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More News from the Northwest: Further Rumblings from the Seattle International Film Festival

Written by: Mike Caccioppoli, Feature Film Critic


Image No rest for the weary here in Seattle. With only the first full weekend of the festival in the books, I have already seen 18 films.  Now it begins to get really busy as press screenings are combined with public screenings, which means I’ll be catching a good three or four films a day from this point out. Times like these call for film friendly food packaging; it would be really nice to not have to wait for a loud scene in order to open my sandwich… And how annoying is it to have to put your own mustard on the sandwich from those little packets that you used to get in school? Wait a minute, only four days into the festival and I’m already going insane! I just have to keep telling myself that there’s only three weeks to go. That would be 21 days. How many hard to open sandwiches does that equal? Never mind, let’s get to the films…

 

Glue dir. Alexis Dos Santos (Argentina/U.K.)

Poor 16 year old Lucas ( Nahuel Perez Biscayart) has a hard enough life living without a solid father figure since the old man is always cheating on his mother, but what makes things even more difficult is the fact that he’s also trying to figure out his sexual identity. He craves sex with his best friend Nacho, while also being interested in a girl named Andrea. What is a 16-year-old with raging hormones to do? Well director Dos Santos has a keen sense of what it must be like to be in Lucas’ shoes and Biscayart makes him a gentle, curious and ultimately empathetic character. The scenes of sexual exploration and longing are pure and true yet Dos Santos’ film-making style can often be annoying in its show-offy nature. Still the underlying honesty of the story and the performances make it resonate long after it’s over.

 

A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory dir. Esther B. Robinson (U.S.A.) 

Know who Danny Williams was? Neither did I. But this documentary by his niece tells us all we need to know about her uncle and then some. Turns out that Williams was an “associate” of Andy Warhol and possibly his lover as well. One day his car was found near a cliff overlooking the ocean but Williams was nowhere to be found. Did he run away and start a new life? Did he take a dive into the ocean only to be swept away? Did someone push him? We never find out what happened that night, but we do see how it affected (or more importantly didn’t affect) the many people who were part of the Warhol era, including an egotistical Paul Morrissey, a gently reminiscent Albert Maysles, and Williams' own mother (who has substituted her own reality for the one that probably occurred the night Williams disappeared). What really stands out is how most of the talking heads have a similar yet different selective memory when it comes to what part Williams played in the Warhol factory. According to one subject he was a masterful filmmaker, to another he was just an annoying groupie. Amazing how many old jealousies are rehashed by mentioning the name of a guy who one night simply vanished into the sea.

 

In the Shadow of the Moon dir. David Sington (U.K.) 

In 1969 three astronauts landed on the moon, and the world would never be the same again. This documentary lets these men (minus the reclusive Neil Armstrong) – as well as the others that would later go where no one else has gone before – tell us in their own words what it was like to travel to the moon. Never has something that happened nearly 40 years ago seemed so current and vital. As I watched these heroes talk about their experiences, there were a couple of thoughts I couldn’t get out of my head. The first being:  better them than me, and the other being: what the heck has taken so long for someone to make this film?  As they tell their stories, it’s as though they are going through the same emotions all over again. We come away with not only a much greater appreciation for what they went through, but much like their life-altering experience, we feel as though we are now able to see the world in a different way. No greater accolade can be made to a film than that. Riveting, awe-inspiring stuff indeed.

 

Rescue Dawn dir. Werner Herzog (U.S.A.)

This is one of those films that we feel like we’ve seen before yet not quite in the same way. It’s the true story about Dieter Dengler ( Christian Bale) a prisoner of war during Vietnam who led an escape and was eventually rescued by U.S. forces. Director Herzog made a documentary about Dengler some years back in which the soldier led him through the exact locations that he fled from nearly 40 years ago.  While this may be a Hollywood film there is very little that reminds us of Hollywood filmmaking. Herzog’s film is so pure that “Rescue Dawn” has an in the moment feel to it that most directors only dream of accomplishing. Bale, who continues to gain and lose weight from film to film gives Dengler a natural intensity that only furthers the true to life feel of the film. Just when you thought the Vietnam War had been played to exhaustion in the cinema, here comes Herzog with a stark reminder that it will always be in our nation’s subconscious.

 

Quick takes:  

Monkey Warfare dir. Reginald Harkema (Canada)

Dan (Don McKellar) and Linda (Tracy Wright) love to collect street trash that can be sold on the internet at great profit but when he meets young political activist Susan (Nadia Litz) some old scars resurface and some old love rekindled. A small yet often clever look at how one generation affects or sometimes disaffects another. 
 

Murch dir. Edie and David Ichioka (U.S.A.)

Film editor and sound designer Walter Murch is interviewed about his craft and the various directors that he’s worked with. Some of his films include “The Godfather”, “The Conversation”, and “Apocalypse Now.” Watching Murch talk so eloquently about his work is great stuff and we are able to see probably better than ever before that filmmaking is a very fragile combination of science and creativity and is indeed extremely arduous yet rewarding work.

Crazy Love dir. Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens (U.S.A.)

You think your relationship is strange? The two main subjects of this documentary were sweethearts in the 50s before one of them paid someone to blind the other. After a lengthy prison sentence the two made up and have lived happily ever after. Or have they? There are too many crazy twists and turns in this five decade relationship to recount here but “Crazy Love” is a testament to the sayings “If you’re happy, I’m happy” and “To each their own.” In the end it is both curiously touching and strangely ironic.

Author: Mike Caccioppoli, Feature Film Critic

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