Autumn begins quietly with a slate of films of the art-house variety, but the season ends with a couple of potentially-award winning features with big studios behind them. As always, dates are subject to change.
–Karyn Kubo Lamborn, Examiner Film Editor

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Director: Sijie Dai
Cast: Xun Zhou, Kun Chen, Ye Liu
Unrated, 116 min. (In Chinese with English subtitles)

In the early 1970s, near the end of China’s Cultural Revolution, two city-bred best friends, Luo and Ma, are sent to a backward mountainous region for Maoist re-education. There the two teenagers fall in love with the local beauty, a tailor’s daughter who captivates them with her innocence and sensuality. When they discover a hidden suitcase filled with banned books by Western writers — Flaubert, Dumas and Balzac among them — they read these works to the Little Seamstress in a secret meeting place. Based on director/co-writer Dai Sijie’s international bestseller of the same name. Metro Cinemas

A State of Mind
This film is David Gordon’s penetrating look inside North Korean society. He follows two young gymnasts groomed for greatness in day to day routines leading up to the annual Mass Games. In Korean with English subtitles. Through Sept. 29 (no show on Sept. 27). The Grand Illusion Cinema

The 11 films that make up UW’s Japan Film Association fall calendar range from classic (1959’s “Crazed Fruit,” described as the foundation for the Japanese New Wave) to current (“Hidden Blade,” director Yoji Yamada’s follow-up to the wonderful “Twilight Samurai”). Films are screened on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. in Guggenheim Hall, Room 224. For more information visit:

My Beautiful Girl, Mari
This film is a story of childhood by South Korean director Lee Sung-gang. This magical animated feature looks at the effect a little boy’s enchanted fantasy world had on his growth as an adult. Through Oct. 6. The Grand Illusion Cinema

Kamikaze Girls
Cast: Kyoko Fukuda, Anna Tsuchiya
Director/Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima
Unrated, 103 min.

Colorful comic book-inspired visuals, an eccentric brand of humor, and the eccentricities of Japanese pop fashion obsessions highlight this look at the seemingly odd friendship between a bored country girl fixated on 18th Century France — frilly dresses, parasols and all — and a spunky member of an all-female biker gang. As their friendship deepens, the unlikely pair sets off on an unforgettable journey-one filled with an odd assortment of strange personalities. Varsity Theatre

Tony Takitani
Director/Writer: Jun Ichikawa
Cast: Issey Ogata, Rie Miyazawa
Unrated, 75 min.

Tony Takitani studied art at school, but was a lonely child and found all emotions illogical and immature. That changed when he started work as a technical illustrator and became fascinated by Eiko, a client bewitched by high-end fashion. They marry, and he feels alive for the first time — but her obsession with designer clothes begins to worry him. When he asks her to economize, the consequences are tragic. Based on the novel by Haruki Murakami (“Kafka on the Shore”), with music by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Varsity Theatre

Directors: Miike Takashi, Fruit Chan, Park Chanwook
Cast: Hasegawa Kyoko, Watabe Atsuro, Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling, Tong Leung Ka-fai, Lee Byung-hun, Lim Won-hee
Unrated, 118 min.

Three of East Asia’s most compelling directors explore the outer limits of the macabre. Using distinctive cinematic styles that span dreamlike minimalism, savage comedy and baroque horror, these cutting-edge directors penetrate the dark heart of desire, examining the ghastly urges that transform ordinary people into monsters. Varsity Theatre

The UW Women’s Center with the Indian Students Association and the Pakistani Students Association present a Feminist research & Activist Forum entitled “Breaking the Silence: Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery in South Asia.” This forum will focus on the complexity of trafficking in South Asia beginning with the viewing of the film, “The Day My God Died” which documents the experience of young Indian and Nepali girls forced into the sex industry. Followed by a discussion with Sahar Romani and Sutapa Basu. 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (206) 650-1090. UW-HUB auditorium

Aeon Flux
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Charlize Theron, Sophie Okonedo, Pete Postlethwaite, Frances McDormand
Not yet rated

Based on the MTV animated series created by Peter Chung, Aeon Flux is set 400 years in the future. Disease has wiped out the majority of the earth’s population except for one walled, protected city-state, Bregna, ruled by a congress of scientists. The story centers on Aeon Flux, the top operative in the underground Monican rebellion led by The Handler. When Aeon is sent on a mission to kill a government leader, she uncovers a world of secrets.

Memoirs of a Geisha
Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li
Not yet rated

Arthur Golden’s popular novel is finally brought to the screen by the director of “Chicago,” and stars some of Asia’s best-known actors. In 1929, an impoverished nine-year-old named Chiyo is sold to a geisha house in Kyoto’s Gion district and subjected to cruel treatment from the owners. Chiyo’s stunning beauty attracts the vindictive jealousy of head geisha Hatsumomo, until she is rescued by and taken under the wing of Hatsumomo’s bitter rival, Mameha. Under Mameha’s mentorship, Chiyo is transformed into the geisha Sayuri. Trained in all the artistic and social skills a geisha must master in order to survive, Sayuri becomes one of Japan’s most renowned, entering a society of wealth, privilege, and political intrigue. As World War II looms, her geisha world and that of the entire country are forever changed by history.

Brokeback Mountain
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Linda Cardellini, Anne Hathaway
Rated R, 134 min.

Set against the sweeping landscapes of Wyoming and Texas, this epic love story tells of two young men — a ranch-hand and a rodeo cowboy — who meet in the summer of 1963 while driving cattle on a mountain range. They unexpectedly forge a lifelong connection whose complications, joys and tragedies provide a testament to the endurance and power of love. Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author E. Annie Proulx (“The Shipping News”).

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