Friday, May 17, 2013

SIFF 2013--the madness begins!

Tvor has been taking a nearly year-long break from her duties, but that must end.  The 2013 edition of the Seattle International Film Festival began Thursday night, and tvor has been watching a few press screenings, perusing the schedule, and generally getting excited about the upcoming 25 days.

Between the press screenings and other festivals she has attended in the past year (the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where she lowered the average age of the attendees, and SXSW, where she raised it), she has seen over 30 of the features that will be presented at SIFF.  Of course, over 250 features will be screened, and an additional 150 or so shorts, so this is just a drop in the bucket.

Here are some quick thoughts on what she’s seen--not full descriptions or reviews, just short impressions.  They’re divided into three groups--Recommended, Pretty Decent, and Not So Hot.  Anything in the top two categories is worth the price of admission, in tvor’s opinion, and those in the third...well, they weren't bad enough to make tvor want to rip her eyes out or anything, but they just didn't work for her.


Much Ado About Nothing--Joss Whedon’s updating of the play had tvor nervous, as she’s a Shakespeare fan, but fortunately, the film is a success and lots of fun.

What Maisie Knew--a contemporary version of the Henry James novel--beautifully done, wonderful acting, and the child actor is amazing.

Doch (The Daughter)--excellent Russian low-key mystery/thriller with a noirish feel.

Our Nixon--did you know Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Chapin were making super-8 movies of their time in the White House?  Neither did tvor.  This documentary consists entirely of found footage and it’s amazing.

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion--wonderful Italian film made in 1970 about a police homicide detective leading the investigation of a crime he committed.  This will be screened in a beautiful new restoration.

A Hijacking--exciting Danish film about a ship hijacked by Somali pirates.

The Act of Killing--excellent, horrifying documentary in which perpetrators of mass killings in Indonesia in the 1960’s discuss their crimes on screen--and re-enact them using Hollywood movies as a template.  Surreal.

The Hunt--Mads Mikkelsen as an innocent man accused of child molestation.

Goltzius and the Pelican Company--OK, this is a Peter Greenaway film, so it’s erotic and wild and beautifully shot.

Drinking Buddies--Joe Swanberg’s latest, about a couple of friends who work in a brewery, and who both have significant others--but is there something beyond friendship there?

The Final Member--what’s not to like about a documentary about a phallological museum looking to add that final specimen to its collection--a human penis?

Frances Ha--Noah Baumbach’s new film about a twenty-something trying to find her way in New York.  Not one of tvor’s favorite subjects, but this one works.

Camion--a lovely, quiet French Canadian film about a father reconnecting with his two grown sons.

Sadourni’s Butterflies--visually beautiful and inventive, with a story that is wild and not entirely comprehensible, but tvor liked it anyway.

Paradise: Faith--this Austrian film about a religious fanatic is not for everyone, but tvor found it fascinating, enough so that she’s planning to see the other two films in the series, Paradise: Love and Paradise: Hope.

After Winter, Spring--documentary about farmers in a remote part of France trying to keep with their old ways.

Bwakaw--a sweet Filipino film about an elderly gay man in a small town.

Dirty Wars--one of those documentaries that makes us think about things we don’t like to think about, like the U.S.’s covert wars.  Fascinating and depressing but good.

7 Boxes--a Paraguayan film about a delivery boy who must get seven boxes from point A to point B.  Complications ensue.  Great chase scenes involving hand-pushed carts.

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology--documentary dedicated to one strange philosopher’s view of ideology and movies.  Bizarre but interesting.

After Tiller--a documentary about the the U.S.’s four remaining providers of third-trimester abortions--why they do what they do and why people come to them for help.

Pretty decent

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints--it looks good, it has good actors (Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster), and tvor would probably have bumped this up a notch, but the mumbly soundtrack made her miss key plot points.  If you go, please let her know why those guys did what they did.

In the Fog--it’s beautifully done, but tvor is much too shallow to fully appreciate this film taking place in the German-occupied USSR in 1942.  It’s war, things are horrible, and there is lots of fog.

Two Lives--a story about woman born of a liaison between a Norwegian woman and a German soldier during WWII.  It takes place after the end of the cold war when the Berlin Wall has come down.  A mix of family drama and spy drama.

Mistaken for Strangers--a documentary about a couple of brothers.  One is an indie rock star.  The other is...still living with his parents.  The non-star makes a film about traveling with his brother’s  band (The National) on tour.  Complications ensue.

Spark: A Burning Man Story--tvor liked it, as she was at Burning Man when the film was shot.  Definitely for Burners, and maybe for other people.  Viewers will get a glimpse of what attendees have so much trouble describing.

Not so hot

The Summit--a documentary about a climbing tragedy on K2, this film suffers from an excessive reliance on recreated scenes, so much that tvor spent much of the film trying to figure out what was real and what was recreated, and ended up distrusting all of the footage.  It also suffered from muddled story-telling.

Una Noche--this film looks good (it was shot in Cuba) but one of the three central characters was so appalling, tvor didn't believe that the others would have anything to do with him.

Putzel --a waste of Melanie Lynskey, this film is probably most appealing to those who live on the Upper West Side.  And even then, tvor is not so sure.

C.O.G.--David Sedaris is a wonderful writer, but the joy of reading his work is his voice (not literally, although hearing him read is great too), not his plots.  Maybe his work is not really meant to be adapted into a narrative film.

Key of Life--part screwball comedy, part crime story, and the two parts never really blended properly as far as tvor was concerned.  The crime story part was interesting, but the screwball comedy part just wasn’t funny, unless you find overacting, mugging, and extreme facial expressions to be amusing.  

So...that’s what tvor knows so far.  She’ll be updating her blog during the festival, and tweeting regularly (only about movies, not detailed coverage of her life).

If you’re in Seattle, go to SIFF early and often.  And if you’re not, here are some video ideas, films tvor enjoyed at last year’s SIFF:

Safety Not Guaranteed
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Your Sister’s Sister
Robot & Frank
Hello I Must Be Going
Sleepwalk With Me
Teddy Bear
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Moonrise Kingdom
I Wish
How to Survive a Plague