It's a terrific week for international films, with the releases of the scorching queer French romance Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the dark Polish religious drama Corpus Christi, and the gorgeous, heartbreaking Chilean documentary The Cordillera of Dreams. But don't miss more locally grown fare at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, or, if you just want to turn off your brain, fill your eyes with kitty antics at the CatVideoFest. See all of our film critics’ picks for this weekend below, and, if you're looking for even more options, check out our film events calendar and complete movie times listings.
With 63 Up, director Michael Apted brings his long-running documentary series—charting the lives of 14 Britons, starting at age seven and checking in every seven years—back to the issues of class in England, something that was only alluded to in the original TV program. As he’s followed his subjects through this series, we’ve been able to see their prospects rise and fall, often due to the opportunities afforded them by their financial station. But the main issue hovering over the film is life’s finiteness. No matter how rich or poor you are or what color your skin is, you’re going to die. That’s our future. ROBERT HAM
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Legendary screenwriter William Goldman once said of the film industry, “Nobody knows anything,” and this is still mostly true, with one exception: If cinematographer Roger Deakins shot the movie, that movie is worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. Even if 1917 were solely the most impressive work of Deakins’ remarkable career—which it is—I’d be recommending it. But the World War I movie is also one hell of a stunning storytelling experience from director Sam Mendes, co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, and editor Lee Smith. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t the whole point of this movie that there aren’t any cuts? Why did they need an editor at all?” 1917’s hook (or less generously, its gimmick) is that it’s meant to unfold in a single, unbroken take. It’s one of the rare instances of a film’s marketing actually benefiting the finished film, because of the way this knowledge is both paid off... and then subverted. BOBBY ROBERTS
And Then We Danced
Director Levan Akin (who is Georgian but grew up in Sweden) was inspired to make this film after witnessing a violent clash between LGBT demonstrators and far-right protesters in Tbilisi, the capital, in 2013. Akin, who is gay, felt ashamed of his country and resolved to make a queer coming-of-age film that takes place there. And Then We Danced is situated in the world of Georgian dance. Merab comes from a lineage of (failed) traditional dancers, training for years with his partner Mary (Ana Javakishvili) in hopes of graduating to the main ensemble. The men in traditional Georgian dance are supposed to project a type of stiff masculinity in their movements, and the surly dance coach criticizes Merab for his softness. Tension in the troupe escalates when Irakli, hot and charming, joins the group just as a spot for a man in the main ensemble opens up, pitting Merab and Irakli against each other. It's a tenderly told story that doesn't skimp on explicit sex scenes, centering physical desire as much as emotional connection. JASMYNE KEIMIG
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Kitty Green's The Assistant works quietly in its condemnation of abusive men in power. There's no passionate monologue about how a system enables a predator like Harvey Weinstein to comfortably exploit women, nor any cathartic scenes of abusers getting their comeuppance. Rather, the film focuses on the minutiae of office operations and existence, centering the person least in power—a female assistant—as a means of exploring exactly how abusers are enabled by everyone around them. While The Assistant is pretty self-contained, it’s perhaps one of the first films in this #MeToo-era to grapple with the people (men and women alike) and corporate structures that allow for abusers to flourish. They didn't arrive into their respective scenes that way, rather, a misogynistic culture that mandated we "look the other way" helped to normalize their behavior. Green did well to focus on the small actions of an assistant like Jane—the devil is in the details, after all. JASMYNE KEIMIG
AMC Pacific Place
Attack the Block
Edgar Wright's 2016 thrill ride, starring John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker, follows kids in the London projects fighting an alien invasion.
Bad Boys for Life
Michael Bay's absence behind the camera (although he briefly appears in a cameo that I reflexively booed) is immediately apparent. The action—still glistening, swooping, and forever circling, as directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah do some damn good Bay-raoke in their debut—is slower and mostly coherent. But even more remarkable: For the first time that I can remember, this is a Bad Boys movie primarily fueled by emotion as opposed to disdainfully rejecting it. And get this: That emotion? HUMILITY! I know. What the fuck, right? But fucks are abundant in Bad Boys for Life, and given often, flying just as freely as the one-liners, bullets, and grenades going off frequently and everywhere. BOBBY ROBERTS
Regal Meridian 16 & Regal Thornton Place
Two women in Leningrad try to rebuild their lives after the wreckage of World War II in this film from 27-year-old Russian director and co-writer Kantemir Balagov. "This is a story of people for whom the horror of war has not ended, for whom peace is the horror of war by other means," writes The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Clint Eastwood—who is now making dumb Trumpy films for low-information white America—loves the rich and complicated African music of black America like nothing else. And so it is not surprising that his 1988 biopic about the tragic jazz genius Charlie Parker, Bird, is, in every shot and scene and sequence, filled with this love. Yes, Parker fucked up much of his life with heavy drugs; yes, he was mentally unstable; yes, he died way too young (at the age of 34). But Eastwood's film, which stars a young and excellent Forest Whitaker (he deserved an Oscar for this performance), emphasizes the saxophonist's otherworldly brilliance. CHARLES MUDEDE
SIFF Cinema Uptown
The most revolutionary thing about Black Panther is its city. The capital of Wakanda has skyscrapers, a monorail, sidewalks of grass, green buildings, farmers markets, and no cars. The whole idea of private transportation is foreign to this fictional society. If this black African capital has anything to share with the world, it's its city planning. CHARLES MUDEDE
Pacific Science Center
Bring It On
The story revolves around Torrance (Kirsten Dunst), a cheerleader who's just been announced as team captain of the nation's number one competitive cheerleading squad. Torrance is ready to take her co-ed team to their seventh national championship when she discovers a very disturbing fact: the former captain stole their routines from an all-black squad out of Compton. Overwhelmed by honky guilt, and with only a few weeks until the championships, Torrance must figure out a new routine, battle with mutinous members of the squad, and win the love of Cliff, a new student who couldn't be more different from herself. While Bring It On is happy to laugh at the intensity with which these cheerleaders pursue their championship, it also takes great pains to humanize its characters, and delve into the tricky topic of creative assimilation. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Ang Lee is a very versatile director, and there isn't a genre of film his eye can't capture. This isn't a hyperbolic statement—a quick look at his filmography shows comedies, romances, action films, historical epics, and slice-of-life dramas, and often those films are considered some of the best examples of those genres. Despite Lee's ability to basically do whatever he wants with a camera, he's at his best when sharing stories hinging on quiet, reserved, painful longing. It's a thread that runs through a lot of his work, and that thread was never as resonant as in Brokeback Mountain, the 2005 Oscar-winning adaptation of Annie Proulx's complicated, taciturn cowboy romance, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger—who (Joker be damned) turns in the best performance of his too-short career. BOBBY ROBERTS
Presented by Seattle Times Book Club
Spend some time appreciating the glories of the feline realm on the big screen instead of on YouTube at this annual celebration of the divine conjunction of cats and internet. Watch them purr, romp, pounce, and cuddle—and, if you choose to donate with your ticket admission, feel good knowing your dollar is benefitting Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). On Saturday, celebrity feline Klaus the Cat will make a special guest appearance.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Céline and Julie Go Boating
Jacques Rivette's fifth feature—sixth if you count both versions of his super-rare marathon Out 1—follows Julie (Dominique Labourier), a librarian with a passion for the occult, as she spies and pounces on the best friend of her dreams. Céline (Juliet Berto), the main draw in a magic act in a seedy Montmartre cabaret, acknowledges Julie's not-so-furtive attentions by sneaking into the children's section of the library and wantonly defacing a pile of books. Then, after a traumatic encounter at a mysterious mansion in the Paris suburbs, a bloodied Céline shows up at her newfound friend's apartment, ready to drive off her suitors, torture her fish with the stem of a dried daisy, and eventually lure her into a stilted wonderland. ANNIE WAGNER
The Color Purple
Charles Mudede calls Steven Spielberg's multiple-Oscar-winning adaptation of the famed Alice Walker novel a "beautifully brutal and soulful movie." Whoopi Goldberg stars as Celie, a bullied Southern black woman married to an abusive sharecropper (Danny Glover). Racism and spousal abuse make Celie's life hell, but her friendships with other black women help her emerge from purgatory.
The Cordillera of Dreams
Patricio Guzmán is a master of documentaries; in films like The Battle of Chile and Nostalgia for the Light, he grapples with the legacy of fascism and resistance in his native country, combining these very human struggles with the shocking beauty of Chilean landscapes (like, in this latest Cannes-laureled film, the Andes).
SIFF Film Center
When a spiritually inclined young man fresh out of juvie isn't allowed into the seminary, he takes matters into his own hands: He impersonates a priest and ministers to a church in a rural town. He's good at his job, but his past threatens his new vocation. This Polish film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Its star, Bartosz Bielenia ("a bundle of intensity with a buzz cut," according to the New Yorker's Anthony Lane), has drawn much attention for his sheer, alarming energy.
SIFF Cinema Uptown
Dinosaurs of Antarctica
Paleoecologists study the lives of the massive bird-like creatures that traipsed around Antarctic forests and swamps hundreds of millions of years ago—and they try to understand how the southern continent transformed from a warm and bio-diverse Mesozoic to the modern-day frozen landscape we know today.
Pacific Science Center
Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Homo Sapiens) offers a visually compelling meditation on heavy industry's devastation of the natural landscape as mining and construction companies literally move mountains to make money.
Northwest Film Forum
Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable
Meiko Kaji reprises her role as an avatar of vengeance against the cruelty of men in the third Female Prisoner movie. Escaped con Nami, aka Scorpion, finds herself pitted against a sadistic yakuza boss as well as the police when she falls in with a sex worker and her lover/brother. Fans of the series will not be surprised that, along with the cool style and satisfying female rage, there's a lot of bloody violence and graphic depictions of sexual assault.
Ford v Ferrari
F v F is about how corporations can’t help but crush the passion and innovation they so desperately need. In this case, the crushees are race car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driving phenom Ken Miles (Christian Bale), both of whom are forced to cajole, finagle, and manipulate the suits at Ford in an attempt to win the famed Le Mans road race. Director James Mangold (Logan) smartly avoids the emotionally manipulative tricks found in other sports biographies, and Damon and Bale are, unsurprisingly, excellent and affecting. The problem? It’s impossible to ignore the two elephants in this room: The fetishization of white male toxicity and car culture, topics which society is trying to deal with and solve… not celebrate. This makes Ford v Ferrari a very good movie that, a decade ago, would’ve been considered great. Now it feels like a brand-new film that’s already an antique. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
Regal Meridian 16 & Crest
Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle
Two young women, one citified and one a country mouse, meet on holiday and decide to room together, where their friendship falls apart. Another plot-light but sweetly ironic comedy by Eric Rohmer.
Seattle Art Museum
Part of French Pleasures: The Films of Eric Rohmer
There’s an odd (and fun) sense of formality to The Gentlemen, director Guy Ritchie’s newest crime flick that trades the downtrodden, violent British grit of his former films (like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch) for a classier vibe that’s still violently gritty. Matthew McConaughey is, as usual, McConaughey (that’s a good thing), Colin Farrell is a case study in unflappable hilarity, Hugh Grant is England’s greatest treasure, and The Gentlemen is a fun, twisty-turny joyride through Britain’s well-heeled drug trade. Its moments of shocking, often comical violence should pair nicely with a snifter of good cognac. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY
A determined young woman in the Bronx pursues her dreams of becoming a star and tries to keep her two little sisters out of the hands of social services in this bright and beautiful film by Dutch director Sam De Jong, starring the model Slick Woods in her first role.
The Great Communist Bank Robbery
The Romanians film retrospective brings you this documentary about a fascinating and disturbing show trial in Romania, 1959, when a group of suspected bank robbers were pressured to reenact their alleged crime for a television film. Believing that they would receive leniency in return for their cooperation, the suspected criminals complied. Things didn't turn out so well for them.
Northwest Film Forum
Gretel and Hansel
Osgood Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame) and director of the well-reviewed artsy-horrors The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, takes the classic woodsy fairy tale to folk-grotesque extremes.
AMC Pacific Place & Regal Meridian 16
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), no more the Joker's abused handmaiden, teams up with some superheroes to protect a little girl.
The latest from Taika Waititi starts off with a bright, Wes Andersonian whimsiness: Young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) joyously bounces about at summer camp, having the time of his life as he frolics and laughs with his second-best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) and his first-best friend, the imaginary Adolf (Waititi). Just one thing: Jojo is at Hitler Youth camp—their campfire activities include burning books—Adolf is Adolf Hitler, and World War II is winding down, with Germany not doing so great. Both because of and in spite of its inherent shock value, Jojo Rabbit—based on a book by Christine Leunens—is just as clever and hilarious as Waititi’s other movies, but as it progresses, the story taps into a rich vein of gut-twisting melancholy. There’s more to the complicated Jojo Rabbit than first appears, and only a director as committed, inventive, and life-affirmingly good-hearted as Waititi would even have a chance of pulling it off. He does. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Journey into a Burning Brain
Enjoy free pizza and watch three surprise films with scores from the albums of Tangerine Dream.
Keepers of the Dream: Seattle Women Black Panthers
This mini-fest of five short documentaries, produced by Patricia Boiko and Tajuan LaBee, serves as an introduction to the courageous actions of women Black Panther activists, from Frances Dixon to Phyllis Noble Mobley. Local musical star SassyBlack provides the scores.
Northwest Film Forum
Knives Out [is] Rian Johnson's phenomenally enjoyable riff on a murder-mystery whodunit. The less you know going in, the better, but even those familiar with mysteries will likely be caught flat-footed. Things begin in the baroque mansion of famed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who is very, very dead. Through flashbacks, monologues, and the genteel but razor-sharp questioning of investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), we meet the rest of the Thrombeys—played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, and more, with everyone clearly having a goddamn blast—and we hear about a billion motives and a billion alibis. Somebody killed Harlan, and while Benoit Blanc is on the case, Knives Out quickly spirals into unexpected territory. In a time when filmgoing is dominated by familiar franchises, seeing an original movie executed with as much care, glee, and skill as Knives Out feels like an experience that's entirely too rare. ERIK HENRIKSEN
I say this with my whole heart: Greta Gerwig's Little Women is wonderful. Full of wonder, inspiring wonder, embodying wonder. Which is hard to do as the eighth adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved 1868 novel of the same name. Gerwig's adaptation—which she both wrote and directed—feels neither redundant nor stale. Rather, it's a fresh, modern-feeling take on a well-trodden story, stuffed with excellent performances, witty dialogue, and gorgeous costumes. The film jumps between Jo's "present" life in a post-Civil War America and her childhood, living at home with her three other sisters and mother, awaiting the family patriarch to return home from the war as they struggle to make ends meet. The direction and sense of characters are particularly strong in this adaptation. It fleshes each sister out so that she feels real and worthy of empathy, not purely serving as a star vehicle for Ronan in the same way the Winona Ryder version arguably did. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Charles Mudede has written, "If you love film noir, then you must love the Noir City festival, which will feature a number of known and less known movies in this genre that has lots of spiderlike women, lots of long knives, lots of rooms with dark curtains, lots of faces of the fallen, and lots of existential twists and turns." The 2020 edition, which focused on international noir, will wrap up Thursday with two German-language films, Robert Siodmak's The Devil Strikes at Night and Helmut Käutner's Black Gravel.
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
*Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
We spend the bulk of our time with three people: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), an earnest, anxious, B-list actor whose career is right about to curdle; Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), Rick's toughed-up, chilled-out former stuntman and current BFF; and Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), a bubbly, captivating actress who's just starting to enjoy her first taste of success in show business. Two of these people—the ones who're beginning to realize the world is no longer all that interested in what they have to offer—are fictional. The third is not, and how much you know about the real-life events that occurred in and around Los Angeles in 1969 will profoundly color your experience watching the film. How Tarantino plays with history in Once Upon a Time is one of the more intense and surprising elements of the film—and, thankfully, it's also one of the best. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Parasite is director Bong Joon-ho at his very best. It's a departure from the sci-fi bent of his recent movies, though it's no less concerned with the state of society today. Set in Seoul, South Korea, the families and class issues at play reflect our global era, in which the disparity between the haves and have-nots seems to be widening. Parasite follows the Kim family, who secretly scam their way into the lives of the wealthy Park family. Slowly and methodically, the Kims begin to drive out the other domestic workers at the Park residence, each time referring another family member (who they pretend not to know) for the vacant position. And so the poorer family starts to settle comfortably into the grift—until a sudden realization turns their lives upside down. The resulting film offers an at turns hilarious and deeply unsettling look at class and survival, its essence echoed in the environments the characters inhabit. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Stella Meghie's romance stars Issa Rae as a woman investigating her deceased mother's life and LaKeith Stanfield as the hot journalist she falls for.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
From Céline Sciamma (Girlhood), Portrait of a Lady on Fire is set in 18th century France, where young artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) for potential suitors to fall in love with. One thing: Héloïse does not want her portrait done, as she does not want to get married. So Marianne poses as her maid to get close to the lady, completing the painting in secret. But of course this closeness and secretiveness make them all hot for each other. Portrait was the first woman-directed film to take home the Queer Palm award at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. JASMYNE KEIMIG
SIFF Cinema Egyptian
Seattle Asian American Film Festival
Films by and about Asian Americans are showcased at this annual festival, which always includes diverse features and short films about the rich and varied experiences of these populations, particularly in Seattle and the Northwest. The festival opens with a free screening of the interracial marriage drama Normal, directed by Mragendra Singh, followed by the short film package What Haunts You (also free!). Another highlight: Danish Renzu's drama The Illegal on Saturday.
Northwest Film Forum
The Beacon cinema calls this "the high point of the aquatic Nazi zombie sub-sub-genre." A Nazi (played by icy Peter Cushing) commands a troupe of zombie soldiers who live underwater for some reason. Only recommended for those films snobs who can appreciate the finer points of the genre. (Just kidding: recommended if you want to watch a pretty terrible-but-entertaining-looking movie with the film fanatics who frequent this theater.)
Part of Haunted Light
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I found The Rise of Skywalker, the last film in the Skywalker saga, boring. And it was not even a long movie, and I'm a fan of the director's (J.J. Abrams) work (particularly Mission: Impossible III—the best in that franchise), and many of the visual effects are impressive—particularly the haunting business of bringing the late Carrie Fisher back to life. But all together, the film is burdened by too much sentimental family stuff (you are my granddaughter, you are my son, you killed my parents, and so on), and its end did not know how to end for a very long time. CHARLES MUDEDE
Regal Meridian 16 & Regal Thornton Place
As Howard Ratner, a professional jeweler and asshole in Manhattan’s Diamond District, a great Adam Sandler rarely leaves the screen in Uncut Gems, and the plot is basically Howard and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. That isn’t a shock, considering the film comes from brothers/writers/directors Josh and Benny Safdie, who party-crashed the arthouse scene with 2017’s Good Time (in which Robert Pattinson was the one playing an asshole having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day). Uncut Gems is larger in scope, but like Good Time, it has a moral vacuum at its center—it takes place in the no-man’s-land where society’s walls crumble, and where those who look out only for themselves can best navigate the rubble. The Safdies aren’t interested in morality tales but amorality tales, and their stories’ no-holds-barred recklessness, at first freeing, steadily grows exhausting. Thankfully, the Safdies also know how to shoot, cut, and score like nobody else. There’s a twitchy, addictive energy to Uncut Gems, and the Safdies’ choppy, rapid-fire cuts coalesce into a surreal, exhilarating landscape of prismatic hues, blaring fluorescents, and sharp LEDs, all while the analog synth score by Daniel Lopatin (AKA Oneohtrix Point Never) adds to the lurid beauty. ERIK HENRIKSEN
"Prestige horror" isn't new; great directors have worked in the genre since the existence of the motion picture. Esteemed local critic Robert Horton will head this screening series of horror masterpieces, like this weekend's utterly bizarre Danish silent film Vampyr. If you're a vampire enthusiast and you haven't seen this one, you need to make the trip.
Part of The Art in Horror
Weathering With You
Audiences seem to love director Makoto Shinkai (Your Name) and his approach of pairing an original plot with standard anime emotional blocking: boy meets girl, girl has weather powers, boy and girl reach for each another’s arms in climactic moments, a character runs until they are exhausted and then they keep running, and also someone must die. Even when Shinkai introduces some interesting ideas about an impending climate apocalypse (oh, like us!), it all feels familiar: The world isn’t saved, but the world doesn’t end. The world continues, changed. SUZETTE SMITH
We Believe in Dinosaurs
If you've never heard of young-earth creationists, We Believe in Dinosaurs offers a sound introduction as it documents their building of an enormous, $120 million "life-size" Noah's Ark in rural Kentucky to prove that the Bible is scientifically and historically accurate. These are folks who reject evolution, think that the Earth and its lifeforms were created by god 6,000 years ago, and look at the story of Noah as factual and the flood as the reason we have all these dino fossils all over the world. Shot over four years, from blueprints to opening day of Ark Encounter, to the aftermath a year later, We Believe in Dinosaurs tells a story of the relationship between science and religion, and religion and politics, and also reveals a disturbingly widespread form of willful ignorance in the U.S. LEILANI POLK
Northwest Film Forum
Our critics don't recommend these movies, but you might like to know about them anyway.