Bringin' in Da Spirit w/ A Doula Story
Two documentaries about midwifery. Seattle Midwifery School, Thurs May 5 at 6:30 pm.
Coffee and Cigarettes
Meandering has always been one of the major tools in Jim Jarmusch's arsenal, but here it is taken much too far. In the past, people have been known to complain, rather wrong-headedly, that Jarmusch pictures are dull and unengaging; with this film, sadly, their complaints finally hit the mark. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER) Egyptian, Fri-Sat midnight.
The Detroit PD chases after some jewelry theives in this 1973 film by Arthur Marks. Grand Illusion, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
The 1955 Henri-Georges Clouzot thriller about a murdered man whose body mysteriously disappears. Seattle Art Museum, Thurs May 12 at 7:30 pm.
It initially sounds like the pitch for yet another gentle, pre-digested rom-com: Man enters into marriage of convenience with free-spirited stranger in order to free her from her rabidly strict family, only to gradually realize that they’re actually made for each other. From the opening frames, however, it’s clear that the aptly named Head-On takes a markedly different approach to the material— here, he makes his living picking up empties in a punk club, she’s mainly looking for a way to have as much unattached sex ‘n drugs as possible, and they meet cute after both attempting suicide. The most honestly electrifying film I’ve seen in years, writer/director Fatih Akin’s thundering character piece completely captures the joy, fear, and self-loathing of bottoming out. Perhaps even more impressively, he displays a deep compassion for his characters throughout (particularly former porn star Sibel Kekilli, heartbreaking and scary in equal measures) without sugar-coating their destructive qualities in the slightest. (The main apartment set is so authentically squalid that it would make Bukowski look around for a wet vac.) Akin’s epic saga of resurrection through dissolution may not be for all tastes, obviously, but those thirsting for a walk on the wild side should be completely enthralled. When a film can transform a Depeche Mode song, of all things, into something simultaneously swoonily romantic and utterly terrifying, it’s clearly one for the ages. ANDREW WRIGHT Varsity, Fri-Sun 1:10, 4, 7, 9:40 pm, Mon-Thurs 7, 9:40 pm.
It Happened Tomorrow
A newspaper man with a passion for getting the scoop before anyone else suddenly gains the ability to see 24 hours into the future. Movie Legends, Sun May 8 at 1 pm.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx
The second film in the Lone Wolf and Cub series, directed by Kenji Misumi. Savery Hall, Room 239, UW campus, Thurs May 12 at 7:30 pm.
New Dance Cinema 2005
See review this issue. All films screen at Northwest Film Forum. Opening night, w/ Short Shorts progam, locust performance installation, and Amelia screening, Thurs May 5 at 7 pm. Amelia, Fri-Sun at 9 pm. Long Shorts program, Fri-Sun at 5 pm. Short Shorts program, Fri-Sun at 7 pm. Dance Notes, an Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker rehearsal documentary, Fri-Sun at 5 pm. Ladies and Gentlemen over 65, Fri-Sun at 7 pm. 7 Women on the Ground, a Win Vandekeybus rehearsal doc, plays with artist Jan Fabre's experimental short about Vandekeybus, Fri-Sun at 9 pm. See www.33faintingspells.org for more information.
Telling the story of Tony le Stephanois, a newly sprung bank robber who engineers the perfect caper, Rififi is a delirious fantasia of gangster ethics and underworld locales, artfully framed in a baroque, twisting plot and hung lovingly against the gorgeous backdrop of Parisian streets. The performances are excellent, the cinematography is stunning, the music is dead-on, the plot is an economic wonder, and the virtually silent, gleefully long heist scene is a tingling, ecstatic, sustained act of brilliance--a sacrament of the cinema. Dazzling, ornate, and artfully crafted, Rififi is, it cannot be disputed, a work of perfection. (JAMIE HOOK) Seattle Art Museum, Thurs May 5 at 7:30 pm.
A documentary by Jason Massot about the lives of four merchant seamen. 911 Media Arts, Thurs-Fri 7 pm.
Selected South Asian Shorts
The Sex and Food in the Films of Asia series continues with this program of short documentaries. Ethnic Cultural Theater, Sun May 8 at 6 pm.
David Hasselhoff is Simon in this goofy Italian Star Wars ripoff. Northwest Film Forum, Fri-Sat 11 pm.
A documentary about the women swimmers who trained at the Jewish sports club Hakoah Vienna in the 1930s. Grand Illusion, Weekdays 7, 9 pm, Sat-Sun 3, 5, 7, 9 pm.
Woman in the Dunes
Hiroshi Teshigahara's 1964 film about an entomologist trapped in the desert with a widow (a woman, not a spider). Savery Hall Room 239, UW campus, Thurs May 5 at 7:30 pm.
The Amityville Horror
Based on a true story: house for a song, dark past, black gunk on the walls, something in the cellar, flies on the priest, yadda yadda yadda, "Get Out!" and so on. The screaming demon from the original may have toned it down decibel-wise, but that's really the only subtle thing about this Michael Bay-produced remake of one of the least fondly remembered '70s horror flicks, which tries to justify its existence by swapping out the old tired horror clichés for weary new ones (stringy-haired she-ghosts, rapid-fire CGI). Not a complete waste--there's one genuinely tense bit on the roof, Ryan Reynolds has some cool facial hair, and a sequence involving a sexpot babysitter trapped in the closet favorably recalls the grisly grindhouse days--but nothing worth justifying anything above matinee price. I just pray they leave The Entity alone. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
I had no idea Kevin Bacon was in this movie and then--POOF!--there he was, acting all pompous and French and sporting the worst hairdo he's ever had in the history of all Kevin Bacon hairdos. It was quite exciting. The rest of the movie, though, was a lot like Barbershop except all the roles are reversed. (MEGAN SELING)
Born Into Brothels
Rare is the documentary that feels too short, but this wrenching, multiple award-winning look at kids growing up within the squalid red-light sector of India begs for a more detailed exploration. As it stands, the glimpses we see of them and their all-too-knowing interactions with their hellish surroundings are somehow both too much, and not nearly enough. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Bride & Prejudice
I'm happy to report that adapter Paul Mayeda Berges and co-adapter/director Gurinder Chadha, best known for her adorable girl-power anthem Bend It Like Beckham, lose no sleep over fitting the plot of Pride and Prejudice into a Bollywood mold. The end result doesn't bear the faintest resemblance to Jane Austen, and truth be told, it doesn't cleave too closely to Bollywood conventions either. Bride & Prejudice--even the title makes me simultaneously cringe and cackle--is shorter than you'd expect, some of the colors in that big party scene look a bit washed out, and a certain character bears an unmistakable resemblance to Ali G. But who cares? (ANNIE WAGNER)
Adapted from a novel by the wife of the director/lead actor Sergio Castellitto, Don't Move is essentially about a poor woman, Penélope Cruz, who gets raped by a rich man, submits to his power, and becomes his mistress. The surface of the film looks great (beautiful actors, rich set designs and costume colors), but its substance is totally rotten. A man of the world, a successful and married doctor, commits a crime and gets away with it because he lives in a society that does not protect its vulnerable subjects. Cruz, the poor subject, lives on the edge of Rome in a crumbling house that is surrounded by an ever-expanding apartment development. She is an immigrant (Eastern European) and the man who forces his will on her is Western European. The doctor would never have raped her if he knew it would jeopardize his position in society, and the movie seems to be heading to this conclusion, but near the end it becomes clear that Don't Move is about the doctor's teenage daughter, who was involved in a motorcycle accident and is in critical condition. Will she make it or not, the movie asks in its final minutes? But there is no crime involved in her situation and so it doesn't matter either way. All that matters, and what is wholly unacceptable, is the rape, which turns a working-class woman into a prostitute. If Cruz's role was played by a black woman the fact of her enslavement would be instantly apparent to those who are familiar with the plantation system. To hell with the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
There are a lot of sentimental war moments in Downfall, and the conceit that we are watching through the eyes of Hitler's sheltered and therefore ignorant (and therefore blameless) secretary, is flimsy on many levels. Because the characters are Nazis, their panic and its subsequent rash of suicides and murders are deeply satisfying. Because it's a movie, however, you're left with the unpleasant prospect of watching a bunch of rats slowly drowning for two and a half hours. There are better ways to go. (SEAN NELSON)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
The scariest thing about Enron's fraudulent business plan was this: The corrupt mastermind, CEO Jeff Skilling, was likely onto the future model of the American economy. With the collapse of traditional industry, it's possible that 21st-century American companies--like Enron in the late 20th century--will be trading purely in abstractions, dealing in virtual commodities and virtual profits. Enron got caught first. And this accessible, damning documentary shows us the corporate double-speak in action. Problem is, while it's certainly a pleasure to listen in on a conference call shortly before the gig was up--where a skeptical analyst demands that Skilling cough up a balance sheet (Skilling calls the guy an asshole)--I can't help but think that Enron's subterfuge was a prescient version of our future economy. (JOSH FEIT)
People seem to love the Farrelly brothers. More specifically, people seem to love their peculiar take on love. Peter and Bobby have already directed a number of well-received quirky romantic comedies that make women giggle and swoon while guys laugh so hard they bust a nut, and now they've made Fever Pitch (based on the Nick Hornby novel), which is yet another take on two awkward people doing their best to work their way through an unconventionally warped relationship. Since it was filmed during the Sox's 2003-04 World Series-winning season, Fever Pitch includes plenty of footage from games; they even got permission to be on the field after the Sox won the series-ending game four. The bummer, though, is that it isn't as funny as other Farrelly classics. It still has that "cute as fuck" spin to it that is utterly unhateable (even if you usually don't like the whole romantic comedy thing), but no nuts will be busted this time around. (MEGAN SELING)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
I am not a Hitchhiker's Guide nerd, but even I know that Ford Prefect is no American rapper, sir. Mos Def isn't the only grossly miscast actor in this adaptation of Douglas Adams' beloved novels; even the great Sam Rockwell is too much to take. The film suffers from the same problem as planet Earth: too many Americans. Still, whenever there are at least two British actors on-screen--especially Martin Freeman, AKA Tim from The Office, or the film-stealing Bill Nighy--the movie version mines big, warm, absurd laughs alongside its hyper-imaginative graphics, and quasi-mystical pop metaphysicality. How ironic that this, of all movies, would suffer from not being British enough. SEAN NELSON
House of Wax
Unsuspecting visitors to a small town (including Paris Hilton!) are waylaid and embalmed in wax (hopefully including the ever-waxy Paris Hilton!).
The Interpreter turns what could have been a smart and twisty political thriller--with heavy emphasis on political--into a bogged-down and bland mulling over of wounded souls and suppressed sexual attraction. It's hard to care about the characters played by Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, since the actors seems to care very little about the characters themselves (she hides beneath a weak accent; he is in full-blown Penn mumbling mode), and with their brooding relationship (kept chaste, thankfully) routinely burying the intricacies of the plot, interest easily wanes. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
Kung Fu Hustle
Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle, in which snazzy ax-wielding mobsters find themselves thwarted by a slum in which virtually every single senior citizen possesses mad fighting skills, is a loving send-up of seemingly every martial arts convention in the book. If you're in the mood for this sort of thing, the first 40 minutes or so are close to dead-solid perfect, culminating in an extended sight gag involving snakes and misthrown butcher knives which belongs in the physical comedy Parthenon. The second half, in which Chow's sad sack gangster wannabe takes a backseat to colossal bouts of CGI combat, suffers somewhat, but only in the sense that the inspired gags slow down to one or two per frame. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Look At Me
Amid the unceasing slew of soft-focus, easily multiplexed foreign fare, director Agnes Jaoui's 2000 debut The Taste of Others was a welcome blast of unpredictable air, a razor-sharp farce that gloried in the complex nature of its characters. Jaoui's follow-up, the occasionally plodding yet mostly wonderful Look At Me, revels in a series of similarly hard-to-guess Lockhorn pairings, the most intriguing of which involves a monstrously egotistical writer (co-writer Jean-Pierre Bachri, wonderful as a cackling bastard) and his fiercely body-conscious daughter. (The director herself delivers a strong performance as a music teacher enlisted as an initially reluctant shoehorn between the two.) While the potentially hoary themes of self-worth and family foibles will no doubt have the remake police licking their chops, the breezy, hyper-literate vibe, which feels like it could peel out into pathos or screwball comedy at any moment, should prove much less replicable. Jauoi is quickly proving herself as one to keep an eye on, and possibly even more; any filmmaker who can successfully quickdraw between lilting chorals and House of Pain on the soundtrack is potentially one for the vaults. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
A Lot Like Love
The worst thing about this romantic comedy is the torturous dates the two would-be lovers (Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet) go on whenever they meet up. Since they have awful, deadening California lives, they try to recapture their shared, spontaneous Manhattan history (which, by this point in the movie, we also remember fondly) by abandoning all semblance of adult conversation. Nostalgia for the recent past blurs with nostalgia for kindergarten, and the two overgrown babies spend all their time sticking straws up their noses and spitting mouthfuls of water at each other. And when plastic walrus tusks get old, they take long-exposure photographs of themselves embracing naked on a rock in Joshua Tree National Park. They never should have left New York. (ANNIE WAGNER)
In a town where the very name of Chip Hanauer inspires frequent genuflecting, a movie about hydroplanes hits the screen with a large amount of goodwill. The proudly retro sports saga Madison, which finally sees a release after idling on a studio shelf since 2001, derives a certain amount of hokey satisfaction from its rumbling backdrop, but buries most of its advantage in a lather of excess vanilla. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Danny Boyle has crafted a kid-friendly fable with enough sly modern-day relevance to keep adults from checking their watches. An over-imaginative 7-year-old stumbles across a huge bag of loot in the field near his new house, days before the mandatory UK changeover to the euro. While the money initially brings nothing but good fortune, dealing with the newfound stash gets steadily more complicated as the deadline approaches. Every blade of grass is a nuclear Jolly Rancher green, bad guys block out the sun, tract houses quick assemble around the oblivious tenants, and landscapes stretch out for eons. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
In terms of sheer virtuosic moxie, director Chan-wook Park's vision (a SIFF favorite for his earlier films Joint Security Area and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) is close to faultless: visually dazzling, darkly funny, and consistently, astonishingly, inventive. That said, his chosen subject matter and delivery are so relentlessly and ruthlessly vile that even the most rabid pulp enthusiasts might find the need to scrub down with steel wool afterwards. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
It's hard to know which facet of Palindromes is the most disquieting. Is it the fable-like atmosphere? Is it the sexual activity of the young girl? Is it the sexual activity of her partners? Is it the funny/sick dramatization of the pro-choice agenda? Is it the funny/sick dramatization of the Christian agenda? The nervous laughter that punctuates every scene? Yes, on all counts. Solondz' gift lies in refusing to flinch at the collision of wild paradoxes. Aviva's options, which Solondz recently characterized as "a pro-choice family that offers no choice at all, and a pro-life family that kills," spell out a hopeless course for a girl who, at bottom, only wants what every kid wants: to be loved unconditionally. To get there, she suffers through all the cant, hypocrisy, and profound loneliness that contemporary life is made of. That the film can envision her journey as a folktale--in which poetic sequences like Aviva trudging with her wheelie suitcase across a glowing field of spinach trade off with the Swiftian satire of the Sunshine family--doesn't diminish its power. On the contrary, it makes the point that the beef between the warring factions of 21st-century America is so irreconcilable as to constitute a kind of fantasy world. (SEAN NELSON)
Thankfully, only the barest plot and character elements are held over from Clive Cussler's virtually unreadable doorstop of a novel, which is the kind of tech-heavy, mondo-macho potboiler that stewardesses must get tired of sweeping up after every flight. What still remains: Matthew McConaughey is the wonderfully named Dirk Pitt, a ludicrously rad underwater explorer/rare-car enthusiast/secret agent/master of languages/all-around stud who, along with faithful companion/hetero life partner Steve Zahn, gets caught up in a sinister desert plot involving Civil War battleships, ocean-killing water pollution, toxic waste, slithery French industrialists, feuding generals, and Lord knows what else. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela
In just over 80 minutes, the documentary Short Cut to Nirvana, by Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day, offers what amounts to a snapshot of the infinite. The Kumbh Mela (the largest religious festival in the world) that is documented happened in 2001, and one imagines that the filmmakers' first problem was finding a point to enter it, and then, once inside the spiritual city, locating an exit. The directors were rescued by a young monk, Swami Krishnanand, who wears wire-rimmed glasses and guides them through the gurus and their followers, the musical and theatrical performances, the street dancers, the dust, the heat, the cold, the tents, the religious robots, the Internet kiosks, the babble, chanting, singing, preaching, praying, and the burying of live persons. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
In purely aesthetic terms, Sin City is without a doubt the ultimate comic-book movie. Dialogue, sets, costumes, even framing--each has been thoroughly copped from the pages of Miller's comics, almost to the point of absurdity. To call the film an adaptation is a massive understatement; this isn't a translation, it's a cut-and-paste job, bringing Miller's twisted vision directly to the screen in all its unfiltered glory. The result is one of the most daring and beautifully made films you'll ever see--too bad, then, that it's as thin as the pages the comic was printed on. (BRADLEY STEINBACHER)
A pair of twins, separated after their parents' death, end up in opposition: one marries a Jew, the other marries a Nazi. If they had sat down and thought, "How can we really throw a wrench into our perfect twinness," could they have come up with such an ideal situation?
The Upside of Anger
Secretly sleazy yuppies, oversexed teens, upscale infighting--as a cinematic subject, the exploration of suburbia's dark underbelly could stand to spend some serious time in the ground. The Upside of Anger makes an all-too-blatant grab for the award-friendly glory road well plowed by the likes of American Beauty and Terms of Endearment, yet is nearly redeemed by a cast that wrings out every last bit of potential from the formula. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
On paper, this documentary about the five-year relationship between a gentle, sporadically homeless hippie with no visible means of support and an unruly flock of birds sounds like a recipe for instant tooth decay. Darned if it doesn't work, though. Despite a few unfortunately syrupy music cues and an occasional drift into the land of the overly cutes, director/photographer Judy Irving's film is a refreshingly nonjudgmental, beautifully shot look at a genuine original, and the San Franciscan community that affectionately supports his decidedly unusual drumbeat. Mild tonal sputtering aside, this word-of-mouth art house phenom is the rare movie that honestly earns its sentimentality, with a Zapruderish photographic reveal in the final act that's seriously the most affecting thing I've seen all year. Stock up on Kleenex and take the folks. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
Sundance bait from the word go, Josh Sternfeld's downbeat character study Winter Solstice glories in the moments between conflicts which most films take great pains to dispose of. Flashy it certainly ain't, but there's no discounting the value of a decent story well told, especially these days. Set in a sleepy Jersey suburb, the narrative centers on widowed landscaper Jim Winters (Anthony LaPaglia, whose character's surname thankfully represents the movie's one and only case of the cutes). With one son straining to leave the coop and head to Florida, and another seemingly content to spend the rest of his days languishing in summer school, he strikes up a tentative romance with a housesitter down the block (the always welcome Allison Janney). Nothing much else happens, which is probably both the film's greatest strength and commercial weakness. (ANDREW WRIGHT)
XXX: State of the Union
Ice Cube takes over for Vin Diesel as a special agent, blah, blah, blah, nation's capital, blah, blah, blah, BOOM.