SIFF Double Feature No. 1: Snow and Departures

By FilmNerd May 22, 2009

I'm hoping to see two movies every night of SIFF, which I will present in a series of double features over the next 25 days.  The pairings are based on nothing other than my seeing the two films in the same night.

Double Feature number 1 found me navigating lower Queen Anne (and the Folklife Festival, which destroyed my shortcut through Seattle Center—watch out).  First, I caught Snow (Aida Begic, 2008) at Uptown Cinemas.

Snow is a peaceful movie about war. Begic tells the story of the 1992-95 Balkan civil war, but not with guns or bombs.  Instead, the film centers on a group of Bosnian Muslims, women and children (the men have been killed) who struggle to rebuild their lives by making and selling chutney in a remote mountain village. Quiet human emotions push the drama: Determination to get a cartful of canned preserves up a rocky mountainside; disappointment when people don't keep their word; perseverance to remain living at home when war or greed threaten to drive you out. Begic goes with restraint, avoiding maudlin sentimentality.

I left Snow in a meditative mood, but was quickly caught up in the mob scene outside Departures (Yojiro Takita, Japan, 2008), which played at SIFF Cinema.  Every seat in the house was full for the Oscar winner, and a line of disappointed folks stayed outside.

Departures tells the charming story of Daigo Kobayashi, a cellist-turned-mortician's assistant, who has found his true calling preparing the dead for cremation.  With his quirky boss, who loves eating nearly as much as his profession—"It tastes so good I hate myself"—Daigo experiences the wrath and gratitude of his dead clients.  Whether a lovely transvestite, a beloved elderly public bath owner, or a young girl killed in a motorcycle accident, his lifeless subjects become beautiful again under his caring hands. Takita breaks up this film's heavy theme with humorous moments.

Snow plays again Friday, May 29, 1:30pm at Pacific Place Cinemas.
Departures will screen Sunday, May 24, 2:00pm at SIFF Cinema.  It will also open at the Harvard Exit on Friday, June 5.
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