Andy Spletzer

The first time I saw Gaspar Noé's I Stand Alone, I was alone in a foreign city. I stumbled into the screening knowing nothing of what was to come (basically, the xenophobic humor of South Park taken to its nastiest extreme), and I laughed in shock and disbelief that this director would take it so far. But the second time through, with my girlfriend in tow, the movie was just plain nasty. Sure, it's smart and stylish and powerful, but after one viewing its bludgeoning nastiness becomes redundant. I really couldn't blame people for walking out, and I know several people, myself included, who suffered insomnia after seeing it. You'll see for yourself (or maybe you won't) when it returns to the Varsity in August.

As for the rest of the festival, I saw fewer films this year, but I saw a lot more good ones. Except for Twin Falls Idaho, the American independent fiction films seemed stuck in that same coming-of-age/post-collegiate/"let's try to appeal to the Sundance programmers" film of the last five years. But I did love the Russian films I saw, as well as Asian films like Beautiful Sunday and The Hole.

Beyond the films, I want to thank my three favorite SIFF staffers: press liaisons Laura, Rebecca, and Nick (oh, okay, and Deena too). I would also like to thank whoever programmed the press screenings this year, because that is one reason I saw so many more good films than usual (and fewer lousy American independents). Favorite guests included The Lifestyle's David Schisgall, less a weird sex freak and more a smart and interesting guy, and crazy Russian director Alexander "Sasha" Bashirov, the guy who made The Iron Heel of the Oligarchy and who is something akin to a rock star in St. Petersburg. All in all a very good festival, though still long as the dickens.

Gillian G. Gaar

First up, I have to acknowledge that if it weren't for SIFF's booking of Speaking in Strings, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a groveling fan--er, journalist, enjoying a wee confab with the film's subject, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, prior to her Seattle engagement. She loves Benaroya Hall, describes meeting the Clintons as "Fantastic. Phenomenal. A phenomenal experience," and smokes American Spirit ciggies.

Speaking of documentaries, SIFF booked a bunch extra this year, and I loved that! Excellent choice of archival films too. No matter how many times you see Some Like It Hot or The Third Man on video, it can't compare with the joy of seeing such stunning films on the big screen. Kudos also for SIFF's excellent job done in hunting down that luscious print of Porgy and Bess.

Best Documentary: The Lifestyle. Best Actress: Helen Mirren in The Passion of Ayn Rand. Best Actor: Rupert Everett in An Ideal Husband. Best Film That Confused The Heck Out Of The Audience: Tie between Breakfast of Champions and The Loss of Sexual Innocence. Best Interview Experience: David Schisgall, The Lifestyle. Opening Night Party: Lots of space at last, but not enough tables! Once people tanked up on the vodka martinis, however, they probably didn't mind at all.

Charles Mudede

This year's SIFF was different from previous festivals in two distinct ways. The quality of the films improved tremendously, due in part (I suspect) to the larger role Maryna Albert played in the programming. She was responsible for such films as Nothing, Rosie, Lucy's Revenge, as well as all the Russian films and the visually stunning Czech film The Bed. (There were also great shorts selected for the Women in Cinema program by Anne Rosellini.)

Though the number of parties increased, the number of people attending them decreased. For this I blame Kate McClellan (who threw me and Ulrike Schweiger--a great Austrian director of short films--out of a dinner party for big-shot Hollywood Reporter guy George Christy, at McCormick & Schmick's on Lake Union). This nagging lack of people at the parties (unlike last year, when doors were open wider and invitations were more frequent) hit the lowest point at a party for The Ideal Husband (sans Minnie Driver) at Chef Wang's. There was great food, an almost open bar, and great music spun by DJ Prophet. But, depressingly, there were almost no people there, not even SIFF staff (who, I later learned, were not receiving invitations to these parties).

All I have to say is this: Seattle is not New York or Paris, and you just don't turn people away, or try to refine your guest list to a set of seemingly elite types. So, at next year's SIFF, let's have a big party and invite everyone! (By the way, Atom Films threw the best party this year.)

Bruce Reid

Perfection doesn't always equal greatness, but it just so happens that the most formally perfect film of SIFF '99 was also the one I loved the most: Julio Medem's Lovers of the Arctic Circle (now playing at the Broadway Market), which is--to borrow David Cronenberg's promo blurb for a wholly different movie--as rigorous and beautiful as a geometric theorem. It was also great to catch up with his debut feature, Vacas. Make no mistake: Medem is a major talent.

So is Leos Carax, if we're to judge from Lovers on the Bridge. He still needs to discipline his scripts--too many dead spots keep me from surrendering completely--but as a friend said after the screening, every 15 minutes something would happen that reminded you why you love cinema. Of Freaks and Men, Besieged, Beautiful Sunday, Killer, and Sitcom round out, in no particular order, my other favorites. As for the rest--no, why dwell on the negative now? I've got 48 weeks left to gripe and moan before the next festival starts up.

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