So the Seattle International Film Festival kicked into high gear this past weekend, and will be screening more than 400 movies over the next month or so. While Eric Cartman’s “gay cowboys eating pudding” independent movies are well represented, SIFF also features a decent number of movies where things explode, giant monsters attack, martial arts superheroes kick the crap out of people, and gangsters from various countries and regions do traditional gangster stuff. I plan on seeing as many of this type of film as humanly possible. It’s going to be rad, and I’d like to share the experience with you fine folks, think of it as a kind of road trip. This installment features Greek street racing, one f’d up German love triangle, and of course, the Yakuza.
One problem I’ve always had with “Romeo and Juliet” is that there aren’t any adrenalin-pumping chase scenes. But what if you re-imagined it as a Greek street racing tale, replacing the feuding clans, the Capulets and Montagues, with rival gangs of Russian and Albanian street toughs? Consider that for a moment and you’ve pretty much got the plot “Nobody”. In this incarnation of Shakespeare’s tale, the star-cross’d lovers are Nobody (Andinoos Albinas) and Julia (Georgina Liossi). Nobody is a good kid who delivers pizzas to put himself through law school, though he has some friends with ties to a Russian crime syndicate. Tybalt (Giorgos Papageorgiou) leads their rivals, the Albanians, and he also happens to be Julia’s big, overly protective brother. At this point you’re well enough acquainted with the source material to know what is going to happen, but this sleek, stylized update brings in some overtones of Homer’s “Odyssey”, and functions equally well as a retelling of a familiar story and as an action film. Think Shakespearian tragedy told through a “Fast and Furious”-like, lens. One of the most interesting elements of this particular modernization is the role played by cell phones, and how their presence drastically alters the story. The Bard never saw that one coming.
Tom Tykwer, best known for the oft imitated, much spoofed, “Run, Lola, Run” (and the under seen, under appreciated “The Princess and the Warrior”) is back with “3”, the story of a truly bizarre love triangle. Dr. Hanna Blum (Sophie Rois), host of an art-themed talk show, has been with Simon (Sebastian Schipper), a frustrated art engineer with penis problems, for 20 years. Unbeknownst to the other, each becomes entangled with Adam (Devid Striesow), a sexy doctor colleague of Hanna’s. He’s equally comfortable swinging both ways, and develops an adulterous sexual relationship with both of them. Through Hanna and Simon’s mutual, though hidden passion for Adam, who also has no idea of his lover’s connection, their fire for each other is subsequently reignited. “3” is a darkly comic story of love, lust, and imagination. Layered is a more apt description than twisted, visually as well as thematically and plot wise. Images, ideas, and story threads pile on top of each other, overlapping and intertwining into a beautifully stratified picture. Also, “3” gives you a graphic glimpse of testicular surgery, so there’s that.
Beat Takeshi is a badass in the Charles Bronson vein. That stoic, grim-faced tough guy who may not look like much, but will snap out of his quiet pose and kill the living hell out of you. Not only that, but he’s an incredibly prolific filmmaker, and wrote, directed, and edited his latest film “Outrage”. Working within his wheelhouse of the Japanese criminal underworld, Takeshi plays Otomo, a mid-level underling in a world where fucking up at work costs fingers, or worse. Not a supped-up action flick, “Outrage” is a twisted web weaving together themes of honor, respect, loyalty, betrayal, intrigue, corruption, and the costs of these and more. Basically everything you’ve come to expect and love from a Yakuza movie, with a fair level of fierce violence to boot. Everyone wants a bigger piece of the pie, and what begins as a small-scale turf war escalates into a messy, perverse, vicious, and often times incredibly witty, tale of revenge and retaliation. “Outrage” moves smoothly from moments of bloody, face-cutting, tooth-drilling, violence, to moments of dark humor until the film almost becomes a dark comedy, then some badass tough-guy shit happens, and you remember, oh yeah, this is a film about brutal Japanese gangsters who are not to be trifled with.
Both “3” and “Outrage” already have distributors, so look for them to hit the open market in some form or other before too awful long.