Category Archives: SIFF 2005

Reviews and information about the Seattle International Film Festival (2005)

Review: Izo

Have you ever seen a movie that you think has some deeper meaning but you just don’t get it? And then after some consideration you wonder if you did infact miss something or whether the movie was just fucking with your head the entire time — trying to be all pretentious and meaningful but really just trying to be self-consciously showy?

I’m still not sure what Izo is. But I liked it, nonetheless.

I’m not sure how I can summarize it. Izo is some sort of guy who kills a lot of people. Toward the end of the movie he begins to turn into a demon. After the movie I heard a lot of people complaining that the movie didn’t have a plot. They were probably right. Mostly Izo kills people. At first, the people he kills are ghosts/reincarnations of people he killed in the past. Then he just starts killing everyone.

The movie is, for lack of a better term, very postmodern. Movie is very aware that it is a movie. For example, there is some random guy who appears throughout the film and plays guitar and sings (in a very insane/punk voice) some bizzare song. Nobody seems to notice to care about him. Additionally, Izo is frequently in one place then suddenly appears in another. Plus, the amount of blood and violence is so over the top, that it almost feels like a parody.

My working theory throughout the movie was that the character Izo was a physical representation of the idea of abjection. He is a formless form, a souless soul, he is living but his life is death, etc. Plus there is some line about how Izo is basically disruptor of the system and a contradition.

Furthermore, all of the blood and vommiting allude back to abjection — both of which are common ways of relaying the theory.

There is also some group of men who seem to somehow be behind Izo’s existence. I think they are related to war?

In my Postmodernism and Japanese Mass Culture class the professor suggested that pretty much every aspect of Japanese culture post-WWII is somehow influenced by the fact that they were defeated and the fact that the nuclear bomb was dropped on them (twice). Assuming that is true, Izo is a perfect example. In addition to strange conspiracy of men, there are also numerous cut-ins containing footage of the war and occupation and soldiers and Hitler.

Thus, I think Izo, in addition to being a manifestation of the theory of abjection, is also a manifestation for the guilt/pain/hypocrisy of war.

The film is filled with pretty profound one-liners, and I constantly wish I had a notebook with me so I could jot things down. Overall, I gave the movie 4/5 and will definitely be seeing it again (on DVD, though).

Review: Childstar

The main reason I went to see Childstar was because Jennifer Jason Leigh was in it. The review said something about it being a movie about a Macaulay Culkin-esque child actor who is abducted.

Really, though, this film is about the Hollywood exploitation of child actors.

But I’m not sure what the ultimate message is, and that is probably the main weakness of the film. In the end, I wasn’t sure whether it was more a critique of the movie-making process or a argument against using child actors in films… and if it was about child actors, it’s rather ironic that in order to make the film, the filmmaker had to exploit the actor who played the child actor (Mark Rendall, who was amazing “for a kid”).

The story itself was rather uninteresting. The kid actor is cast in a joke-of-a-movie about the first son (which the kid plays). His dad, the president, is kidnapped by “European terrorists” (who are funny). Since his dad is gone, the first son has to be “the man of the house,” which, apparently, involves taking on the terrorists single-handedly and saving his dad. (The movie itself doesn’t show the sub-movie in its entirety — we are briefed about the plot in the opening when some agency is pitching it to a production company.)

What I found most interesting were the rather intertextual themes of the movie. The fact that it was a movie about a movie was pretty interesting and meta. I also liked the fact that one of the main characters was the driver for the kid actor and that the driver was also an aspiring director… and the fact that that character was also the director/writer of the film, Don McKellar. I just loved the fact that the director played a driver who was a wannabe director.

Also, I must add, that I’m always terribly delighted whenever Jennifer Jason Leigh is on the screen. Yes, she pretty much always plays the same role (kinda neurotic, possibly substance-abusing, etc.). She plays the kid actor’s mother in the movie and seems to be exploiting him pretty hardcore… plus, she hooks up with the driver, which is just weird.

Overall, I gave the movie a 4/5. In retrospect, it was probably more of a 3, but oh well. I also liked that it was Canadian.

Starting Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin
In my continual stop-and-start of book reading (I recently started, then stopped, Infinite Jest, then I started, then stopped, Speculum of the Other Woman [for the third time]), and now I’m starting yet another book. This time, though, I need to finish it since I’m seeing the movie it was based on in a couple of weeks.

My next book is Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim.

I don’t know too much about the book, except for the fact that is is probably gay-themed and involves alien abductions (that probably aren’t really done by aliens). I know nothing about the author, so this should be pretty exciting.

I’m reading it because on June 2, I will be seeing the film version of Mysterious Skin as part of the Seattle International Film Festival. Greg Araki, who directed two movies I absolutely love: The Doom Generation and Nowhere.

Araki’s other movies are very sexual and surreal. Nowhere, in fact, seems to have been very inspired by the Bret Easton Ellis novel Less Than Zero. The film version of Less Than Zero absolutely sucks, so I just pretend that Nowhere was the real adapatation.

That said, I’m excited to start reading this novel. With the except of Infinite Jest (which, of course, I took a break from reading), I haven’t read a nonfiction book for a few months (The Handmaid’s Tale was the last one I read).

Feast Your Eyes

Seattle International Film Festival cover
Last year I was a bad Seattle-ite and didn’t get around to going to any of the Seattle International Film Festival showings. I tried going to see The Corporation, but I didn’t understand the whole pass/buy-your-ticket-in-advance concept back then and I ended up not seeing it when I wanted. But that was last year. And I am glad to say I learned from my mistake.

This year, I am going to go much more full-force with the whole SIFF thing. So far we’re only about four days into the festival, and I’ve seen three SIFF showings — yay for me.

On Friday night and Saturday afternoon (yes, twice) I went to see 2046. Readers of my blog should know that I’ve already seen the movie twice (first review of 2046, second review of 2046). I gotta say that seeing it three, then four, times only made me love the movie more. Every time I’ve watched it I’ve picked up on something different and understood things a bit differently.

Bai Ling
At the Saturday showing the woman from SIFF who introduced the film said a few interesting things. First, she said that she had worked with Wong Kar-Wai on his last five movies and that she asked him to come to Seattle for the debut of 2046. Second, she said that he had to decline because he was working on his next movie, The Lady From Shanghai with Nicole Kidman. As of right now, the Internet Movie Database notes that the film is in production without any cast listed. There are some rumors on the message board that Nicole Kidman would be involved, but nothing concrete… so, it seems to me that we may have been the first to really find out for certain that Kidman is in the next WKW movie. That is awesome. Finally, the woman said that WKW thanked us for seeing the film at SIFF and not going to Scarecrow Video to rent the bootleg/import version of the film. Oops. Well, I guess he didn’t personally thank me, but hey, I saw the SIFF screening twice, so it’s not like I took away business.

Speaking of 2046, when I first mentioned that it would be showing at SIFF I noted that there are apparently two edits of the film. After its Cannes 2004 premiere, WKW went and edited a bit so that it made more sense. I am 90% sure that the version I saw at SIFF was different than the version I watched on DVD. The “2046” and “2047” segments were longer and overall the film made more sense, though that could be due to the fact I had seen it so many times before and the fact I was watching it on a big screen.

Finally, and this is my last comment about 2046 and SIFF, but I have to say that The Neptune theatre in the University District is by far the worst movie ever to see subtitled films at. The floor isn’t sloped enough so the head of the person in front of you is always in the way. Again, learning from my past, when I went on Saturday afternoon we got the front row seats on the balcony, which at least gave us a chance to read all of the subtitles… as for the comfort, that still left a lot to be desired. That place needs new seats!

Secret Festival pass
In addition to the regular films at the festival, my coworker learned about this thing called The Secret Festival. Every year SIFF (and this is, I understand, pretty unique to SIFF) does this additional set of movies that you can see but not talk about. How serious are they about not talking about it? Well, pretty serious, apparently. Using my pretty keen Google-fu, I couldn’t find anything online about what has been shown in the past. Additionally, when you get the pass, you sign what is basically a nondisclosure agreement:

I, the undersigned, do hereby solemnly swear that I will never divulge the titles of discuss any of the films screened at the 2005 SIFF Secret Festival. Futhermore, I agree that I will not commit to print, broadcast on radio/television, on-line service or any other media form information regarding any of the 2005 Secret Festival screenings. I understand that the Seattle International Film Festival can and will pursue legal action against me in order to recover punitive and financial damages caused by my breach of this contract. I understand that no recording device is allowed into festival venues and that I may be subject to physical search of my person or personal property upon entrance to festival venues.

So yah, don’t expect any more information about the Secret Festival showings.

As for the other films, this is what I plan to see:

  • Ronda Nocturna @ Harvard Exit @ May 25, 2005 9:30 p.m.
  • Childstar @ Neptune Theatre @ May 27, 2005 7:15 p.m.
  • Izo @ Egyptian Theatre @ May 28, 2005 11:55 p.m.
  • November @ Neptune Theatre @ May 31, 2005 9:30 p.m.
  • Mysterious Skin @ Egyptian Theatre @ Jun 2, 2005 9:15 p.m.
  • A Hole in My Heart @ Egyptian Theatre @ Jun 4, 2005 11:55 p.m.
  • L’Amant @ Harvard Exit @ Jun 5, 2005 6:30 p.m.
  • Clean @ Harvard Exit @ Jun 7, 2005 9:30 p.m.
  • Ellie Parker @ Neptune Theatre @ Jun 11, 2005 2:00 p.m.
  • Frozen @ Harvard Exit @ Jun 12, 2005 4:15 p.m.

So yeah, within the next month my ass will become very sore and I will be an expert at taking the 7 bus route between my place and the U-District (for the Neptune showings).

It would be totally awesome for people to join me at any of these movies. And I do intend to review each film I see as much as possible, though it could become rather overwhelming.

What am I most excited about? Right now, Mysterious Skin because I love Greg Araki (Nowhere, The Doom Generation) and I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I am also excited about Clean because Maggie Cheung was great in In the Mood For Love and because the film involves heroin addicts and rock stars. As for the rest, we’ll see.

Wish me luck!