I am feeling very vulnerable because this post comprises my own reviews of the nine movies I saw at the Seattle International Film Fest (SIFF), which ended last weekend. I am anxious that I will fall prey to this reviewer of reviews.
Now that I am on the other side of the fence, I realize how heavy a critic’s burden is. It kills me to shield my analysis of these movies from you because they are quite brilliant. But I can’t share them without spoilers.
FOUR MUST-SEE MOVIES FROM SIFF 2014
Dear White People, coming out this fall:
This is an American film that dramatizes racism on a college campus. It pits a white frat against a black frat. Most of it is from the perspective of a shy black student on the school newspaper. The movie culminates in a racist frat party (discussed in the first scene) of the ilk that is, in reality, held by frats in some colleges today. Although this film is really funny, it packs a full punch. Stay for the credits.
Manuscripts Don’t Burn, in various film fests (might be on the web)
This Iranian film imagines a day on the job of two assassins assigned by the government to kill two intellectuals. It also focuses on a writer who has written a memoir about a failed assassination attempt on himself and 14 other intellectuals. The movie starts out slowly but quickly becomes a captivating thriller.
It was written and directed by Mohammad Rasoulof, an Iranian filmmaker who was arrested in 2009 for filming without a permit. The government sentenced him to six years in prison and forbade him from making movies for 20 years. His sentence was commuted to one year and he is currently awaiting trial. This is the second movie that he has made since his arrest–both have received critical acclaim.
In order to protect the Iranian cast and crew, Rasoulof‘s is the only name in the credits. No one knows exactly how he makes movies without being caught. Perhaps even more puzzling is that he has been able to take his movies to film festivals, where the pundits conduct interviews of him.
The story is inspired by real events, which Rasoulof has yet to clarify, but they seem likely to be the so-called “Chain Murders” of more than 80 Iranian writers, intellectuals, political activists and ordinary citizens between 1988 and 1998. All had been critical of the Islamic Republic.
Let’s hope that Rasoulof remains safe.
Unforgiven, in various film fests (might be on the web)
A Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s 1992 film of the same name, this film stars Ken Watanabe (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), who plays a notorious insurgent in 19th Century Japan in a revolution that has failed. The movie begins years after the revolution; Watanabe’s character has become a farmer with two small children. He had promised his late wife that he would never revert back to the ruthless killer he once was. But he is in the middle of a drought and has become destitute. Along comes an old comrade asking him to help kill two men with a hefty bounty on their heads.
The setting is reminiscent of that of the American Western. Foregrounds include plains and forests, backgrounds towering, jagged mountains. The acting is fantastic—Ken Watanabe always delivers. I love Westerns and this movie is intriguing, but it is also chock full of gore.
Fun Twist: American Westerns are based on the Japanese-Samurai-movie genre, but this Japanese movie is of the American Western genre.
Obvious Child, opened last week:
Already the critics’ darling, this film is about a stand-up comic (Jenny Slate) who becomes pregnant after a one-night stand. It’s funny, quirky and different. It focuses on the interaction between the comic and the guy; it is not about her decision. Number one on Entertainment Weekly’s “Must See” list this week.