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Chicago, Mill Valley, Sitges, Pusan, Vancouver & LA

"I find that attending a high-quality, intense, immersive film festival often seems to put my mind and body, without my immediately realizing it, in a special zone," noted Girish Shambu the other day. "I find a heightened perceptual awareness setting in — a sharpened sensitivity to all audiovisual detail in each film I see... Not only does the festival experience make for a special, super-active engagement with cinema, I find that it also exercises a healthy hangover, an extended influence upon viewing habits once I've returned home." Festival attendees in cities around the world will have to opportunity to juice up their engagement with cinema — starting today.

The Chicago International Film Festival runs through October 21 and, introducing the Reader's guide to the first week, JR Jones notes that "screenings for the most buzzed-about films — Darren Aronofsky's ballet psychodrama Black Swan, Danny Boyle's survival tale 127 Hours, Abbas Kiarostami's philosophical adventure Certified Copy, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's waking dream Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives — are already sold out.... But every year I've covered the festival, I've seen something outstanding that vanishes without a trace. Last year it was Michel Franco's Daniel & Ana, about siblings trying to recover after being kidnapped and sexually abused; this year it will probably be Michael Rowe's Leap Year" — which happens to be the first CIFF 2010 film Nick Davis reviews, and he finds it "remarkably successful at telling a story of one woman's desire, and not only by contrast to how easily this could have been a story of a woman's debasement."

Keep an eye on Nick's blog for more coverage and your other eye on Marilyn Ferdinand's; she, too, has been posting advance reviews. For more CIFF previewing, turn to Time Out Chicago and Ray Pride (Newcity Film).

Introducing his preview of the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival, running through October 17, Michael Hawley notes that what founder and executive director Mark Fishkin refers to as a certain "programming sensibility" has led to, among other plaudits, being named one of indieWIRE's top 50 festivals. In the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey notes that this year's edition "brings the usual assortment of visiting celebrities starting their Oscar thumpage early at an event with a rep for anticipating next February's Academy winners. Some have local roots (Annette Bening, Sam Rockwell, James Franco), some don't (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Edward Norton, Julian Schnabel). All will be happy, or at least willing, to discuss their creative process from the Rafael or Sequoia stages. But insight into the artistic mind is also available in several lower-profile programs about Bay Area innovators in various media, most made by Bay Area filmmakers."

The Sitges Film Festival, "considered the world's foremost international festival specializing in fantasy and horror movies," as Film-Book notes atop its easy-to-scan list of films in the lineup, runs through October 17.

"Stars from Hollywood, Bollywood and China gathered with film-makers and fans Thursday for the launch of Asia's most prestigious film festival in the South Korean port city of Busan," reports the AFP. From the Chosun Ilbo: "Tickets for the opening film Under the Hawthorn Tree by China's Zhang Yimou sold out within 18 seconds after Internet booking opened. Critics say the innocence and naivete of the film are reminiscent of the acclaimed director's early works. The closing film Camellia also sold out in just 4 minutes, a record for a closing piece of the film fest. Themed around love, the omnibus was directed by Isao Yukisada or Japan, Korea's Jang Joon-hwan and Wisit Sasanatieng of Thailand." The Pusan International Film Festival runs through October 15.

"And just as the lights go down in Busan, they will start to come up in Japan for the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival, which will run in the Japanese capital October 23-31," notes a report in the Independent. "Industry insiders know there is rivalry between the two events — and point to the expansion of the now seven-edition-old film market in Tokyo and an increasingly commercial line-up as evidence organizers are working overtime to make their mark. Those in charge say they are simply part of one big happy film family; hence, the Japanese festival was pushed back a week this year to enable festival-goers and film industry professionals to better organize their trips."



"As has become our habit, we're at the Vancouver International Film Festival," David Bordwell announced a few days ago, "gulping down movies. The perennial Dragons and Tigers collection of recent Asian film is especially ripe this year, at over forty-three features and many shorts, and of course there are several other choices, across ten venues, competing for your eyeballs." He writes about a good handful of them and then turns the floor over to Kristin Thompson, who offers her thoughts on films from Romania, Lebanon, Costa Rica, Egypt and Italy.

Sean Axmaker's been sending dispatches from Vancouver into the House Next Door; the festival runs on through October 15.



"Its title may lack sizzle, but 20th Anniversary Tribute to the Film Foundation is in fact the most exciting and impressive repertory series in Los Angeles in quite some time," writes Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times (where Susan King rounds up other local goings on as well). "Beginning Friday with a dynamite film noir double bill of The Big Combo and They Made Me a Fugitive, this wide-ranging series features stunning prints of significant films rarely presented on the big screen. This is what the art of film is all about, which makes its setting — the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — more than a little ironic. As LA film fans know too well, LACMA came within a hair of closing its invaluable program last year. But if you read between the lines of a recent Times interview with the museum's president, it's clear the institution would still dismember the program in a heartbeat if it felt it could get away with it."

In the LA Weekly, Wes Anderson, who's just listed his top 12 Criterions, and Kent Jones discuss They Made Me a Fugitive.

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Also read my reviews of CIFF films at Chicagoist:

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