FESTIVAL: No Grunge Here; Seattle Fest Proves It's Still a Class Act
by Brandon Judell
The Seattle International Film Festival has proven once again that good things can come in large packages. This is the longest and quite possibly the best film festival in North America. To get a picture of this event, just imagine Berlin without a Market, knockwurst, and Marlene Dietrich Platz, and you've almost got it.
The Fest ran from May 23-June 16 under the masterful directorship of Darryl Macdonald. With over 200 features from over 50 countries (including Vietnam, Tunisia, and Kazakhstan), plus a boat ride, a movie poster silent auction, and a tribute to John Waters, what more could you ask for?
Well, sex for one thing. In Michael Haneke's unforgettable "The Piano Teacher," Professor. Kohut (Isabelle Hupert) asks her comely student (Benoit Magimel) to sit on her face and stop playing Schubert. In Mike Swain's audience-pleasing "The Trip," a long-haired hippie activist gets it on with a Republican. Then, in the often satisfying "Love in the Time of Money," Peter Mattei's updating of "La Ronde," Steve Buscemi is a straight, untalented artist who gets oral sex from the husband of a gallery owner who doesn't like his work. And Carol Kane is a horny psychic who gives phone sex to a stranger who wants to commit suicide.
Anyway, on the aforementioned boat ride, indieWIRE noted to director Macdonald how Oprah ceased her book club because there were no more good books out there? Could the same be said of films today?
"Absolutely not," he replied. "You know a festival may go through transformations. It make take on new forms and new different sections. Like this year we added on The Exploding Cinema section and our big new Asian films competition. Every year, and I've been at this now for 28 years, there's something new to discover. Certainly what's happening in Asian cinema excites me endlessly. The hard part is keeping the number of feature films down to just over 200. Not finding 200 good films from around the world to present is never ever the problem.
"I just can't imagine that cinema is getting anything but richer," Macdonald concluded, "and richer and richer. Particularly with the new access to technology, it's so much easier for filmmakers to realize their vision."
Of course, the new technology isn't always an asset. Take George Lucas. Please. At the Digital Delivery & the Exhibition Revolution forum, I asked "Star Wars