Monday, June 12, 2023

What I’m Watching: All-SIFF Edition

The Seattle International Film Festival ended on May 28, and I’m only getting around to it now. Which may be just as well, considering that my two favorite movies from this year’s fest are already turning up in theaters.

Chile ’76. The title of this piercing political thriller gives us the where and, more pointedly, the when: the Pinochet years. Retired stewardess Carmen (Aline Küppenheim in a powerhouse performance) is largely insulated from political unrest; her physician husband affords her a comfortable life, with grandchildren and a summer house remodel to occupy her time. But when a priest asks her to tend to a wounded young activist sought by the government, the fragile order of her world comes apart. Directed and cowritten by Manuela Martelli, it’s a look at how normal life can seem under a dictatorship—and how much effort even the smallest act of compassion takes under those circumstances. Mention must be made of Mariá Portugal’s moody and effective score, like something out of a 1970s giallo.

The Night of the 12th. This policier from director Dominik Moll (With a Friend Like Harry), which won France’s César Award for Best Picture, takes a big swing early. It tells you up front that the real-life case that inspired it will not be solved, and is only more compelling because of it. Tense and atmospheric, it follows a young detective (Bastien Bouillon) whose first assignment as the head of an investigative unit is an uncommonly brutal murder in the incongruously beautiful setting of Grenoble at the foot of the French Alps. As the years pass without a solution, he realizes he only knows two things for certain: “Something’s amiss between men and women,” and he’ll have to find a way to carry on in the face of never knowing the truth. It will be playing at Seattle’s Grand Illusion later this month as part of the theater’s “… before the case cracks you” series alongside Zodiac and Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder, and it deserves to be in their company.

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes, a solid documentary about the jazz musician, educator, and activist, will air on PBS’s American Masters in October. And fingers crossed that the Irish/UK science fiction film Lola reaches a broad audience. Its 79-minute running time contains an impressive amount of story, about two charismatic orphaned sisters in the 1940s, one of whom constructs a machine that receives radio and TV signals from the future. They use this knowledge first to change their own lives, then the course of World War II. The found-footage conceit is initially hard to swallow, but director Andrew Legge ultimately makes it work through adept manipulation of historical images.

What I’m Drinking

Call me a convert to the French Manhattan, taken from David Lebovitz’s book Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Aperitifs, and Café Traditions of France, with 100 Recipes (2020). This version of the classic is made with cognac and orange liqueur. My next experiment, as I don’t have any of France’s orange-based Amer Picon, is to try one with one of my go-to Picon substitutes: Amer Boudreau, Bigallet China-China Amer, or Amaro CioCiaro. Will report back.

The French Manhattan

1 ½ oz. cognac
1 ½ oz. sweet vermouth
¼ oz. Cointreau or Grand Marnier
1 dash orange or Angostura bitters

Stir. Strain. Garnish with a cherry.