Friday, June 24, 2011

Three Flicks at the Seattle International Film Festival

I was in Philadelphia for most of SIFF this year but managed to catch three movies toward the end.

Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Seach for a Kool Place – Egyptian theater, Thursday 6/2, 9:30 pm

The description for this movie was right up my alley – “found” footage made into a documentary about 1960s drug culture. And the movie itself was quite interesting, beautifully edited – and incredibly so considering the major hurdles the filmmakers had to jump to put together something cohesive – but it was somewhat slower than one would expect from a movie about a psychedelic-filled cross-country bus trip.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame – Egyptian theater, Monday 6/5, 9:30 pm

I have a soft spot for martial arts flicks and this one promised spontaneously-combusting government officials and a fight sequence with chainsaw-yielding puppets. Although there was some good humor and enjoyable action, the plot was a bit too jumbled for my tastes – a “plot doily” as my movie viewing companion described it. Lest you all clamber to argue that martial arts movies are not dictated by the same constraints as western cinema, never fear, you’ve been beaten to it by a coworker who put me in my place.

Por El Camino – Pacific Place, Thursday 6/9, 7:00 pm

This road trip movie was set in Uruguay, directed and produced by Brasilians, and starred an Argentine and a Belgian. By far my favorite movie, it produced both nostalgic and violent reactions as I watched the main character display so much of what I liked and loathed about the Argentine culture, specifically the upper class, all juxtaposed against the stunning undeveloped Uruguay landscape with cuts to pulsating, hideous Punta del Este, where the rich and famous – and those who want to gawk at them – flock in January and February. I resisted being a know-it-all as I listened to audience questions and speculation, and I suffered feeling utterly foolish as I tried to explain to the filmmaker (both the director and lead Argentine were there for the U.S. premiere) how his editing choices had captured a culture I tried on for size for two years, only to fumble over my Spanish. He was nothing if not sweet and I know I projected my own memories of being wrapped up with the rich and cool of the southern cone but not quite belonging, but I still walked away feeling a bit silly, like the only-sort-of-cool-kid trying to join the really-cool-kid group instead of just being content with where she is.

STIFF – maybe next year

I tried to get to several STIFF events – Seattle’s True Independent Film Festival, which is always held right after SIFF ends – but I didn’t quite make it. In theory I like the idea of more independent films (we’re talking truly independent, like you or me grabbing a camera and deciding to make a movie) but I don’t know that I necessarily love the way they harp on SIFF. Since when does success mean they’ve sold out? Although some of SIFF’s sponsors are questionably corporate, there’s no denying that SIFF connects a lot of people with a lot of movies they’d never otherwise see, and they’re able to do it year-round thanks to a lot of local support.

I encourage everyone to expand their viewing of independent movies - there are some incredible things to see that you'll never watch at an AMC, and a great way to do so is through any local film festival you can find.

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