May 15, 2013

Fascinating Classics at the Seattle International Film Festival 2013

The Seattle International Film Festival 2013 begins tomorrow, and there will be so much for classic movie fans to enjoy! If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking out a film or two. I'm amazed by the variety of archival titles this year; it's an international mix of diverse genres, styles and directors. Many of these films are unique, even if they fit neatly into their various niches, and having the chance to see them on the big screen is a treat. Check out this line-up (title links go to ticket information and more detail about the films):

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970)
Italy, Drama
directed by Elio Petri
Starring, Gian Maria Volonté, Florinda Bolkan and Gianni Santuccio
May 18, 2:30pm, Uptown

Though he's left clues to implicate himself in the crime, a Roman police inspector who kills his mistress finds the murder investigation probes everywhere but the top. With a seriously ear-wormy Ennio Morricone score, multi-layered plot and sharp satire, this Italian crime drama has bite. To be presented in a 4k digital restoration.

Safety Last! (1923), USA
Direct by Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young, Westcott Clarke
May 26, 11am, Uptown Theater

This classic Lloyd flick (who doesn't recognize that clock scene?) is going to be shown in a DVP restoration that has been touring the US this year. The man in glasses plays a store clerk who comes to regret participating in a contest to climb the outside of a towering building. I'm so excited to have the chance to see this on the big screen! Maybe it is finally Harold Lloyd's moment for a revival?

Kalpana (1948), India
Directed by Uday Shankar
Starring Uday Shankar, Lakshmi Kanta, Usha Kiran, Amala Shankar
May 27, 2:30pm, Uptown

Ravi Shankar's brother is the director of this long sought after classic of Indian film which has had a slow build in reputation over the years. It is a ballet of operatic proportions, centered on a love triangle between two woman and a dance academy proprietor. I know very little about this film, but from what I have seen, it is poetic, surreal and unlike any other Indian film. The version to play at the festival was restored by the World Cinema Foundation at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata.

A Man Vanishes (1967), Japan
Directed by Shôhei Imamura
June 2, 5:30pm, Uptown Theater

New Wave director Imamura was known for his fictional work when he filmed this documentary about the random disappearances of hundreds of people in Japan. He uses his grasp of storytelling to incorporate narrative techniques in a way that was innovative at the time, and helps to form the layers of this complex tale.

Port of Shadows (1938), France
Directed by Marcel Carné
Starring Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michele Morgan, Pierre Brasseur
June 8, 4:30, Harvard Exit

Carné’s seamy crime drama was noir before the idea occurred to anyone. It's not fair to call Gabin a Gallic Bogart, because he has his own particular star luster, but I can't help but think of Bogie's classic crime roles when I watch this film. He has that hangdog hero thing down. The film deals in grimy blackmail and twisted love affairs, but it has a sadness and beauty that gives it more weight than the mechanics of the plot. To be presented in a DVP restoration.

Phase IV (1974), USA/United Kingdom
Directed by Saul Bass
Starring Michael Murphy, Nigel Davenport, Lynne Frederick
June 9, 2pm, Uptown Theater

This is the only feature film directed by legendary graphic designer Saul "Mr. Google Doodle" Bass. I would love to know why he chose to helm a sci-fi flick about an ant colony evolving at an alarming rate. While the set-up screams fifties drive-in, the tone is moodier and the pace more deliberate. This uniquely bizarre film has its own character, set apart from typical sci-fi features and other productions of its era. While you might expect a Bass film to be a slave to design, and these elements are artfully executed, they are not pursued at the expense of the story and atmosphere. The effects with the real-life ants are also cleverly executed, occasionally making it look as if the little guys are trained! Expect a beautiful presentation; the print will be a preservation by The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and Paramount Pictures.

Richard III (1955), United Kingdom
Directed by Laurence Olivier
Starring Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Claire Bloom, Cedric Hardwicke
June 1, 2pm, Uptown Theater

Watch Olivier in his best Shakespearean, and perhaps overall, screen role. As the scheming Richard III, he tries to replace his brother King Edward IV on the throne. Violence, betrayal and tragedy follow. To be shown in a DVP restoration from Janus.

The Wind (1928), USA
Directed by Victor Sjöström
Starring Lillian Gish, Lars Hanson, Montagu Love, Edward Earle, Dorothy Cumming
June 7, 7pm, Triple Door

Relentless gusts of sandy wind, and a trio of unwanted suitors, drive Lillian Gish bonkers in this MGM production from the tail end of the silent era. Seattle alt-country band The Maldives will debut its own score to accompany the screening. This is a return performance for the band, they accompanied Riders of the Purple Sage (1925) at SIFF 2010.


I hope those of you in the Pacific Northwest will come check out some of these screenings. I'll be sharing my impressions of the films as they are presented. SIFF 2013 is going to be amazing.


  1. If the print of Safety Last! is the same one they showed at the AFI-Silver a couple of weeks ago, you won't be disappointed.

  2. I'm so glad to hear that MM. That's the one I'm looking forward to the most. I'm going to take my daughter because she's getting into silent comedy. Love that!