[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!

[SIFF week four]

…which was really just four days.

* Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red [Tennis] Shoes. The thing about this documentary is that, though I enjoyed it, I still don’t feel as though I know anything about Mr. Keillor. Which I’m not particularly surprised by. I had added it to my schedule precisely because I find him pretty enigmatic. I guess I got what I deserved. It was really more illuminating regarding the other members of the PHC cast and the process of putting that show together than it is about Keillor.

* Cherry Blossoms: Hanami was the Golden Space Needle Audience Award winner, and deservedly so. It’s a wonderfully paced story of aging and the challenges of family, tender and moving, and difficult to talk about without giving too much away. One thing I can say is that I found it interesting to get a non-American outsider view of Japan for a change.

* The screening of Sunrise was one of those special SIFF experiences I get every few years. They showed it at the Triple Door, with a live score written and performed by The Album Leaf. So cool! It’s a fantastic movie anyway, one of the last silents, and ranked on the AFI 100. It’s utterly gorgeous, with dreamy cinematography, limited (but beautifully executed) title cards, and in-camera created effects of superimposed images that are just mindblowing when you consider the technology of the time. And the story’s great too — a fable of a couple losing each other and finding each other again.

* I’m not sure that I can say I liked Faces, but I can see objectively what is good about it. I just found it personally exhausting. I think this is okay.

* Jeremy Podeswa was one of the Emerging Masters at the festival this year. Fugitive Pieces is his new film, and my second Stephen Dillane movie of the festival. It’s based on the book by Anne Michaels, which I have not read, and is utterly gorgeous. It hit all my buttons of history and memory and storytelling, all wonderfully acted and beautifully shot. (Oh my goodness. Rachel Lefevre, who has a minor role in this film, is Annie in the American remake of “Life on Mars”. A show, by the way, which will definitely be terrible. Seek out the original — it’s worth the effort.)

* My last film of the festival, Triangle, is a basically-insane exquisite corpse Hong Kong action flick, told in three acts by three different directors. Johnnie To takes the final third, and though it is stretching it to suggest he makes sense of it, he certainly provides us with an entertaining ending.