Friday, June 22, 2012

Seattle International Film Festival

A few weeks ago I flew up to Seattle to spend four days watching movies, seeing friends, eating at favorite restaurants and getting away from Los Angeles. I hadn't left Los Angeles county since moving here last October and I was more than ready for that dreary Pacific Northwest weather. I am already a bit sick of the uninterrupted bright sunlight that penetrates the hazy Los Angeles cityscape day after day. Seattle was a perfect four day respite for that. Don't believe the photo on the left with blue skies and clouds, that was an brief patch of blue during my visit. Here's a rundown of the films I saw--eight of them.

Day One. I started off with a dud in the 2011 Romanian drama Best Intentions. I love seeing films from this part of the world and there's been kind of a surge in great films from young directors coming out of Romania, but this confused movie isn't one of them. Shot with a gimmicky P.O.V. style that comes and goes throughout the film which I loathed, Best Intentions had little to it that makes it worth recommending. My second and third films, while kind of flawed and not world beaters, were at least pleasantly entertaining compared to Best Intentions. Coteau Rouge, a Canadian film set in a Montreal suburb, is uneven but has enough festival styled charm to warrant a viewing. These kinds of low-reaching comedy/dramas from another country seem all over the schedule every time I've gone to SIFF over the years. Last on the schedule was Earthbound, an Irish sci-fi romantic comedy that veered close to being too cute for its own good. The nice ensemble cast, led by an adorable Jenn Murray, saves the day for this one.

Day Two. I love anything to do with computer hackers, so when I saw We Are Legion on the schedule, I snapped up a ticket as fast as my fingers could type on the keyboard. Telling the story of the mostly leaderless Anonymous hacker community, We Are Legion is an entertaining documentary romp through the world of hackers fighting for good and evil [some might say illegal]. Or, they are just getting their lulz. I love reading or watching this kind of techno-mayhem, so this one was right in the sweet-spot. Kryptonite!, an Italian comedy/drama, had an absolutely knock-it-out-of-the-park first 15 minutes, but it couldn't maintain that level. It's still a fun look at Naples in the 1970s as a young boy comes of age surrounded by a family of eccentrics. I ended the day with another documentary, The Mexican Suitcase is about the Spanish Civil War and the discovery of a lost suitcase in Mexico City that contained thousands of negatives from the war by famed photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and David "Chim" Seymour. I actually saw an exhibit with these images at International Center of Photography when I was last in New York, so I found this documentary fascinating. It's not only about the civil war, but the dangerous war photography that these three photographers helped break ground regarding the art form.

Day Three. Johnny To is a veteran Hong Kong filmmaker who specializes in tightly plotted crime films and shoot-em-ups, Romancing in Thin Air is a sort of spotty departure for him that has him taking on the romantic drama genre. Full of all the usual emotional over-the-top shenanigans you expect in a Hong Kong film, there's no way you'd ever guess the man behind the lens of this one is bad-ass Johnny To. Glad to see him branch out, but I prefer To's crime films to this one. My last film of the festival was also my favorite, the oddball and wonderfully titled Rent-A-Cat. This Japanese film is a cat lover's dream movie that had the audience eliciting multiple "ahs" of cuteness on the screen when there was some sort of cute feline action. Sleepy cats in baskets? I'm more of a dog person, but even I had multiple goofy grins on my face at some of the cat-related shots. The story involves a lonely single woman who has a lot of cats. She rents them out to emotionally needy people to help them in various ways and then we follow her relationship with these cat-renters. Rent-A-Cat is a quirky charmer, written and directed by Naoki Ogigami, and I'm hoping to catch some of her other films.


hidden staircase said...

earthbound was cutesy, eh? but i think that is my new fave genre - sci-fi rom com! i also enjoyed hearing the director talk about sort of daring himself to do the or never kind of thing. inspiring really. plus who doesn't love irish accents?

i really loved seeing naples...made me want to go to italy, especially naples! i went back in h.s. and we only spent a day there. my brothers went a couple of years ago... anyway, i enjoyed hearing the director speak for that one too! what a wild childhood. great costumes and music as well. i usually like seeing at least 1 italian movie at the fest.

...and RENTANEKO! so awesome. loved this. so different and gentle and small and strange. i wish the director would have been there! i have a feeling when the dvd ever comes out -- there will be some great behind-the-scenes regarding cat wrangling! i'm so glad we found out about this director, Ogigami. the two i rented from scarecrow were just as satisfying. she has a slow, calmness and not a lot has to happen. she uses a lot of the same actors...which i like. quirky characters and fun! cool we saw at the egyptian, too!

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

Unfortunately, unless you have a multi-region DVD player, you can't see any Ogigami films in USA at the moment! I promptly went to Netflix and there aren't any. Maybe you can buy them, but I don't like doing that.

hidden staircase said...


the two i saw that are definitely other region...were:

Mengane (Glasses) from 2007 and Kamome Shokudo (Kamome Diner) from 2006.

wasn't able to find the others listed in imdb at scarecrow.

the two i saw i would even rent good.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

No need to rub it in, ha.

hidden staircase said...

ah...okay, so the salt would be that 'kamome diner' is filmed in helsinki and has this great dual japanese/finnish thing going on. next time you visit, you can watch it!