The Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) ended a week ago Sunday after three packed weeks of movies. I saw eight of them. None of my films, not even “Restrepo,” wound up among the award winners (Golden Space Needle, etc.), which are listed on the SIFF site alphabetically. It's so like Seattle to list award winners alphabetically. We don't want to imply that one is better than another—even when we're saying that these are better than the others.
I'll say it, of course. Of the movies I saw, this is how I'd rank them:
- “Au Revoir Taipei”
- “Garbo: The Spy”
- “L'enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot”
- “The City of Life and Death”
- “The Tillman Story”
- “The Actresses”
- “Zona Sur”
As for SIFF itself? It's a great film festival, a local treasure, the largest film festival in the country supposedly (in terms of attendance? length? films? all?), and just getting all of these films here so we can see them in a theater (as opposed to on DVD or not at all), and ahead of critics in N.Y. and L.A., makes one a bit abashed about any petty criticisms one may have.
But here I go being petty:
- I saw “Restrepo” at the Harvard Exit, a group of us waiting outside in the semi-drizzle for nearly an hour on the off-chance of getting in. We got in. But just as we were buying tickets several people butted ahead of us to buy their tickets. But not to “Restrepo,” we found out. To “Les Secrets de sus Ojos.” Which was not part of the festival but was playing at the Harvard Exit nonetheless. I'm sure there was a reason a separate box office hadn't been set up for this non-festival movie, but I doubt the reason is worth the anxiety and bad feelings, for both “Restrepo” folks and “Ojos” folks, that the one line engendered.
- The next day I saw “Zona Sur” at Pacific Place downtown. A separate box office had been set up there, but it was a separate box office with two lines: one to buy tickets, one to pick up tickets. I was in the pick-up tickets line. Unfortunately the pick-up tickets line was the outer line while the pick-up window was the near window, and this meant folks trying to pick up tickets had to cross through the line of folks trying to buy tickets. Once again: confusion and anxiety. Those of us in line talked about how the lines (or the windows) should be switched, and I did my complaining perhaps a trifly loudly (I'm a charmer that way), and when I got to the window, the SIFF volunteer at the other window complained to me about me. Basically he said I should zip it. When I said that all they needed to do was switch the lines and everything would be OK, he interrupted with, “Sir? Sir? Please don't feed the chaos!” A funny line, but in the end it solved nothing.
But all in all my experience this year was better than my experience last year, when the movie I most wanted to see, the “Mesrine” two-parter with Vincent Cassel, was canceled at the last minute. (I think our print wound up in my least-favorite state: Texas.) I still haven't seen that movie yet. On Netflix, its arrival date is “Unknown.” On the plus side, Scarecrow Video in Seattle says they have it for region 1 players.
As for SIFF's Award winners? I'll have to check them out. But I wouldn't be surprised if they were a little too arty for my taste. SIFF listed “Restrepo” as the fourth-best documentary of the festival, and, for the moment, I refuse to believe that three other documentaries could be that good.