Press Screenings: Day One

Along with other changes to the 2022 Seattle International Film Festival from past years is that, instead of press screenings starting a couple weeks early and ending the final week of the festival, they’re only running April 11-14, while the festival proper begins the night of the 14th and runs through the 24th.

Due to some unfortunate scheduling on my part (and work), I’m only able to attend the first and last day of press screenings, and due to my sleep habits and the distance from my house to SIFF Uptown (where the screenings are being held), I probably won’t be attending the 10am press screening tomorrow (and didn’t on Monday).

But I digress.

The Pursuit of Perfection (Toshimichi Saito, 2021, Japan, 79 min)

Photo courtesy of SIFF

This food documentary highlights four Japanese top chefs. Each segment is named (The Artist, The Star Chef, etc) and focuses on a different cuisine: kaiseki, pastry, sushi, and French. A solid doc that does a good job highlighting the different styles and methods in each chef’s pursuit of perfection.

The Pursuit of Perfection plays at 6:15pm on Friday, April 15 at AMC Pacific Place and at 3:30pm on Saturday, April 16 at Majestic Bay.

The Pez Outlaw (amy bandlien storkel, bryan storkel, 2022, usa, 87 min)

Photo courtesy of SIFF

The Pez Outlaw can be described many different ways. On the one hand, it’s about a man who turned his obsession into a multi-million dollar enterprise. On another, it’s about a corporation trying to destroy the little guy. And on still another, it’s a real-life caper film.

Overall, though, it’s one of the finds of the festival, and the festival hasn’t even started yet! It’s a film that doesn’t have distribution, but has a great story to tell. And that story is of Steve Glew, a man who grew up poor and worked as a machinist at a factory for 25 years before discovering the world of box top toys (the disclaimer that now says ONE PER HOUSEHOLD was put in place because of him) and then, while selling his last box top toys at a convention, discovers the world of Pez dispensers, which eventually allows him to quit his job, escape poverty, and become a huge headache for the president of Pez USA (known as the Pezident), Scott McWhinnie.

What Steve ends up discovering is that because Pez USA controls all the distribution in the US, many of the designs that Pez International sell aren’t sold here. Therefore, by going to the Pez factories in Europe and loading up on Pez dispensor prototypes and non-US designs, he can make a fortune selling them in the US. What also helps is that Pez USA forgot to register their trademark with customs, which means that customs can’t enforce their trademark at the border. When one of the customs agents realizes this, instead of busting Steve for five duffle bags worth of dispensers, he tells him, “If they’re that stupid, go ahead.”

Initially, though, he only wants to collect the dispensers. It’s only when other collectors start contacting him and offering obscene amounts of money that Steve and his son Josh realize how lucrative selling them could be. Soon Steve is going to Europe every 3-4 weeks, though he doesn’t become the Pez Outlaw until the Pezident decides to sell the Bubbleboy prototype that Josh was given at the first factory in an effort to undermine its market value for collectors.

Through re-enactments and talking head interviews, the movie has fun with the material, without making fun of the material. In the scene where Steve first hears about Pez dispensers and how Kolinska “has the good stuff” from a mysterious woman, the re-enactment spoofs film noir, even shooting it in black-and-white. Later, when Steve and Josh tour the Pez Factory and Steve mentions how it’s out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, bursts of color permeate the scene. The local color, however, comes from Steve and the people he meets. You like Steve, you root for Steve, and before you know it, you’re invested in the outcome of this story.

The Pez Outlaw is a highly entertaining, slightly ridiculous, endlessly fascinating tale. If you like Pez, you should see this movie. If you hate Pez, you should see this movie. If you don’t know what Pez is, you should see this movie and enter a world of collectors, crime, and craziness. And if you’re a distributor, distribute this movie already!

The Pez Outlaw plays at 9:00pm on Friday, April 15th at SIFF Cinema Egyptian and at 1:00pm on Saturday, April 16th at AMC Pacific Place. Directors scheduled to attend. Also available on the SIFF Channel.

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