As we explored in our coverage of Week 1 of the festival, there’s a whole lot out there to see at the 41st Seattle International Film Festival, 450 films in fact. Yeah. And 286 features. Already overwhelmed by that number? We’re here to help.
Week 2 was more middle-of-the-road than Week 1, judging only by the films we saw. Most films were good, but altogether unexceptional. However, even some of the lesser films had elements that were well-done. That’s the great thing about SIFF!
Without further ado, Week 2:
THE LOOK OF SILENCE director Joshua Oppenheimer featuring Adi Rukun Indonesia/Denmark/UK, 102 minutes
This follow-up to The Act of Killing follows a man born three years after the genocide in Indonesia as he confronts men responsible for the killings. While Killing forced open the topic of genocide by having the perpetrators re-enact their crimes, Silence puts the victims face to face with the aggressors. Killing was an essential act of exposure, Silence is an attempt for justice. This film is among the most brutal and noble ever made.
**BEST OF WEEK 2**
Saturday, May 23 at 1 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown
UNEXPECTED director Kris Swanberg screenplay Megan Mercier, Kris Swanberg starring Cobie Smulders, Gail Bean, Anders Holm, Elizabeth McGovern USA, 85 minutes
This dramedy about the dual unplanned pregnancies of a schoolteacher (TV’s Cobie Smulders) and her student (newcomer Gail Bean) is surprisingly charming and warm. The film successfully presents a multi-layered look at the topic from two different perspectives. With its occasionally awkward dialogue and all-too-tidy ending, Unexpected is certainly imperfect. But the film more than makes up for it with the strong chemistry between its two leads. A solid film with a lot of heart.
Friday, May 22 at 7 PM, Pacific Place (director in attendance)/Saturday, May 23 at 3:30 PM, Lincoln Square (director in attendance)
MANGLEHORN director David Gordon Green screenplay Paul Logan starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine, Chris Messina USA, 97 minutes
A hypnotizing film about loss, regret and the consequences of dwelling in the past. Al Pacino brilliantly transforms his normal urges as an actor into a quiet complacency; a sad, cantankerous old man who you’d most likely ignore if you saw him on the street. He has no life and is essentially the epitome of a crazy cat lady. Director David Gordon Green paints an elegant portrait of how he got there. *MUST SEE*
Saturday, May 22 at 11 AM, SIFF Cinema Egyptian/Sunday, May 23 at 5 PM, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center
XENIA director Panos H. Koutras screenplay Panos H. Koutras, Panagiotis Evangelidis starring Kostas Nikouli, Nikos Gelia, Yannis Stankoglou, Aggelos Papadimitriou Greece, 128 minutes
In Xenia, brothers Dany (Kostas Nikouli) and Odysseas (Nikos Gelia) go on a road trip to the tryouts of an Idol-esque reality TV show, while they concurrently attempt to re-connect with their long estranged father, an extremely wealthy politician in Greece’s far-right fascist party. Along the way, Dany shoots a man on the street who harasses him with homophobia taunts, so they’re on the lam as well. Also, Dany may or may not have sexual feelings for his brother? Oh, and there’s also the occasional surreal visit from a giant stuffed rabbit named Dido. There’s a lot going on in this crazy movie, but if you can bear through the ridiculousness, there’s a lot to love as well. Nikouli is fantastic as the manic, juvenile Dany and the narrative undoubtedly has plenty going on to keep up your interest.
Saturday, May 23 at 9:45 PM, Harvard Exit/Tuesday, May 26 at 3:30 PM, Harvard Exit
DON’T THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN: CAMBODIA’S LOST ROCK AND ROLL director John Pirozzi Cambodia/USA, 106 minutes
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten explores the cultural influence of popular music before and during the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime that led to the deaths of over 25% of the Cambodian people. Though the film successfully honors the artists described by many interviewees as the nation’s soul, the director spreads himself too thin in exploring nearly every influential artist, which ends up making the resolution less effective. Still a very chilling and important film.
Saturday, May 23 at 2:15 PM, Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center/Tuesday, June 2 at 9:15 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown/Wednesday, June 3 at 3 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown
THE AUTOMATIC HATE director Justin Lerner screenplay Justin Lerner, Katharine O’Brien starring Joseph Cross, Adelaide Clemens, Richard Schiff, Ricky Jay, Deborah Ann Woll USA, 97 minutes
This uncomfortable erotic suspense-drama about forbidden love and well-kept secrets makes for a great study on the blending of family dynamics and personal relationships. It would make for an even better one if the actors could keep up with the twisted complexities of the script. The West Wing‘s Richard Schiff is dynamite as the patriarch and Adelaide Clemens is perfect casting as the troubled, borderline psychotic Alexis, but the rest of the cast is a bit more uneven. Ricky Jay’s Uncle Josh is dumpy and awkward in a role that is written to be threatening and physically imposing, and Joseph Cross as the lead never seems to keep up with the weight of the material. In a film so intricately tied to how we interact with each other, such details unfortunately have a greater negative impact than they would normally.
Sunday, May 24 at 8:30 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown (filmmakers in attendance)/Monday, May 25 at 11:30 AM, SIFF Cinema Uptown (filmmakers in attendance)
VINCENT (VINCENT N’A PAS D’ÉCAILLES) director Thomas Salvador screenplay Thomas Salvador, Thomas Bidegain, Thomas Cheysson starring Thomas Salvador, Vimala Pons, Youssef Hajdi France, 77 minutes
This quiet, contemplative little film explores the life of a French man with incredible super powers that are only activated by water. Only instead of donning a cape and fighting crime, Vincent wants a normal life instead. In fact, the film makes the brilliant decision of not even presenting the former as an option. Though the film’s slowly-paced first act is beautifully filmed, the flick really gets going in the second half when more people discover his abilities. Though this is also where the movie starts to feel a bit more forced, the narrative is saved by a committed lead actor and an incredibly innovative, well-filmed chase sequence. In the midst of a Hollywood that is currently over-saturated with comic book fare, Vincent offers a gentle, refreshing look on an oft-told tale.
Sunday, May 24 at 6:30 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown (director in attendance)/Monday, May 25 at 3:30 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown (director in attendance)/Thursday, May 28 at 6 PM, Lincoln Square
KAHLIL GIBRAN’S THE PROPHET director Roger Allers featuring segments by Gaëtan Brizzi, Paul Brizzi, Joan C. Gratz, Mohammed Saeed Harib, Tomm Moore, Nina Paley, Bill Plympton, Joann Sfar, Michal Socha screenplay Roger Allers, Hanna Weg, Douglas Wood; based on the novel by Kahlil Gibran starring Liam Neeson, Salma Hayek, John Krasinski, Quvenzhané Wallis, Alfred Molina, Frank Langella, John Rhys-Davies Canada/Lebanon, 84 minutes
There’s no doubt The Prophet sports some of the most phenomenal animation of recent memory, but regardless of the beauty of contributions from important artists like Nina Paley and Tomm Moore, the film suffers due to Allers’ awkwardly written script. Adapting the work of a renowned poet-philosopher into a widely accessible film just doesn’t pan out under his direction. And it doesn’t help that a miscast Liam Neeson never sounds anything but bored and dismissive.
Monday, May 25 at 2 PM, Harvard Exit
SHORT SKIN (I DOLORI DEL GIOVANE EDO) director Duccio Chiarini screenplay Duccio Chiarini, Ottavia Madeddu, Marco Pettenello, Miroslav Mandic starring Matteo Creatini, Francesca Agostini, Nicola Nocchi Italy, 86 minutes
This Italian coming-of-age tale about the sexual awakening of a young teen who has painful erections due to his tight foreskin is surprisingly middle of the road. Despite the filmmakers’ attempts to sensationalize the material with such rampant quirkiness as dog mating and abused octopi, Short Skin has very little to say about the awkwardness of teenage sexuality that has not been attempted before. There’s also times where it feels like male sexuality is explored at the expense of women. The two teens at the center of the film constantly refer to women as pussies and whores, and let’s face it, that’s how teens talk, but these comments never seem to be challenged. Misogyny aside, Short Skin is innocent enough. It’s just not nearly as innovative as it attempts to be.
Monday, May 25 at 6 PM, Lincoln Square/Sunday, May 31 at 7 PM, Pacific Place (director in attendance)/Monday, June 1 at 4 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown (director in attendance)
UNCERTAIN director Anna Sandilands, Ewan McNichol featuring Henry Lewis USA, 82 minutes
Life in the small town of Uncertain, TX (population 94) goes under the microscope in this fun little film. Uncertain primarily focuses on the experiences of three men at different places in their lives – an alcoholic young man in his late 20s itching to depart to a larger city, a middle aged former criminal in recovery who idly spends his time hunting down a large hog, and a boater in his mid 70s who looks back on his experiences with racism and the loss of his wife and daughter. There’s nothing too spectacular at work here, but it’s a lovely film nonetheless.
Monday, May 25 at 8 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown (directors in attendance)/Wednesday, May 27 at 3:30 PM, SIFF Cinema Uptown (directors in attendance)
IN THE GRAYSCALE (EN LA GAMA DE LOS GRISES) director Claudio Marcone screenplay Rodrigo Antonio Norero starring Francisco Celhay, Emilio Edwards, Daniela Ramírez, Matías Torres Chile, 98 minutes
For Bruno, life exists, well, in “the grayscale.” He’s married to a woman named Soledad and has an eight year old child. So why has he moved outside of the house? Maybe those late night journeys to the gay bars have something to do with it. Or maybe the answer is more complicated. Perhaps he is sexually attracted to men, yet attracted to the relationship dynamic with Soledad. Maybe he has attraction for both. The film smartly explores multiple options and even though numerous inferences are made to suggest the simplest option, the answer the film ultimately provides is somewhere in the middle. He is likely a gay man who is mentally unprepared and fully unable to make his life work. The film stumbles in trying to make this point, but the various methods the filmmaker utilizes to sell this message are deserving of praise.
Tuesday, May 26 at 9:30 PM, Pacific Place
BOULEVARD director Dito Montiel screenplay Douglas Soesbe starring Robin Williams, Roberto Aguire, Kathy Baker, Bob Odenkirk USA, 93 minutes
The late Robin Williams shines in this drama about a closeted banker who has reached a crossroads in life much later than expected. As trying as Soesbe’s obvious and cliché-ridden script can be at times, Williams filters the tragedy into a refined suffering that is the mark of a true pro. Baker and Odenkirk are at the top of their game as well. A prime example of a great cast excelling with otherwise average material.
Thursday, May 28 at 9:30 PM, Harvard Exit
The Ultimate SIFF Survival Guide will continue next week for a preview of Week 3 in the festival.