Friday, May 29, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 2

I Know You Know (2008) dir. Justin Kerrigan

To Jamie (Arron Fuller), Charlie (Robert Carlyle) is a hero.  He dresses suave, he appears to know everyone, but Jamie knows his father is in trouble.  Charlie confides in Jamie that they are in danger, if they are found, but that Mr. Fisher will protect them.  Through the eyes of the child, the obvious explanation is that Charlie is a spy and Charlie convincingly plays this role.  So convincingly, that he begins to believe it himself.

I Know You Know is an intriguing film.  It was suspenseful and consistently engaging.  Both Fuller and Carlyle were quite good, especially Carlyle who needed to move from creating a fantasy life in order to protect his son from knowing the truth then the development of mental illness, when his lies become his reality.  I Know You Know was a good flick that ended with an emotional punch to the gut that I really was not expecting.   

Nurse.Fighter.Boy (2008) dir. Charles Officer

The title is a nice synopsis of this quietly, moving Canadian film about a Jamaican family in Canada.  This was a lovely film, but very difficult to write about.  It follows the lives of an immigrant family of two, a night nurse and her son as she struggles with sickle-cell anemia.  Their lives become entwined with a boxer, Silence, who is boxer finding himself suddenly in charge of a boxing gym after the sudden death of the owner.  The film has little dialog and thus, we learn about these characters from their habits, the music they listen to, and the choices they make.  Probably due to this, Nurse.Fighter.Boy has an intimacy with these characters that is a bit of a rarity.  This was a lovely film, with an excellent soundtrack that can be downloaded at the Nurse.Fighter.Boy official website.

http://www.nursefighterboy.ca/

Still Walking (2008) dir. Hirokazu Koreeda

Hong Kong action-cinema may be the genre that resulted in my falling in love with Asian cinema, but it is the subtle Japanese drama that resulted in my complete adoration of Japanese cinema.  Still Walking, or 歩いても、歩いても, is easily compared to Ozu's family dramas, with similar focus on family dynamics and slow pacing.  In the film, Yokoyama Ryota returns to his childhood home during an annual family reunion to commemorate the death of his brother, who drown 15 years before.  He brings his wife and her 10 year-old son home to meet the family.  His sister is already there, loudly entertaining her rambunctious clan as their mother tries to work in the kitchen.  All the while, the family patriarch hides away in the examination room, left from the days when he practiced medicine.

Still Walking results in a contemplation on all of the the promises that are never kept.  Unlike, Tokyo Story, the emphesis is placed on the surviving children.  On the disapointing choices that they've made in life, on their failures, and the things they try to keep from their disapproving parents.  Ryota is unemployed, but keeps quiet on this matter.  But he also makes promises to his parents that are never kept.  But in the end, life goes on and much remains the same and I suspect Ryota has more in common with his parents then he knows. 

http://www.aruitemo.com/index.html





Saturday, May 23, 2009

SIFF 2009, Day 1


Departures (2008) dir. Youjirou Takita

Last night, we went to the very sold out screening of Departures (Okuribito). Departures was the winner of the Best Foreign Language film for the Oscars, so unlike most of the films at SIFF, people have heard of this one. And I, having some awareness of the wonderful dramatic films that are made in Japan, had high expectations.

Daigo Kobayashi had just achieved his livelong dream, he had finally become a celloist in an orchestra, which immediately is disbanded. In an attempt to reevalute his life and make ends meet, he moves back to his home town and answers an add titled "departures" assuming he was applying to work in a travel agency. Turns out the departures the job advertisment was referring are a bit more permanent than a vacation, and he begins to work in the funeral industry. Much of the drama of the film is derived from the misunderstanding of the funeral industry and the shameful nature of working in such an unclean industry.

What was interesting about Departures was the practice of preparing the dead for cremation in Japan. Unlike in the West, it was done in view of the grieving family. The loved one was washed, dressed, make-up applied and layed in a casket while the family observes. The way that these tasks were done was intriguing as it was all done with complete respect and reverence for both the deceased and the family. It was fasinating to watch the washing and preparation of the body without any flesh being displayed to the watching family.

Otherwise, Departures was very formulaic. In fact, the film seemed to follow the Oscar formulae to a level of perfection seldom matched by Hollywood. Yes, this movie does exactly what the audience expects at every turn and thus, it is a crowd pleasing film. It walks a cautious tightrope dealing with the messy subject of death, while adding just enough humor to make this "unclean" trade palatable and touches upon big emotional issues like acceptance, loss, and regret without dealing with messy complexity, just providing nice, tidy and quick resolutions.

Departures was a fine film; engaging and often very likable, but it was disappointing due to its lack of emotional depth. I never emotionally connected to this film.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

SIFF 2009

Today is the first day of the Seattle Independent Film Festival. In fact, the opening night gala screening of In the Loop is underway as I type this. I attend the festival every year, but I've never been to any of the festivities, like the opening night Gala event. Tickets tend to be expensive and I figure the money is better spent on getting to more individual screenings. So I'm at home instead of having cocktails with James Gandolfini. Or rather, a cocktail in the same room as some of the cast of In the Loop. Anyway, I'm still sick and need to rest to maximize my energy to see plenty of movies over the long weekend and perhaps, if I'm feeling significantly more spry than I do at the moment, I can stalk celebrities who are rumored to be in attendence.

But more likely, I'll just spend many hours in line and watch a lot of movies.

The biggest task every year is selecting films. I read the schedule, research the films, watch trailers, and look for recommendations from various sources like the Northwest Film Forum or The Stranger. But generally, I tend to gravitate towards certain genres (action, black comedy, martial arts, thrillers) and countries or industries (Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan) and again, my list of movies that I already have tickets for are not any of the films that are being mentioned as the must see movies of SIFF 2009. I'm trying not to let this bother me.

The list of screenings (so far):

Friday, May 22, 2009 Departures (Okuribito), Japan
Saturday, May 23, 2009 I Know You Know, United Kingdom
Saturday, May 23, 2009 Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo), Japan
Monday, May 25, 2009 We Live In Public, USA, documentary films
Moday, May 25, 2009. Terribly Happy (Frygtelig lykkelig), Denmark
Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Daytime Drinking (Not sool), South Korea
Tuesday, May 26, 2009. Fear Me Not (Den du frygter), Denmark
Thursday, May 28, 2009. The Merry Gentleman, USA
Friday, May 29, 2009. Deadgirl, USA, Midnight Adrenaline
Sunday, May 31. 2009. Kisses. Ireland
Friday, June 5, 2009 . Humpday. USA, Gala screening
Saturday, June 6, 2009. Mesrine: A Film in Two Parts (Part 1), France
Saturday, June 6, 2009. Mesrine: A Film in Two Parts (Part 2), France

So that sums up the films that I am currently have tickets to. I'm sure films will be added, since the festival runs until June 14.