SCARECROW ON SEATTLE
In appreciation and recognition of Seattle's long and illustrious film history, we are proud to partner with Scarecrow Video to bring you weekly reviews of historical Seattle films. Each week we will showcase a new movie, with special emphasis on how these films show Seattle's most filmable locations.
Sprezzatura: Celebrating the Pike Place Market (2006)
Inspired by this year's Only in Seattle and Think Local movements, I've been making a point while out holiday shopping to support local brick and mortar businesses that bring character to their neighborhoods and the city as a whole. That sentiment drew me to this title in Scarecrow's Seattle Interest section, a short-but-sweet documentary on the most famous shopping spot in town. Our guide is "Honorary Mayor of The Market" Michael Yeager, who quickly explains the title (a video companion to his book, An Insider's Tour of The Market) means "a genius at being" in Italian. He begins his journey at what I thought was an unconventional staring point: The Aquarium. From there, he travels up the Hillclimb, past El Puerco Lloron, down Post Alley and the Gum Wall, then up in to the heart of the Market. Under the Public Market Center sign, he meets his wife, Sarah Clementson, an artist who does watercolors of the Market and other Northwest vistas. The rest of the video follows him as he strolls around the area providing color commentary. Watching it, you get all the people-watching and produce-browsing you would on a sunny day at the Market without having to cut a path through thickets of tourists and shoppers wielding giant flower bouquets and boxes of ready-to-ship seafood. Yeager passes all the important landmarks: Rachel the Pig, the Sasquatch statue, the first Starbucks, Victor Steinbrueck Park (where he comments on the abundance of seagull droppings at the base of the totem pole), and, of course, "the place where they throw the fish." Famous buskers provide the score, including Paper Horn Man, Jonny Hahn on piano, and a violin player named Annie, who duets with Artis The Spoonman inside an empty Maximilien restaurant. There's shot after shot of vendors, bakers, farmers, balloon-twisters, craftspeople, diners, and random passersby waving for the camera and giving the occasional thumbs-up as Yeager goes along. It might sound boring to a Seattle native, but I found it strangely charming; I started humming the Sesame Street song, "The People in Your Neighborhood" as it went on. I couldn't help but whoo-hoo as Yeager passed my favorite places: Daily Dozen Doughnuts, Golden Age Collectibles, The Creamery, First & Pike News, and Cinnamon Works (try their vegan cinnamon roll). The casual day-in-the-life approach gives a good feel for diverse communities of merchants, performers, customers, and hangers-on who make the Market, "The Casbah of the Pacific." Save a few shout-outs to Market champions like Wing Luke and Victor Steinbrueck and the occasional factoid, Yeager's program is short on history. If you'd prefer some historical context, watch the DVD extra aptly titled Market History first. Among the other extras are Worlds Within Worlds, a profile of a finger puppet vendor who runs a flea circus (A note to the squeamish: Professor Humbug feeds the fleas his own blood) and Karl Krogstad's The Pioneer Kids. It's a short film made sometime during the 80s about a fictional gang of children called "Market Rats" who run around evading cops and angry shopkeepers. The Pioneer Square setting allows glimpses of The Underground Tour, Merchants Café, and some sweet vintage soda cans. Sprezzatura isn't that old, but I imagine as the years go by it will be the perfect time capsule for future Marketgoers to get a sense of what it was like at this point in history. I hope that if I watch it thirty years from now, the Market landscape won't be that different.