"Different new things" is the catchphrase/slogan for SIFF 2004. Too bad Thursday's opening night film, a schmaltzy drama better suited to the PAX network or Hallmark Hall of Fame, is neither different nor new.
But don't let that throw you off — overall, SIFF's 30th Anniversary lineup is a good one. Helmed by new Director of Programming Carl Spence and Festival Director Helen Loveridge, the big honkin' program will showcase 224 feature films and 84 short films from 58 countries. (Of the feature films, 10 World Premieres, 15 North American Premieres, and 6 US Premieres are scheduled for the festival. Thirty-four short film premieres too.)
Film luminaries scheduled to grace our fair city include filmmaker Patrice Leconte (as part of a special French Focus), Stephen Frye (An Evening With…), Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (Screenwriters Salon), and Christopher Doyle (Cinematography Master Class). Others are expected to confirm by late May.
Details on the films and programs I'm most excited about follow. (You'll note that sappy opening nighter The Notebook, starring James Garner as a nursing-home resident hoping to get dementia-stricken Gena Rowlands to remember their past life together, isn't on the list.) Hurry up and grab a program guide at your friendly neighborhood Starbucks® or one of the SIFF box offices (Broadway Performance Hall and Pacific Place), or visit the SIFF website for ticket info and details. I'll review each of the 50+ films I see, so check back for regular updates.
See y'all at the movies!
Anatomy of Hell. The latest from French provocateur Catherine Breillat is her most explicit film to date: a woman pays a handsome gay porn star to… well, to do things he normally wouldn't.
Arimpara. A gentle Kerala landlord discovers a mole on his chin which grows so large that it alienates him from everyone he loves. That's a big-ass mole. This is the only Indian film selected for Cannes 2003, and buzz surrounding it is quite good.
The Best of Youth. An enormous film in two parts (183 minutes each, and yes I'm sitting through both in one day) that begins in 1966 and spans 40 years in the life of an Italian family. Basically the story is told in real time. Naw, not truly, but it might start to seem that way around the 240-minute mark.
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi. An old blind masseur/swordsman stumbles into a gang war and ends up taking on the entire mob. Kick ass.
Bright Young Things. This Jazz-age British story co-stars Stockard Channing and is based on a bitchy novel by Evelyn Waugh.
Buddy. Norwegian comedy about a slacker who becomes a celeb after his private video diaries wind up on a popular TV talk show.
The Corporation. Interesting-sounding documentary theorizing that the modern corporation (granted rights in the 1880s which defined it as a "person") is a psychological train wreck. Michael Moore is one of the interviewees — too bad Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't on this year's schedule though.
Doppelganger. I've been into doppelgangers ever since Dale Cooper's emerged from the Black Lodge on the finale of Twin Peaks. But neither Coop nor his evil double can be found in this paranoid Japanese psycho-thriller.
Evergreen. A disadvantaged teen falls for a schoolmate, which somehow eventually leads everyone to figure out what "family" really means. Sounds corny, but it's local (shot in Everett), and wonderful Mary Kay Place is part of the cast.
Facing Window. A young Italian wife develops an obsession with a man she sees daily through her kitchen window. I wonder if he sees her cooking clumpy spaghetti and leaves a box of Barilla® outside her door?
Garden State. If you've been to a Landmark cinema recently, you've likely seen the awesome trailer for this feature directorial debut of Scrubs actor Zach Braff. His character (yeah, he acts in the thing too) returns to Jersey for his mom's funeral, confronts his past, and maybe even begins a new life. Let it be known that igChar, who is in love (read: obsessed) with Mr. Braff, is actively lobbying for him to visit for a post-film Q&A.
Goodbye Dragon Inn. Emerging master Tsai Ming-liang (his 2002 flick What Time Is It There? was one of my favorites that year) brings us a near-silent piece about the last day in the life of a memory-haunted Taipei movie house.
The Green Butchers. Danish hottie Nikolaj Lie Kaas stars in this dark comedy about two butchers who take some grisly shortcuts to success.
Love Me If You Dare. Two friends bring a dangerous childhood game into adult life. The film's spry, candy-colored trailer brings to mind Amélie, Ma Vie en Rose, and When the Cat's Away.
The Mother. A recently-widowed mom moves to London to help with her thirtysomething daughter's kids and ends up falling for a handyman half her age — who just happens to be sleeping with the daughter. Ooooooooh!! From Notting Hill director Roger Mitchell.
Nicotina. Y Tu Mama Tambien cutie Diego Luna in a comedic farce about a gang of bungling would-be crooks.
Paternal Instinct. Documentary about an affluent gay couple who want to have a kid. Their search for a suitable surrogate mom gives 'em more than they bargained for.
The Saddest Music in the World. A double-amputee beer baroness (Isabella Rossellini, who recently became even more awesome by joining the cast of Alias) holds a competition to find … the saddest music in the world. This is the latest from fantastic Guy Maddin, who directed of one of my favorites of 2003, Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary.
Saved!. Wonderful young actress Jena Malone stars as a Jesus-freak whose life is thrown outta whack when her boyfriend (Macaulay Culkin) announces he's a homo.
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus. The Handsome Family, Johnny Dowd, and David Johansen perform in fellow musician Jim White's documentary search for the soul of the American South.
Shorts: The Great Unspoken. Shut up! Silent (or mostly-silent) films focusing on pure imagery.
Sky Blue. South Korean flick combining miniatures, hand-drawn animation and CGI to tell the futuristic story of a collapsing ecosystem and an Orwellian self-sustaining city.
la 2010: A Punk Cat In Space. The SIFF program guide blurb describes this Japanimation as "Hello Kitty on acid". If it's able to live up to even half of that potential, it might just be a masterpiece.
Torremolinos 73. A door-to-door encyclopedia salesman accepts a business proposition to make super-8 "educational" porn for hot-to-trot Scandinavians. He fulfills his dream of making a Bergmanesque film… and inadvertently turns his wife into a skin-flick star.
Triple Agent. In 1930s Paris, the suspicious activities of an exiled Russian general cause most everyone to believe he's a spy. Sounds Hitchcockian. I am there.
The Twilight Samurai. In the last days of the Japanese feudal system, samurai Iguchi struggles to balance the upbringing of his two daughters and his hopes of remarriage against the violent demands of his profession.
Who Killed Bambi? Let me guess… his jilted lover, Flower! Naw, this is actually a French drama about a student nurse who makes some deadly discoveries when she begins investigating strange events at her hospital workplace.
Secret Festival, Sundays (5/23, 5/30, 6/6, 6/13), Egyptian. A series of four films you won't be able to see elsewhere. I can't reveal exactly what I've previously been witness to (you're required to sign a binding nondisclosure agreement before they'll sell you the $30 series pass), but world premieres, long lost classics, and controversial banned films have been featured in fests past. The series moves back to Sundays this year, by popular demand.
An afternoon with Patrice Leconte, 6/13, Broadway Performance Hall. I'm totally geeking out over this year's tribute to distinguished Monsieur Leconte, the wonderful French filmmaker responsible for Ridicule (1996), The Girl on the Bridge (1999), The Widow of Saint Pierre (2000), and one of my favorites of 2003, The Man on the Train — each of which will be screened on a separate Saturday throughout the festival. The 6/13 afternoon Q&A will precede the North American premiere of his latest, Closing Night's Intimate Strangers.