Tonight in Seattle:  

SIFF Take: God Help the Girl

God Help the Girl

Prior to seeing God Help the Girl, I’d only been a somewhat-interested fan of Stuart Murdoch and Belle & Sebastian—hearing their most popular songs in passing. Sure, I listened to plenty of friends rhapsodize about The Boy with the Arab Strap and agreed with them that it sounded great; I just never cared enough to scrape up enough pennies to buy it in the pre-download era 90s.

But ALL THAT HAS CHANGED now that I’ve seen the glory of Murdoch’s directorial debut, based on his 2009 album of the same name, in which he wrote a story-telling album about a troubled girl and hired a bunch of relative unknowns to sing his words. Wait. What? Why I had never heard of this before? I am clearly WOEFULLY out of touch and desperately un-hip. Liz Riley, I am sure this must be something you have a copy of on vinyl, correct?

But anyway, let’s get to the film. Murdoch wins the award for best casting ever in everything, because Emily Browning is PERFECT. Man, that girl can SING. And also ACT, which is equally as important, given the multi-layered performance required. Browning plays the title “girl,” Eve, who escapes the boredom of her treatment facility to attend a rock show one night and falls into friendship with adorable guitar player James and his piano student Cassie. Summer fun times lead them to form a band together, but Eve’s fragile mental state threatens her relationships with the only people in her life who have ever provided stability.

Olly Alexander & Hannah Murray also do an excellent job as James & Cass, and the trio’s hipster-perfect outfits and video-cammed antics make you want to jump in and join the fun. But don’t be fooled: what looks (and sounds) like a twee pop rock musical actually dives into some seriously deep issues. Look past those bright pop montages, watch Browning emote 1,000 things with just her eyes, and really listen to the lyrics to get the full picture. Short story: God Help the Girl is simply gorgeous, and I can’t wait see it again.

{God Help the Girl screens one more time at SIFF on Tuesday, 6/3, 7pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown} 

SIFF Take: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is based on an urban legend that a Japanese woman mistook Fargo for a documentary and came looking for the treasure so cleverly buried by Steve Buscemi under an inch or so of snow. Director David Zellner and his brother and co-writer Nathan imagined what might have driven someone to seek something so ephemeral and came up with Kumiko.

At first it seems that Kumiko is disaffected in a Daria-type way, layering herself under a comfortable blanket of disaffected cynicism to protect herself from the shallow drudgery of her days and the ceaseless disapproval of her mother. But it becomes clear after a while that she probably suffers from some serious mental and emotional problems, including depression, social anxiety, and disassociation. Knowing this makes it harder to root for her as her quest becomes increasingly quixotic, if not thoroughly hopeless—she’s clearly in danger she simply doesn’t, won’t, or can’t comprehend, no matter how many well-meaning people try to help her. Rinko Kikuchi does some impressive heavy lifting keeping us interested in her journey, and the cinematography is unwaveringly gorgeous, with shades of Kubrickian symmetry boxing everything in in Japan contrasting with an almost claustrophobic vastness of the frozen North country, but ultimately the movie gets buried under the weight of Kumiko’s delusion, like the unconquerable snows of the Minnesota fields. 

{Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter screens at SIFF 6/2, 4:00pm at SIFF the Egyptian. Director David Zellner scheduled to attend.}


SIFF Take: Turning Tide (En Solitaire)

Sailing is the kind of activity that seems utterly opaque to those who don’t partake. Like horse-back riding, for example. “How hard can it be to sit on a horse?” asked no one who’s ever done it for more than an hour or so. “How hard can it be to sail a boat?” Very. Turning Tide is a love letter to those who can, and in particular to those who can do it for months at a time. Director Christophe Offenstein lays bare the technical skill, physical prowess, and astonishing endurance required to race a sailboat (a technological marvel in its own right) by following a pilot named Yann Kermadec (a rugged François Cluzet) in a race literally around the world. It’s a cinematographic feat of impressive immediacy, letting us feel the size of the waves, the vastness of the isolation, and the sailor's innate connection to the winds and the sea.

What the movie lacks, unfortunately, is much of a point. The plot hinges on Kermadec’s picking up a Mauritian stowaway during a repair stop, which threatens his race because racers can have no help. But Kermadec handles it all so well, and everyone else involved in the race is ultimately so reasonable, that there’s almost no sense of conflict. This would be fine if the film treated the journey more as a character study, but it plays much more like a suspense thriller—What Will Happen, For God’s Sake?!?—that the plot just doesn’t require.

Still, it is a genuine thrill to watch the sailing. Man vs. sea: there's your drama.

{Turning Tide screens at SIFF 6/2, 9:00pm at SIFF Cinema Uptown}


Latest comment by: imaginary embracey: "

Nice writeup! I enjoyed this film a lot more than I expected to, even though the few plot twists didn't really play out to logical conclusions. The recent films Maidentrip and All is Lost came to mind a lot. Both are well worth checking out.


SIFF Review: The Family Picture Show

The Numberlys

This program is a highlight of the festival every year: 12 diverse short films united only by their appropriateness for all ages. Most but not all are animated, but you certainly needn’t be a child or a parent of children to enjoy the suite.

My 4-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son, and I went to see it last weekend, and herein are the ones we found most memorable, although there were none this year we truly disliked.

Overall Favorite: Forward March!

Perhaps you’ve wondered what would happen if several British soldiers with unshakeably rigid marching procedures were beset by a mischievous creature who resembles the furry hats they wear. Or what would happen if you stopped up a bagpipe with Jell-O. Wonder no more. The answer could never be anything else.

7-Year-Old’s Favorite: The Numberlys

Visually the most impressive entry, owing an explicit debt to Fritz Lang’s monumental Art Deco stylings, The Numberlys posits the origins of the alphabet. Logically, it was a bit thin for me—why exactly are numbers oppressive?—but is was transfixing to watch. This was an unqualified winner for both kids.

4-Year-Old’s Favorite: The Pink Helmet Posse


Sasquatch 2014, Day 3

Sasquatch 2014 - Sunday

I have to admit, I kind of like the new Sasquatch schedule of Friday-Sunday instead of the old late Friday-Monday. It’s a little less tiring, and you still get the free travel day on Monday so you can stay out late at the party stages guilt free. With that said, onto the final day of Sasquatch 2014!

The biggest (pleasant) surprise for me this weekend was seeing Seattle four-piece Tacocat. Not that I wasn't’t aware of them before, but mostly that I hadn't’t experienced them and all their fun pop-punk glory until this afternoon. Joined onstage by a “bubble queen” who kept their bubbles flowing throughout the show via a side stage bubble machine, Tacocat kept things fun and lively on stage. Singer and tambourine extraordinaire Emily Nokes energetically danced and sang her way through songs about getting to second base and the frustrations of being horny while having a UTI. It was actually quit fun and liberating to watch 20+ guys excitedly dance along with the band to the super-catchy “Crimson Wave”, which you may have guessed by the title is about periods. As their set closed, they had the sound person put on the Miley Cyrus hit “Party in the U.S.A.." as they danced along while simultaneously putting their gear away. Drummer Lelah Maupin was having such a good time she had to be pulled off stage by her band members. Basically, Tacocat is just a ton of infectious fun and if you don’t enjoy their show then I don’t want you at my party.

La Luz
Seattle four-piece La Luz followed Tacocat on the small Yeti stage and let their surf-rock sunshine vibes chill the crowd. Towards the end of their set they split their audience down the middle and formed a walkway where they encouraged people to show off their best dance moves "Soul Train" style down the walkway. It worked for a little bit, then about half the crowd tried to join in and it turned back into a mosh of people again. Fans were having a good time regardless of how the short lived soul-train line worked out.