Seattle International Film Festival’s closing highlights
Capsule reviews of films at the Seattle International Film Festival, through June 8.
Seattle International Film Festival
Seattle International Film Festival, through June 8 at SIFF Cinema Uptown, Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Pacific Place and Cinerama; 206-324-9996 or www.siff.net. Printed festival guides available at all SIFF venues and many Starbucks locations.
Last chance! The Seattle International Film Festival wraps up Sunday, June 8, but not without a full slate of films all over town. Here are some highlights; for a full schedule, see www.siff.net.
‘Alex of Venice’ ★★★½
A wistful, touching drama about a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) moving on from a failed marriage, this assured film is the directing debut of actor Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project,” “The Newsroom”). Winstead, as she did in “Smashed,” creates a flawed, utterly believable character whom we instantly root for. The screenplay makes eloquent use of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” in telling a story of family and legacy; we watch Winstead’s Alex as she slowly moves forward, leaving youth behind. Messina will attend both screenings. 7 p.m. June 6 at the Harvard Exit; 1:30 p.m. June 7 at the Harvard Exit. — Moira Macdonald
‘B for Boy’ ★★½
A necessarily ugly film about ugly behavior, Nigeria’s “B for Boy” reinforces much of what we’ve recently learned about the country’s sexism. The movie is not on the scale of the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls, but Chika Anadu’s story of a marriage devastated by anti-female humiliation has a similar impact. The director will attend the screening. 1:15 p.m. June 6 at Pacific Place.— John Hartl
‘Futuro Beach’ ★★½
The title of Karim Ainouz’s world-premiere movie refers to a dangerous Brazilian beach, where a lifeguard and an Afghan war veteran witness the drowning of the latter’s lover. The two surviving men are intimate and eventually take part in a convoluted family drama involving the vet’s teenage son. Mesmerizing and frustrating, it’s dominated by the lush cinematography of Ali Olay Gözkaya. 9:30 p.m. June 6 at the Uptown; 11 a.m. June 7 at the Egyptian. — J.H.
‘The Great Museum’ ★★★
Like a Frederick Wiseman documentary, Johannes Holzhausen’s film lets us experience a year in the life of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum without comment: no title cards, no talking heads, no music, just a series of fly-on-the-wall observations of life at the museum as it renovates and re-brands. Though not quite as mesmerizing as the best of Wiseman, it’s often pure pleasure: particularly the scenes of meticulous art restorers at their work, and in quiet shots of the museum’s storage rooms, where rows of sculptures wait quietly, as if gazing into the dark. 2:30 p.m. June 7 at the Uptown. — M.M.
Sustained silliness is easier to imagine than to do. The makers of this sports comedy are clearly aware of that, and they may overstay their welcome, but the script’s parade of sports-movie clichés is frequently funny. One reason is Jake Lacey and his frisky performance as a football fanatic (and “Rocky” expert) who tries to organize a reunion of underdogs. Screenwriter Bradley Jackson will attend both screenings. 9 p.m. June 6 at the Uptown; 4:15 p.m. June 7 at the Harvard Exit. — J.H.
‘Keep On Keepin’ On’ ★★★½
When Australian novice director and jazz drummer Alan Hicks hatched the idea for a documentary about jazz trumpet giant Clark Terry — mentor to Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, longtime band member on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” — Hicks was thinking ordinary documentarian thoughts. But as Hicks got closer to his subject, he saw a compelling theme unfolding. Terry, an early jazz education activist, had taken a young, blind pianist under his wing named Justin Kauflin, who makes the semifinals of the Thelonious Monk competition. When Hicks connected the dots back to Seattle’s Jones, mentored by Terry back in the ’50s and later his boss in a big band, Hicks realized he was really making a movie about how the jazz tradition is passed along. The result is an unconventional but touching movie, one that feels more like compelling reality TV than a traditional documentary film. 4 p.m. June 6 at the Uptown. — Paul de Barros
‘Life Feels Good’ ★★★½
The gifted young Polish actor Dawid Ogrodnik brilliantly dominates “Life Feels Good,” based on the true story of a man who sometimes triumphs over cerebral palsy — and sometimes doesn’t. It’s a performance that’s bound to become as celebrated as Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning work in “My Left Foot.” Warning: Skip the end credits and you’ll miss one of the highlights of the movie. 7 p.m. June 6 at the Uptown; 10:30 a.m. June 7 at the Harvard Exit; 6:15 p.m. June 8 at Pacific Place. — J.H.
‘The One I Love’ ★★★
SIFF’s closing-night gala feature, from first-time filmmaker Charlie McDowell, is the sort of highly original film whose secrets are best experienced fresh, without any previous speculation. So I’ll just say that Elisabeth Moss (Peggy from “Mad Men”) and Mark Duplass have charming chemistry as a married couple, that the film goes to unexpected places, and that I’m not sure it entirely holds up. Your mileage may vary; see what you think. McDowell, Moss, Duplass and producer Mel Eslyn will attend the first screening. 6:30 p.m. June 8 at Cinerama (gala); encore screening 9:30 p.m. June 8 at Cinerama. — M.M.
‘To Be Takei’ ★★★½
Not just a coming-out movie but one of the most personal films to deal with the Japanese-American internment camps, “To Be Takei” inspires with its appreciation of George Takei’s ability to endure the humiliation of the camps (he was a child in the early 1940s) and many years of pretending to be heterosexual. It’s also pretty funny, especially when Takei (Sulu of the “Star Trek” series) and his longtime husband, Brad Altman, are behaving like the old married couple they are. Also on the program is the cosmic Takei-narrated short “The Missing Scarf,” which suggests why he’s been able to maintain such a level-headed, healing view of existence. 7 p.m. June 6 at the Egyptian; 4 p.m. June 7 at the Uptown. — J.H.
‘To Fool a Thief’ ★★★
From the title nod to the “North by Northwest” T-shirt worn by its elegantly thieving heroine, this Argentine caper pays homage to Hitchcock, and does so with zippy charm. Daniel Hendler and Valeria Bertucelli play a pair of dueling con artists scheming to steal a rare bottle of wine; the Argentine city of Mendoza, with its elaborate wedding-cake buildings, proves itself adept at stealing scenes, as well. 9:45 p.m. June 6 at the Egyptian. — M.M.
Paranoia strikes deep in this frequently riveting German drama about a mother and her young son who leave the East for the West in the mid-1970s. What they can’t leave behind is their past: specifically, their roots (the boy is taunted by bullies who call him “east scumbag”) and the mysterious husband/father who may have died in a car accident in Moscow (that’s the official story) but whose true allegiances are unknown. Unlike many festival movies, this one isn’t long enough; 98 minutes is too short. Director Christian Schwochow will attend the screenings. 6 p.m. June 7 at the Uptown; 11:30 a.m. June 8 at the Uptown. — J.H.
‘The Whole Wide World’ ★★★½
Reviewing the film in 1996, Jeff Shannon wrote: “Set in Texas in the early 1930s, this unabashedly romantic yet freshly unconventional fact-based love story — between schoolteacher Novalyne Price (bright newcomer Renée Zellweger) and pulp-fiction author Robert E. Howard (Vincent D’Onofrio) — mixes tenderness with the intriguing dynamics of an unpredictable relationship. Great performances and compassionate direction (by Seattle International Film Festival co-founder Dan Ireland) make this a modest yet satisfying triumph of content over obviously limited resources.” Ireland is scheduled to attend the screening as part of SIFF’s 40th anniversary celebration, and will also present the world premiere of his short film, “Hate from a Distance.” 4 p.m. June 7 at the Egyptian.