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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 21, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 43
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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TWIST!
Seattle Queer Film Festival
Final weekend preview
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

It's the final weekend of TWIST! 2016: Seattle Queer Film Festival, and after the storm to end all storms ended up being anything but, as well as a hiccup involving a truck and the front awning of the Egyptian Theatre which required some screenings to be moved across the street to the Broadway Performance Hall, things look to get back into some semblance of order as things move towards their climax this weekend. Biggest news? The interactive, live cinematic event The Long Haul has happily been rescheduled back at the Egyptian on Tuesday, November 1, so those excited to get a look at all the stripping madness will finally get their opportunity.

I've seen a few of the films being showcased during the next three days, almost all of which are worthy of a look, especially the closing night feature, The Pass, which will be getting a massive gala presentation at Seattle's landmark Cinerama Theatre. The following are a handful of blurb reviews of the motion pictures I've had the opportunity to take a look at. Read on to learn what I thought of them.

Women Who Kill (7:00 pm 10/21 at AMC Pacific Place) ***
Ingrid Jungermann's nifty, nimble little mystery/thriller Women Who Kill is a fun-filled comedic horror delight that's just so much darn fun it's remarkably easy to look past its more apparent missteps as they occur. The movie revolves around a podcast about female serial killers produced by friendly ex-girlfriends Morgan (writer/director Jungermann) and Jean (Ann Carr), the latter of whom is a bit clingier than she arguably should be. Things get interesting, though, when Morgan falls for the cute-as-a-button Simone (Sheila Vand), and Jean begins to wonder if this doe-eyed ingénue is too good to be true. The sharp dialogue is what makes all this click, especially considering how haphazardly things ultimately fit together during the climactic stretch. This is a fun movie, and Jungermann shows a ton of filmmaking promise, making this a frothily ebullient delight difficult to speak ill of.

Torrey Pines (12:30 pm 10/22 at AMC Pacific Place) ***1/2
Writer/director Clyde Petersen's astonishing opening night feature gets an encore screening, this animated marvel a heartfelt, emotionally pure gem that just gets better and better the more I think about. This coming-of-age tale somehow manages to avoid cliché as it makes its punk rock way through its marvelously concise narrative structure, building to a fantastic conclusion that's as powerful as it is authentic.

The Watermelon Woman (2:45 pm 10/22 at AMC Pacific Place) ****
Cheryl Dunye's stunning 1996 classic gets a 20th anniversary presentation with the director herself in attendance. An essential piece of LGBT '90s cinema, this incisive dramatic romance is just as potent now (especially sequences looking at internalized racism and incidents of police brutality) as it ever was during its initial release. The must-see event of the festival.

Slash (5:15 pm 10/22 at AMC Pacific Place) ***
SIFF favorite Slash returns to Seattle, and it's safe to say this marvelously entertaining piece of cosplay and fan-fiction lunacy is just as much fun the second time around as it was the first. Best to know as little as possible before viewing, the basics revolve around Neil (Michael Johnston), an aspiring writer whose whole world view is changed when he's befriended by a website moderator, Julia (Hannah Marks), who happily takes him under her wing. What follows isn't terribly original, but the presentation and execution certainly are, writer/director Clay Liford doing a fine job of shepherding this idiosyncratic coming of age tale all the way through to its fitfully amusing conclusion.

King Cobra (9:15 pm 10/22 at AMC Pacific Place) **
The festival's biggest missed opportunity, James Franco and Justin Kelly, the team behind I am Michael, reunite once again, this time to bring to the screen the story of gay porn icon Sean Paul Lockhart a.k.a. Brent Corrigan (Garrett Clayton). With an all-star cast that includes Alicia Silverstone, Christian Slater, Molly Ringwald and Franco himself, the movie is a sex-filled romp that never finds its footing, essentially becoming a toothless biopic more interested in its visual flourishes than it is in revealing anything essential about the main character.

The Pass (6:30 pm 10/23 at Cinerama) ***
Visually dynamic drama with 'Quantico' star Russell Tovey as a dynamic up-and-coming soccer pro having to grapple with his sexuality under the most unimaginable of conditions. Adapted by director John Donnelly from his own play, while nothing truly surprising ever happens, the authenticity of the circumstances and the emotions at the center of things is always beyond reproach. Tovey is mesmerizing in the lead, while relative newcomer Chris O'Driscoll's cinematography is oftentimes jaw-dropping in its mesmeric intensity.


Reichardt's Certain Women an intimately humanistic marvel
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

CERTAIN WOMEN
Now playing


In a nondescript Montana town, lawyer Laura Wells (Laura Dern) is doing her best to get her latest client Mr. Fuller (Jared Harris), a contractor injured on the job, to understand that, while his claims against his employer are sound, his basis for bringing suit against them are sadly invalid due to his accepting an earlier cash settlement. Meanwhile, wife and mother Gina Lewis (Michelle Williams) is obsessing over a country home she intends to build with her husband Ryan (James Le Gros), burrowing through his apparent indifference with relaxed, if unamused, certainty. At the same time, young Beth Travis (Kristen Stewart), a law student fresh out of college, travels four hours once a week to teach a class to a room full of educators, ranch hand Jamie (Lily Gladstone) drawn to attend for reasons she can barely put words to.

Adapted from stories written by Montana author Maile Meloy, writer/director Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women ranks alongside her 2008 stunner Wendy and Lucy as an essential piece of modern cinematic excellence. A breathless entertainment, as simple and as straightforward as it is austere and ephemeral, this is a tale of life, of how that life is lived and of the connections that are made as one travels down its mysterious road. More specifically, it is a saga of four women from entirely different walks of life who are nowhere as dissimilar as they might appear, each trying to make the most of the situations they are in, the choices they have made and relationships they have forged every step along their respective journeys.

Essentially three short stories viewed as informal snapshots, garnering insight into what is happening with Laura, Gina, Lily and Beth at the time each photo is taken, Reichardt isn't interested in overcomplicating matters, doesn't feel inclined to add extra bits of melodramatic convolution just for the sake of added emotional embellishment. She instead trusts both her cast as well as her audience, letting the mundane nature of everyday life become its own intensely enthralling spotlight that magnifies the nuances of the various situations each woman is currently in. There's no fat here, no extraneous filler, and as such the overall effect the film had on me while I watched it was close to breathtaking.

Dern's tale is probably the easiest to process, the parallels to current discussion about double standards and sexism in the workplace plainly obvious. Even so, this segment, which also features a sublime, captivatingly complex turn from Harris, is absolutely enthralling. There is a pugnacious resilience to Dern's performance that's sensational, especially during an unforeseen twist that forces Laura to take a form of action she never could have anticipated having to take. But it's also the little things, the way she reacts to Harris sitting next to her in the car or her body movements when a male lawyer tells her client the exact same thing she's been saying for weeks as if speaking to a brick wall only to have them understand instantly when it isn't a woman speaking to them.

Williams' section is arguably the weakest, if only because it is seemingly the most banal. And yet, that would be missing the point, the dialogues Gina has with both her husband Ryan, their teenage daughter Guthrie (Sara Rodier) and a family friend, Albert (Rene Auberjonois), sitting on a wealth of unused stone speaking understated volumes. The directness of this sequence hides a number of telling secrets, many of which I didn't even realize were there until after the film had come to an end and I found myself mulling over its numerous ins and outs hours later.

But it is the segment chronicling Jamie and Beth that might just be Reichardt's finest single moment as a filmmaker. While it can appear to some tired eyes nothing is happening here, in reality the beauteous eloquence of this section is positively electrifying. Using Meloy's delicate prose as a starting point, what the director discovers during this unexpected meeting up of two exceedingly different personalities is a breathtaking union that defies simplistic characterization. Why are we drawn to do things we do? What are the repercussions of the choices we make? What scars can linger without our knowing? And is it sometimes better to make an intimate connection and potentially lose it than to never have attempted to make it happen in the first place? These questions and more haunt this climactic portion of the story, the superlative, naturalistic radiance of newcomer Gladstone sensationally juxtaposed alongside the jittery, angelic intensity of Stewart's authentically realized supporting turn.

Moving outside of Oregon for the first time, Reichardt utilizes her Montana locales with effortless confidence, Christopher Blauvelt's (The Bling Ring) intoxicating camerawork making the picturesque mountain ranges surrounding the town appear as if they were a snow-capped giant observing the four women from on high. The sound design is also something extraordinary, and from train whistles, to the gentle clomping of a horse's hooves on frozen asphalt, to voices on a radio talking about the day's events, all of it helps create a milieu of a lived-in ordinariness that's wondrous.

Reichardt makes good movies, some of which I've adored (Wendy and Lucy), others I've appreciated if not entirely enjoyed (Night Moves, Meek's Cutoff) and some I've never entirely warmed to even though I respected the craftsmanship that made them possible (Old Joy). But, make no mistake, every film this director has touched has been one discerning audiences owe it to themselves to see, each an original, idiosyncratic sojourn into the human condition that looks at life in ways that are personal, thought-provoking and sincere. With Certain Women, Reichardt has delivered something exemplary once again, the places it goes and the people it deals with as real as any sitting on the other side of the average person's living room window.


Inspired Demon a subversive descent into madness
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

DEMON
Now playing


Piotr (Itay Tiran) has made the journey from the hustle and bustle of England to the secluded Polish countryside to marry his fiancée Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska). As a gift, her family has given him their large, rundown country home for him to do with as he pleases, thinking he'd be pleased at the idea of fixing it up and returning it to its former glory. While doing a routine inspection, Piotr inadvertently crashes into a pit of human remains, their discovery a surprise that leaves him understandably shaken.

The next day, while the wedding itself goes off without a hitch, during the reception Zaneta notices her new husband is acting strangely. As the night progresses, Piotr begins to feel less and less like himself, almost as if he is possessed by some sort of spirit. Long hidden secrets are unceremoniously revealed, Zaneta's father (Andrzej Grabowski) increasingly agitated as things spiral out of control and his new son-in-law starts spouting supernatural gibberish that could potentially lead to his good name being dragged through the mud and forever ruined.

The final film from revered Polish director Marcin Wrona (My Flesh My Blood) and inspired by Jewish folklore, most notably legends associated with the supernatural force known as a dybbuk, Demon isn't a horror movie although there are moments of suspense and terror that stop the blood cold. Yet, it is also not an intense relationship drama, even though moments of pain, sorrow, love, sacrifice and madness are continually on display. All the same, it is still not a comedy, even if scenes of bleak, unbridled pitch black humor are so pointedly strong it's impossible not to watch the film without laughing out loud at least a couple of times as events spiral hopelessly out of Piotr's control.

All of which makes the film as odd as it sounds, Wrona and his fellow screenwriter Pawel Maslona crafting a story where science, superstition and religion walk hand-in-hand in uneasy truce, only to be beaten and battered down by a wrathful presence that doesn't appear to care how much collateral damage it leaves in its wake. But as crazy as it all might be this story is peculiarly enchanting in an uncomfortably surrealistic way, its delectable charms increasing in number as things progress to their inevitably bleak conclusion. It's a witty tale, one where the ins and outs are as gruesome as they are thoughtful. But while some of the interior mechanics connecting one character to the next aren't always satisfactory, the main themes propelling things forward are, most managing to be pleasingly universal no matter how esoteric they might initially appear to be.

It's all crisply shot by frequent Wrona collaborator Pawel Flis (The Christening), his robust, eerily crafty cinematography keeping just enough on the side of the frame to keep the viewer guessing as to what might be going on just outside of their direct line of sight. The film toys with its audience, tilting between comedy, drama and horror in ways that are continually surprising and, even better, increasingly unsettling. This allows tension to build naturally and in a bracingly believable manner, the human horror of what it is Piotr is facing all the more palpably disturbing because of this.

It isn't a continuous smooth sail, and some of the more eccentric narrative machinations can be moderately tiresome, especially during a slightly lumpy midsection where the groom starts his spiral into possession and Zaneta, her father and a handful of others wonder what the heck is going on. Thankfully, there are so many striking moments, and Tiran's performance is just so gosh darn terrific, that any hiccups that do arise are few and far between. Best of all, Wrona builds things to the type of shattering, emotionally catastrophic climax that lingers in the mind long after the curtain has closed, making Demon a paranormal descent into madness and mayhem that's hauntingly good.






5th Avenue Theatre's Man of La Mancha a winning production
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Former Young Artists shine in a Hansel and Gretel for grown-up audiences
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Pearl Jam one step away from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
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Kanye West delivers an intriguing, elevating performance at Key Arena
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David Sedaris returning to Seattle in November
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Confessions of a Size Queen
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Taproot asks: Is God a game?
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Rita Moreno is a national treasure
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Against the Grain/Men in Dance Festival a terrific bi-annual showcase
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SGN EXCLUSIVE:
Certain Women - An interview with Kelly Reichardt

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Young the Giant's Sameer Gadhia discusses the presidential election, North Carolina and Halloween
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TWIST!
Seattle Queer Film Festival
Final weekend preview

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Reichardt's Certain Women an intimately humanistic marvel
------------------------------
Inspired Demon a subversive descent into madness
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