Winnipeg's gift to cinema, Guy Maddin, is back in town this weekend to present a Northwest Film Forum festival of his shorts and features...
Guy Maddin at his wicked best
Winnipeg's gift to cinema, Guy Maddin, is back in town this weekend to present a Northwest Film Forum festival of his shorts and features. He is scheduled to attend all screenings tonight and tomorrow.
The main attraction is Maddin's new 64-minute feature, "Cowards Bend the Knee"; he's filling out the program with several shorts from his collection. His 72-minute debut movie, "Tales From the Gimli Hospital" (1988), is the late show.
Honored with a Seattle Art Museum tribute a few years ago, the Canadian filmmaker is at his best when he's making five-minute shorts (such as the hilarious, demented "Sissy-Boy Slap Party") and feature-length films that just barely qualify as features. The shorter the movie, the more brilliantly concentrated Maddin's visuals are likely to be.
If you've never seen Maddin's work, "Cowards Bend the Knee" is a good place to start. It may be his most deliberate attempt to create a narrative, blending elements of Greek tragedy with hints of such amputation-obsessed horror movies as "The Unknown" and "The Beast With Five Fingers." One femme-fatale character is so attached to the amputated hands of her dead father ("Hands are memories") that she attempts to have them transplanted onto the hands of her lover.
"Cowards Bend the Knee," with Darcy Fehr, Melissa Dionisio. Written and directed by Guy Maddin. 64 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (includes nudity, an amputation scene, simulated sex). Northwest Film Forum.
Whatever the origins of this tale of murder and betrayal, it's Maddin's delirious style that makes his movies so watchable. A dreamy mixture of slow motion, fast cutting, sardonic subtitles and cheeky chapter headings, Maddin's movies reinvent silent-film techniques in a way that can't be mistaken for the work of anyone else. They're also packed with unexpectedly appropriate music. Beethoven's Seventh Symphony seems especially comfortable here.
"Cowards Bend the Knee" was shot on black-and-white Super 8 film. The same process will be used for "The Brand Upon the Brain!," the new movie he'll be shooting in Seattle over the next 11 days. It features a local cast and crew.
— John Hartl, Special to The Seattle Times
An enigma aka Tania
Anyone old enough to have read a newspaper in 1974 remembers the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, and the subsequent mayhem raised by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a group of homegrown Bay Area terrorists whose fervor for "the people" created a media frenzy. Now, more than 30 years later, filmmaker Robert Stone revisits those days.
Mixed with clips of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood (he, like the SLA, wanted to take from the rich and give to the poor), "Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst" is a meticulous and often fascinating reconstruction of a chaotic time. Former SLA member Russ Little gives a rare interview, describing the group's mindset as "militaristic fantasy." Mike Bortin, who joined a briefly revitalized SLA after many of its members perished in a shootout, likewise deflates the group. "There was not a fingernail of charisma among them," he says. "They were so middle-class."
"Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst," a documentary by Robert Stone. 89 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Varsity, through Thursday.
— Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times movie critic
Portraits of loneliness
The acclaimed Turkish film "Distant" earns its title through missed or neglected connections, emotional vacuums and vacant lives. It's also deeply compassionate and frequently amusing, qualifying as a minor miracle of humanely observant filmmaking.
Enjoying the film is purely a matter of individual receptiveness to writer-director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's contemplative take on solitary lives. His camera is frequently as fixed as his characters; watch closely and you'll recognize someone you know, or even yourself. The quietest moments are the most revealing.
"Distant," with Muzaffer Özdemir, Mehmet Emin Toprak. Written and directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. 105 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains profanity). In Turkish with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
Yusef arrives in Istanbul looking for work and wears out his welcome in Mahmut's apartment. Tensions mount, and we realize that solitude is the natural (if not preferred) state of these lonely, melancholy men.
Humor arises from simple sequences that convey, but never judge, Mahmut and Yusef's chronic isolation. Long takes dwell on utter inactivity and emotions accumulate with subtle, universal effect. "Distant" could've been made anywhere and it would yield the same visually seductive study of detachment. Tune into its wavelength, and it'll stay with you forever.
— Jeff Shannon, Special to The Seattle Times
Sick, twisted and boring
With a large variety of animated shorts available online and this latest edition being released on DVD Feb. 8, "Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation" has worn out its welcome. Spend an hour on the Internet and you'll find sicker, more twisted animations than you'll find in this 2004-05 collection, most of which caters to warped juvenile minds too young to gain admission.
"Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation (2004-05 edition)," a collection of animated shorts. 88 minutes. Not rated; no one under 18 admitted (contains adult material, cartoon violence, nudity and profanity). Varsity.
Craig "Spike" Decker and his (now deceased) partner Mike Gribble deserve credit for fostering animation with a showcase for new talent — sick, twisted or otherwise. Their compilations are great for film festivals, midnight screenings and specialized venues, but there's a distressing dearth of worthy material: Of the 25 shorts presented here, only four are truly sick and twisted, a scant few are funny and one is genuinely memorable. The rest are a complete waste of time.
"Sick & Twisted" honors go to the violent critters who get comically maimed in several episodes of "Happy Tree Friends," while "Here Comes Dr. Tran" recalls the notorious cartoon series "Mr. Wong" (available on DVD) in its blatant ethnic stereotypes and disregard for political correctness. The French "Crab Revolution" is amusingly odd (it's the clear standout here), while many disposable shorts are student trials in CGI (computer-generated imaging) and pencil-tests for incomplete projects.
Save your money and visit www.spikeandmike.com for an archive of freebies.
— Jeff Shannon, Special to The Seattle Times
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.