SIFF 2014: Week Two Wrap-Up

I’ve already written about the silents I saw on Sunday, and I’ll be writing a separate post for the Centerpiece Gala and Film Q & A (I previously saw and commented on a press screening of Boyhood).  For the rest, see below:

Monday, May 26

The Japanese Dog (Tudor Cristian Jurgiu, 85 mins, Romania 2013)

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(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

The Romanian Cultural Society was one of the sponsors of this screening, and they were in the audience at AMC Pacific Place to watch this quiet little film about a father (Victor Rebengiuc) who has lost his house and wife in a flood.  After hearing of his mother’s death, his estranged son Ticu (Serban Pavlu), whom he hasn’t seen for 20 years, comes back to Romania to visit, bringing along his Japanese wife and son.  Since this is an Eastern European film, the colors and lighting are gorgeous.  Jurgiu’s directorial debut.

Tuesday, May 27

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (David Zellner, 104 mins, USA/Japan 2014)

Kumiko_KeyArt

(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

The title character finds an old VHS tape of Fargo and believes that the money buried in the film actually exists.  She then steals her company credit card, gives away her pet rabbit, and flies to Minnesota.  People try to dissuade her from going to Fargo (including Zellner as a local police officer), but she won’t be deterred.  Rinko Kikuchi is great as Kumiko, but I’m not sure what the point of the film is.  Kikuchi also serves as executive producer.

Burning Bush (Agnieszka Holland, 230 mins, Czech Republic 2013)

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(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Originally shown as a three-part miniseries on Czech TV, the audience at the Egyptian got to see this 4-hour event with two short intermissions.  This excellent piece of filmmaking deals with Jan Palach, a 20-year-old Czech college student who set himself on fire to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1969.  In 1989, communism fell in that country, as if Palach’s act had a ripple effect that took twenty years to germinate.  The miniseries mainly focuses on the event itself and its immediate after-effects, including a libel suit that Palach’s mother, Libuse Palachová (Jaroslava Pokorná) brought against Vilém Nový (Martin Huba), a Czechoslovakian politician and member of the Communist Party, for trying to slander her son and discredit his heroic action.  The young lawyer who represented her, Dagmar Buresová (Tatiana Pauhofová), became Minister of Justice after communism’s fall.   A must-see for history buffs, people (like me) who wish they knew more about life under the communists in Eastern Europe, or anyone who loves a good movie.  And, as I watched the film, I couldn’t help thinking that Palach was born the same year as my father, and was a college student the same time he was.  From the director of The Secret Garden, Europa Europa, and episodes of The Wire.

Wednesday, May 28

Patema Inverted (Yasuhiro Yoshiura, 99 mins, Japan 2013)

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(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

This Japanese animé has a few twists near the end that deepen a decent film into a good one.  The basic idea is that there are two groups of people living in the world: those who live above ground, and those who live below.  Those who live below ground, like Patema, have an opposite gravitational pull from people like Age, who live above ground.  Poking around the forbidden zone, Patema falls into Age’s world, where she is in danger of falling into the sky.  Touches of humor (like rousing love music interrupted on several occasions by Patema’s requests) and those before-mentioned twists help prevent this film from becoming too predictable, while its message of accepting all kinds of people is a standard anime truism…but that doesn’t make it any less true.

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(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Saturday, May 31

I worked Thursday afternoon and evening and took a break from films on Friday to see the ballet Giselle.  Therefore, the next day I saw movies was on Saturday.

Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy (Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, 127 mins, Thailand 2013)

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(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy takes 410 consecutive tweets from the account of @marylony and creates a story around Mary (Patcha Poonpiriya), her best friend Suri (Chonnikan Netjui), and the mysterious M. (Vasuphon Kriangprapakit), whom Mary develops a crush on.  The first half is funny and surreal; the second half incredibly poignant.  Certainly the most interesting movie I’ve seen at SIFF this year, and worth seeking out.

Willow Creek (Bobcat Goldthwait, 80 mins, USA 2013)

WillowCreek_KeyArt

(Photo courtesy of SIFF)

Since I enjoyed Goldthwait’s previous film, God Bless America (seen at SIFF in 2012), I decided to watch his latest one after attending the Centerpiece Gala.  Willow Creek is part of the midnight adrenaline series that Clinton McClung, SIFF Cinema Programmer, has put together for the festival, all of which are being shown at the Egyptian at…(wait for it)…midnight.  Unlike God Bless America, Willow Creek has some humor in the beginning, but otherwise it’s a straight-up horror film, in which boyfriend Jim (Bryce Johnson) and girlfriend Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) decide to visit the spot where the famous Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin film of Bigfoot was shot, as Jim is a huge Bigfoot fan.  As a found-footage film, it’s not as good as The Blair Witch Project, but it does the genre justice, relying on sounds and a growing sense of unease to scare its audience, rather than a high body count or special effects.  I jumped several times, and that first night spent in the forest is scary as hell, as is the last.

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