SIFF Journal #1

By kate on May 24th, 2004

This year I decided to commit to seeing a bunch of movies at the Seattle International Film Festival. I’ve seen varying amounts of movies in past years, but it’s been a while since I’ve really done the Festival. Since I made my selections and got the tickets, I’ve been excited to start going.

For my own reference (as much as for whoever reads this), I’m going to try to write up every movie I see. I think I’m going to 15 films over the next month, all on weekends. SIFF audiences are given ballots for most every movie, so I’ll include my rating (1-5) for each movie as well. Here are the first four movies I’ve seen already (no spoilers):

The Story of the Weeping Camel
As it is the festival’s only Mongolian film, Steve and I felt we had to see it. It was enjoyable – a “quiet film” in the same way that The Station Agent was. The scale of the drama was small, just a family and their camels amidst the sweeping landscape of the Gobi desert. The gradual influx of modern goods into nomadic culture was gently included but not the main story, which centered around a mother camel who, after a difficult birth, rejects her colt. As the capsule review in The Stranger drives home, the movie is saturated with camel sounds. While that reviewer found it annoying, to me it formed a beautiful soundtrack.

Rating: 4

This was a gala screening that had a reception afterwards, but we only went to the movie itself and the Q&A that followed. It was attended by the director, producer, and two of its stars: Jena Malone and (singer) Mandy Moore. The latter two sat a few rows ahead of us. Celebrity sighting aside, this was a really good movie with a lot of heart. The basic premise is a student at a Christian high school gets pregnant, although there’s more to it than that. I expected a more cutting and satirical movie, but while it certainly gets laughs from the usual Christian stereotypes, it treats its characters with respect and depth. It’s a “feel good” movie in the best sense – it has a good message. (“The movie’s about love and tolerance, and if you’re against that, well, fuck you,” as the director said afterwards. He was referring to fundamentalist nuts like Jerry Falwell, who denounced the film.) It also manages to be funny, and the acting is high quality, with special praise due to Jena Malone and (surprise!) Macaulay Culkin.

Note to our big-city friends: the movie opens in five major cities this Friday, including New York (Molly, this means you!).

Rating: 5

Off The Map
The wide New Mexican landscapes of this movie felt a bit like the Mongolian vistas in The Story of the Weeping Camel. In the movie, the landscape, and the family he finds there, manage to completely transform a visitor’s life. The cast of characters include a precocious tweenager; strong-willed, capable, and lovely mother (Joan Allen); and clinically depressed father (Sam Elliott, who was in attendance at the screening). It was a nice movie, but lacked the powerful edge that would make it great. The acting was good, but I think that people with a Southwest fetish might enjoy it more than I did. I skipped the post-movie Q&A to get back in line for the next one…

Rating: 3

The Five Obstructions
Famous modern director Lars Von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville) has studied and idolized the old-school Danish director Jørgan Leth for most of his life. In this unique collaboration, Von Trier challenges Leth to remake his movie The Perfect Human five times, with five “obstructions” of Von Trier’s choosing. The result is a blend of documentary (the filmmakers’ discussions of their art), archive footage (the original film), and experimental cinema (the five new pieces). It was fascinating – if you have any interest in the art of film, SEE THIS MOVIE. There is one more showing this Wednesday (May 26th).

Rating: 5

So, I’m doing pretty well so far – 4 for 4 – no duds yet. Not only that, but I saw two that I thought were masterpieces, although in completely opposite ways. Can’t wait to see what else is in store!

Filed under: film
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6 Responses to “SIFF Journal #1”

  1. lula_fortune Says:

    I was at Off The Map and The Five Obstructions as well. I completely agree with your observations of both…surprised I didn’t see you at either one.

    -Amie (the girl who sat beside you at Saved!). 🙂

  2. girlkate Says:

    Weird… I was wondering if I’d run into you again at a film. 🙂

    For both movies, I sat in the second row of the back section (behind the Reserved seats).

    Did you stay for the Q&A after “Off the Map”? If so, was anything interesting said?

  3. lula_fortune Says:

    No, I didn’t. I wanted to see if anyone was waiting at will call for tickets to The Five Obstructions, because I was thinking about flaking out and selling my ticket. Alas, there wasn’t anyone, so I headed back upstairs and got in the gargantuan line. I’m SO GLAD I did. That film was great!

    Next up for me are Evergreen and Touch of Pink, both at the Egyptian on Thursday night.

  4. biblioholic Says:

    Thanks for the recommendations, Kate. I have free tickets to see Saved! Thursday evening. I’ll let you know what I think of the film.

    From what I’ve read, the film isn’t about Christian-bashing, but mocks people who justify their judgmental and self-serving behaviors through their Christian religion. Guess I’ll find out for myself in a few days, but was wondering if you saw this conclusion.

  5. girlkate Says:

    I’d characterize it the same way. Most people (Jerry Falwell excepted, I guess) would not interpret it as anti-Christian or anti-God.

  6. Hello, My Name Is Kate » How I choose my SIFF movies Says:

    […] International Film Festival. I’ve had a few off years lately, but I had a great time in 2004 and 2005, so I’m ramping it back up this year and planning to see fourteen films. A few years […]

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