Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

Our beloved movie gorge-a-thon kicks off tonight with Spy, an amusing Paul Feig / Melissa McCarthy collaboration that spoofs and reveres great spy thrillers. It’s big and boisterous, and will play very well to the back of the (very large) house at McCaw Hall.

Many cinematic experiences will follow over the subsequent 24 days, and they’ll often prove more insightful, intimate and/or impactful than the opening-night comedy blockbuster. Others will be rowdier and more fun. If there’s one good thing our festival’s big bloated schedule offers, it’s the pure variety of the filmic wonders. And TIG’s intrepid SIFFers are here to help you peruse and choose.

So off we go on SIFF 2015’s first week (5/15 – 5/21), which serves up a profoundly romantic Samurai flick, food documentaries of wildly varying quality, and the funniest downward-spiral movie you’ll see all year.


Corn Island
{5/17 12p Uptown, 5/18 7p Harvard Exit, 5/19 3:30p Lincoln Square}
Patient viewers of this mostly dialogue-free festival-circuit darling will be rewarded handsomely. A farmer and his teenage granddaughter build a hut and sow corn on a no-man’s land island that forms each spring in the Inguri River between Georgia and Abkhazia (and smack in the middle of those nations’ conflicts). The haunting, brilliantly crafted circle-of-life drama that ensues — it feels like a fable, really — is a thrill to behold.

{5/15 4p Uptown, 5/16 6:30p Uptown, 5/20 6p Lincoln Square}
Emotional and compassionate Basque-language Spanish drama about an unfulfilled middle-aged woman whose life gets a mysterious lift when she begins receiving regular flower deliveries from an unknown admirer. Quiet suspense grips the viewer ever so gently, and the film’s emotional payoff is as lovely and delicate as a fresh bouquet.

{5/15 9:30p Harvard Exit, 5/16 3:30p Uptown}
Downward-spiral movies don’t get more charming than this. An aging former child star (writer/director Pat Mills, who was actually a cast member on You Can’t Do That on Television back in the day) with a penchant for booze and bad decisions somehow gets away with successfully masquerading as a high school guidance counselor. Horrific, hilarious shit ensues — conservative viewers will be absolutely appalled — but every time the film threatens to fall apart completely it somehow gets even better. Mills has created a role and a world that exists far outside reality, but his commitment to it is absolutely beguiling. And oh, so funny.

King Georges
{5/20 7p Pacific Place, 5/21 4p Uptown}
It’s the year of the food documentary, and director Erika Frankel shows us how to make a good one with King Georges. It covers several of the final years of Le Bec-Fin, legendary chef Georges Perrier’s 40-year-old Philadelphia restaurant, as he carries on (alongside longsuffering mentee Nick Elmi, pre- and post-Top Chef) against the forces of changing tastes and a changing economy. Bittersweet, funny, and full of bustle — the makers of For Grace (see “Skip” section below) would be wise to take note.

The New Girlfriend
{5/16 9:30p Egyptian, 5/17 11:30a Uptown}
Francois Ozon’s latest film, a thoroughly entertaining melodrama based on a Ruth Rendell story, is a less-you-know-the-better type thing. Just be aware that it’s a drama involving a woman who dies young, and subsequent interactions between the best friend and the widower she’s left behind.  Also expect some intriguing explorations of gender and sexuality that would have been more shocking ten years ago.

Romeo is Bleeding
{5/17 5p Uptown, 5/18 3:30p Uptown}
Compelling, electrifying documentary about the California poet Donte Clark, and his efforts with fellow youth-org members to produce an updated version ofRomeo & Juliet set in their gang-challenged Bay Area community. The energy running through the performers and their poetry may startle the average SIFF-goer. Which is a good thing.

Snow on the Blades
{5/16 6p Egyptian, 5/17 1:30p Harvard Exit, 5/18 6p Lincoln Square}
In the mid-late 1800s, toward the end of Japan’s feudal era, a Samurai swordsman fails to protect the shogun’s chief minister during an ambush and is forced to hunt down the surviving assailants over the 13 years (!) that follow; in the meantime, a modernizing nation increasingly devalues the swordsman’s commitment to honor. An absorbing, remarkably romantic story about tradition, beautifully told with sublime moments of pure cinema.


Frame by Frame
{5/16 10a Pacific Place, 5/17 6:30p Pacific Place, 5/18 3:30p Lincoln Square}
Photography was criminalized during Taliban rule in Afghanistan; this film follows four Afghan photojournalists actively working to reframe their country and build a free press. There’s an odd glossy sheen on the interview footage that doesn’t really jive with the photogs or their amazing work, but media-savvy viewers (and those who enjoy seeing Independent Lens-type docs on the big screen) will find a lot to appreciate.

The Golden Hill
{World Premiere. 5/18 7p Pacific Place, 5/20 4:30p Pacific Place, 5/22 6p Renton}
When a young man returns home to his remote Nepalese village after a stint in the big city of Kathmandu, he struggles to re-adapt to the people and the rugged mountainscape that raised him. The film’s Himalayan scenery is unspeakably beautiful, but slow pacing and technical iffiness will challenge some viewers.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
{5/16 6:30p Pacific Place, 5/17 2:30p Uptown}
A big Park City winner about titular aspiring teen filmmakers and a classmate with a potentially fatal disease. The “me” and the “Earl” excel in goofy movie parodies (A Sockwork Orange, Senior Citizen Kane, etc.) and are challenged to create one especially for “the dying girl”. Hormones flare, kids brood, and everyone discovers that there’s more to life. It’s always cute, even when drowning in Sundancey quirk, but its pieces — many of which are truly delightful — never completely gel.

{North American Premiere. 5/15 9p Uptown, 5/20 4:30p Uptown, 5/22 8:30p Lincoln Square}
Iza, a pregnant policewoman in a provincial Polish town, opens a big-ol’ can of conspiracy-flavored worms when she investigates a crime that connects two missing fellow cops, a bootlegger, and a dead girl. Waterline‘s performances are interesting, and the shabby-creep mood is evoked very well, but the rushed story’s many convoluted connections are pretty tough to keep a handle on. It’s like coming in cold to season 2 of a complex cop drama series that’s been condensed to 94 minutes, without the aid of a “previously on…” montage.


For Grace
{5/15 6p Uptown, 5/17 3:45p Pacific Place}
Maybe I’m Top Chef over-exposed, but I really wonder if we’ve reached food-doc saturation. This one chronicles Chicago chef Curtis Duffy and the opening of his new restaurant, Grace. There’s some pretty food, but for me the interest ends there: overlong even at 92 minutes, the film is a dull and repetitive affair about not-very-interesting people, told with the narrative urgency of paint drying. Most ungraceful.

Seoul Searching
{5/15 6:30p Pacific Place, 5/16 3:30p Pacific Place, 5/20 8:30p Lincoln Square}
It’s 1986, and teens of Korean heritage from around the world have traveled to Seoul for a summer camp program (modeled after an actual one discontinued by the South Korean government when the America-raised kids proved unmanageable) to help engage them with their ancestral roots. Heteronormative, John Hughes-wannabe complications ensue, all with a Totally ’80s Spotify playlist soundtrack, as rowdy charm gives way to offensively bad attempts at comedy. Gag me with a spoon.