We're in the thick of the 40th iteration of the Portland International Film Festival. There are sad Europeans just trying to find a companion in a lonely world (Aloys). In Tehran, we learn how tough it is to be a teenage girl—in prison (Starless Dreams). Legendary Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda's last film explores avant-garde expression in a repressive Soviet state (Afterimage).
Yet still, Portland filmmakers shine through. DIY hero Matt McCormick's new documentary, Buzz One Four, is both a poignant look into family history and an exploration of how the Eastern seaboard was almost wiped out in a nuclear catastrophe. Trailblazing, Portland-raised animator Bill Plympton's new animated feature, Revengeance, is a mind-fucking descent into '70s Los Angeles scuzz. At the Made in Oregon collection of shorts, watch 10 films by locals, including a surreal exploration of Vietnamese-American identity by Vu Pham (The Cutting Shadow), a dark descent into sexuality from Mila Zuo (Carnal Orient) and a love story about Mexican food from Slater Dixon (Incendio).
We watched every film screening this week that we could. Like last week, we're going by our new four-star rating system. Here's another run-through in case you missed it:
* : This movie sucks, don't watch it.
** : This movie is entertaining but flawed.
*** : This movie is good. We recommend you watch it.
**** : This movie is excellent, one of the best of the year.
This week we put some handy genre tags on the front of our reviews to make it a little easier for you to find what you're looking for. Go forth and watch. WALKER MACMURDO.
Kati Kati (Kenya/Germany)
[SUPERNATURAL THRILLER] Kati Kati is like a more daring episode of Black Mirror set at a safari lodge without any technology. Kenyan director Mbithi Masya tells the story of a 28-year-old woman named Kaleche (Nyokabi Gethaiga) who has mysteriously died and reawakened in a remote, Purgatory-like village. Kaleche is as ignorant as the audience is, which Masya uses to thematic advantage by displaying a titillating minefield of emotional surprises and drawbacks for his characters. The ending is bleak, but then again, so was the beginning. The film's overall mythology is unique, with enough blind spots that focusing on chewing a piece of popcorn feels disruptive. JACK RUSHALL. Fox Tower: 2:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 19. Valley: 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The Son of Joseph (France/Belgium)
[COMEDY] With equal measures of solemnity and absurdity, this film recasts Christ as misanthropic teenager Vincent, who plots to murder oily literature connoisseur Oscar, the father who abandoned him. Laurelhurst: 3:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.
The Stopover (France/Greece)
[WAR DRAMA] The latest from French sister-auteur duo Delphine and Muriel Coulin (17 Girls) is flawlessly sensitive, frankly tragicomic and one of the most relevant movies of 2016. Set at an opulent Cyprian hotel-resort where a unit of French soldiers has been sent for three days of post-combat "decompression" before flying home, its heroines are servicewomen Aurore and Marine. A visually colorful but verbally minimal film, The Stopover's tensions live in its suffocated symbolism: When Aurore is cornered into competing in a dance marathon, the navel orange held between her and her partner's heads is crushed by the pressure. Rendered as often in reds and purples as in sunny, clean whites and blues, The Stopover is less about war than about real people and real trauma. The experiences of its characters aren't exploited for melodrama, nor are they placed in neat boxes; they simply are, and the result is stunning. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. Fox Tower: 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21; 3:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Buzz One Four (United States)
[DOCUMENTARY] The only feature at PIFF from a Portland-based filmmaker, Matt McCormick's new hourlong documentary is as much personal history as it is exploration of near-nuclear apocalypse. Buzz One Four tells the story of the 1964 Savage Mountain crash, in which a B-52 carrying two nuclear weapons crashed just outside of Barton, Md., after an equipment failure. Here's the plot twist: McCormick's grandfather flew the plane. Using contemporary interviews and footage taken from official Air Force training videos and his grandfather's home movies, McCormick tells a bucolic story of mid-20th-century American life in the semi-deadpan tone that put the DIY darling on the map. WALKER MACMURDO. Laurelhurst: 5:45 pm Wednesday, Feb 15. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: Noon Saturday, Feb. 18.
[THRILLER] Set entirely in the back of a police van in 2013 Cairo, a paramilitary paddy wagon fills with argumentative protesters, journalists and bystanders, offering a unique sensation of war's cruelty. Valley: 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.
Dead Slow Ahead (Spain/France)
[HORROR] Set aboard a freighter in the middle of the ocean, this almost-silent, almost-science fiction film is a lesson in cinematic sensory deprivation. Empirical Theater at OMSI: 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Fire at Sea (Italy/France)
[DOCUMENTARY] On the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, a major entry point for African migrants, director Gianfranco Rosi offers an up-close look at their attempts to make their way to Europe by sea. Fox Tower: 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Half Ticket (India)
[COMEDY] A pair of young coal-gathering, nest-snatching slumdog brothers go to great lengths to somehow afford an impossibly expensive slice from the newly opened pizzeria. Laurelhurst: 12:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.
Hedi (France/Germany/Tunisia/United Arab Emirates/Qatar)
[DRAMA] On the eve of his wedding to a beautiful woman, Hedi is miserable. His job takes him out of town, where he strikes up a passionate affair. Laurelhurst: 3:45 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
Heidi (Germany/Switzerland/South Africa)
[FAMILY] Parceled off to the remote mountain cabin of her crotchety grandpa, our eponymous 8-year-old orphan needs only breathe in the rarefied air of the Swiss Alps to embrace a winsome wildness. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 12:45 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
The Invisible Guest (Spain)
[THRILLER] Successful CEO Adrian Doria stands to lose it all after he's discovered inside a locked hotel room with the body of his dead mistress lying on the floor. Laurelhurst: 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 16.
Land of Mine (Denmark/Germany)
[WAR DRAMA] It's 1945 and Denmark has turned its Nazi occupiers, many of them teenagers, into POW crews forced to clear thousands of landmines from the Danish coastline. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 5:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.
Life After Life (China)
[FANTASY] A spectral fable set within the rapidly industrializing Chinese countryside, Life After Life opens on a father and son gathering kindling for their fire. The boy, already at odds with the older generation's dreary traditionalism, runs off chasing a wild hare. He returns possessed by the spirit of his late mother, beseeching her husband to transplant the tree that once sheltered their former home. As the reunited couple pushes forward through the noxious landscape, encountering ancestors reincarnated as animals and lingering relatives adrift in an inexpressive haze, there's an unmistakable sense of traversing borderlands of the dead. The often breathtaking imagery of first-time writer-director Zhang Hanyi distills the spark of magic from a rigorous austerity. JAY HORTON. Valley: 1:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19. Laurelhurst: 6:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Louise by the Shore (France)
[ANIMATED] Legendary French animator Jean-François Laguionie illustrates the seaside adventures of an elderly woman stranded in an otherwise deserted Breton resort town after missing the last bus of summertime. Laurelhurst: 3:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.
Nakom (Ghana/United States)
[DRAMA] Iddrisu Awinzor (Jacob Ayanaba) is an auspicious medical student studying at the Ghanaian capital of Accra. After his father dies, Iddrisu must return to his small village of Nakom. There, he can use his education and work ethic to settle his father's financial debts, plant crops for the upcoming harvest, and persuade his hesitant family to abandon old traditions and adapt to changing times. Ultimately, Iddrisu must decide if he's willing to sacrifice his promising future for the good of his village. Cast largely with non-actors, Jacob Ayanaba carries this film masterfully, with Ghana's natural beauty standing out in every scene. CURTIS COOK. Valley: 7 pm Monday, Feb. 20. Laurelhurst: 9 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21.
The Olive Tree (Spain/Germany)
[ROAD MOVIE] How often do you come across a movie about a chicken farmer attempting to extract a tree from an office building in Dusseldorf? That's the plot of this border-crossing odyssey in which Alma (Anna Castillo) travels from Spain to Germany to recover an olive tree that once belonged to her grandfather (Manuel Cucala). At times, Alma's journey gets goofy, yet at its beautifully sentimental core, The Olive Tree is a tender tale about Alma revitalizing her fractured family. Director Icíar Bollaín doesn't skimp on absurdities—she slips in a witty narrative detour about the theft of a Statue of Liberty replica. Don't you just love it when that happens? BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 20; 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
[DRAMA] Paradise sets out to do the impossible by setting a love story inside a concentration camp. Andrei Konchalovsky's film revolves around Olga (Julia Vysotskaya), a Russian aristocrat-turned-member of the French resistance who is arrested for hiding Jewish children. Helmut (Christian Clauss), her lover before the war, is now a powerful Nazi. We see their backstory, the rekindling of their romance at the camp where Helmut conscripts Julia as his personal servant, as well as sprinklings of meta docu-style interviews, out-of-place and reminiscent of The Office. Truthfully, the film owns its fair share of twists and turns, but Olga's unbridled morality could afford to be more fleshed out. An eager transcendance from rags to riches makes sense. The other way around owes its audience a proper explanation. JACK RUSHALL. Cinema 21: 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15. Laurelhurst: 3:15 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
Raising Bertie (United States)
[DOCUMENTARY] Filmed over the course of six years, director Margaret Byrne's feature debut documents the lives of three young black men fighting an uphill battle against generational rural poverty, educational inequality and lack of opportunity. Despite focusing on familiar themes associated with stereotypical depictions of black masculinity, Raising Bertie strays from Hollywood's dismissive racial tropes. Instead, the documentary takes on a humanizing, realistic tone. There are no white saviors or moralizing tales with hopeful conclusions. There's just three young men doing the best they can with what little they've got. CURTIS COOK. Laurelhurst: 8:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 5:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Revengeance (United States)
[ANIMATED] Portland native Bill Plympton joined forces with L.A. indie animator Jim Lujan for his eighth feature, Revengeance—a sleaze-drenched farce detailing scores of deviants on the trail of two-fisted nymphet Lana to garner the outsized reward offered by ex-wrestler Senator Deathface. Populating a decidedly '70s-styled SoCal freakscape with this swirling mélange of bikers, Bible-thumpers, and bounty hunters—including Lujan mainstay Rod Rosse the One-Man Posse—the winking nods to blaxploitation tropes and drug-culture excesses feel pointedly reminiscent of underground cartoon icon Ralph Bakshi, but such frenetically disjointed plot lines and fever-dream scenarios actually prove ideal targets for Plympton's trademark propulsive momentum and high-minded stroll between whimsy and lunacy. JAY HORTON. Laurelhurst: 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 2:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.
Starless Dreams (Iran)
[DOCUMENTARY] Starless Dreams is a compassionate documentary that offers an intimate look at the lives of teenage girls in a juvenile detention center in Tehran. Their legal guilt is never doubted, but the film takes an empathetic approach in exploring why they committed their crimes. Many of the girls were physically and sexually abused at home. In efforts to free themselves from their abusers, they turned to theft, drugs and even murder. Director Mehrdad Oskouei carefully crafts a sense of familiarity between the audience and the subjects. Starless Dreams finds a sordid sense of comfort and community within the prison, and an intense anxiety about what will happen upon the girls' release. CURTIS COOK. Valley: 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 19. Laurelhurst: 9 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
[DRAMA] Tonio follows a couple as they process the unexpected death of their 21-year-old son. Formed from a patchwork of flashbacks, the film functions as an illustration of grief, going over every detail of the son lost, muted in color and imbued with tenderness. The stutter and incoherence of grief is also present. At times, the narrative gets too lost in its own emotions. It struggles, too, with an obvious pitfall: It's difficult to fully feel the loss of a character who isn't alive long enough to truly be developed. Still, due greatly to the stunningly personal lead performances of Rifka Lodeizen and Pierre Bokma, Tonio earns a strong place among this year's foreign-language Oscar submissions. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. Valley: 6 pm Friday, Feb. 17. Laurelhurst: 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.
El Acompañante (Cuba/Panama/France/Colombia)
[SPORTS DRAMA] Los Cocos, a military-run HIV clinic operating outside Havana in the mid-'80s, functioned on several misconceptions about AIDS. Translating to "The Companion," this film's title refers to the designation given at Los Cocos to the paired individuals with whom patients were allowed to leave the premises—but whose true purpose was to inform authorities of patients' habits. Director Pavel Giroud satisfies El Acompañante's world-building potential, with patients' matching blue number-printed uniforms and the separation of gay patients from straight ones eliciting wonderment at how recent this history is. But on the whole, as it traces scrappy, jokester patient Daniel Guerrero (Armando Miguel) and his assigned companionship with ex-champion boxer Horacio (Yotuel Romero), El Acompañante cannot successfully balance its bizarre dual identity as prison drama and Rocky-style sports comeback movie. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. Fox Tower: 7:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19; 8:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21.
All the Cities of the North (Serbia/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Montenegro)
[DRAMA] Two men find themselves living together in an abandoned hotel on the Albanian border of Montenegro. Laurelhurst: 8:45 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
After the Storm (Japan)
[DRAMA] Initially, After the Storm has an interesting case of arrested development on its hands. Shinoda Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is a once-bestselling novelist slumming it as a detective, trying not to gamble away the alimony he owes. Too soon, though, the film gives up on his seedy universe and coops him up in an apartment with his ex-wife, mother and son. Hirokazu Koreeda's script does offer some pearls of wisdom about families teasing and spurning each other. Ultimately, it hangs too much solely on the deadbeat Ryota. Like so many sad-bastard movies, it assumes he has a level of depth we never see. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Valley: 4:15 pm Monday, Feb. 20. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
[BIOPIC] The 40th and final film by Andrzej Wajda, which premiered one month before the legendary director's death last year at the age of 90, Afterimage showcases influential Polish avant-garde painter Władysław Strzemiński (Boguslaw Linda) during his slow surrender to the degradations of life behind the Iron Curtain in the years following World War II. A grim portrait recounting the deadening effects of the Soviet regime on creative freedoms—a struggle Solidarity member Wajda would face himself—the vicarious toll of successive small embarrassments and minor defeats forced on the artist proves difficult to bear. However thick the totalitarian gray suffusing Wajda's last work, the very existence of his storied career offers a silver lining all its own. JAY HORTON. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15. Laurelhurst: 6:15 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
Alive & Kicking (United States/Sweden)
[DOCUMENTARY] Thanks to the internet and viral YouTube sensations, the world has been inundated with absurd dance crazes that come and go in the blink of an eye. While most fade away, others remain timeless. Alive & Kicking explores the rise, fall, '90s revival and modern world of swing dancing. Living dance legends like Frankie Manning share the screen with enthusiastic newcomers. This feel-good documentary tips its hat to swing dancing's heyday and showcases modern dancers around the world who are still deeply passionate about everything from the Lindy hop to the Carolina shag. CURTIS COOK. Laurelhurst: 6:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 3:30 pm Monday Feb. 20.
Apprentice (Singapore/Germany/France/Hong Kong)
[DRAMA] Aiman (Firdaus Rahman) is a Malay correctional officer. He seems genuinely interested in rehabilitating inmates, but his fascination with the prison system stems from a dark family secret. After being transferred to the Singapore territory's highest-security prison, Aiman developes a friendship with one of the region's most renowned executioners, an elderly hangman named Rahim (Wan Hanafi Su). As their relationship intensifies, we learn that their lives have long been intertwined by death. Apprentice explores the divisive issue of capital punishment while questioning whether the death penalty could ever be seen as justified or compassionate. CURTIS COOK. Fox Tower: 5 pm Saturday, Feb. 18; 8:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
Barakah Meets Barakah (Saudi Arabia)
[ROMCOM] Mahmoud Sabbagh's groundbreaking debut applies the classic romcom blueprint to dissect the class distinctions, gender politics and cultural evolution (or lack thereof) guiding Saudi Arabian millennials. There's an Old Hollywood universality to the story of awkward civil servant Barakah (Hisham Fageeh) falling for Instagram icon Bibi (Fatima al-Banawi), even if our 20-something swain has never before so much as held a girl's hand. However unlikely the meet-cute inside a kingdom strictly prohibiting all unchaperoned singles' encounters, the chasm separating antiquated social mores from 21st-century social media provides fertile ground for satire. Sabbagh's witty, winning comedy of manners hurdles inexpert dialogue and unpracticed performers for a DayGlo jaunt limning the inequities of theocratic rule, yet still thrilling to the vagaries of young love. JAY HORTON. Valley: 8:30 pm Friday, Feb. 17. Fox Tower: 3:30 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
The Commune (Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands)
[DRAMA] Nine elated new housemates prance through the streets of mid-1970s Copenhagen. They jump naked into a harbor, all scored by the Who's "Join Together." That's how The Commune exuberantly sets up its bohemian living experiment. The players are all vivid, and a few great scenes of 50-year-olds arguing about beer money like it's a parliamentary matter ensue. But the Danish writing-directing duo of Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm are at their best delivering zoomed-in, tragic portraits of miscommunication (The Hunt, A War). By contrast, The Commune is broad and rudderless after its first act. The potential for a vignette-driven hangout flick or a sharp social critique are there, but the movie won't commit to either. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 5:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15. Fox Tower: 5:45 pm Friday, Feb. 17.
[HORROR] Hitchcock's shadow looms over this French-language feature in which a young Belgian man takes a job as assistant to an eccentric photographer. The ingredients for a compelling film—a camera that takes daguerreotypes at life size, a greenhouse poisoned by liquid mercury, an old house haunted by a hanged bride—are ample. Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) takes a patient approach, feasting on imagery of the photographer's young daughter shackled to a steampunk apparatus that holds her in place as the camera slowly drains her life away. Unfortunately, this film is interminably long, draining the viewer's life for 131 thought-provoking, frustrating minutes of ambiguous ghost story, doomed romance, unlikable characters and missed opportunities. NATHAN CARSON. Bagdad: 10:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. Valley: 5:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
The Distinguished Citizen (Argentina/Spain)
[COMEDY] A pretentious Nobel Prize winner returns to his hometown and pisses off the locals. Fox Tower: 5:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 16.
The Dreamed Path (Germany)
[DRAMA] Set over the course of 30 years in Greece and Germany, two relationships fall apart through mundane life details like doctor's visits. Laurelhurst: 6 pm Friday, Feb. 17.
The Eyes of My Mother (United States)
[HORROR] A severed cow head sits on a kitchen table. Isolated farm girl Francesca and her mother dissect one of its eyes as an anatomy lesson. Nicholas Pense's artful, compact debut is all down the hill of European extremism from there. Francesca's mother is murdered by a stranger—whom Francesca blinds, cordectomizes and chains up in a barn, feeding him and calling him her only friend. As Francesca grows to adulthood, each atrocity ups the ante, all shot in strikingly beautifully black-and-white. The Eyes of My Mother is all imagery and torture porn, a feast for the senses for those who can stomach a blinding or two. WALKER MACMURDO. Bagdad: 10:30 pm Friday, Feb. 17.
Forever Pure (Israel/United Kingdom/Russia/Norway)
[SPORTS DOC] Embattled Israeli soccer stars endure a racially charged backlash when the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team enrages a cluster of fans by hiring two Muslim players. Fox Tower: 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15.
[DRAMA] A shade darker than the usual coming-of-age piece, this film is based on the Hungarian opera Bluebeard's Castle, in which Bluebeard's new wife comes home for the first time to brave room after progressively terrifying room. Director Gastón Solnicki reimagines this journey through the eyes of young women venturing toward maturity and womanhood in Buenos Aires. The characters within Kékszakállú are primarily non-actors, capturing authentic giggles and tears during rites of passage and hints of the mundane real world ahead. Despite the improvisational pacing, Solnicki takes in their apartment buildings and poolside haunts with a photographic eye, framing the adolescents' thousand-yard stares with stunning symmetry. LAUREN TERRY. Laurelhurst: 3 pm Sunday, Feb. 19. Fox Tower: 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
Kills on Wheels (Hungary)
[CRIME DRAMEDY] On paper, Kills on Wheels sounds like it came from the era between Pulp Fiction and Snatch when video stores were stocked with low-rent Tarantino knockoffs based on quirky criminals and high-concept pulp. This is, after all, the story of two comics-obsessed, disabled 17-year-olds who befriend a wheelchair-bound hit man working for a Serbian thug with a thing for dogs. There are some fun bits here, but the tonal shifts—from dark comedy to crime caper to hyper-earnest coming-of-age tale to generic family drama—jackknifes far too often for most of it to work. Still, it'd fit in just great sandwiched between Suicide Kings and Love and a .45 at the Budapest Walmart. AP KRYZA. Fox Tower: 2:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. Laurelhurst: 6:45 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
The King's Choice (Norway)
[COSTUME DRAMA] Norway's ceremonial, democratically elected King Haakon VII stands up to Adolf Hitler's invading army. Valley: 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.
The Land of the Enlightened (Belgium/Ireland/Netherlands)
[DOCUFICTION] This film juxtaposes the real-life withdrawal of U.S. military troops from Afghanistan with a fantastical glimpse into the lives of Afghan children. Fox Tower: Noon Saturday, Feb. 18.
[DRAMA] This neorealist drama peers deep within the roiling entanglements of a south Tehran family ravaged by drug addiction in the weeks before their youngest daughter's wedding to a wealthy Afghan. Cinema 21: 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 16.
[CRIME DRAMA] The latest release from neorealist auteur Brillante Mendoza illuminates the corrosive effects of systemic poverty and widespread corruption on Filipino families struggling to survive. Despite dabbling in meth sales as a sideline, aging shopkeepers Rosa (Cannes 2016 Best Actress Jaclyn Jose) and Nestor (Julio Diaz) could barely keep doors open. A police raid pushes their children to desperate acts to afford funds sufficient to bribe authorities for the couple's release. Filmed on location around Manila shantytowns during typhoon season, the minimal narrative resists tabloid melodrama and thereby risks emotional distance, but the handheld vérité technique imparts a relentless, bristling urgency throughout. JAY HORTON. Laurelhurst: 12:15 pm Monday, Feb. 20. Valley: 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
One Week and a Day (Israel)
[DRAMA] Mastering the commercial, drive-thru indie feel, One Week and a Day is the first full-length feature by American-born Israeli director Asaph Polonsky. It follows Eyal (Shai Avivi, labeled the "Larry David of Israel") and his wife, Vicky (Evgenia Dodina), at the end of their son's shiva, the week of mourning following his death. How do they cope? Eyal enlists a neighborhood stoner (Tomer Kapon) to demonstrate how to roll joints, and Vicky commits to a series of incongruous acts: She steals a pot full of feral kittens and attempts to relocate them, goes jogging, and succumbs to smoking some of Eyal's weed. The problem with One Week and a Day is not that it's a slice of life. Even then, it's too aimless. By the end, it attempts to get deep with a visit to the graveyard. By this point, you may have forgotten who died. JACK RUSHALL. Fox Tower: 5 pm Sunday, Feb. 19. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Panamerican Machinery (Mexico/Poland)
[BLACK COMEDY] Every cheery detail in the first 15 minutes of Joaquín Del Paso's debut foreshadows calamity. When the owner of a small factory suddenly dies, its bumbling accountant reveals to the distraught office and plant staff that the company is bankrupt and they're all out of their jobs. This snapshot of working-class bliss—gleaming construction equipment, meticulously ordered parts—rapidly devolves into drunken chaos as varying factions of employees block the factory gates and party while halfheartedly trying to save their jobs. Del Paso's excellent eye for detail drives home this sardonic, melancholy analogy for Central American politics. WALKER MACMURDO. Laurelhurst: 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21. Fox Tower: 8:30 pm Friday, Feb. 24.
Short Cuts 8: In Pursuit
[SHORTS] These must be the leftover shorts that PIFF had trouble lumping into any other category; the title given to the collection has little discernible meaning, and their range in subject matter is almost as striking as their range in quality. There's the aptly named Indefinite Pitch from American James N. Kienitz Wilkins, 23 long minutes of black-and-white still photos of running water set to one dude's vague, meandering pitch for a movie about a town called Berlin, N.H. There is also, though, Brazilian director Ana Vaz's Há Terra!, or There Is Land!, an unnerving and gorgeous 16 mm cine-poem exploring themes of colonialism and predator and prey, obscuring boundaries between character and setting. ISABEL ZACHARIAS. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 8:45 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Soul on a String (China)
[WESTERN DRAMA] In this panoramic masterpiece, Director Zhang Yang weaves a tale of revenge and destiny across the diverse lands of Tibet, creating a Buddhist Western of epic proportions. Antihero Tabei is a gruff cowboy charged with the delivery of a sacred stone to holy lands hundreds of miles away. Joined by a spunky shepherdess named Chung (Quni Ciren) and a possibly clairvoyant munchkin, his makeshift family must survive the terrain and the murderous men out to avenge the sins of Tabei's father. Striking widescreen shots of ochre deserts and verdant landscapes help blend the lines between magic realism and classic man-on-the-run format, if you have patience for the two-and-a-half-hour viewing to take it in. LAUREN TERRY. Laurelhurst: Noon Saturday, Feb. 18. Valley: 6 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.
The Student (Russia)
[SCHOOL DRAMA] If you combined the DNA of Tracy Flick, Fred Phelps and Vladimir Putin, you might get something close to Yuzhin (Pyotr Skvortsov), the main character of the jet-black satire The Student. The agnostic high-schooler decides to declare swim class against his religion, then pores over Russian Orthodox scripture to pull out anything that might get him out of other classes. As he becomes more fiery and fanatical, he gains followers and enemies, primarily his biology teacher, whose sex-ed and Darwinism lessons draw the most ire. The tale of a sociopath using religious rhetoric selectively to his own ends has some real punch in the current climate. Still, half the film comprises a teenager screaming Bible verses, making it as much an endurance test as an invigorating cautionary tale. AP KRYZA. Valley: 8:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18. Laurelhurst: 12:45 pm Monday, Feb. 20.
[DRAMA] Middle-aged doctor Kostis falls in love with a young woman and gets up to no good. Cinema 21: 5:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15.
[DRAMA] Ultra-close-up of forlorn protagonist staring into distance. Public transport whizzing by into the darkness. Lingering shots of sterile rooms. Folks, we have a film about Northern European ennui on our hands. The story of reclusive private investigator Aloys Adorn, who plays a game of telephone cat and mouse with a mysterious young woman who steals his equipment, turns from surveillance thriller into crippled love story at a glacier's pace. Director Tobias Nölle's pretty camera work can't save this film from being an utter chore. WALKER MACMURDO. Laurelhurst: 6:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 16. Fox Tower: 3:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21.
The Death of Louis XIV (France/Portugal/Spain)
[COSTUME DRAMA] A two-hour, close-up view of the gangrenous death of Europe's longest-reigning king. Laurelhurst: 8:30 pm Friday, Feb. 17.
Eldorado XXI (Portugal/France)
[DOCUMENTARY] Portuguese documentarian Salome Lamas takes a bleak look at the dangers and monotony of life in remote mining town La Rinconada, Peru. Laurelhurst: 5:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 16.
The Human Surge (Argentina/Brazil/Portugal)
[ENSEMBLE DRAMA] If you enjoy sitting slumped in a theater while an ambitious filmmaker attempts to bore you to death, you shouldn't miss this stultifying feature debut from writer-director Eduardo Williams. Set in Buenos Aires, Mozambique and the Philippines, the film presents a series of vignettes involving a stroll through a flooded street, the filming of some amateur porn, and a search for internet access. We're clearly meant to be entranced by this ordinariness, but Williams fatally relies on impersonal wide shots that swiftly demolish any hope of viewers forging an emotional attachment to his characters. The only human surge the movie is likely to cause is a stampede of moviegoers scrambling toward the exits. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Fox Tower: 8:30 pm Friday, Feb. 17; 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 22.
I Am Not Madame Bovary (China)
[SATIRE] Li Xuelian (Bingbing Fan) and her husband get a "fake divorce" as part of a plan to cheat the government. But when her husband remarries another woman, Li begins a decadelong series of lawsuits in an effort to undo the fake divorce, remarry her ex-husband, and file for a real divorce. This ludicrous legal battle sets the stage for a cumbersome satirical take on China's political bureaucracy. With some of the humor lost in translation, the story turns repetitive. Puzzlingly, the movie rarely inhabits the entirety of the screen. Instead, a small, centered square or circle serves as a window to the film, with the rest of the screen in black—a stylistic choice that makes for a difficult viewing experience. CURTIS COOK. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 5:45 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21. Fox Tower: 5:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
The Ornithologist (Portugal/France/Brazil)
[ROAD MOVIE] Based on the spiritual transcendence of St. Anthony, ornithologist Fernando is swept away by a current and ominously encounters strangers who test him existentially and sexually. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 5 pm Sunday, Feb. 19.
[DRAMA] For a story about an Afghan immigrant couple attempting to move from Iran to Europe, these two refugees barely get their feet out the door. Though it's technically a love story, Navid Mahmoudi's gloomy, personal look at the endless pitfalls immigrants face on a daily basis from point A to point B has little room for tenderness. Unfortunately, this is the film's fatal flaw. Though the couple is firm in their decision to make it across the Mediterranean, their determination to remain together shifts. Their love feels weak. Parting is slow, and the characters don't end up anywhere particularly different from where the audience first encounters them. Though there must be some tragic, meaningful symbolism, this film feels pretty uneventful. JACK RUSHALL. Empirical Theater at OMSI: 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 15. Laurelhurst: 6:30 pm Friday, Feb. 17.
Short Cuts 5: Made in Oregon
[SHORTS] In line with the tastes of our odd little corner of the country, these shorts are both ironic and intellectually heavy-handed, experimental to the point of their meanings being needlessly obscured for effect and never revealed. A few, like Leah Brown's 4-minute Ascendant, are Kinfolk-pretty but empty. Others, like the inscrutable, existential hand-drawn 1 minute 18-second Individual from Nate Sonenfeld, want so badly to come off as sincere that they feel instantly insincere. One bright moment in the collection comes with Portland filmmaker Vu Pham's The Cutting Shadow, the sinister, drug-addled story of two Vietnamese half brothers attempting to reconnect with their heritage. In sum: Some of this stuff is truly bad enough to recommend, but mostly it's just plain bad. Go us! ISABEL ZACHARIAS. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium: 2:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 18.