[SIFF week one]

+ I didn’t realize until I got there that The Darkest Matter was actually a student project. It was a feature put together by middle school students in a film camp, and if I had known that ahead of time I might not have gone. But I didn’t so I did, and I didn’t feel my time was wasted.

It was described more or less as Lord of the Flies in spaaaaace, which is accurate enough as it goes. It’s an impressive feat of imagination when you realize that the entire film was shot against a green screen. Kids have amazing brains; I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to conceptualize the entire set, let alone interact at all convincingly in it.

Story-wise I thought the ending was ridiculous, but I loved how the film played out in regards to gender. This might be just an effect of the script being written in broad strokes, but it worked out that both of the leaders were girls, and their gender was never an issue. Hooray!

+ Ex was a cute romantic comedy from Hong Kong, something I need to see more of in general. For reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, Zhou Yi winds up having to crash at the apartment of her ex & his new ladyfriend. In well-orchestrated flashbacks we see why they broke up in the first place, and the film doesn’t necessarily take the expected road for where they might end up next. Now I need to seek out the prior film from the writer, Love in a Puff, a romcom where the potential couple meets on smoke breaks.

+ Trigger is a difficult movie for me to talk about. It was by far my most anticipated SIFF film, and immediately after I saw it I posted to Twitter that I couldn’t be rational about it. This is still true.

Written by Daniel MacIvor & directed by Bruce McDonald, the film was created as a last project for Tracy Wright, a fantastic actress who died of pancreatic cancer during post-production. Trigger stars her and Molly Parker (also worth seeing in anything) as a pair of rock musicians who are reunited after ten years and spend the evening together hashing out everything from the tangled threads of their relationship to their own mortality and future.

It slays me that it was such a light house for this screening, because Tracy Wright is *the* best actress of this festival. She has a monologue in the conservatory that broke me into tiny pieces. Such a loss.

+ Thanks to a Starbucks voucher, I took a risk and checked out You Are Here just because it featured one more performance by Wright. It’s a difficult film to categorize, a series of odd narratives twisting in and out of each other until we arrive at her character, the Archivist*, who is attempting to discover the order and meaning for the documents. Did I understand it? Probably not. But it was tremendously entertaining all the same.

+ Speaking of entertaining, The Thief of Bagdad is one of the great treats of the festival. This presentation was a transformative work, obsessively scored by Shadoe Stevens with the music of the Electric Light Orchestra. No, seriously. Come back.

The music works freakishly well, but of course the movie itself would be awesome either way, starring Douglas Fairbanks in truly astonishing trousers and with more than his fair share of swashes buckled.

I particularly enjoyed seeing it so soon after The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is another 1920s take on basically the same set of characters. We’re spoiled for silent film in Seattle.

* “Hooray for archivists!” cheers the girl still paying off her MLIS.

[Pickups: April (Revival and current)]

* The Adventures of Prince Achmed was such a treat! The oldest full length animated feature in existence, it is a stunningly beautiful silent film, created using hand-cut silhouettes. I saw it at SIFF Cinema with a live and original score by Miles & Karina, and it was just magical. The story, adapted from Arabian Nights, is still captivating. It’s fascinating to me to see how the mechanics of storytelling (and in particular comic timing) don’t really change.

* Mr Smith Goes to Washington was the final Metro Classic of this cycle. The lowest circle of hell: politics. It’s Capra at his flag-waving best, and of course we can’t help but love Jimmy Stewart, but me being me my favorite was probably Jean Arthur as the seen-it-all assistant, followed by Thomas Mitchell as journalist Diz Moore. Oh, democracy!

* Either you’re buying into Scream 4 or you’re not. I saw the first three Scream films that week & then went to the fourth at midnight, so clearly I was into it. Better than the second and third, and a worthy successor to the first, it featured all the jumpy-out bits, one-liners, and kick-ass ladies that I could hope for.

* The thing about Henry’s Crime is that it came out about sixty years too late. It is at heart a heist film, with Keanu Reeves basically playing himself as your typical noir hero, an everyman caught up in the underbelly of, in this case, Buffalo. Vera Famiga’s the love interest, Fisher Stevens is the scumbag, and James Caan is the salty old conman. Far more entertaining than it had any right to be.

[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.