Tonight in Seattle:  

Seattle International Film Festival 2006 preview

It's time for SIFF again. Yes, already. And if you thought last year's acclaimed local month-long cinema celebration was mega-normous, a glimpse at the 2006 lineup is sure to knock you on your behind... and preferably into a softly-cushioned theater seat. So get comfy, because at your grasp are 418 films (that includes features, docs, shorts, and archival presentations) -- up from 347 last year. More must-sees than ever, especially since those industrious SIFF programmers have doubled 2005's premiere totals: we're talking 41 North American premieres (there were a measly 18 last year), 22 US premieres and 19 world premieres (up from 10 each). As of this writing, only 68 of the 264 programmed features have a US distributor -- for the most part, I'll be seeking out the rest.

Well, if you're reading this you know I'm a SIFF fiend, so, with no ado, the program highlights. I'm really excited about BEYOND THE DOGMA: SIFF GETS DANISH, a 15-film sampling of contemporary work from the Nordic land of Lars von Trier, fruity pastry, SAS, and Hans Christian Andersen. Annette Olesen's 1:1, Christoffer Boe's Allegro, and Pernille Fischer's A Soap are the flicks I'll be sure not to miss.

One of the Dane directors on hand will be Nicolas Winding Refn with his Pusher trilogy of mob flicks; he's also one of this year's four EMERGING MASTERS posed to become the world's next cinema greats. The others are Brazil's Andrucha Waddington (Me, You, Them and House of Sand); China's Wang Xiaoshuai (The Days and Shanghai Dreams); and one of the first non-fiction honorees, the UK's Adam Curtis, whose The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares are both must-sees.

The other DOCUMENTARIES I'm most looking forward to include Wordplay (about NYT crossword puzzle freaks), Who Killed the Electric Car? (investigation into the demise of the first zero-emission vehicle), and the short films in package programs "Headlines and History" and "Expressions du Cinema". There're a slew of music-related docs, too, like loudQUIETloud: A Film About The Pixies, George Michael: A Different Story (Lord help us), and Screaming Masterpieces (on Iceland's music scene).

Those three also fall into the FACE THE MUSIC program, one interesting highlight of which will be an evening with Stewart Copeland -- a companion event to the special screening of Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out. Mac McCaughan (of indie band Superchunk) will also be around to perform an original live score to the 1927 silent film The Unknown with lo-fi side project Portastatic. (Other ARCHIVAL PRESENTATIONS include Charlie Chaplin's favorite film Gold Rush and the very rarely screened early-'50s noir The Man Who Cheated Himself.)

Still with me? Good. Now on to the SATURDAY GALA SCREENINGS. I've had the pleasure of seeing the first of these films, Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion, and it's a definite keeper, if for nothing more than the hilarious semi-improv scenes between Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep. (But Kevin Kline as Guy Noir? Not the best.) Others in the gala series will be Peter Chan's Perhaps Love (Hong Kong film-industry love story with cinematography by Christopher Doyle), Bent Hamer's Factotum (based on the life of Charles Bukowski), and Paul Dinello's Strangers with Candy (long-awaited film version, starring Amy Sedaris as middle-aged ex-crack-whore high schooler Jerri Blank).

I'll understand if those offerings seem a bit too accessible (or too expensive -- tix for gala screenings are on the premium side), so you may wanna give the down-n-dirty ALTERNATE CINEMA program a shot. New films by freaky Czech auteur Jan Svankmajer (Lunacy) and Thai Tropical Malady genius Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Worldly Desires) will be among the off-center films screening at the Northwest Film Forum.

And if all that isn't enough for you (or if you're feeling so overwhelmed at the possibilities that you'd rather just hide at home), try partaking in the "SIFFcasting" of online content (downloadable trailers, short films, director interviews, audience feedback) available from seattlefilm.org.

Whew! See you at the cinema.

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