SIFF 2019: Week Three Capsule Reviews

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (Archival, Japan 1985, 100 min)

Digital Screener, Sun 6/2

Makoto Tezuka (son of Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of Japanese manga) directed this wild Japanese musical at the age of 23. Basic plot: media mogul Mr. Minami (the late Kiyohiko Ozaki) takes rival singers Shingo (Shingo Kubota) and Kan (Kan Takagi) and transforms them into the superstar group Stardust Brothers, but tensions between them lead to their downfall and the rise of their fan club president, Marimo (the late Kyoko Togawa), and the son of a politician, Kaoru (Issay), as teen idols. Very 80s, very Japanese, with several handmade sets, lots of white light, and even a brief animated sequence. The whole thing looks like an 80s music video, heavily influenced by the New Wave and David Bowie. The music oscillates between banal 80s synthesized songs and better 80s synthesized songs, all of them catchy. As bizarre and over-the-top as it is, there’s also a conviction and charm to the entire thing, showing that Tezuka knew what he was doing when he made it. Based on a concept album by Haruo Chikada. A guilty pleasure that’s worth checking out.

For Sama (United Kingdom 2019, 94 min)

SIFF Cinema Uptown, Mon 6/3

A brutal, unflinching portrait of the horrors of war, specifically when a brutal dictator fights a war against his own people. In this case, it’s Assad’s (and later, the Russians’) pulverizing attacks against Aleppo, Syria to “free” it from revolutionaries. The film is mostly shot by Waad al-Kateab, a journalist living there after college who joined the revolution and refused to leave, even when the fighting turned into a siege and the Russians started targeting hospitals, including one where her husband worked. The film is for her daughter, Sama, who spent the first year of her life living in a war zone. Every head-of-state should see it, and then be forced to answer why they did nothing to stop this brutality.

Enamorada (Archival, Mexico 1946, 99 min)

SIFF Cinema Uptown, Mon 6/3

Despite watching this movie with a crowd that decided everything not modern about it was a hoot — which I see as a lack of respect for bygone eras, to say nothing of different styles of storytelling and acting — Enamorada‘s charm and power still work, over 70 years later. María Félix never made movies in Hollywood, as she said they didn’t give her good roles, but she gets a great one here, as an upper class woman about to marry a foreigner who isn’t taking any shit from the revolutionary general (Pedro Armendáriz) who has taken over her town, despite him having the hots for her. I try not to use words like “smoldering eyes” in my reviews, but…she has smoldering eyes, which burn for the first half of the film and melt for the second. Enamorada makes me want to see more of Félix’s work and of Mexican directors of that period.

I Am Cuba (Archival, Cuba/Soviet Union 1964, 141 min)

SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Tue 6/4

Of all the archival films playing at SIFF, this was the one I was most excited about. I Am Cuba really needs to be seen on a big screen, as the crisp black-and-white cinematography and camera movement is alive in a way that few films are. Though shot in a 1:37.1 aspect ratio, it has the look of a scope film, which was achieved using wide-angle lenses. The plot is unimportant, other than it takes place in the middle of the Cuban Revolution, consists of four vignettes, and gives Cuba a role as a character. Here, the visuals tell the story, and dazzle us while doing so, thanks to cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky.

Lynch : A History (World Premiere, USA 2019, 85 min)

Digital Screener, Wed 6/5

I was skeptical that I’d like this movie, in which mountains of archival footage and several quotes are stitched together into a narrative. But I have to say, it does a good job of telling a story only through pre-existing images, one that gives cultural and social context to Marshawn Lynch’s behavior, even if it doesn’t outright explain it (there’s some text after the credits that does, which would’ve been better left out, as it inserts an interpretation on the material and a judgment on Lynch that audiences should reach on their own). Much credit should go to the editors who stitched this contraption together, though one wonders if rights issues will ever allow it to be shown outside of a film festival. Future screenings: Sun 6/9 9:00pm Pacific Place