[SIFF week two]

+ Shot on location in Seattle & rural Washington, Late Autumn is a very quiet movie about Anna (the immensely talented Tang Wei), a young woman on two day compassionate leave from prison to attend her mother’s funeral. On the bus to Seattle she meets Hoon, a young escort who borrows $30 from her and rather doggedly pursues a relationship.

Doggedly, I say, because Anna is, for reasons obvious in the film, maddeningly locked into herself. Large swaths of Tang’s performance are silent, where she manages to convey to the audience the unreachable depths her character has plummeted to, while still leaving Hoon persistent & baffled on the outside.

They spend a day together in the city, and it takes the better part of that day before she opens up at all. When she does, it’s in Chinese, which Hoon does not speak. It’s a marvelously touching scene in a film distinguished by excellent performances.

Late Autumn documents Seattle in a very precise moment, as the film includes as a key set piece the dismantling of the Fun Forest amusement park at the Seattle Center. Visually, other films set & filmed in Seattle have a lot they can learn from it. I’m looking at you, “The Killing”.

It did feel as though it couldn’t quite figure out where to end. But perhaps that was just me.

+ Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame was just a ridiculous amount of fun. It’s a Hong Kong “historical” action film starring Andy Lau, which should be enough reason for you to see it right there.

It also introduced me to Chao Deng who, as Pei (Dee’s albino sidekick), reminded me of no one so much as a Chinese Rupert Grint. Seriously, so great. Also Bingbing Li, as the asskicking lady Jinger. Good times!

+ SIFF had paired it with Karate-Robo Zaborgar for a double feature of pure awesome that we were powerless to resist. Inspired by a 1974 live-action mecha series, this follow-up from the director of RoboGeisha was even more entertaining than I could have hoped.

Where RoboGeisha was about the sisters trying to reconnect, Karate-Robo Zaborgar is about brothers and about children and parents. No, really. Even if one of the brothers is a robot that transforms into a motorcycle. I would probably like my brother a lot better if he turned into a motorcycle & obeyed commands I delivered through a microphone attached to a helmet.

Obviously it is a goofy, low-budget movie with a ridiculous script, and either you’re up for that or you’re not. I was up for it, clearly.

+ The Clink of Ice was a very French film about an alcoholic novelist (OSS-117‘s Jean Dujardin) who is visited by the incarnation of his cancer (Albert Dupontel). Not for everyone, I suppose, but I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the conceit that your cancer can only be seen by those who truly love you. What an instant cause of tension *that* is!

[Final weekend. Still more woe!]

* Crossing Hennessy was a charming little romantic comedy from Hong Kong. The couple is being set up by their respective families, never mind that neither of them are interested and both in fact have romantic interests already. Cute, a little slow, but worth it for the organic development of the characters. Wei Tang (best known for Lust, Caution) was particularly great as Oi Lin, and Loy’s family was comedy gold.

* At the End of Daybreak was surprisingly low-key for most of the film, considering its ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter. A 23 year old guy is in a relationship with a 15 year old girl, and when her family finds out they demand payment rather than taking it to court. His impoverished mother (the utterly fantastic Kara Hui), scrapes it together, only to have the girl’s family change their mind about prosecuting. Hard to connect with at the beginning, and hard to watch at the end.

* I had a rather stupid amount of fun at the Grease singalong. It’s one of those movies that holds up, in case you were wondering, in its goofy, candy-colored way. I didn’t see it all the way through until it was rereleased when I was in college (though I had seen almost all of it in bits and pieces) and it still totally worked. The singalong works too; it’s a gorgeous print, and the subtitles for the lyrics are animated and hilarious. Good times! It’s getting a proper release in July. Dinah Manoff (Marty Maraschino) was at our screening, but I didn’t get to stay for the Q&A because I had to haul on up the hill for Howl. She was charming at the intro, though, and I heard she was quite impressed by the Seattle audience’s enthusiasm. As well she should be!

* Howl is one of those movies I would typically try to hold off on since it has distribution, but I don’t think it’s coming out until the fall, and I was tired of waiting. It’s rather brilliant, I think, in that it’s really a movie about the poem rather than being yet another biopic. It takes us through the poem on four tracks: Ginsberg performing “Howl” in 1955, animation of the poem, interviews with Ginsberg about poetry in general and ways in which it was informed by his life in particular, and the obscenity trial. It’s basically porn for English majors.

Also, I can’t remember the last time I saw James Franco play a straight guy. Which is a-ok by me. This, Milk, and then of course the Spider-Man franchise. Wait, Harry wasn’t supposed to be in love with Peter Parker? And what about Saul & Dale in Pineapple Express? No? Ah well. My bad.

* I really enjoyed Secret #4. This has been a strong series, and I am looking forward to next year. I have trouble remembering the titles of 3 of the 4, though, so that makes keeping it Secret all that much easier!

* A late addition to the festival, Thunder Soul was a great selection to end with. It’s a documentary about the Kashmere Stage Band, a high school band from Texas whose teacher turned them into a world class funk band. Now they’re reforming over 30 years later for a benefit concert. Total crowd pleaser documentary, and if you’re not at least a little teary-eyed at the end you have no soul. Erm. No pun intended.

* And yet, it wasn’t the end, because after my final volunteer shift I slipped into the screening of RoboGeisha, which was hilarious and awesome, and I think we should have seen the midnight of it instead of Splice.