Thursday, November 10, 2022

Alejandro Iñárritu's "BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths", Charlotte Welles' "Aftersun", Todd Field's "TÁR", Amanda Kramer's “Please Baby Please”, Luca Guadagnino's “Bones and All” and Ali Abbasi's “Holy Spider” at Landmark Theatres, SIFF Cinema, Northwest Film Forum & The Grand Illusion: Oct 28 - Dec 8

A substantial offering of the significant titles from this year's Cannes Film Festival, alongside films from this year's Venice, and Toronto festivals have finally arrived in Northwest theaters this month. Among them, Park Chan-Wook's Cannes award winning, "Decision to Leave" at both SIFF and Northwest Film Forum, is the South Korean director's most explicit homage to Hitchcock's cinematic labyrinth of obsession and desire. Fresh from Venice, Todd Field's Cate Blanchett-led classical music world drama "TÁR", currently at the AMC chain, watches as a convincingly authentic and tightly-wound character assasination. Also at the AMCs straight from Venice and Cannes, is the intimate portrait of childhood from Lukas Dhont in “Close" and the most recent period drama Corsagefrom Marie Kreutzer. From both Rotterdam and Berlin, we get the mashup of musical genre film set in a world not far removed from that of Kenneth Anger, in Amanda Kramer's “Please Baby Please” and the return of Ana Lily Amirpour after her cult hit vampire film, with “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon”, both at The Grand Illusion. Also straight from Venice, SIFF Cinema is currently running both Luca Guadagnino's science fiction cannibalistic road movie, “Bones and All”, alongside another of the big films from Venice, Martin McDonagh's bruised fraternal drama, "The Banshees of Inisherin". Currently at SIFF one of the major winners from Cannes, the contentious Palme d'Or awardee "Triangle of Sadness" from the mind of Ruben Östlund may or may not be worthy of the accolades, but it certainly entertains in its comedic sadism. Showing at Northwest Film Forum and SIFF Cinema, two of the century's great documentarists Patricio Guzmán and Frederick Wiseman have new works which screened in Toronto, Cannes and Venice, with "My Imaginary Country" and A Couple. Seattle's last remaining Landmark Theatres, The Crest, will be screening Edward Berger's unrelenting and intimate adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front”, as well as Charlotte Welles' masterful Cannes debut feature "Aftersun", and James Gray's 1980s Manhattan-set childhood drama, “Armageddon Time”. From Toronto, The Crest is also hosting Sebastián Lelio's “The Wonder”, and straight from Venice comes "BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths", the wildly kinetic new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu. SIFF Cinema presents two late comers from Cannes, with Mario Martine's “Nostalgia” showing in their Cinema Italian Style series, and Ali Abbasi's best actress award-winning “Holy Spider”, arriving at the tail end of November.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Park Chan-wook's "Decision to Leave" at SIFF Cinema & Northwest Film Forum: Oct 21 - Nov 10 & Oct 28 - Nov 23

A return to form was seen in Park Chan-wook's 2016 resetting of "Fingersmith" by Welsh writer Sarah Waters. In his hands the director of international breakout hits like "Old Boy" distorted and warped the text into his own "The Handmaiden" through numerous perspectival shifts, abundant voyeurism, and academic eroticism. Often told in the form of theatrical readings of Shunga illustrated erotica, "Park Chan-wook Returns with an Erotic Romance, Con-artist Story and Period Piece". The film's further assimilation from the vocabulary of the thriller and it's suspense built from an atmosphere of rich and erotic textures, found the director even more firmly in Hitchcock territory than usual, as discussed at length in interview with FilmStage, "Park Chan-wook Talks ‘The Handmaiden,’ Male Gaze and Queer Influence". Similarly, this year's Cannes award-winning film from the director unabashedly delves into crime thriller territory, with more than a slight resemblance in its uneven terrain and abundant twists, to Aflred Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece. Yet "Decision to Leave" at SIFF Cinema and Northwest Film Forum this month and on Mubi this coming winter, distinguishes itself as Park's own particular brand of 21st century romantic thriller. All the while, "Park Chan-wook’s Thrilling Mystery is Noir at its Most Nourishing", offering richly satisfying points of genre reference making for a modern work within an established form. But in this case, it's precisely the protagonist detective, Hae-joon's investigative skills, matched and mirrored by Park Chan-wook and his co-writer, Chung Seo-kyung, that result in the whole of the perspective being thrown off balance. Park Hai-il captures the steady unraveling of Hae-joon, and the viewer's perspective, with an intimacy that's all the more remarkable for being concealed behind a curt, efficient veneer. The personal and professional begin to blur as Hae-joon stakes out the home of murder suspect, Seo-rae, in an invasion of privacy that she amusedly acknowledges and even, in a sense, enticingly welcomes. And it is Seo-rae, as portrayed by Tang Wei, is the pivot around which the whole mystery turns, "Decision to Leave: Tang Wei Stuns in Park Chan-wook Black-widow Noir". If thoughts turn again to Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo", these associations aren't misplaced. through a number of elaborately staged scenes, the director unleashes a tide of associations and allusions to that particular psychological thriller; a surveillance subject that becomes a desire subject, a noir romantic template that resets and returns to itself halfway through, and in "Vertigo's" opening, a fall from a great height being central to both stories. Park Chan-wook has shown himself to have a flair for grandiose, and sometimes indulgent, stylistic flourishes, but here he has seized upon Hitchcock's aesthetics of voyeurism and obsession, and utilized these inclinations to better serve our journey through "Decision to Leave's Labyrinth of Desire".