Thursday, September 26, 2019

Orcas Island Film Festival: Oct 10 - 14 | Seattle Polish Film Festival at SIFF Cinema: Oct 10 - 20 | Seattle Kinofest at Northwest Film Forum: Oct 22 - Nov 5 | Into The Night: The 42nd Film Noir Series at Seattle Art Museum: Sept 26 - Dec 5

Like last year's deluge of film festivals over the course of the fall months, 2019 sees a small abundance arrive in town and around the region for the month of October through early November. Among the festivals and series on offer, Seattle Art Museum's cinema curation deserves a notable 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 a twin series of 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, Into the Night: The 42nd Film Noir Series features such all-time classic noir directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Samuel Fuller, Edward Dmytryk, Edgar G. Ulmer, Michael Curtiz, and more contemporary neonoir from John Boorman, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. This year's array of titles spanning the themes of deadly love, mistaken identities, men done wrong by organized crime, dystopic modernism and haunting nocturnal forays into Los Angeles. As featured in, "Murder, My Sweet", "Detour", "The Breaking Point", "Niagara", "The Wrong Man", "Lolita", "The Naked Kiss", "Point Blank", and "Mulholland Drive". Concurrent with the opening month of the Seattle Art Museum's series, the annual contemporary German cinematic overview of Kinofest opens the week following this year's Seattle Polish Film Festival. Presenting both restored archival work, these two cultural showcases look to span the decades between such landmarks as the work born of the Polish Film School, New German Cinema and contemporary movements like the Berlin School.

North of the city one of the region's most compelling cinephile events will be taking place over the second 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 6th 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, Sundance, and Toronto. Among the films on offer in Orcas, there's the hotly anticipated fascist farce of Taika Waititi’s "Jojo Rabbit". Apparently more an exercise in whimsical weird comedy than the opportunity for some biting satire of that the modern era so clearly deserves, it did nonetheless take home the top award at Toronto. Much has been written about French Left Bank director Agnès Varda in recent years, particularly with her passing this March. Fitting then, for an incomparable director and personal essayist to leave us with two of her more intimate and inviting works in the form of 2017's "Visages Villages", and her parting gift to the world, "Varda by Agnès". Bringing in a five star review from Peter Bradshaw at Cannes, Céline Sciamma’s 18th Century story of obsession "Portrait of a Lady on Fire", demonstrates a new mastery of a classical, almost Hitcockian style. Another massive film by all accounts is the return to form, and more solidly reliable thematic content, from South Korea's once challenging satirist, Bong Joon-ho. More than just a off-kilter black comedy of a rich Korean family slowly being subsumed and replaced by an impoverish one, his class revenge tale "Parasite", digs its tendrils in deep to the desperation produced by modern global wealth disparity.

From Toronto, there's Fernando Meirelles' tale of "Two Popes" with Anthony Hopkins’ Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Francis, as well as more antics from Shia LaBeouf in the form of "Honey Boy". By contrast, a film deserving of attention is the portrait of cultural dislocation seen through the eye of the protagonist of Nadav Lapid's Golden Bear-awarded "Synonyms". Another solidly constructed post-Colonial vantage into issues of class, duty and servitude in the developing world takes a more ruminative and poetic view, in Mati Diop's suggestively supernatural "Atlantique". Romanian New Wave director, Corneliu Porumboiu returns to crime and police procedurals with "The Whistlers", in which a bent detective becomes entangled in the crimes that he's investigating. Given the cast, Ira Sachs' "Frankie" should be more compelling than its Cannes' reviews suggests, and one would have to go very far astray from the life and work of Merce Cunningham to produce something less than richly satisfying with "Cunningham". Noah Baumbach returns what he does best in his finely judged divorce retrospective, "Marriage Story", and Trey Edward Shultz' "Waves" depicts a very different mode of family drama. Adam Driver stars again in the incisive indictment of the United States post-9/11 interrogation processes, in "The Report", and Quentin Dupieux is back with another dose of his fetishistic gibberish cinema, with "Deerskin". French cinema of a more substantive manner can be seen in François Ozon's "By the Grace of God", which took home the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin. From Sundance, we get Chinonye Chukwo's Jury Prize-winning "Clemency", and a new comedy from Upright Citizens' Brigade and Saturday Night Live alumnis, "Greener Grass". Diao Yinan's follow up to his brilliantly constructed neo-Noir, "Black Coal, Thin Ice", fails to expand on that film's stylistic and thematic content, nonetheless producing a satisfying genre work with, "The Wild Goose Lake". Apparently another return to form for Pedro Almodóvar, "Pain and Glory" delivers a sensuous and potentially autobiographical gem through Antonio Banderas’ portrayal of a ageing filmmaker facing up to his later years in life. Also consistently ranking highly in overviews from Cannes, Marco Bellochio's "The Traitor", looks to deliver a finely styled period drama on the life of Tommaso Buscetta, the first Sicilian Mafia boss turned pentito.