Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story
dir. Scot Barbour
Sat June 4, 6:30 pm, Neptune; Thurs June 9, 7 pm, EMP

SIFF isn't lacking in music documentaries this year, but the festival is especially kind to our local scene, showcasing movies about everyone from the Gits to Death Cab for Cutie. Like any great documentary, though, Malfunkshun transcends its genre (and locale) so even if you know nothing about what seminal Seattle rock band begat the next, there's something very personal and compelling about this candid biography.

Named after the '80s glam rock band, Malfunkshun is about its beloved frontman Andrew Wood, who overdosed shortly before the big grunge explosion. (He died in 1990 at the age of 24.) He's portrayed through old interview footage and the collective memories of his family members, former fiancée, therapist, and such famous friends as members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam (Wood sang in Mother Love Bone with PJ's Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, and was Chris Cornell's roommate). Together they weave the story of a born entertainer-a label that cuts both ways. On one hand, the KISS/Elton John fanatic realized his dreams of becoming the ultimate lead singer-Mother Love Bone was one of the first Seattle bands of their era to get signed to a major label. On the other, Wood's need to entertain came out of growing up in an abusive family, where his class-clown routine was the silver lining in a very dark personal history.

From the moving opening narration by Wood's father to the teary-eyed closing comments by his mother, Andrew Wood is shown not only as a cautionary tale about drug addiction but also as an important part of our local music history. Most importantly, though, he's lovingly portrayed as a shining star who unfortunately burned out years before his time. JENNIFER MAERZ

The Red Colored Grey Truck
dir. Srdjan Koljevic
Sat June 4, 9:30 pm, Harvard Exit; Mon June 6, 4:45 pm, Uptown

As either die-hard festival watchers or unwary stumblers across late night Telemundo can tell you, comedy can be one of the toughest concepts to survive the translation process. All too often, one nation's collective chuckle is another country's thumb-twiddling befuddlement. Thankfully, debuting Serbian director Srdjan Koljevic's darkly tinged road opus The Red Colored Grey Truck more than survives the transition. Quirky as all get out, his screwball vision is generously broad enough for outsiders to successfully get the gist.

Set in the badlands of former Yugoslavia (and beginning with a ridiculously abortive quasi-Mexican standoff), Koljevic's shambling narrative is breathless from the get-go: After stealing the titular 18-wheeler, a color-blind Croatian thief and a flame-haired pregnant rocker chick meet cute, pack up, and haul ass towards the Italian border. Along the way they encounter civil wars, suspiciously dead hitchhikers, gun-toting priests, and royally inappropriate snake tattoos. A lavish musical number polishes things off. That such an apparent mish-mash works like gangbusters is due to both the fluid style of the director and the ultra-game lead performances of Srdjan Todorovic and Aleksandra Balmazovic. (Special notice must be given to Todorovic's hideous mustache, which often functions as his own personal straight man and/or punch line.)

In a post-credit coda, the director dedicates his film "To those who see differently," and pretentious as it may initially sound, he ain't just blowing smoke. While his quick-draw melding of moods may overly jar some viewers, it should bewitch those folks tired of the regular old formulas. It shouldn't hold the road, but jeez, watch it go. ANDREW WRIGHT

Editor's Note: Since the film Police Beat was written by our own Charles Mudede, we asked Seattle Police Officer Dain Jones, whose reports are often cited in Charles's column, to review the film for us.

Police Beat
dir. Robinson Devor
Thurs June 9, 7 pm, Egyptian; Sat June 11, 1:30 pm, Egyptian

Some people strive their whole lives to see something of theirs in print, so when The Stranger asked me to provide this review, I figured, "What the heck, why not?"

"What the heck?" was much the same reaction I was having five minutes into Police Beat; it was nothing like I'd expected. It is not pro- or anti-police, although people of either persuasion may find vindication for their opinions. The movie is ostensibly based on Charles Mudede's summaries of Seattle Police reports in his Police Beat column, but the central story has nothing to do with the column or the Seattle Police Department.

The protagonist, "Z" (Pape Sidy Niang), is a lonely African immigrant striving for a piece of the American Dream. He is followed through a few days of his life as a new Seattle Police bike-patrol officer, an assignment depicted as an undesired chore for unproven rookies (far from the truth).

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The film is simply a series of short scenes, mostly of Z responding to events from Mudede's column. Interspersed among these scenes are flashbacks or visions-possibly real-that Z is having of his girlfriend. She has just gone camping with her male roommate, leading Z to increasingly worry about infidelity. Z is preoccupied by what he sees as the impending collapse of his relationship but must referee the lives of other people on one side or the other of inane, asinine, or depraved incidents (all of which, according to the end credits, are actual events documented in Seattle Police reports). This occasionally lends an odd perspective to Z's own personal problems. Niang stoically portrays Z, clearly providing an unspoken bewilderment at the senselessness of human misbehavior. The quiet, thickly accented officer narrates his relationship troubles in his native language while the quirky police vignettes and visions play out on the screen. This necessitates the use of occasionally difficult-to-see subtitles.

Frankly, my movie preferences involve aliens or gratuitous explosions-or exploding aliens. If fast-paced action is what you're looking for, look elsewhere. However, fans of art films or foreign films (most SIFF attendees, I imagine) will almost certainly like this one. It's intriguing and anyone unfamiliar with true police procedures won't get hung up over the wild inaccuracies. Creatively, the film is very slickly produced; the visuals, while initially confusing, are striking, with distinct lighting and tempo contributing to the moods for particular scenes. And the soundtrack is pleasantly unobtrusive and mystical, enhancing Z's introspective, self-doubting commentary. DAIN JONES

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