Culture Notes: SIFF start; Scarecrow

The Seattle International Film Festival is underway, kicking off Thursday night with the British political satire In the Loop, a regularly funny film with some extremely good actors’ moments for the likes of Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Mimi Kennedy, and David Rasche. I was taping bits with Art Zone host Nancy Guppy for a Seattle Channel special covering the event —  which meant shooting material before and after the screening, which in turn meant waiting around in the theater lobby during actual movie (which I’d already seen). There’s something ghostly about sitting in the lobby of the Paramount theater while a film is going on; the old theater has a Shining-like quality anyway, and dozens of people were wandering through the airy mezzanine, doing god-knows-what. We could hear laughter come regularly through the walls of the place.  A subject for Michel Gondry: the alternate society that springs up in the theater lobby while the real event is going on inside.

The TV special, in which I am marginally less foolish than last year’s entry, will be online soon. I apologize for the hair. It was windy.

Le Amiche

Le Amiche

SIFF itself arrives as the usual bewildering onslaught: hundreds of movies, many of them seemingly chosen in the spirit of let’s-throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks, as well as some recent international festival must-sees and a gallery of U.S. indie titles getting air time. The “Archival Presentations” include a couple of eagerly-awaited unseen movies for me: Terence Fisher’s So Long at the Fair (1950), which has one of the great movie premises of all time (I have wanted to see this since hearing it described in Francois Truffaut’s Hitchcock book), and Antonioni’s Le Amiche (1955), which is a recent restoration by The Film Foundation.

And speaking of film archives: the titles from the Warner Archive Collection, that smart-sounding project to get a great big backlog of catalog titles out in the world without expensive packaging or complex processing, is accessible even if you don’t pay Warner $19.95 to burn a copy of Mr. Lucky or Freebie and the Bean on a DVD-R. The staggering rental collection at Scarecrow Video, Seattle’s amazing brick-and-mortar mainstay, is being swelled by lots of the no-frills offerings from the Warner Archive. So if live around Seattle and you need to view, but not own, Jacques Tourneur’s Wichita or Nicholas Ray’s Party Girl, traipse over to Scarecrow. (Right now, Netflix isn’t carrying the Warner Archive stuff.)  The Scarecrow site, newly revamped, is here; search the Warner Archive here.