The Flute Player
Seattle Weekly's critical guide to SIFF 2003. • Movies A-E: From Abouna to The Eye. • Movies F-L: From The Flute Player to The Lover. • Movies M-S: From Madame Sata to The Sea Is Watching. • Movies S-Z: From Seaside to Los Zafiros/The Sapphires: Music From the Edge of Time. • SIFF Events • SIFF Shorts What I Wanna See • Brian Miller recommends. • Tim Appelo recommends. • Sheila Benson recommends.
U.S.A., 2003. Director: Jocelyn Glatzer
Mon., June 9, 7 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
A documentary about a musician who, as a child, was conscripted into the murderous Khmer Rouge. Screens with The Cement Ball of Earth, Heaven, and Hell.
Australia, 2002. Director: Alex Proyas
Sat., May 31, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
A comedy about the misadventures of a struggling rock band in Sydney, Alex (Dark City) Proyas' latest is set in the contemporary Australian music scene.
Italy, 2001. Director: Monica Lisa Stambrini
Sat., May 31, 1:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
Sun., June 1, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
A little bit of Bound, a whole lot of Thelma & Louise, and one skimpy spaghetti-Western budget make for an intriguingly but ultimately disappointing excursion in style over plot, Italian-style. Mousy Lenni (Regina Orioli) and her jackbooted lover, Stella (Maya Sansa), accidentally knock off Lenni's disapproving mother, then throw Mama in the trunk and hit the road with a couple of squirrelly joyriders in hot pursuit. Sansa is sexy in that ass-kicking, Gina-Gershon- in-black-leather kind of vein, and director Stambrini has some neat tricks, pulling off her tiny production like she wouldn't have it any other way. But even at a brief 88 minutes, Gasoline runs its home stretch strictly on fumes. U.S. premiere. Leah Greenblatt
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Louise Hogarth
Sat., May 24, 1:45 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
This documentary looks at the phenomenon of "bug chasing" (the practice of deliberately contracting the AIDS virus) and "gift giving" (that of deliberately passing it on to others).
The Girl From Paris
France, 2001. Director: Christian Carion
Mon., June 2, 7 p.m., Pacific Place
Wed., June 11, 2 p.m., Pacific Place
Evidently conceived before the dot-com crash, this film has its heroine (Mathilde Seigner) voluntarily quit her job teaching Web-site design for a government retraining program to become a farmer high in the scenic Alps. (Only in France would they pay for this.) Two years later, she uses government money (only in France) to buy out a widowed old goat farmer (Michel Serrault) and promptly adds a B&B operation (with its own Web site!) to her fold. The crotchety old grump blows her off at every opportunity, but we're supposed to like him for this (only in France). He's alone; she's alone, so we know that some kind of relationship will develop, but there's a lot of goat-milking that must come first. (Girl was shot with a five-month break, so you really get a feel for the changing seasons.) Though slow, Girl gives you a sense of the hardship, color, and occasional whimsy of the agrarian life. B.R.M.
Hong Kong/China, 1968. Director: Zhang Che
Sun., May 25, 1:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
A nominal sequel to King Hu's Come Drink With Me, Swallow takes its title from the heroine of Hu's film but reorients the plot around a tormented swordsman (what other kind is there?).
Gololed (Black Ice)
Russia, 2002. Director: Mikhail Brashinsky
Sat., June 14, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Sun., June 15, 1:45 p.m., Cinerama
A young female attorney finds herself caught in a maze of conflicting and deadly agendas when she discovers a tape proving the guilt of a prominent client she's defending. U.S. premiere.
The Good Old Naughty Days
France, 2002. Director: Michael Reilhac
Thurs., May 29, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian
In true genre fashion, this silent-era porno compilation leaves something to be desired. Days beautifully restores rare French flicks of the anything-goes 1920s. The production values outstrip their Yankee counterparts, with expressive, professional lighting, elaborate indoor sets, and expensive-looking costumes. Setups include naughty nuns in soixante-neuf with buggering abbots, a Musketeer frigging a milkmaid, and an orientalist Madame Butterfly parody. The pickles-and-beaver shots found in cheaper films are absent, though surprisingly raunchy bits occur, some with animals. But given the substantial scholarly interest, the winking intertitles are disappointing. Only the tiniest bit of historical background is given about the films' provenance, padded out with corny, badly translated jokes. An American production, the animated Eveready, is tacked onto the end without explanation. Still, erotophiles should appreciate this peek into yet another period when French meant freedom. Ed Halter
A Great Wonder
U.S.A., 2003. Director: Kim Shelton
Mon., May 26, 11:30 a.m., Egyptian
Three young Sudanese immigrants, part of a group often called "The Lost Boys of the Sudan," arrive in Seattle to start a new life. The world premiere of a local documentary.
U.S.A. 2002. Director: Randi Nargi
Sun., May 25, 11:30 a.m., Egyptian
Bogwood, Wash., is the fictional setting for this tale about the residents of the "Garage Sale Capital of the U.S.A." What's surprising is that Bogwood beat out Seattle for the title. World premiere.
South Korea, 2002. Director: Lee Jong-Hyuk
Thurs., May 29, 7 p.m., Pacific Place
Sat., June 14, 6:30 p.m., Cinerama
In this thriller, one year after the deranged but ingenious Shin-yun is jailed for the gruesome murders of six women, bodies start to turn up with the hallmarks of his evil, evil work. U.S. premiere.
Finland, 2002. Director: Arto Koskinen
Wed., June 11, 4:45 p.m., Egyptian
Fri., June 13, 6:30 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
It's the 1970s, and we're in a tiny Finnish town on the Swedish border. Our 12-year-old hero, Esko, perpetrates a brilliant maneuver in a battle with a rival kid gangdumping a load of logs to effect a daring escape but alas, only Esko escapes. His pals feel betrayed, and pretty soon all the guys, Finn and Swede alike, are literally pissing on him. He takes refuge with a new best friend, the Swede kid Pate. Esko doesn't get it that Pate's bald pate indicates terminal illness, so when they bond over a passion for Houdini, it has even more resonance for Pate. Esko helps Pate make home movies about Houdini and World War II (Esko's grandpa is a mad veteran), endures bullies and Pate's snippy big sister, and copes with his parents' marital warfare. It's all slight, mildly mirthful, and modestly affecting, like a less-successful version of My Life as a Dog. U.S. premiere. T.A.
Hard Goodbyes: My Father
Greece/Germany, 2002 Director: Penny Panayotopoulou
Mon., June 2, 7 p.m., Harvard Exit
Wed., June 4, 4:45 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
The first moon landing is about to happen, and 10-year-old Elias frets as his beloved traveling-salesman father is late returning from a trip. Perhaps the best Greek/German co-production of the year.
The Hard Word
Australia/Great Britain, 2002 Director: Scott Roberts
Cast: Guy Pearce and Rachel Griffiths
Thurs., June 5, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Sat., June 7, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Like Bonnie and Clyde in Australia, with Pearce and Griffiths as a bank robber and his unreliable wife. Double-crosses abound after the Big Heist.
The Heart of Me
Great Britain, 2002. Director: Thadeus O'Sullivan
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams, and Paul Bettany
Fri., June 6, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Fri., June 13, 1:45 p.m., Pacific Place
Upper-middle-class British society in the '30s is again rocked by unrestrained passions that lie just beneath the surface. Williams certainly merits unrestrained passion in our view.
The Hebrew Hammer
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Jon Kesselman
Cast: Adam Goldberg, Andy Dick, Mario Van Peebles, and Peter Coyote
Fri., June 6, midnight, Egyptian
Goldberg plays Mordechai Jefferson Carver, a.k.a. "The Hebrew Hammer," an Orthodox superhero detective stud. This satire/action/"Jewsploitation" comedy premiered at Sundance. Dig that cast!
Hidden in Plain Sight
U.S.A., 2003. Director: John Smihula
Sat., June 7, 9:30 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Sun., June 8, 1:45 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
News flash: The U.S. government's School of the Americas trained Latin American despots and military menNoriega and the contras among themwho brutally oppressed, tortured, and killed their own people. Don't take my word for it? How about Noam Chomsky's? Or Christopher Hitchens'? Or Martin Sheen's? The West Wing's President Bartlet himself narrates this completely unexceptional, completely unsurprising documentary about the SOA (or "school for dictators"), founded in 1946 Panama and moved to Ft. Bening, Ga., in 1984. Bloody autopsy photos are waved and torture victims testify, but no amount of lefty sloganeering can ever proveor disprovewhat's actually taught inside the school (since renamed WHISCas in "Whisk the Commies away!"). There's even a big peace march and bad folk music for viewers so inclined. I just wish Michael Moore had poked his camera inside the SOAyou know, what kind of grades did Noriega get in Torture 101? And did the other cadets tease him about his skin? North American premiere. Brian Miller
France, 2002. Director: Claude Berri
Sat., May 31, 6:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Wed., June 4, 4:45 p.m., Pacific Place
In this comedy, the latest from veteran producer-director Berri, a young housekeeper leaves her lover and moves in with one of her middle-aged employers.
House of Fools
Russia/France, 2002. Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Sun., June 1, 9:30 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Fri., June 6, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian
Russia's bid for the 2002 foreign-language Oscar was this fable about a madhouse in Chechnya separately bombed and invaded by both guerrillas and Russian troops. It's a real madhouse, and some of the actors are said to be actual inmates. The (sane) star is a radiant innocent named Janna (Julia Vysotsky), who makes madness look like great fun. She plays the accordion and fantasizes a love affair with Bryan Adams (!)who actually appears in her reverie about a wild party on a train, crooning "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman." Nice hallucination if you can get it, and gorgeously photographed. Janna is based on a woman who actually stalked Konchalovsky; the Chechens are more human than terrorists usually appear; and Konchalovsky strives to honor every character. But his tale is aimless, leaden with empathy, sticky like Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears. I liked Janna OK, but I didn't really, really, really, really, really love her. T.A.
Hungary, 2001. Director: Gy� Pᬦi
Sun., June 1, 6:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Tues., June 3, 4:45 p.m., Pacific Place
There's virtually no dialogue in this exceedingly curious, fiendishly clever Hungarian contraption devised by 28-year-old Pᬦi. A bizarrely associative montage proceeds from an old man's hiccups (hence the title) to a barnyard frolic to a murder mystery with a sardonic punch line. The movie's cartoon pantheism sometimes suggests an eccentric nature documentary (or a comic version of L'Humanit鼯I>), but basically Hukkle is one of a kind. J. Hoberman
The Hunter and the Hunted
Japan, 2003. Director: Izuru Narushima
Wed., June 11, 7 p.m., Egyptian
Fri., June 13, 4 p.m., Egyptian
Detective Jin rounds up crooks in his own clumsy-yet-earnest fashion. After having nailed crime boss Neko once, however, his nemesis gets out of jail to begin a new game of cat and mouse. World premiere.
I Capture the Castle
Great Britain, 2002. Director: Tim Fywell
Sat., June 7, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian
Wed., June 11, 4:45 p.m., Cinerama
O, the beloved English novel turned into a movie. It can go well (see: Merchant-Ivory), or it can go badly (see: Merchant-Ivory). Dodie Smith's autobiographical 1948 marriage drama is no classic, but it is beloved, and Castle is rather too belabored with its belovedness. In addition to ponderous voice-overs from sensitive, overlooked 17-year-old Cassandra (who vies with her glamorous, fickle older sister, Rose, for two rich American brothers who move in next door), the movie has to show you her writing in her diary. In case you missed the point. About her being a future writer. And all that. Anyway, the Suffolk countryside is picturesque; the girls' family is colorfully eccentric; and Castle, set in the '30s, will satisfy those women looking for a very, very diluted shot of Jane Austen. For men, it'll seem like estrogen therapy, although Tara Fitzgerald supplies interest as the girls' bohemian stepmother, a dedicated nudist. B.R.M.
I'm the Father
Germany, 2002. Director: Dani Levy
Mon., June 9, 7 p.m., Pacific Place
Sat., June 14, 1:45 p.m., Pacific Place
A wrenching family drama from SIFF regular Dani Levy, Father is the story of Melanie and Marco, a young, well-to-do couple battling for custody of their 6-year-old son.
Hong Kong 2002. Directors: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
Mon., June 9, 9:30 p.m., Cinerama
Sat., June 14, 4 p.m., Egyptian
In this fast-paced cops, robbers, and moles film, an undercover officer ensconced as a triad boss's right-hand man (an unshaven Tony Leung Chiu-Wai of A Chinese Odyssey 2002not the Tony Leung Kai-Fai of Double Vision) goes cat and mouse with a mob plant in the police (Andy Lau). This flashy riff on the notion of fractured post-handover identity harkens back to the early-'90s heyday of the Hong Kong genre picture, with psychological conflict rather than bullet ballets. Shot by Chris Doyle (In the Mood for Love, Rabbit-Proof Fence). M ark Peranson
Germany, 2001. Director: Faith Akin
Thurs., June 5, 7 p.m., Egyptian
Sat., June 7, 1:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
A road romance featuring Moritz Bliebtreu (Das Experiment, SIFF '02), July follows a young, nerdy physics teacher who falls in love with a gorgeous young backpacker. (Definite date-movie potential.)
I Not Stupid
Singapore, 2002. Director: Jack Neo
Thurs., June 12, 4:45 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Sat., June 14, 9:30 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Three 12-year-olds who find school worse than prison get no relief from their nagging parents. A sly critique of Singapore's obsession with losing its identity to the West. North American premiere.
In This World
Great Britain, 2002 Director: Michael Winterbottom
Fri., June 13, 6:30 p.m., Cinerama
Sat., June 14, 1:45 p.m., Egyptian
Two Afghan cousins attempt to travel the dangerous distance between Peshawar and London just as America begins bombing their country. Character-building struggles ensue. U.S. premiere.
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan
Hong Kong/China, 1972. Director: Chu Yuan
Sun., June 1, 1:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
Imagine relocating a martial-arts school to a brothel, then making the martial-arts master a madam and her disciple a prostitute. Just imagine that. Now thank Chu Yuan for bringing it to the screen.
The Invisible Children
Colombia/Venezuela, 2001 Director: Lisandro Duque Naranjo
Sat., May 24, 11:30 a.m., Pacific Place
I am all for the nostalgic recollection of my childhood in '50s Colombia. I'm in favor of puppy love among preteens. And when it comes to black magic, slaughtering cats and chickens in moonlit cemeteries, and turning oneself invisible to spy on an innocent crushI say, "Porque no?" But the occult stuff here is strictly PG-rated, and the aimlessly dull Children makes Stand by Me seem like a classic. Pudgy uncharismatic 7-year-old Rafael isn't even played by a cute child actor; he's just a pudgy uncharismatic child actor who mopes after "that airy girl" Marta, evidently believing she's some kind of incorporeal angel who doesn't eat or feel pangs of love. (More likely, she's just not interested in pudgy uncharismatic boys.) You think there's going to be a plot turn when Children abruptly veers into adult political concerns ("Death to centralism!"), but the movie remains as hazy and unfocused as its narrator. Nunca m/I>. B.R.M.
I, Taraneh, Am Fifteen
Iran, 2002. Director: Rasul Sadr-Ameli
Sat., May 31, 4 p.m., Pacific Place
Wed., June 4, 7 p.m., Harvard Exit
A teenager is talked into marrying the son of a neighboring merchant, only to be left pregnant and in legal limbo.
South Korea, 2002. Director: Kim Sang-Jim
Mon., June 2, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Sat., June 14, 1:45 p.m., Cinerama
Two convicts escape from prison, not realizing they were released in a holiday amnesty. Press materials promise "a good time for all," perhaps excluding the hapless convicts themselves. North American premiere.
Jason and the Argonauts
U.S.A., 1963. Director: Don Chaffey
Fri., May 30, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian
This movie has it all. Hot babes! Hairy-chested heroes! Thrilling action sequences! And, most important for film geeks (oops, I mean cinephiles): outlandish beasts brought to life by stop-motion animation pioneer Ray Harryhausen. His astounding visual effects predated CGI by decades, yet they still managed to blend live actors and animated monsters almost seamlessly. The epic plot follows Greek mythology: Jason (Todd Armstrong) seeks to reclaim his rightful kingship by assembling a team of Greece's finest and going after the legendary golden fleece. Along the way, Jason and his merry, hairy band encounter danger, display loads of hubris, and receive much-needed advice and assistance from scrumptious mythical vixens like Hera (Honor Blackman) and Medea (Nancy Kovack). Harryhausen will appear at the screening and show his new 12-minute short, The Tortoise and the Hare. Neal Schindler
Jealousy Is My Middle Name
South Korea, 2002. Director: Park Chan-Ok
Mon., May 26, 4 p.m., Harvard Exit
Wed., May 28, 4:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
The story of a graduate student who apprentices himself to the magazine editor who stole his girlfriend. Why are editors always doing that? FYI: Park is one of Korea's few female directors.
France, 2002. Director: Daniele Thompson
Cast: Jean Reno, Juliette Binoche, and Sergi Lopez
Sun., June 15, 6:30 p.m., Cinerama
This leaden piffle grounds two fine actors more completely than the air traffic controllers' strike that throws their mismatched characters together. Ditsy, overly made-up beautician Binoche, heading for Acapulco to get away from a jealous boyfriend, is stranded along with Jean Reno's businessman at Charles de Gaulle Airport. The idea may have been a lighthearted American-style romance, but it's fizzless chemistry until more than halfway into the film when these polar opposites get togetherin a conveniently shared hotel room, of course! Foodie Reno fixes them a midnight supper from the conveniently closed hotel kitchen; she washes off the layers of make-up, and they finally connect. Separated in the morning, especially by the arrival of her boyfriend, the rest of the film nudges them together via passionate, crystal-clear trans-Atlantic cell phone calls. For anyone with a cell phone, it's the picture's most hilarious idea. S.B.
Norway, 2002. Director: Jens Lien
Wed., June 11, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian
Sat., June 14, 11:30 a.m., Cinerama
Jonny is beset by a mysterious series of catastrophes affecting both him and his business. But our seemingly mild-mannered hero is not one to take it lying down. (Uh-oh.) North American premiere.
Julie Walking Home
Canada/Germany/Poland, 2001 Director: Agnieszka Holland
Sun., June 1, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Wed., June 4, 4:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
This drama from the acclaimed director of Europa, Europa concerns a woman who discovers her husband has been unfaithful. She also learns that her son has an apparently fatal disease. Not for the easily depressed.
King of the Ants
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Daniel Baldwin, Kari Wuhrer, and George Wendt
Fri., June 13, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian
Sun., June 15, 11:30 a.m., Cinerama
The director of Re-Animator has adapted his new thriller from a 1992 novel by an English TV comic about a drifter who drifts (what else?) into violence and anomie. All thatplus Norm from Cheers! World premiere.
Sweden, 2002. Director: Josef Fares
Fri., June 13, 6:30 p.m., H