plays a coiled, clipped, percussive venom and thumping bass against the soaring, open-throated spirituality of Mbene Seck’s singing. Six chunks of stunning, next-level mbalax, then, funky as anything."

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Northwest Terror Fest at Neumos, Barboza & The Highline: May 30 - Jun 1 | Author & Punisher, Xasthur and Wear Your Wounds at The Highline: May 26


Returning for a third installment after its successful first two years, Northwest Terror Fest arrives in Seattle the final weekend in May. Some of the most potent sounds from the heavier end of the 21st century have been heard issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. This 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 detailed in Brad Sanders' overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". Further showcased in the past half-decade of excellent curation in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus column, covering releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse.

Originating from the most far afield end of this spectrum, just days before Terrorfest mechanical engineer Tristan Shone's project under the name Author & Punisher, performs at The Highline with Xasthur and Deathwish artist, Wear Your Wounds. Recently signed to Relapse, Noisey parallels his "Beastland" album as an act of "Creating Metal in His Own Twisted Image". Shone's project utilizes primarily custom fabricated machines, midi controlling devices and custom monitor speakers to manifest an explicitly 21st century industrial noise. In performance, his interaction with the devices draws heavily on aspects of industrial automation, robotics, and human interface, "focusing on the eroticism of the interaction with machine". The constructs and Shone's 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".

A all-things-metal festival with a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days and nights host a lineup featuring no small quantity of metal issuing from this particular low-lit landscape of black and doom metal mutations. Initially launched under the opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers", Rodger's wider curatorial vision for the festival, was detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True". Hosted at Neumos, Barboza and The Highline over the course of the last weekend in May, the three night lineup encompasses everything from gloaming atmospheric ambiance and doom riffs, blistering thrash and hardcore, and heavy psych rock, dark pagan and neofolk explorations. Making for a cross-genre spectrum of metal sounds and weighty atmospheres as heard in sets from, classic 80s rockers Cirith Ungol, Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand, Acid Witch, Addaura, Vastum, Thou, Our Place Of Worship Is Silence, Panopticon, Sutekh Hexen, Vouna, Thou, and synth-horror themes from Slasher Dave.