As cinema's first master of grandiose brilliance, Orson Welles didn't shy away from any of the masters that proceeded him. Chimes at Midnight combines the narratives of five of Shakespeare's plays (Henry IV, Richard II, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor), then refocuses the action around the rowdy and witty Sir John Fallstaff (played by Welles) and his dear friend Prince Hal. How highly is the magnificently shot black and white epic regarded? Many cinephiles consider it Welles's best film, surpassing even AFI's greatest film of all-time, Citizen Kane.
Due to ownership disputes, the Chimes at Midnight had long been unattainable—a lost puzzle piece in the Welles cinematography. Thanks to the discovery and restoration of an original 35mm print, the movie can finally find the audience it deserves.
Screenings: May 23 at 7, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, $13
David Byrne has some far out ideas. Case in point: Contemporary Color is an arena concert film about ceremonial flag spinning. A few years ago, former Talking Heads frontman became fascinated by high school color guard teams and hatched a plan to combine some of the Northeast's best teams with his musician friends. The culmination of the project was Contemporary Color, a two-night showcase at Brooklyn's Barklays Center last June where artists including Byrne, St. Vincent, Tune-Yards, Lucius, and Nelly Furtado performed songs written specifically for the troops' live performances.
The film version of Contemporary Color surprisingly takes this spectacle event and focuses on the inherent intimacy of the proceedings. There's an intentional free form lack of direction on display. Things drift moment to moment between the performances, backstage moments, and cinematic pre-taped distillations of certain signature color guard members. When the action is on the stage floor, it's mostly tight shots that put viewers right in the heart of things. Their routines mix the advanced flag elements with grand theatricality and modern dance touches. While some pulled back shots to show the group dynamic would've been contextually helpful, it's clear directors Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross wanted to convey the experience of the performers more than give viewers a seat in the audience. There's a palpable sense of the kids' glee, performance anxiety, and warm sadness, as these shows mark the end of the season (and the final performances with the team for seniors). While the movie might be a drag for those that don't enjoy the songs, the undercurrent of sweet, genuine emotion throughout keeps things compelling even after the thousandth rifle spin and flag twirl.
Screenings: May 26 at 9, Majestic Bays Cinema, $13 | May 28 at 8:30, SIFF Cinema Uptown, $13 | May 30 at 1:30, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, $13
Actress Clea DuVall (But I'm a Cheerleader, Argo) makes her writer/director debut examines our need to interject ourselves in others problems. The Intervention finds a group a friends gathering for their annual reunion, but this time there's a hidden goal—host an intervention for one of the couple's marriage. As one might expect, this doesn't exactly go as planed. With an impressive indie cast—DuVall, Cobie Smulders, Alia Shawkat, Jason Ritter, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz, Melanie Lynskey—there should be plenty of humor to counterbalance the dramatic tension of the relationships.
A party at Seattle Art Museum follows the Saturday screening at AMC Pacific Place 11. Sunday offers a chance to check out the film and see SIFF's northern reach at its new venue, Shoreline Community College Theater. DuVall is scheduled to attend both screenings.
Screenings: May 28 at 6:30, AMC Pacific Place 11, $13–$25 | May 29 at 3:30, Shoreline Community College Theatre, $13
To be honest, we could probably listen to German documentary director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) pontificate about socks and still be riveted. His narrations' one-of-a-kind mix of utter bleakness and wonder always have us hanging on every word. Herzog turns his gaze to the Internet and technological advances with Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World. There's no one we'd rather see attempting to wrap his head around technological advances and (likely) theorizing how they will lead to humanity's undoing.
Screenings: May 29 at 1, Lincoln Square Cinemas, $13 | June 4 at 8, SIFF Cinema Uptown, $13
Director Todd Solondz has never been one to provide a sunny worldview, showcasing a knack for dark social commentary/satire with films like Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness. His latest film, Wiener-Dog, continues this trend, but uses a unique through line—a dachshund. As the pooch travels, the film becomes a series of character portraits of the troubled suburbanites it encounters. The journey features moments of auteur brilliance and plenty of familiar faces—Julie Delpy, Ellen Burstyn, Kieran Culkin, Danny DeVito—but don't go in expecting a feel-good road trip movie. And while Greta Gerwig steps in to play a grown up version Welcome to the Dollhouse's protagonist Dawn Wiener, we've got a feeling that the Solondz Cinematic Universe might not be as bankable as the Marvel one.
Screenings: May 29 at 9:45, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, $13 | May 30 at 4, SIFF Cinema Egyptian, $13