SIFF week 1: 10 movies to see
Movies we recommend at Seattle International Film Festival, May 17-23, 2013.
The Seattle International Film Festival runs through June 9 at several locations, including SIFF Cinema at the Uptown, SIFF Film Center, Pacific Place, Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center (May 23-29) and Kirkland Performance Center (May 30-June 9). Here are some recommendations for week one, written by Moira Macdonald and John Hartl (unless otherwise indicated). For tickets or additional information, call 206-324-9996 or see www.siff.net.
‘After Winter, Spring’
The grass does not necessarily prove greener in this documentary, which takes a Pennsylvania family to the Perigord region, where they make wine, battle destructive storms and try to adjust to French farming methods. Over a three-year period, they mingle with villagers, deal with relentless taxes and discover how the European Union has transformed the lives of citizens. Director Judith Lit is scheduled to attend both screenings. 4 p.m. May 19 at Harvard Exit; 8:30 p.m. May 20 at Uptown. — J.H.
“I think my hooker name should be Eleanor,” muses Abby (Robin Weigert), a 40-something lesbian going through an unusual midlife crisis in Stacie Passon’s well-acted feature debut. Re-examining her life after being hit on the head by a baseball, she tries on a new identity as a high-end prostitute for lonely New York women; the movie becomes a series of encounters, some of which — thanks to Weigert’s funny, honest work — are quite moving. Passon is scheduled to attend both screenings. 9:30 p.m. May 17 at Uptown; noon May 18 at Uptown. — M.M.
The story of a gifted 18-year-old dancer (Broadway performer Ryan Steele) on his own in New York City, Alan Brown’s coming-out /coming-of-age drama loses its oomph whenever it leaves the dance studio. Luckily, most of it takes place there, as we watch a group of five dancers create a new work; the camera pulls in close on the choreography, letting us breathe with them. Ultimately, it’s about the quiet, nitpicky pleasure of making art. Brown is scheduled to attend both screenings. 7 p.m. May 17 at Uptown; 1:30 p.m. May 18 at Harvard Exit. — M.M.
“Sorry I’m so slow. I have trouble leaving places,” says Frances (Greta Gerwig), a 20-something New Yorker who’s having trouble leaving her giddy youth behind. Filmed in black and white (you’re reminded of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan”), Noah Baumbach’s comedy nicely captures Gerwig’s coltish, goofy appeal. Her character, a dancer awkwardly navigating maturity, spends the movie wandering through various addresses and friendships. Though sometimes self-consciously precious, “Frances Ha” feels true to a certain time in life; it’s an oddball charmer. 9:45 p.m. May 17 at Pacific Place; 4 p.m. May 18 at Pacific Place. — M.M.
‘Goltzius and the Pelican Company’
Director Peter Greenaway is in fine, outrageous form with this barbed X-rated tale about a 16th-century Dutch engraver (eloquent wisecracker Ramsey Nasr) hoping to finance his new publishing company by selling sexed-up illustrations of Old Testament episodes to a freethinking Alsatian nobleman (F. Murray Abraham). Live theatrical enactments of the tales are offered as a teaser first — and soon go lethally amok, as controversies over heresy and casting decisions get out of hand. Greenaway will attend both screenings. 6:30 p.m. May 17 at Egyptian; 4:30 p.m. May 19 at Uptown (as part of a special Greenaway tribute). — Michael Upchurch
Working with more than 500 reels of Super 8 home movies shot at the White House during the Watergate debacle, director/producer Penny Lane and producer Brian L. Frye have blended mostly silent footage with damning audio evidence of a president who’s clearly cracking up. In an extended episode, the president delivers a jaw-dropping tirade against Socrates and “All in the Family.” Frye is scheduled to attend both screenings. 7 p.m. May 18 at Harvard Exit; 1:30 p.m. May 19 at Harvard Exit. — J.H.
‘Out of Print’
It’s frustratingly brief (55 minutes) and touches on several topics lightly rather than addressing one in-depth. But Vivienne Roumani’s documentary, elegantly narrated by Meryl Streep and featuring interviews with Jeff Bezos and Scott Turow, will be catnip for book lovers. What happens to the printed book in an e-world? How are children’s reading styles changed by technology? What’s the future of self-publishing? How is reading online different from reading a physical book? Good questions with few answers, but fascinating discussion. Roumani is scheduled to attend both screenings. 7 p.m. May 20 at Harvard Exit; 5 p.m. May 21 at Harvard Exit. — M.M.
The prolific Amy Seimetz, the star of “Upstream Color” and the director of “Sun Don’t Shine,” turns up as a divorced mother in this well-acted independent American drama about gays and bisexuals trying to establish a sense of family in a small town. Their lives may revolve around a pit stop that doesn’t offer much hope for escape, yet it can be central to the joy they feel when they make a connection. 6:30 p.m. May 19 at Harvard Exit; 4:30 p.m. May 20 at Pacific Place. — J.H.
‘We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks’
Julian Assange, a pale wisp of a man with Andy Warhol hair, is the center of Alex Gibney’s fascinating documentary about the rise and fall of WikiLeaks, the website that gained international attention when classified U.S. military information was posted there. It’s a long, strange story, with every player emerging with secrets of his own. Assange, elegantly slouching, says that his motto is “Lights on, rats out” — but by the end, you wonder. Gibney (an Oscar winner for “Taxi to the Dark Side”) and producer Marc Shmuger are scheduled to attend both screenings. 6 p.m. May 17 at Uptown; 11 a.m. May 18 at Uptown. — M.M.
‘What Maisie Knew’
Onata Aprile, playing a Manhattan 6-year-old torn between her selfish, warring parents, breaks your heart 10 times over in this moving drama. As Maisie, she’s toyed with by her manipulative rock-star mother (Julianne Moore, superb), ignored by her remote father (Steve Coogan) and left with doormen like a not-very-valuable package. The writing isn’t perfect — Maisie’s kind “stepparents” sometimes seem a little too good to be true — but it’s beautifully performed, and packs an emotional punch you won’t soon forget. Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel are scheduled to attend both screenings. 6:30 p.m. May 19 at Egyptian; 4:30 p.m. May 20 at Uptown. — M.M.