Fifty-seven essential titles for the festival. In each case, either we've seen it, a colleague has vouched for it, or it has very good buzz. But no, we won't refund your money if you don't like it.
Seattle International Film Festival
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After Innocence Broadway Performance Hall: 6:45 p.m. Wed., June 1. DNA tests free prison inmates, but that's only half their battle.
Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley EMP/JBL Theater: 7 p.m. Thurs., June 2. Broadway Performance Hall: 9:15 p.m. Sat., June 4. A must for fans of the late singer.
The Aristocrats Neptune: midnight Fri., May 20. One filthy joke, told by over 100 filthy comedians. Don't bring the kids.
The Art & Crimes of Ron English Broadway Performance Hall: 6:45 p.m. Thurs., May 26; 1:45 p.m. Sat., May 28.
The Beat That My Heart Skipped Neptune: 6:30 p.m. Sun., May 29; 2 p.m. Mon., May 30. A remake of James Toback's 1978 Fingers from the French director of Read My Lips.
Being Caribou Broadway Performance Hall: 6:45 p.m. Fri., June 3; 2 p.m. Tues., June 7. See related story.
The Circus Neptune: 6:30 p.m. Sun., June 5. Egyptian: 11 a.m. Sat., June 11. Chaplin's 1928 silent with his own late-life score added.
Clean Harvard Exit: 9:30 p.m. Tues., June 7. Uptown: 2 p.m. Thurs., June 9. Maggie Cheung (2046) is an addict trying to go straight for her son's sake.
Crane World Harvard Exit: 11:30 a.m. Sat., June 11. A construction worker recalls his life as a music star; this Argentine favorite returns from SIFF '00.
Days and Hours Broadway Performance Hall: 6:15 p.m. Sun., June 5; 9 p.m. Mon., June 6. Survivors from the remnants of Yugoslavia come to terms with the Bosnian wars.
Deep Blue Egyptian: 11 a.m. Sat., June 4. Neptune: 7:15 p.m. Mon., June 6. See related story.
Drive Well, Sleep Carefully: On the Road with Death Cab For Cutie Neptune: 9:30 p.m. Fri., June 10. Egyptian: 3:45 p.m. Sat., June 11. Local band in the spotlight.
The Dying Gaul Before any grumblers try to spoil it for you, just accept up front that, yes, director Craig Lucas' adaptation of his own 1998 play about a Hollywood producer (Campbell Scott), his bored trophy wife (Patricia Clarkson), and the grieving gay screenwriter (Peter Sarsgaard) whom they fatefully ensnare is as flawed on-screen as it was onstage. In order for the film to grab you, you'll have to deal with any number of unlikely coincidences and swimming pool–size plot holes, chief among them the curious means and motivations of Clarkson's placidly viscous character. But Lucas' pungent dissection of Tinseltown soullessness has taken on even greater resonance with time; it's an alarm sounding the price we pay for the increasingly casual indifference with which we regard one other. The three principals give subtle, sterling performances, though it's Sarsgaard's turn as a lost soul just barely controlling his bottomless rage, loneliness, and sorrow that will hit raw nerves. A scene in which his writer explodes into hot, hopeless tears during sex is one of the most astonishing bits of screen acting you'll see all year. (NR) STEVE WIECKING Egyptian: 7 p.m. Sat., May 21; 1:30 p.m. Sun., May 22.
Earthling Neptune: 7:15 p.m. Thurs., May 26. Egyptian: 11 a.m. Sat., May 28. See related story.
Ellie Parker This fun, scattershot Hollywood spoof by Scott Coffey evolved from a 20-minute Sundance short back in 2001, before its star and co-producer, Naomi Watts, had made her name in Mulholland Dr. Playing slyly off the intensity that has made her the go-to girl for falling-apart roles, Watts shows off an engagingly self-mocking side as a young actress with more determination than talent, striving to make the leap from soaps and commercials into serious film. Though it relies perilously on movie-within-a-movie bits of business we've all seen many times before, Ellie Parker bounces along on Coffey's deadpan capture of the no-exit, Hollywood Hills periphery of the movie industry. (NR) ELLA TAYLOR Neptune: 7:15 p.m. Thurs., June 9; 2 p.m. Sun., June 11.
Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven's Gate Egyptian: 4:45 p.m. Fri., June 3. The story of the Western that destroyed a studio, and the egomaniac (Michael Cimino) who made it.
Fishermen's Terminal Egyptian: 6:30 p.m. Mon., May 30. Gentrification threatens our Ballard waterfront and heritage in this world-premiere documentary.
5 X 2 (Five Times Two) Egyptian: 9 p.m. Sat., June 4. Neptune: 5 p.m. Tues., June 7. François Ozon (Swimming Pool) charts five stages of a couple's disintegration in reverse to their happy beginning.
The Gits Egyptian: 9 p.m. Sat., May 28; 3:45 p.m. Mon., May 30. The late Mia Zapata and her band get their due.
Godzilla: Final Wars Neptune: midnight Fri., May 27; 3:30 p.m. Sat., May 28. At 50, cinema's favorite rampaging lizard is still going strong.
Going Through Splat: The Life and Work of Stewart Stern Egyptian: 6 p.m. Sun., May 29. See related story.
The Gorky Trilogy Harvard Exit: 2 p.m. Sun., May 22. Russia's tripartite celebration of the great writer, made between 1938 and 1940, despite the hardships of WWII.
Grizzly Man Egyptian: 7 p.m. Mon., June 6; 4:45 p.m. Wed., June 8. Werner Herzog's new documentary about a bear-crazed documentarian.
The Heart of the Game Neptune: 11 a.m. Sat., June 11. Local girls basketball team puts the Storm to shame with hustle and drive.
Heaven's Gate Egyptian: 1:30 p.m. Sat., June 4. Michael Cimino's three-hour-plus cut of his career-killing Western epic, with Christopher Walken in his golden-haired prime.
A Hole In My Heart Egyptian: midnight Sat., June 4. Neptune: 2 p.m. Mon., June 6. Lukas Moodysson (Lilya 4-ever) makes porn even uglier and more debasing.
The Holy Girl Lucrecia Martel's moody yet somehow sunny study of manias, religious and erotic, is curiously reserved—almost an act of cinematic jujitsu. In America, a movie about teenage Catholic girls, grown-up molesters, scandal, and gossipy betrayal would either be a smutty joke or a pulpy melodrama: Lolita meets American Pie via Mean Girls. But the Argentine auteur of La Ciénaga has a pure, calm heart. Her miniclassic treats every character with nonjudgmental interest: the spiritually and romantically questing young girl (María Alche); the dirty old doctor who surreptitiously slips up behind her in a crowd and rubs her rump with his lump; the friends and relatives who spy and comment on these very public private lives in a hotel overrun by a medical convention. The camera has the attention span of a hummingbird, with equal interest in the entire ensemble cast. It's a quietly sexy, dreamy story, full of reveries and oblique, understated collisions of character. The heroine gets it in her head that the horny doc was sent to her by Christ, but she's no fanatic. And Alche's face is great: Joan of Arc with a knowing smirk. (R) TIM APPELO Harvard Exit: 9:30 p.m. Fri., May 20; 11:30 a.m. Sat., May 21.
Howl's Moving Castle Neptune: 7 p.m. Fri., June 10. Hayao Miyazaki's new anime, with Japanese dialogue and subtitles (the dubbed version opens in theaters June 15).
Kekexili: Mountain Patrol Neptune: 7 p.m. Wed., May 25. Egyptian:4:45 p.m. Fri., May 27. For the trekking set, rangers battle wildlife poachers in glorious Tibet.
Last Days Neptune: 6:30 p.m. Sun., June 12. Gus Van Sant's take on Kurt Cobain (never named as such, and played by The Dreamers' Michael Pitt), fresh from Cannes.
The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman Broadway Performance Hall: 6:15 p.m. Sat., May 28; 1:45 p.m. Mon., May 30. See related story.
Layer Cake Stylish and enjoyable, Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake is one of those "just one last score" movies where simple plans turn out to be anything but. Daniel Craig (Sylvia) plays an almost unflappably smooth operator who prides himself on keeping his head down and his nose out of trouble. Problem is, the higher-ups don't want him to retire healthy, happy, and rich.Bit by bit, Craig's unnamed hoodlum must abandon his code of proper criminal behavior; blood begins to seep, and bodies pile up, as he gradually loses his cool. Around him, a host of colorful thugs lead to a labyrinth of flashbacks and revenge stories. Ahead of him, there's a lovely bird (Sienna Miller), who makes him think maybe, just maybe, the finish line's in sight. (R) BRIAN MILLER Egyptian: 9:30 p.m. Sun., May 21; 4:45 p.m. Tues., May 24.
Lipstick & Dynamite Broadway Performance Hall: 4:30 p.m. Fri., May 20; 6:15 p.m. Sat., May 21. Like A League of Their Own with flying drop kicks—a documentary about women's pro wrestling.
The Lizard Neptune: 11:30 a.m. Sun., May 22; 7 p.m. Tues., May 24. An Iranian smash that satirizes its conservative clergy; would we have the guts to make the same film in Dubya's America?
Mad Hot Ballroom There's no other way of putting it: Spellbound with dancing. Filmed in the public schools of New York City, this sweet little documentary follows various squads of fifth-graders through some very fancy footwork. They represent several elementary schools and neighborhoods, ranging from tony TriBeCa to hardscrabble Washington Heights. First the junior hoofers have to learn the steps, then make the team, then dance through the city championships. It's a lot of pressure for your average 11-year-old, and Ballroom relishes how each one of these kids is average in his or her own unique, embarrassed, confident, excited, and distracted way. The movie's a love letter to teachers, too, like To Be and to Have. Says one instructor of the subject at foot, "It's much more than learning a bunch of steps. It's etiquette. It's knowledge of other cultures. It's life." To which I'll add—it's a lot of fun. (PG) BRIAN MILLER Harvard Exit: 6:30 p.m. Sat., May 21; 11:30 a.m. Sun., May 22.
Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story Neptune: 6:30 p.m. Sat., June 4. EMP/JBL Theater: 7 p.m. Thurs., June 9. The late local grunge musician (Mother Love Bone) is unearthed.
The March of the Penguins Harvard Exit: 6:30 p.m. Sat., June 11; 11:30 a.m. Sun., June 12. See related story.
Me and You and Everyone We Know Paramount: 7:30 p.m. Thurs., May 19. A few tickets may remain for Miranda July's festival opener, which opens in theaters July 1.
Murderball At Sundance, people waited in line for three hours to see this Audience Award winner. Without a speck of sentimentality and with an eye for bad behavior, the documentary puts us inside the skins of the gladiators of quadriplegic rugby, a sport involving wheelchairs armored like the battered shield of Achilles, with competitors who show no mercy whatsoever. It seems insane for young men who have lost mobility, often in violent accidents, to race around knocking one another over without pads or helmets, but for these guys, it's a reason to live. We really get to know them, from the irascible Team U.S.A. captain with the punk goatee to the turncoat American player–turned–Canadian coach. With the deftest editing of any recent doc, Murderball juggles gripping tale after tale: the grudge matches; the rapprochement with the best friend whose drunk driving caused a crippling accident; the quadriplegic's quest to get lucky with a cute girl in a bar. It's not just an uplifting human story, it's artful moviemaking. (R) TIM APPELO Egyptian: 9:15 p.m. Fri., May 27; 11 a.m. Mon., May 30.
My Summer of Love Hot lesbian action in the hinterlands of Yorkshire! Well, this summer fling with a twist has more than sex on its mind. Alone but for her crook-turned-Christian brother (Paddy Consadine), Mona (Nathalie Press) is bored out of her gourd in their small town. Their parents are dead, and Mona's prospects are even deader. Then aristocratic Tamsin (Emily Blunt) literally rides to the rescue on horseback. "Apparently I'm a bad influence on people," says Tamsin, but Mona has no idea. Tamsin's vices go way beyond booze, drugs, and girl-on-girl grappling in the tall grass of untended summer. Director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort) is less intent on tawdry thrills than the bigger lies we tell ourselves and others to perpetuate our fantasies. It's no surprise that the suspicious ex-con brother takes a jealous dislike to Tamsin, but how she strikes back at Mona comes as a shock. (R) BRIAN MILLER Neptune: 7 p.m. Fri., May 20; 4:15 p.m. Sat., May 21.
Mysterious Skin Egyptian: 9:15 p.m. Thurs., June 2. Uptown: 3:45 p.m. Sat., June 4. Gregg Araki's latest is less shocking and more compassionate than usual, but it's still got the gay hustlers.
9 Songs Neptune: 9:30 p.m. Mon., June 6; 5:30 p.m. Wed., June 8. Michael Winterbottom (In This World) films real actors having real sex. Really.
Omagh Neptune: 11 a.m. Sat., May 21; 9:30 p.m. Tues., May 24. Like Bloody Sunday, Ireland produces another fact-based docudrama thriller, about a turning point in the Troubles.
Overlord Harvard Exit: 7:15 p.m. Sat., May 28; 4:15 p.m. Mon., May 30. From 1975, the revival of a British WWII drama that mixes in real invasion footage from Normandy.
Platform Harvard Exit: 1 p.m. Sat., May 28. From Jia Zhang-ke (The World, see below), his 2000 satire of '80s China.
Pretty Persuasion Neptune: 9:30 p.m. Fri., June 3; 5 p.m. Mon., June 6. Teenage girls go wild, with very disturbing consequences.
Rock School Egyptian: 7 p.m. Wed., May 25. EMP/JBL Theater: 7 p.m. Thurs., May 26. Young metalheads hit the books—and the Marshall stacks—in this documentary about aspiring rock stars!
Rolling Family Harvard Exit: 7:15 p.m. Thurs., June 9; 2 p.m. Sat., June 11. From Pablo Trapero (Crane World, see above), a road trip reveals every rift in an Argentine family.
Saraband Egyptian: 7:15 p.m. Wed., June 1. Neptune: 4:15 p.m. Sat., June 4. Unlike Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman continues to improve with age.
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire Egyptian: 7 p.m. Mon., May 23. Harvard Exit: 2 p.m. Wed., May 25. A documentary on Hotel Rwanda's same tragic subject.
Tell Them Who You Are Harvard Exit: 9:30 p.m. Sat., May 28; 5 p.m. Tues., May 31. See related story.
36 Egyptian: 9:15 p.m. Thurs., May 26. Neptune: 4:15 p.m. Mon., May 30. Daniel Auteuil versus Gérard Depardieu in French police thriller.
3-Iron Shut your mouth. Words are entirely gratuitous in Kim Ki-duk's improbable and comic love story. A young man surreptitiously breaks-and-enters his way into various homes around Seoul, stealing nothing and even doing the laundry, until he encounters a silent, battered woman in a posh hillside abode. She's got a jealous, violent husband, while he possesses no more than what he carries around on his motorcycle. They've got nothing in common and nothing to talk about—so they don't. Instead, for about 90 remarkable and ingenious minutes, they wordlessly fall in love, despite complications from the husband, the cops, and some home-squatting schemes that don't go quite as planned. Everyone else, including the husband, talks and complains, which makes the furtive lovers even more of a perfect unit. Though homeless, they construct their own cozy structure out of silence. (R) BRIAN MILLER Neptune: 6:30 p.m. Sat., May 21; 4:15 p.m. Sun., May 22.
2046 One of the most eagerly awaited movies of recent years, Wong Kar-wai's mazelike reverie is itself a film about waiting—a sequel to In the Mood for Love, with the Tony Leung character's pensive melancholy shading into bitter regret as he makes his way through a revolving door of lovelies (Zhang Ziyi, Faye Wong, Gong Li). The title refers to a hotel room and to Leung's sci-fi novel, dramatized in a few scenes that achieve a vertiginous sense of nostalgia for the future. While the great director's images are more ravishing than ever, his habitual fetishism flirts with solipsism (there are allusions aplenty to his other films). 2046 perhaps conjures its hero's prison of repetitive stasis all too well, but it dares the viewer to look away from its kaleidoscope swirl—it's a holding pattern for Wong, but of course, a stunningly beautiful one. (NR) DENNIS LIM Neptune: 9:15 p.m. Fri. May 20; 1:30 p.m. Sat. May 21.
Vital Egyptian: 4:45 p.m. Thurs., June 9. Uptown: 9 p.m. Sun., June 12. Another slowly mounting Japanese creep-fest.
The World What a world this is, a real, grandly kitschy theme park on the outskirts of Beijing, in which awed tourists can visit the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, or even Manhattan (all three-quarter scale) without leaving Chinese soil. As they take part in elaborate musical numbers, the park's dancers seem to be infinitely worldly to their visitors. Yet the sophistication of these young performers, who come almost entirely from provincial peasant villages, is about as deep as the park's plaster and as authentic as their Las Vegas–style "native costumes." This gap between seeming and being is exactly director Jia Zhang-ke's point—like the gap between his country's global yearnings and the provincialism of its society as a whole. One overbusy dancer and her security guard lover (who deals fake IDs on the side) are the focus—as far as there is one—of Jia's story; but as he has said, he likes to work in bits and pieces of life. His fragments are utterly fascinating, and no more impenetrable than a portrait by Chuck Close; it's all in the way you look at the details. (NR) SHEILA BENSON Harvard Exit: 6:30 p.m. Thurs., May 26; 4:25 p.m. Sat., May 28.
Yes You won't see a more original movie at SIFF than Sally Potter's iambic- pentameter potboiler about a rich American (Joan Allen), her garbage-dick politico spouse (Sam Neill), her fiery Middle Eastern lover (Simon Abkarian), and her blithe, know-it-all housemaid (Shirley Henderson). I've never seen Roger Ebert happier than when he fluttered around Potter like a starstruck fan at the film's triumphant Telluride premiere. It sounds as if the movie's gimmick—practically all the dialogue is in rhymed couplets—would come off as gimmicky and burdensome, slowing down the melodrama. In fact, it nimbly propels it. It helps that the writing is sharp and witty, that Allen is a fucking genius, and that she strikes bright sparks with Abkarian. (Meanwhile, Henderson's maid comments wryly to the camera about the love triangle.) The strongest scene is the central confrontation, wherein Allen and Abkarian passionately debate sexual, geopolitical, and ethnic politics with volcanic passion. The film built around this scene isn't as focused, but it's all thought-provoking and aesthetically audacious. (R) TIM APPELO Egyptian: 6 p.m. Sun., May 22; 4:25 p.m. Mon., May 23.