Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good Times at SIFF!

Here's a look at my first visit to Seattle and to the Seattle International Film Festival - in its 35th year! One of the oldest film festivals in the country, this is also the longest one - running 25 whole days!

I spent a lot of time at the Pike Place Market where you can eat croissants, cookies, crumpets, cupcakes, and every baked good you can imagine. The colorful produce and the extremely fresh fish are what make this farmers market so unique. I could have spent days shopping in here for knick knacks and gifts. The sights and smells are utterly stimulating.
Nick and I had a memorable dinner with SIFF Programmer and Education Coordinator Dustin Kaspar at Ray's Boathouse. If you want Seattle seafood, Ray's is the place every book and website tells you to go. A New York Times critic said that going to Seattle and not eating at Ray's is like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower! Ray's was quite a treat and not too overpriced when you dine in the upstairs section. I had some delicious sablefish and some key lime pie. It was very nice of Dustin to take a break from the festival to pick us up and drive us to the restaurant which overlooks Puget Sound.

We went to see FOREVER ENTHRALLED at the Uptown theatre. The late Sunday night screening was full and the audience was very diverse. Here's what I thought of the film:

Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige returns to the genre that first brought him critical acclaim – the Peking Opera. Like Farewell My Concubine (1993), FOREVER ENTHRALLED is an opulent period drama about the true story of Mei Lanfang, a Peking opera legend whose fame spread worldwide. Even Charlie Chaplin and Sergei Eisenstein filmed him in the early 1900s. As a man playing a woman onstage, critics often said that Mei was more feminine than a real woman and so his roles and pitch perfect voice mesmerized audiences.

The film begins in his early adolescence as Mei must rival with a veteran actor, in a kind of “battle” of the musicals, and emerges the victor. His fame spreads quickly but disaster sets in as the Japanese invade Manchuria and Mei’s refusal to sing upon request of the Japanese threatens his career and family. Zhang Ziyi (most notable for her breakout role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) plays an admiring fellow opera singer – a woman posing as a man onstage – who begins a romantic affair with Mei played by Leon Lai (Fallen Angels). She poses another threat to Mei’s career - a possible distraction from his work and his demanding fans, managers, and especially his devoted wife and family. The entire cast delivers solid performances, while Lai and Ziyi noticeably went through Peking opera training to master the delicate body language of the opera.FOREVER ENTHRALLED is a fascinating biopic about a man regarded as a great national treasure and yet who yearns to be ordinary at times. The film is also strongly traditional, elegant and what most audiences would expect from a historical Chinese period piece. At 147 minutes, there is no shortage of dazzling authentic costumes, gorgeous sets and exquisite interior lighting evoking 1930s China. His latest work may not have the complexities and emotional impact of Farewell, but it certainly seems like Kaige is back to the filmmaking he does best.

It was unfortunate I did not get to see more films, but at least I go the chance to drive out to Tacoma to visit the Museum of Glass - a relatively new museum dedicated to the art of glassblowing. Glass is a very popular and accepted artform in Seattle, the home of amazing artists like Dale Chihuly. The museum is small, but amazing. Check out the installations which change seasonally. Nothing Asian about this, but definitely cool and worth mentioning!


  1. Sounds like an awesome experience, and it does look like Kaige is back.

  2. I loved Farewell My Concubine and this sounds like a must see. I've never been to Seatle, but would love to go sometime...