By now we've all heard so much wild-eyed praise for George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road—every word deserved, as multiple viewings confirm—that it's only natural to start asking: Hang on a second, were the Mel Gibson ones as good as everyone used to think? Well, ask no more! The 41st annual Seattle International Film Festival has pulled one more rabbit of programming magic out of its capacious hat to cap off its closing weekend: The Road Warrior, Sunday, June 7, 8 pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Did you know SIFF hosted the film's North American premiere in 1982? Remember when Mel Gibson was beautiful and cool and not, as the late Christopher Hitchens dubbed him, "the Australian fascist and ham actor"? Now's your chance to relive those bygone days, in glorious 2-D! But that's not nearly all the weekend holds in store.
Here's a sobering fact: The Harvard Exit, which closed at the end of last year (who can forget Sarah Galvin's brilliant eulogy?), then reopened for this year's SIFF (nice work, SIFF), is closing again forever on Sunday, June 7. The next time you hear from it, it will be office spaces for people. People with jobs. No offense to jobs, but they're hardly films. Given the fact that we all like to bemoan and bewail the closing of these beloved institutions—seldom pausing to reflect on the fact that they mostly have to close because we never go to them—perhaps you'll consider stopping by the old marvel this weekend for one last look at that crazy Die Dritte Generation poster before the doors get chained shut. If so, here are your best bets:
The Glamour and the Squalor (4:15 pm)
A documentary about former radio DJ Marco Collins, whose rise to local and national prominence coincided with the ascendance of the alternative format, which he pioneered and was, inarguably, the consummate example of on the radio dial. Whether you think that's good or not is between you and your confessor. The film is surprisingly moving, however, not because of the the Nirvana, Beck, and Garbage stories, but because Collins allows himself to emerge as a profoundly vulnerable, deeply fucked-up guy whose struggles with addiction and shame obliterated everything he built. He fell from grace, and by the time he got his shit back together, the music industry had imploded, commercial radio had become an airless void operated by robots, and he was left to consider the fundamental questions: Who am I? What do I do? When will I be loved? All the film's power issues from the humanity of a guy most people know—if they know him at all—as a voice on the radio from a long time ago. Once again, the documentary form makes the case for, to coin a phrase, peace, love, and empathy. (P.S. Collins was instrumental in the success of my old band, and I appear in the film to say so, but I had nothing more to do with its creation, and, in all candor—or, as the title would have it, candour—I fully expected it to be a generic piece of unearned hagiography, which it for sure is not. I'm not saying it's Hoop Dreams or anything, but I am saying this: Don't let the fact that I appear in it briefly keep you away.
Those People (11 am)
If you’re interested in New York City, gay sex, and Gilbert & Sullivan, you’re going to love this. A suave handsome man and an awkward handsome man mouth the words to The Pirates of Penzance in a drawing room. One of them is in love with the other. Unrequited. Sucks. Other themes: jealousy, dads, artistic ambition, money, shame. Those People is like the HBO show Looking, except interesting. The anal sex scene is surprisingly tender. (CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE)
Rebel Without a Cause Screenplay Reading Live—A Tribute to Stewart Stern (1:30 pm)
Stewart Stern, a beloved figure in the Seattle film community, died in February. By way of homage to to him, a cast will read his most famous and enduring script. Featuring America Ferrera, Raúl Castillo, and Seattle's own David Brown-King, Susanna Burney, Gibson Collins, Joseph Cummings, Graham Hamilton, Bradley Goodwill, Sharva Maynard, Ann Rice, Aaron Washington, Dedra Woods, and Stranger Genius Nominee Charles Leggett.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (7 pm)
Those familiar with the work of the English director of Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife) will not be surprised to learn that his biopic of the early 20th century Russian director of Sergei Eisenstein (Battleship Potemkin—baby carriage rolling down the steps) is quite over the top. Set in Mexico in 1931, the film is basically about the director’s artistic and spiritual transformation by way of sex with a man. The scene, which happens in a hotel room with a grand bed, involves a handsome Mexican, olive oil, and anal blood. And because Peter Greenaway is Peter Greenaway, the scene is very long and pretty graphic. But it is clear from the beginning to the end of Eisenstein, that Greenaway is very much in love with the subject of his film. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
Challat of Tunis (11 am) DON'T MISS
At the end of Challat of Tunis, I was in such disbelief that I went back and watched the credits again, then finally, asking myself, “Can this be real?” I googled, and, well, yes and no. It’s a mockumentary about a man who slashed women’s butts in Tunisia and was never caught. That part is real! (It happened in 2003. Religious conservatives said the women deserved it, and the “Challat,” or “Blade,” as he was nicknamed, became a folk hero.) The not-real part is female Tunisian writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania’s parodic “attempt” to solve the mystery and expose Tunisian machismo. Every scene is more outrageous, ridiculous, and brilliant. (JEN GRAVES)
Tangerine (6:15 pm)
Feydeau in the neighborhood, this film has all the elements of classic farce, the prisoner just out of jail, the best friend, the faithless husband, the cheating boyfriend, the mother-in-law from hell - but played at an entirely different pace, and with characters who radiate truth and immediacy. Let others watch It's a Wonderful Life Christmas after endless Christmas; I'll take Tangerine. (BARLEY BLAIR)
But what if, like most of America, you don't give a toss for the Harvard Exit. What then? I'll tell you what then:
How about An Evening with Jason Schwartzman (Sat, June 6, 5:30 pm at SIFF Cinema Egyptian)? Featuring the beloved star in conversation with Eric Kohn from Indiewire.
Or perhaps the Closing Night Gala film, The Overnight (Sun, June 7, 6 pm at the Cinerama), directed by Patrick Brice and starring Schwartzman, Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling (from Orange is the New Black), all of whom are going to appear in person). The film is certain to be fantastic, but I know what you're really thinking: Who will host the Q&A? Why it's none other than our own cherished editorial director and columnist Dan Savage!
Surely this is the perfect way to end SIFF 2015. We're already getting started on SIFF Notes 2016. (I only wish I were joking.)