12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2006). Half the film is watching three characters as they pass through the day of the Romanian Revolution; the other half is the same three awkwardly appearing on low-budget local TV. The droll humor is sustained throughout, and there isn’t a shot that isn’t distinctive (without violating the tilt toward realism). Porumboiu’s most recent is The Treasure.
The Lovers and the Despot (Ross Adam, Robert Cannan, 2016). The story of the South Korean actress and her director husband who were kidnapped and taken to North Korea to make films at the behest of Kim Jong-il. The story is incredible, and it’s enhanced here with great footage and interviews. (full review 9/30)
A Man Called Ove (Hannes Holm, 2015). A lot of people will like this Swedish comedy, and there are some decent reasons for that. Quite a bit of geezer humor, but a sufficiently dry central performance helps win the day. (full review 9/30)
The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, 2016). The movie diary of Nat Turner, with the rabble-rousing movie itself now over-clouded by the past of its director. A blunt object, though with its share of haunting and haunted faces – certainly including Parker’s own. (full review 10/7)
The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 2015). The trailer for this movie is so cutesy it turned me off from seeing the film at SIFF this year. Turns out the thing is a lot more interesting than that. Moorhouse mixes moods with real daring, and some of the jokes draw blood. There’s much that is silly, too, in the Australian manner, but it makes for an interesting patchwork. (full review 9/30)
Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.
The Magnificent Seven. “Those bread-and-butter scenes feel fumbled or half-hearted.”
Operation Avalanche. “A cracking example of a low-budget concept done right.”
Queen of Katwe. “The material might have become fodder for a standard piece of uplift, but Queen of Katwe is better than that.”
Zoom. “The concept is intriguing, but the stories are not hugely engaging on their own.”
The annual Local Sightings Film Festival launches at the Northwest Film Forum. Here’s my overview of the event, plus five capsules of previewed films.
I’m at the Port Townsend Film Festival this weekend; I’ll be popping up at some of these events, but check out the whole schedule for a full range of moviegoing delights.
Zoom (Pedro Morelli, 2016). Three stories, each a fiction created by a character in one of the other tales, follow parallel lines until eventually they don’t. I guess this is trying to be Borges-lite, and there are some good moments and capable performers (among them Alison Pill, Gael Garcia Bernal – in animated form only – and Mariana Ximenes). (full review 9/23)
Dead Reckoning (John Cromwell, 1947). I hadn’t seen this one in years, but it held up as I remembered it: fast-talking, shadowy, somewhat crazy. It has Bogart in full career gallop and Lizabeth Scott doing her particular thing. Given the quotable dialogue and Bogart’s attitude, this movie had to have been a big influence on Woody Allen when it came time to write Play It Again, Sam.
Operation Avalanche (Matt Johnson, 2016). Pretty effective lo-fi approach to Capricorn One subject matter. The faux documentary approach is deployed on a tale of ambitious CIA filmmakers who offer to produce the footage for the faked moon landing. Contains a Zelig-like appearance by Stanley Kubrick. (full review 9/23)