Seattle International Film Festival: Danes take a walk on the noir side

Category: Beowulf & Grendel Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: June 8, 2006 | Publication: SeattlePi.Com | Author: editors
Publication/Article Link:

The 32nd Seattle International Film Festival continues its eight-film tribute to contemporary Danish Cinema tonight with "Manslaughter," a noirish tale about a professor drawn into an affair with a much younger former student (6:45 p.m., Pacific Place Cinemas).

Also new are two sports films: "The Great Match," a Spanish drama setting three parallel stories against the 2002 World Cup final (9:30 p.m., Egyptian); and "The Heart of the Game," a documentary about Seattle's Roosevelt High School girls basketball team (7 p.m., Neptune).

The following are capsule reviews of films playing today in the festival. Reviewers are W.A. (William Arnold), S.A. (Sean Axmaker), W.B. (Winda Benedetti), P.N. (Paula Nechak), G.T. (Gianni Truzzi) and B.W. (Bill White).

INITIAL D (Hong Kong): Imagine "Beach Blanket Bingo" by the samurai code and you have the teen camp flavor of this adrenal auto-racing melodrama, based on the popular manga and anime series. Supplanting the ambitions of his spoiled braggart friend, a tofu delivery boy in a Toyota hatchback becomes a champion of speedy "drifting" down mountain curves. Taiwanese teen idol Jay Chou is imperturbably languid as amateur racing's blessed one Takumi, steering hairpin turns with an absurd commuter's ennui and learning honor as he battles his self-aggrandizing challengers in post-apocalyptic gear. The racing sequences thrill with Playstation pop, and Anthony Wong chews scenery with gusto as Takumi's abusive father, soon revealed as the faded "ghost of Mount Akina." With tongue firmly in cheek, this mock hero's journey is a high-velocity joy ride. (G.T.) Grade: B+

Plays today at 4 p.m., Lincoln Square; plays again Sunday at 7:15 p.m., Neptune

MAXED OUT (U.S.): This absorbing, scary documentary explores the extent and consequences of America's "charge-it" attitude and spiraling credit-card debt. It makes a persuasive case that the financial industry during the past several decades has acted not just irresponsibly and immorally but like '80s drug lords, luring the young and unknowing into massive debt with easy credit, making unconscionable profits off late fees and interest payments, and corrupting the governmental process to make sure nothing is done about the racket. Among those interviewed are economists, real estate brokers, people with loved ones driven to suicide by their debt burden, a merry gang of strong-arm bill collectors and one bewildered Seattle pawn shop owner. (W.A.) Grade: B+

Plays today at 6:45 p.m., Broadway Performance Hall; plays again Friday at 4:45 p.m., Broadway Performance Hall

37 USES FOR A DEAD SHEEP (United Kingdom/Turkey): British filmmaker Ben Hopkins persuades members of the Pamir Kirghiz tribe to re-enact scenes from their 20th-century history. He does a brilliant job of approximating the various film stocks and styles of each era, but the absence of dialogue gives all of it a silent-movie quality. The Pamir's ebbing culture also is evoked through storytelling and reminiscences. Their recent history comes across most vividly, from the 1978 escape from the Russians in Afghanistan to the misery of the refugee camps in Pakistan, and finally their new homeland in Turkey, where their traditions are being replaced by Turkish and Kurdish customs. The film is a concise and telescopic view of how a culture dies, presented with neither a sentimental nor political bias. (B.W.) Grade: B

BEOWULF & GRENDEL (Canada/Iceland/United Kingdom) As every high-school senior should know, "Beowulf" is an epic eighth-century poem in Old English -- the oldest extant poem in our (or any other modern European) language -- that tells the story of a brave hero, Beowulf, who rescues a kingdom from a marauding monster. In this film version, the saga loses its more fantastical elements, and the monster, Grendel, gets equal billing and more human proportions: still a meanie but now more of a troll. The dialogue, with its overuse of modern profanity, can be annoying, but the film otherwise pulls us into its world nicely, the Icelandic locations are bleakly beautiful, and the cast -- Gerard Butler, Stellan Skarsgard, Sarah Polley -- is strong. (W.A.) Grade: B

Plays today at 6:30 p.m., Lincoln Square; plays again Saturday at 9:30 p.m., Egyptian

THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO (United Kingdom): Multifaceted director Michael Winterbottom takes a no-frills approach to another real-life event (after "Welcome to Sarajevo" and "In This World"). In the shadow of 9/11, a trio of British Muslim boys travel to Pakistan for a wedding. They cross the border to Afghanistan to try and help the war-ravaged country and are caught in the confusion of chaos, shipped to Guantanamo as Taliban terrorists, tortured and denied their human rights by the U.S. and British military. This is a harrowing, frustrating re-creation -- it may seem a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it evolves more into a mystery. The film is full of self-importance and often becomes redundant but bravely questions tactics by governments against their own citizens. (P.N.) Grade: B

Plays today at 7:15 p.m., Egyptian; plays again Sunday at 1:15 p.m., Pacific Place

GARPASTUM (Russia): Set in 1914 Russia on the eve of World War I, Alexey Guerman Jr.'s gorgeous sepia-tinged drama follows two brothers, the shallow scions of a bankrupt family, whose obsession with football (that's soccer to us) drives them to start their own team even as their world crashes around them. In other words, a quintessentially Russian film. The boys hustle working-class rubes (and even priests!) in pickup games by day and drift through the meaningless salons of high society by night. Guerman's camera drifts right along with them in hushed long takes that survey the empty rituals of salon life and the collapsing economy outside. It's doomed, we get it, but the collision of hollow aristocracy and industrial squalor (shrouded in omnipresent fog) has rarely looked so beautiful. (S.A.) Grade: B-

Plays today at 4:30 p.m., Egyptian; plays again Saturday at 9:15 p.m., Pacific Place

JONI'S PROMISE (Indonesia): Proud film delivery man Joni (the boyishly appealing Nicholas Saputra) has never been late with the reels he carts between Jakarta theaters, which means that disaster is sure to happen when his future love life depends on keeping that promise. Joko Anwar's silly little lark (a smash hit in Indonesia) sends Joni on a mad dash through the city, with detours for an emergency pregnancy, a rock band audition and an unplanned cameo in a film shoot, to retrieve his stolen delivery bike and track down a snatched reel before the film runs out. Anwar's spirited direction and affection for his characters gives his amiably shaggy salute to movie madness a charm that softens the rocky execution. (S.A.) Grade: B-

Plays today at 4:45 p.m., Harvard Exit

MOTHER OF MINE (Finland/Sweden): A funeral unlocks old memories for middle-age Eero. During World War II, some 70,000 children were shipped from Finland to Sweden and, after his father is killed in the line of duty, Eero joins the ranks of the kids dispatched to new homes. He is sent to a farm with the Jonssons, a couple who have their own torments and tragedies. Klaus Haro's gorgeously shot film is too familiar but makes a heartbreaking statement about a child's assumption that plagues him to adulthood as well as examining the bonds of maternal devotion that have little to do with biology. Eero and Swedish mom Signe Jonsson forge a deep relationship based on respect, need and healing as well as hard-won love. Despite its predictability, there are some heart-tugging moments that truly wrench and test the tear ducts. (P.N.) Grade: B-

Plays today at 2 p.m., Pacific Place; and again Sunday at 6:30 p.m., Egyptian

SHINOBI (Japan): The festival's second Japanese samurai epic (after "The Hidden Blade") is a beautifully shot but formulaic affair that tells the story of a pair of young star-crossed lovers from two long-feuding ninja clans, circa 1614. For his own evil purposes, the shogun decides to lift the ban on war that has kept an uneasy peace between the two factions for many years. So they start knocking each other off in a series of battles, ambushes and personal duels -- until the lovers themselves have to square off. What makes it interesting is that the warriors of both clans -- including the lovers -- have special mutant powers: they're ninja X-men! You may feel you've seen this movie before. (W.A.) Grade: C+

Plays today at 9:30 p.m., Neptune; plays again Sunday at 1:30 p.m., Neptune

CHINAMAN (Denmark): A Chinese takeout joint is the portal to a new life for a divorced plumber when he agrees to a paper marriage with the proprietor's sister. Adhering to the logic of movie romance, this charming girl and charmless man fall in love. Defying all logic is the discovery that the bride is terminally ill. Why would her brother pay $8,000 for a pro forma marriage in order to procure a visa for the dying girl? "Chinaman" is as hackneyed and absurd as the Asian stereotypes Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz and his writer Kim Fupz Aakeson find so novel. The only thing that rings true is the voice of Teresa Teng, the beloved Taiwanese singer whose music authenticates the domestic environment of the Chinese immigrants. (B.W.) Grade: C-

Plays today at 4:30 p.m., Pacific Place

THE HEART OF THE GAME (U.S.): Although basketball is the fastest game in popular American sports, movies on the subject can be dreadfully slow. At half the running time of the Oscar-winning "Hoop Dreams," this documentary covering four seasons of girls basketball at Seattle's Roosevelt High School seems twice as long. The story of Darnellia Russell, star guard whose pregnancy nearly terminated her sporting career and ruined her chances at a college scholarship, is better suited to a local news segment than a feature film. Director Ward Serrill's attempt to build a movie around the travails of this sullen, withdrawn athlete has a few moments of interest, and the final scenes in which Roosevelt plays for the state championship are truly exciting, but the movie lacks team spirit. It's all about Darnellia and, frankly, she's not that interesting. (B.W.) Grade: C-

Plays today at 7 p.m., Neptune; plays again Sunday at 4:15 p.m., Lincoln Square


The Great Match, 9:30 p.m., Egyptian

Arctic Son, 4:15 p.m., Broadway Performance Hall

Wild Tigers I Have Known, 9:15 p.m., Broadway Performance Hall

Manslaughter, 6:45 p.m., Pacific Place

Kissed by Winter, 9:15 p.m., Pacific Place

Love Sick, 7 p.m., Harvard Exit

Lower City, 9 p.m., Harvard Exit

Blessed by Fire, 4 p.m., Neptune

The Master, 9:15 p.m., Lincoln Square



WHEN: Through June 18

WHERE: Main venues are the Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Pacific Place, Neptune, Broadway Performance Hall, Northwest Film Forum, Lincoln Square Cinemas

TICKETS: $5-$10 for most screenings, closing night $35-$40, galas $10-$25, plus a variety of passes; at Pacific Place, Broadway Performance Hall; 206-324-9996;