The 2016 Seattle International Film Festival, opening Thursday, May 19, includes seven archival films, among them a Chinese silent classic, an Argentine film noir (shown on actual film) and a long-lost Orson Welles work.
The Seattle International Film Festival, which begins Thursday night, primarily celebrates what’s new in the world of cinema — but it also, in my favorite part of the fest, salutes the old. This year’s festival includes seven archival films, among them a Chinese silent classic, a Technicolor dream from Old Hollywood, an Argentine film noir and a long-lost Orson Welles tour de force.
Beth Barrett, SIFF’s director of programming, said last week that the festival’s priority in booking archival films is showcasing newly restored work, from such groups as The Film Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Every selection this year has undergone some level of recent restoration. “Then, we like to span the gamut of films,” she said, noting that while there are always a plethora of restored American Technicolor films to choose from, SIFF strives to present more of a range.
Here are this year’s selections, with each one presenting a rare opportunity to get lost in a classic film on the big screen.
Seattle International Film Festival
May 19-June 12 at Egyptian, Uptown, Pacific Place, Harvard Exit, SIFF Film Center, Majestic Bay (May 20-26), Shoreline Community College (May 27-June 4), Lincoln Square (May 20-June 2), Ark Lodge (June 3-9), Renton Ikea Performing Arts Center (May 26-June 1), Kirkland Performance Center (June 2-12). Individual tickets are $11 weekday matinees ($9 SIFF members), $13 evening/weekend shows ($11 SIFF members); various ticket packages available. Box office: 206-324-9996, siff.net or at festival venues. Information: siff.net/festival-2016/
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“The Big Road.” Directed by the very prolific Chinese filmmaker Sun Yu (he made, said Barrett, two or three films a year in his heyday), this 1935 silent drama about a group of Shanghai highway builders will feature a live score by silent-film music master Donald Sosin. (7 p.m. May 31, Uptown)
“The Bitter Stems.” Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, will be on hand to introduce Fernando Ayala’s 1956 Argentine noir, about a journalist who may have committed the perfect murder … or maybe not. This one’s screening in a 35-mm restoration — the only film, in all of SIFF this year, to be presented on film. (2 p.m. June 4, Egyptian).
“Chimes at Midnight.” Orson Welles’ Shakespeare mashup — focusing on the character Falstaff (played by Welles), and drawing from five different plays — disappeared from view for many years, then became caught up in a lengthy rights squabble. Now it’s finally on screen, thanks to a restoration by Janus Films. “If I wanted to get into heaven on the basis of one movie,” Welles once said, “that’s the one I would offer up.” (7 p.m. May 24, Egyptian.)
“Dragon Inn.” From Taiwan, King Hu’s 1967 martial-arts epic recently received a major widescreen restoration. It is, Barrett said, from the wuxia genre, which refers to the arm/body movements in martial arts — “the wuxia is a more rounded style of movement.” Barrett predicts that this screening will be especially popular; SIFF audiences in the past have flocked to martial-arts epics. (7 p.m. June 8, Egyptian).
“The General.” It wouldn’t be a festival without a family-friendly silent comedy — and this 1926 Buster Keaton classic about a Southern railroad engineer confronting Union soldiers during the Civil War is one of the greats. It screens with a brand-new score from Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi. (11 a.m. June 11, Egyptian).
“Heaven Can Wait.” Not the 1978 Warren Beatty version, but the 1943 Ernst Lubitsch Technicolor comedy starring Don Ameche and Gene Tierney, and set in the Art Deco waiting room of hell. And if that last phrase doesn’t get you scurrying to the theater, you are made of sterner stuff than I. (11 a.m. May 28, Egyptian)
“A Scandal in Paris.” This is a lesser-known work from Douglas Sirk, who was known for lush, colorful melodramas of the 1950s (“All That Heaven Allows,” “Magnificent Obsession”). “A Scandal in Paris” stars George Sanders (known to all movie fans as Addison DeWitt in “All About Eve”) as an 18th-century French con man. (1:30 p.m. May 22, Pacific Place).