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.
Brazil/France, 2002. Director: Karim Ainouz
Tues., May 27, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
You can have a rip-roaring time at this patchwork biography of legendary gay black Brazilian cabaret artiste/killer/street fighter of the 1930s, Jo㯠Francisco dos Santos, and still not understand much about his complicated life. Does not matter a bit. Between the fearless performance of Lạro Ramos (6 feet tall, muscular, and whippet-thin) as dos Santos and the lush, intense cinematography of Walter Carvalho (Central Station, Behind the Sun), there's heat enough to satisfy even fans of Brazilian carnival. The film sketches dos Santos' beginnings, hustling and robbing in Rio's seamy Lapa quarter, and his determination to become a star after his first arrest (for taking back wages at knifepoint). Ramos is sensational in dos Santos' cabaret act, which out-Bakers Josephine. Offstage, dos Santos' flamboyant extended family is as important as his virile pride at being gay and black at a time when such sentiments were dangerous and premature. An amazingly assured first film. S.B.
The Magdalene Sisters
Great Britain, 2002. Director: Peter Mullan
Sat., May 24, 6:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Sun., May 25, 4 p.m., Pacific Place
Until the last one closed in 1996, Ireland's Catholic Church ran a gulag system of prisons known as the "Magdalene Laundries," employing 30,000 "fallen women" as de facto slave laborers. Director Mullan makes this true-life story a shrieking piece of agitprop. It's sure grueling, and maybe all the laundries were dark Satanic mills as he depicts, but I can't fully join in the applause for this flick. The story is unshapelymostly just one unendurable act of sadism after another. Two of the four main characters, based on real people, get flung into the Sisters' dungeon for having children out of wedlock (one got raped and was fool enough to report it; the other was an orphan who dared to flirt with boys outside the laundry gates). Aside from one ingenious punishment for a rapist priestwhat would you do if he came into your laundry?that has both comic and tragic results, not enough of interest happens. There's a good escape, but it's no The Great Escape. T.A.
Mama Benz and the Taste of Money
Netherlands, 2001. Director: Karin Junger
Thurs., June 5, 4:45 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Mon., June 9, 9:30 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Here's one of the best, slyest primers on capitalism and colonialism I've ever seen. How did documentary director Junger ever get access to the boardroom of Dutch textile manufacturer Vlisco? Never tipping her hand (except through adroit, spot-on editing), Junger follows Vlisco's white male chieftains to French-speaking Burkina Faso. There we meet Alice, who hopes to become a "Mama Benz" (a top retailer of the beautiful batik linen worn by the extraordinarily well-turned-out women of that West African country). "We do not want to compete with you," the suits say to the all-female local sales force (who depend on Vlisco for their foreign-made goods), but Money deftly shows how they're lying through their corporate fangs. They're actually seeking a monopoly from manufacturing plant to point of sale. It sounds depressing, but Junger has a sure, light hand that makes the ending almost seem like comedy. And the soundtrack's great, too. B.R.M.
Canada, 2002. Director: Wiebke Von Carolsfeld
Sat., May 31, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Mon., June 2, 4:45 p.m., Pacific Place
A scrupulous and impeccably acted account of the fallout from a family secret, Bridge avoids the pitfalls of issue-of-the-week TV tearjerkers about ambivalent homecomings in which fences are mended, reckonings made, unspeakable abuses revealed. This adaptation of Daniel MacIvor's play defies its genealogy with grace, economy, and unstinting compassion. Youngest sister Agnes (the incandescent Molly Parker), two months sober, journeys to her Cape Breton hometown to help care for her ill mother, but middle sib Louise and oldest Theresa greet the prodigal daughter with indifference and suspicion, respectively. The return requires Agnes to wade through a minefield of ghosts; for her sisters, however, Agnes herself is a bad memory, for reasons both within and utterly beyond her control. Bridge identifies the alchemy of blood ties as resentment and helpless adoration, mingled beyond distinction. Bridge is an accumulation of telling incident, of interior softenings and hard-earned gestures of kindness. Jessica Winter
Marooned in Iraq
Iran, 2002. Director: Bahman Ghobadi
Tues., May 27, 7 p.m., Pacific Place
Blessed with the season's most topical title, Marooned begins as a music-fueled road movie. And like Ghobadi's sometimes- harrowing, quasi-documentary first feature, A Time for Drunken Horses, his second one is set on the Iraq-Iran borderalbeit this time in the gruesome aftermath of the first Gulf War. There, mustachioed, middle-aged Kurdish hipster musician Barat is enlisted to help rescue his father's long-estranged wife from across the border in Iraq. Although Marooned is a denser, funnier movie than the more straightforward Horses, it grows increasingly grim as the characters approach Iraq. Weddings give way to wailing funerals. Beaten and robbed, the musicians cross the border into a realm of snow and barbwire to find mass graves and orphans. The ending is open; the characters separate to fulfill their individual destinies. This lusty, heartfelt movie has a near-Brueghelian visual energy and a humanist passion as contagious as its music. J.H.
Me and Dad
China, 2002. Director: Jinglei Xu
Wed., June 11, 7 p.m., Harvard Exit
Fri., June 13, 4 p.m., Harvard Exit
After her mother dies in an accident, a young Chinese girl is reunited with her lowlife father. The odd couple has to try to get along somehow. U.S. premiere.
Belgium/Netherlands/France, 2002 Director: Doroth饠Van Den Berghe
Thurs., June 12, 4:45 p.m., Pacific Place
Wed., June 11, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Inspired by the director's own experience growing up (which involved hippies), Meisje consists of three interwoven portraits of women at significant moments in their lives. North American premiere.
Mekong Full-Moon Party
Thailand, 2002. Director: Jira Maligool
Mon., May 26, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Fri., May 23, 4 p.m., Pacific Place
Note to Southeast Asian trekkers and the hippie/backpacker set: This is not about Western girls gone wild on the beaches of Phuket, dropping E and raving all night. There's not only no sex, there's hardly a Westerner in sight in this innocent, gentle tale of Buddhist monks trying to preserve a river festival in the face of crass commercialization and scientific scrutiny. Methane-filled fire balls may naturally rise from the riverbed like fireworks, or there may be a more logical explanation. But prodigal son Kan, an orphan raised by the monks, is one of the few to know the truth. He returns from the city with a bad crush on a woman who's either engaged or married to a local scientist/doctor (very unclear), while TV cameras and quacks converge to debunk the phenomenon. It's folklore versus rationalism and faith versus skepticism in Party's simple schema. You can guess which side wins. Extra bonus: mini-monk! U.S. premiere. B.R.M.
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Allan Mindel
Cast: Randy Quaid, Bruce Dern, and Josh Brolin
Sat., June 14, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Sun., June 15, 1:45 p.m., Pacific Place
Milwaukee's best fisherman finds himself the target of two separate con artists. It's David Mamet meets A River Runs Through It. North American premiere.
Spain, 2002. Director: Javier Balaguer
Cast: Sergi Lopez and Paz Vega
Sat., June 14, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian
Sun., June 15, 1:45 p.m., Egyptian
A harrowing look at the disintegration of a marriage. Lopez (Dirty Pretty Things) takes on another unsympathetic role. North American premiere.
Argentina, 2002. Director: Carlos Sorin
Thurs., May 29, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Sun., June 1, 4 p.m., Pacific Place
Three journeys across the dusty steppes of Patagonia comprise this gentle film, one of several Argentine pictures at SIFF this year.
Great Britain, 2002. Director: Mark Munden
Cast: Christina Ricci, John Hurt, and Kyle MacLachlan
Thurs., May 29, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Sun., June 1, 11:30 a.m., Egyptian
Sex and intrigue form the backdrop to this twisted story of a quiet bookseller who finds himself the object of a curious plot. This might be your only chance to see Ricci and MacLachlan (the Yakima, Wash., native) on-screen together, while Hurt is also on view in Owning Mahowny.
Israel, 2002. Director: Omri Levy
Wed., June 11, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Sat., June 14, 1:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
When Palestinian commandos hijack the aircraft on which a young girl's mother is a passenger, she and her friends decide to hold a hostage of their own. North American premiere.
The Missing Gun
China, 2002. Director: Lu Chuan
Tues., June 3, 7 p.m., Pacific Place
Mon., June 9, 4:45 p.m., Egyptian
A Chinese-language scholar I know tells me this movie is novel because it's in southern Mandarin dialect. All I know is that I like its strict economy of story and motivation. A small-town cop loses his gun after a drunken wedding reception, then spends the rest of the movie trying to find it. (No, it's not a remake of Kurosawa's Stray Dog, though it shares that theme.) Ma Shan doesn't have much going for him: His marriage is iffy, his son talks back, but he's a good cop. Actor Jiang Wen shows us all Ma's sudden desperation when his piece goes missing; it's not just a loss of face for him, it's a loss of everything. He starts sweating so hard that his sweat is sweating. He's like Columbo without his coat. Gun's jittery camera reflects Ma's mental unraveling, but the movie has its quietly powerful moments, tooas when Ma and his wife (Wu Yujuan) silently acknowledge their shaky, enduring bond. B.R.M.
Mondays in the Sun
Spain/France/Italy, 2002 Director: Fernando Leon De Aranoa
Cast: Javier Bardem
Wed., June 11, 9:30 p.m., Cinerama
Sun., June 15, 11:30 a.m., Egyptian
This drama about laid-off dockworkers in a Spanish port town suggests a buttoned-up Full Monty swimming in a salty marinade of Loachian naturalism. Sad-eyed, short- tempered Santa (Bardem, Before Night Falls, The Dancer Upstairs) resorts to baby-sitting; Jos頨Luis Tosar) reluctantly cedes the role of breadwinner to his wife; Lino (Jos頁ngel Egido) wonders if dyeing his hair will help at interviews. More sorrowful than angry, the film emphasizes the men's laconic camaraderie as much as their emasculated frustration. D.L.
U.S.A., 2003. Directors: Carma Hinton, Geremie R. Barme, and Richard Gordon
Wed., June 4, 7 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Fri., June 6, 4 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Using rare archival footage and glorious clips from the Communist propaganda films of the '50s, '60s, and '70s, Sun forms an inner history of this tumultuous period.
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Chris Shelton
Thurs., May 29, 7 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Sat., May 31, 11:30 a.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Two sisters combine efforts to dispose of the inconvenient body of a dearly departed husband in this amiable road comedy amiable, that is, for all but the husband.
The Mudge Boy
U.S.A., 2003. Director: Michael Burke
Sat., June 7, 6:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Mon., June 9, 4:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
When Duncan's mother suddenly dies, he finds refuge with his pet chicken and his mother's old clothes. Really.
Musa the Warrior
South Korea, 2001. Director: Kim Sung-Su
Sat., May 24, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian
Sun., May 25, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
A Kurosawa-style epic set in China, 1375. The Ming dynasty has just overthrown the Yuan, and a group of Korean diplomats and warriors arrives in China to greet its new rulers. Diplomacy ensues.
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Sat., May 24, 6:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Mon., May 26, 4 p.m., Pacific Place
Though it starts unpromisingly (filmmaker scrolls through old New York Times microficheoh, great, I love to watch the director doing his research!), this documentary profile of celebrated architect Louis Kahn is an extremely moving portrait of a flawed genius. Kahn was a late-blooming dreamer with no business sense who, in addition to creating a handful of epochal buildings, maintained three different "families" who all lived within minutes of one other in Philadelphia. One of his two illegitimate children is the filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn, who was 5 years old when Kahn died in 1974. Nathaniel sets out to learn what he can about the inscrutable mantoward whom he has rather ambivalent feelings, to say the leastby visiting his buildings and interviewing those who knew him (first stop: Philip Johnson's house). Interviews with members of Kahn's "extended" family are rather painful. It's part architectural travelogue and part memoirwith each resonating more deeply in response to the other. M.D.F.
My Dinner With Jimi
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Bill Fishman
Cast: John Corbett and George Wendt
Wed., May 28, 7 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Mon., June 2, 4:45 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
This film chronicles a wild night in London, circa 1967, when the music world's most colorful character (Jimi Hendrix) became a little more colorful. One of two SIFF films featuring George Wendt.
Austria, 2002. Director: Barbara Graftner
Thurs., June 12, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Sun., June 15, 4 p.m., Pacific Place
An Austrian film with a dash of Russian chaos. (Oh, those chaotic Russians!) Margit is a bank officer whose life is about to be turned upside downbut she might like that. North American premiere.
Ireland, 2003. Director: David Blair
Tues., June 3, 4:45 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Sat., June 7, 9:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Two ex-vaudevillians run a s顮ce scam. Their comfortable world is disrupted, however, when local mob boss "Big Mac" dies. Yet another Irish s顮ce-themed crime flick.
The Naked Proof
U.S.A., 2003. Director: Jamie Hook
Sun., May 25, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian
Fri., June 13, 4 p.m., Cinerama
A Ph.D. candidate's life is suddenly complicated by a pregnant woman conjured, it would seem, from his subconscious. The world premiere and debut feature from the co-founder of Seattle's invaluable Northwest Film Forum.
U.S.A., 2003. Director: Thomas Farone
Thurs., June 12, 7 p.m., Harvard Exit
Sat., June 14, 11:30 a.m., Harvard Exit
A 16-year-old high-school dropout suffers from severe ADHD, lives in a trailer park, and tries to support himself and his girlfriend. Based on the lead actor's own true-life story. World premiere.
No Blood No Tears
South Korea, 2002. Director: Ryoo Seung-Wan
Fri., June 13, midnight, Egyptian
A gangster's moll and a female thief-turned-cabbie team up to steal some mob money with calamitous results in this bit of pulp-noir.
U.S.A., 2003. Director: Michael Polish
Cast: Peter Coyote, James Woods, Daryl Hannah, Anthony Edwards, and Nick Nolte
Wed., June 11, 7 p.m., Cinerama
Thurs., June 12, 4:45 p.m., Cinerama
An eclectic cast enlivens this surreal rendering of the American dream and its effects on the denizens of a small town in the 1950s. From the twin sibling creators of Twin Falls Idaho and Jackpot (SIFF '01).
U.S.A., 2003. Director: Steven Boe
Sun., May 25, 1:45 p.m., Egyptian
Tues., June 10, 7 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
When you work in a bowling alley in Bremerton, Wash., all you can do is think of things you'd rather be doing than working in a bowling alley in Bremerton. Such daydreaming leads inevitably to porn in this local film.
South Korea, 2002. Director: Lee Chang-Dong
Sat., May 31, 6:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Sun., June 8, 11:30 a.m., Harvard Exit
To the chagrin of their families, Jong-du, a social outcast and ex-con, molests and then falls in love with a young woman with cerebral palsy. Highly acclaimed! U.S. premiere.
Once Upon a Time in the Midlands
Great Britain, 2002. Director: Shane Meadows
Cast: Robert Carlyle and Rhys Ifans
Fri., June 6, 6:30 p.m., Harvard Exit
Fri., June 13, 1:45 p.m., Harvard Exit
Barely a pick, though heartwarming and original at its best, Midlands is partly a flimsy parody of spaghetti Westerns set in Nottingham. But its true shaggy-dog appeal lies with the characters. The first scene is a gem: Cheap hood Jimmy (Carlyle) sleeps one off until he notices what's on TV and wakes with a start. His ex, Shirley, is on a talk show, and her milquetoast boyfriend, Dek (Notting Hill's Ifans), is stammering out a surprise proposal. Stunned, she refuses. So Jimmy heads back home to Nottingham to reignite their romancepausing first to rob a clown with his clownish thug pals. Soon everyone collides: Shirley, thugs, undersexed Dek, Jimmy's fun-loving foster sister and her cowboy-singer husband, the whole small-town population. Director Meadows makes us feel at home in his movie, clustered right up with his warm, squabblesome clan as they all cram onto one bed for TV and pizza. The tale ambles and sags, but it takes you someplace. U.S. premiere. Tim Appelo
The One-Armed Swordsman
Hong Kong/China, 1967. Director: Zhang Che
Sun., May 25, 11:30 a.m., Harvard Exit
This revenge thriller is often identified as the key transitional film between the old-school swordplay picture and what we now think of as the modern kung fu movie. As such, it seems worth checking out.
The Other Side of the Bed
Spain, 2002. Director: Emilio Martinez Lazaro
Sat., May 24, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian
Mon., May 26, 4 p.m., Egyptian
A musical comedy that revolves aroundyou guessed ita group of twentysomething friends looking for love.
U.S.A., 2000. Director: Mark Brian Smith
Thurs., June 12, 4 p.m., Egyptian
Fri., June 13, 6:30 p.m., Egyptian
This film documents the rise and fall of filmmaker Troy Duffy (The Boondock Saints), whose high-profile deal with Miramax ended badly. World premiere.
Canada/Great Britain, 2002 Director: Richard Kwietniowski
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, and John Hurt
Fri., May 23, 9:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Sat., May 24, 1:45 p.m., Pacific Place
Mahowny is like Catch Me If You Can played at 1 mile an hour, minus the sex appeal and '60s fizz. It's based on the '80s case of a real Toronto banker who ingeniously embezzled $10 million and blew it on a gambling addiction down in the States. Philip Seymour Hoffman, arguably the most promising actor alive, gives his all to capture the sheer nullity of the man, the legend, the nebbish Mahowny, but the results are more horrifyingly inert than the previous inertia record-holder, Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. I have made and lost millions of dollars overnight gambling on Amazon.comso trust me, this film conveys nothing of the emotions on either side of the winner/loser divide. A hard-to-recognize Minnie Driver is fine as Mahowny's long-suffering wife, and John Hurt gives a reptilian shimmer to the casino honcho who helps our hero fleece himself. But the film boils down to Hoffman's performanceimpeccable but dead. T.A.
Pandemic: Facing AIDS
U.S.A., 2002. Director: Rory Kennedy
Sun., May 25, 6:30 p.m., Broadway Perf. Hall
Narrated by Danny Glover, this documentary traces the stories of six families who deal with AIDS on a daily basis. Pandemic was the subject of a special U.N. conference last fall.
A Peck on the Cheek
India, 2002. Director: Mani Ratnam
Mon., May 26, 6:30 p.m., Pacific Place
Wed., May 28, 4:45 p.m., Pacific Place