Sunday, February 5, 2023

Albert Serra's “Pacifiction”, Jafar Panahi's “No Bears”, Mia Hansen-Løve's "One Fine Morning", Hlynur Pálmason's “Godland”, and Brandon Cronenberg's “Infinity Pool” at The Grand Illusion, SIFF Cinema, Northwest Film Forum & Landmark Theatres: Jan 27 - Mar 2

Some of the last remaining films of note from this year's Venice Film Festival, alongside latecomers from the Cannes and Toronto festivals continue to arrive in Northwest theaters this month. Reporting from Cannes, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw hailed the most recent in a succession of eerily atmospheric films from Spain's Albert Serra, "Pacifiction: Trouble in Paradise, in Apocalyptic Tahitian Mystery". In which Serra tells the tale of a French imperial tristesse, as an ambient and atmospheric political intrigue wrought with a palpable air of apocalyptic despair. Like much of the director's work, it is a nightmare that moves with confidence, at a gradual pace, somnambulistically shuffling through Serra's widescreen panoramic framings. Tahiti's lush coasts and landscapes are evoked with a breathtaking eye, yet the film is imbued with a lowering beauty, as something sinister looms out of frame, imposing itself over the whole affair. Rated the top film of the year by the illustrious Cahiers du Cinéma, Albert Serra's “Pacifiction”, continues the director's flair for distilling fabled events to eccentric anecdotes and imbues figures of history with the mundane and ironic weight of existence. These qualities brought to the fore in his most recent string of films beginning with 2013's "Story of My Death", followed by "The Death of Louis XIV", and 2019's uncompromising, "Liberté", a creative trajectory Artforum's Dennis Lim called Serra's pursuit of "Liberté or Death". Much in the way of "Pacification", a similar humid and discomfiting political air of threat and uncertainty hangs over "Stars at Noon", Claire Denis' most recent "Languid Tale of Sex, Lies and Intrigue in the Nicaraguan Heat", also at The Grand Illusion this month. From both Rotterdam and Berlin, at Northwest Film Forum we get the mashup of musical genre film and performance art seen in  Give Me Pity”, from Amanda Kramer, after her second of two films this year, following "Please Baby Please".

Playing at SIFF the same week, one of the major films from Berlin this year was the Golden Lion winner “Alcarras”, depicting "An Angry, Urgent Fight for Land in Catalonia", from Carla Simon. The junior of the Cronenbergs continues with his prolific stream after "Possessor", with a film that does little to temper some of the excesses of his father's filmography. Rather Brandon Cronenberg's “Infinity Pool”, instead dives headlong into its material of despair and sexuality, in the process becoming a recent heated battle in the discussion of ratings, "‘Infinity Pool’ and the Battle for an R Rating". A battle of a significantly more consequential nature has been raging for decades with a set of Iranian directors and the censors and government of that country. Most recently coming to a head with the arrest of Jafar Panahi, after he took part in a protest over the detention of fellow filmmaker and colleagues, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Aleahmad. This all took place shortly after the completion of Jafar Panahi's “No Bears”. In Peter Bradshaw's film of the week "Jafar Panahi Headed for the Border in Complex Metafiction of Fear", following which, only in recent weeks was the "Iranian Filmmaker Released on Bail after Hunger Strike". Later in the month at the SIFF Cinema come some of the late stragglers from Cannes, including the intimate portrait of childhood seen in Lukas Dhont 's “Close", and Hlynur Pálmason's “Godland". Set against the stunning austerity and beauty of its Icelandic period location, Pálmason's is an entry in the Bergman tradition of, "Another of God’s Lonely Men Goes Amok (Spiritually)". Also from Cannes, "Léa Seydoux Sparkles in Poignant Drama" as auteur Mia Hansen-Løve returns to Paris with her most recent entry in a growing filmography of powerfully subtle and nuanced interpersonal dramas. "One Fine Morning" depicting what is her most fluidly indistinct merging of tangible life experience and cinematic storytelling, "Mia Hansen-Love and the Hazy Line Where Real Life Ends and Art Begins".

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Noir City Festival: 15th Anniversary Edition at SIFF Cinema: Feb 10 - 16

Returning after a multi-year hiatus due to the conditions of the pandemic, Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation were reinstated at Seattle's historic Egyptian Theatre last year with a substantial Noir City program inspired by his bestselling book "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir". Reprinted in a newly expanded edition, Muller spoke at-length about his book with NPR's Terry Gross, plumbing the genre's "Celebration of Cinema's Double Crosses and Doomed Characters", that populate "The Lost World of Film Noir". The previous edition of the festival Noir City: International Edition II, some two years before, continued the programming last seen in the first of the Noir City: International Editions, with geographically framed sets and quartets of films originating from far flung corners of the world. Earlier editions such as the Noir City: Film Noir in The 1950s program which tracked the beginning of the decline of the American studio system, and into a fresh cinematic landscape where the genre was to be refashioned, both subtly and radically, for a new generation. Other iterations have been formatted in a Film Noir from A to B presentation involving "A" and "B" film double bills, in both low budget and high production value features. On other occasions, the program has been focused thematically, such as the year that featured Noir City: The Big Knockover - Heists, Holdups and Schemes Gone Awry. Outside of the annual Noir City Festival, this decade inaugurated Muller's new permanent residence on TCM with the launch of his Saturday night Noir Alley showcase. Muller and his show have become a central component of how "Turner Classic Movies Is Changing. And Trying to Stay the Same." His weekly selections and introductions act as more than just a showcase for the Film Noir Foundation and their partners at The UCLA Film & Television Archive, but instead a global overview of the social concerns, look, sound, aesthetic, and feel that define the Dark Passages of film noir. This year's Noir City program follows suit with a lineup of 18 films from the very heart of Hollywood's noir movement, the year 1948. Spanning classics, rarities, A-list films and solid B-movies, all of the films in the lineup will be celebrating their 75th anniversary, with entries from Nicholas Ray, John Huston, Orson Welles, Preston Sturges, Anthony Mann, Robert Siodmak, Henry Hathaway, Douglas Sirk, John Farrow, Irving Reis, and Jules Dassin, among others.