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February 23rd, 2011 WW MOVIE STAFF | Screen
 

Not Dark Yet

But PIFF’s Getting There.

Screen_Piff.Feature_3716THE LAST CIRCUS - Image courtesy of PIFF
     
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This is the way the world cinema showcase ends: not with a whimper, but with mutilated clowns and schoolgirls with robotic claws. The Portland International Film Festival doesn’t let its foot off the gas in its last five days: It offers two more entries in the gore-spewing PIFF After Dark series (one good, one undead), and another standout local film (Aaron Katz’s Cold Weather, reviewed here). There’s some draggy baggage, too, but what do you expect after a global journey? We cherish the memories—look for WW’s picks for best and worst of PIFF on wweek.com. 

Carancho

53 [ARGENTINA] Ricardo Darin’s majestically sad face (you might remember it from The Aura or The Secret in Their Eyes) appears to be filled with wet sand instead of bone and muscle; it is a beaten pup of a mug in search of a film worthy of its beauty. Carancho, a noirish night prowl down hospital corridors populated by ambulance-chasing lawyers, bedraggled doctors and the wounded poor, while far from the close-up this face has been waiting for, is a fine fluorescent-lit excuse to gaze upon its contours for two hours. Darin looks like some magical hybrid of Sam Waterston and George Clooney, which is rather convenient, because Carancho basically splits the difference between Law & Order and ER. CHRIS STAMM. BW, 6 pm Wednesday, 2:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 23 and 25. C21, 9 pm Thursday, Feb. 24.

Short Cuts V: Made in Portland

80 Portland’s future animation king, Noah Dorsey, returns (in collaboration with Ellen Gines) to the festival circuit with Peeved, an adorable diptych of Seinfeldian complaint humor that further confirms a belief I expressed in these pages two years ago: This Dorsey dude has the stuff. Now someone give him money so that he can make his masterpiece. I was also quite impressed by Kurtis Hough’s Stumble Then Rise on Some Awkward Morning, a hypnotic downward spiral through a world of floral forms soundtracked by the incomparable A Silver Mount Zion. Bring good drugs and a clean hanky. CHRIS STAMM. WH, 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 23.

Hermano

85 [VENEZUELA] No way I should like this: It’s a rough-and-tumble movie about two brothers trying to escape the barrio via their mad soccer skills, complete with fast-paced, triumphal, last-minute scoring sequences. Nonetheless, the film—a debut feature by director Marcel Rasquin—shares much more with the heartbreaking City of God than with Rudy or The Bad News Bears: The young actors’ style is naturalistic and intimate, and tragedy is not so much contrived plot device as an organic extension of circumstance, family, character and place. So if something is finally won, know that it won’t come cheaply, or feel cheap. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 7:15 pm Wednesday, 9 pm Thursday, Feb. 23-24. WH, 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 26.

A War in Hollywood

60 [SPAIN] If Hollywood excels at anything, it is retrospective triumphalism; one does not, however, expect the Spanish to step in and help them. This documentary exists largely as an ode to the American writers, actors and directors who saddled up to fight Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War; the film, indeed, might have you believe that Hollywood contained the only American volunteers. In any case, some of these expat freedom fighters were later tarred as communists and blacklisted, and their vindication and lionization becomes the film’s belated goal. It succeeds, of course, but only in the bland fashion of the Public Broadcasting Service. It’s hard not to care about the subject matter, but Homage to Catalonia this ain’t. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 8:30 pm Wednesday, 3:45 pm Friday, Feb. 23 and 25.

When We Leave

51 [GERMANY] A stark condemnation of modern gender equality clashing with oppressive traditions in immigrant families, When We Leave has lofty ambitions and very important statements to make. Following a beautiful Turkish-German girl who flees to her family to escape her abusive relationship, director Feo Aladag’s film is a tearjerker that recalls a multi-ethnic Stella Dallas, with the protagonist constantly persecuted by a society that sees her independence as whorish and a family whose shame at having spawned a single mother results in violent rejection. The result is a somber, reflective indictment of inequality marred by an overreliance on melodrama. AP KRYZA. WH, 8:30 pm Wednesday, 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 23 and 26.

Brother and Sister

70 [ARGENTINA] Wildly popular in its native land, Brother and Sister is nonetheless a quiet film, with ambitions as modest as its protagonist, the aging Marcos (Antonio Gasalla). Marcos humbly lives out his life first for his mother and then at the mercy of his disappointed, manipulative sister Susanna (Graciela Borges, onetime love of Paul McCartney), whose fits of hysterical narcissism drive the film through its repetitious set pieces. That the film still largely succeeds is a testament to the grace of the actors; one suffers with Gasalla as easily as one sinks into a nice, old chair, and Borges plays the soured beauty Susanna with a light hauteur that lets you know that something went truly lost with time. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 8:45 pm Wednesday, 6:15 pm Thursday, 7:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 23-24 and 26.

Eastern Plays

67 [BULGARIA] Georgi is a teenage skinhead asshole. His distant brother Isto is a somewhat older asshole, non-skinhead edition: He’s a woodcarver, not so into racism, but he’s fighting a methadone addiction, self-hatred and an ex-girlfriend who won’t leave. The brothers meet cute at a hate crime: Georgi uses a baseball bat on a Turkish family, while Isto gets a bloody nose breaking up the attack. What follows is a cross between Before Sunrise and Bulgarian History X, anchored by an authentically troubled performance as Isto by an artist named Christo Christov, who fatally OD’d not long after filming wrapped. It’s better to know that fact going in: The movie becomes a poignant tribute to Christov and his thwarted desire to be a better man. AARON MESH. CM, 9 pm Wednesday, Feb. 23.

The Double Hour

61 [ITALY] A double hour is when the minute and hour hands line up—a cheap coincidence, really. The “doubling” that occurs in this film is equally cheap. Though it’s easy to want to read the psychologies of Hitchcock or Buñuel into the film’s M. Night Shyamalan cocktease of a structure, the film’s axis-twist is less revelation than betrayal of what came before, with zero payoff. And it’s too bad, really, because the first part of the movie is one of those lovely, post-Kieslowski, European mournful-woman things—a young couple’s incipient love cut off by a brutal robbery-murder, with hints that the woman who survived (Kseniya Rappaport, in a beautifully complex performance) was involved in the crime. What that movie might have been, I would rather have known. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 9:15 pm Wednesday, Feb. 23.

The Colors of the Mountain

76 [COLOMBIA] When people praise the acting of children, they usually mean the children display an adult subtlety and fluidity of emotion on a tiny face. But this film’s kids? Something else. There is a refreshing awkwardness and suddenness to the kids in this movie, as if they were trying on expressions that are not yet theirs. In their poor town at the foot of mountains filled with guerrillas—trapped between sides of a violent civil war, with the film’s dominant metaphor a soccer ball stuck in a minefield rather than over a neighbor’s fence—the emotions they’re stuck with should, indeed, probably not be theirs, even as the film remains very much so. Touching and accurate to childhood, without landing a heavy hand. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 6:45 pm Thursday, 9 pm Friday, Feb. 24-25. 

Even the Rain

63 [SPAIN] Icíar Bollaín’s barbed making-of-a-movie movie opens with a giant wooden cross towed by helicopter into the Bolivian mountains—a cadge from La Dolce Vita and its airborne Christ fleeing Rome, but this time signifying the return of rapacious Europeans. The imperialists are back in town! A parable of colonizers re-enacting colonization (Gael García Bernal is shooting a Christopher Columbus picture), only to enable further exploitation of every natural resource, including the one in the title, the Howard Zinn-dedicated drama scores geopolitical points before devolving into a sub-Haggis thing where people with poor motives unaccountably do heroic things in a pinch. “You don’t understand, white face!” shouts an actor/water-rights demonstrator (Juan Carlos Aduviri), and yeah, that about sums it up. AARON MESH. WH, 9:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 24. BW, 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 26.

The Man Next Door

81 [ARGENTINA] A film about how appearances are deceiving, The Man Next Door is itself interested in audience deception. Following the story of a stuck-up yuppie furniture designer in conflict with a quirky neighbor who insists on installing an invasive window in the adjoining house, directors Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat set the sleek and stylish film up to be a look into paranoia and voyeurism à la Rear Window. Instead, the film becomes an often hysterical look at selfishness and an argument that good fences actually make shitty neighbors. AP KRYZA. WH, 6 pm Friday, 5:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25-26.

The Last Circus

71 [SPAIN] Like the best big-top sideshows, Alex de la Iglesia’s The Last Circus is utterly shameless and untoward, intent only on delivering cheap thrills and naughty glimpses of gross behavior. It begins with a machete-wielding clown mowing down Fascist troops and ends with two mutilated clowns maniacally laughing until they cry. What happens in between borrows heavily from the Browning-Chaney canon of emotional cruelty, and while Iglesia is not quite capable of tapping into the eerie melancholy of something like The Unknown, he is rather adept at building set pieces that celebrate abjection and bodily harm, and he’s willing to go the distance to make you squirm. CHRIS STAMM. WH, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 25. BW, 5:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 26.

Of Love and Other Demons

38 [COSTA RICA] And so the horny Spanish priest who looked like Rudy Fernandez by way of a romance-novel illustration and the sexy Costa Rican ginger teen with rabies spent their nights in dark confinement at the oppressive convent, talking of dreams and butterflies. Gabriel García Márquez’s writing has never translated cinematically—without the author’s gifted prose, his stories of longing and isolation simply meander as visual expressions. With Of Love and Other Demons, Hilda Hidalgo has created some interesting ocular poetry, but its story and pace leaves the audience with a worse case of blue balls than its troubled protagonist. AP KRYZA. C21, 9 pm Friday, 2:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25-26.

MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD
Credits: Image courtesy of PIFF.

Mutant Girls Squad

76 [JAPAN] “My belly sword’s got a hard-on,” says a man with an erect belly sword in this sick-fuck gorefest helmed by Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura and Tak Sakaguchi. If you’re familiar with the surreal bloodletting perpetrated by Iguchi and Nishimura in Tokyo Gore Police, Machine Girl and Robogeisha, you know what you’re in for: exploding noggins, ass chainsaws, suppurating man-boob efflorescences, and various other ludicrous body modifications indebted to Mortal Kombat and Garbage Pail Kids. If you’re not already hip to this twisted universe, well, how do you feel about a man showing his bloody vaginal growth to his daughter? You like? See this. You don’t? What’s wrong with you? CHRIS STAMM. C21, 11:30 pm Friday, Feb. 25.

The Revenant

37 [UNITED STATES] The Revenant mostly wastes an interesting premise—dead soldier reanimates as a ravenous yet scrupulous zombie-vampire with an appetite for criminals—on crushingly unfunny and profoundly grating buddy humor, and for approximately 80 minutes it is one of the worst films I have seen in this young year. Pick a shrill sitcom at random and decorate its set with crimson vomit and you’ll get the gist. The final act isn’t quite worth the slog through thug caricatures and obnoxious male bonding, but the balls-out body horror and gross-out comedy of those last 20 minutes bode well for writer-director D. Kerry Prior’s future. CHRIS STAMM. C21, 11:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 26.


Portland International Film Festival Ticket Outlet:

THE MAN NEXT DOOR
Credits: Image courtesy of PIFF

Portland Art Museum Mark Building, 1119 SW Park Ave., 276-4310, nwfilm.org.

General admission $10, PAM members, students and seniors $9, children 12 and under $7, Silver Screen Club memberships from $300.

BW—Regal Broadway Cinemas, 1000 SW Broadway

C21—Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave.

CM—CineMagic, 2021 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

HW—Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd.

WH—Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave.

Showtimes listed are for Feb. 23-27 only.


Last Chance!

The following films were not screened by WW press deadlines, or were reviewed in previous coverage.

Honey

78 [TURKEY] Few movies this year will have so compelling an opening scene: A man throws a rope into a towering tree and climbs, only to have his supporting branch break, leaving him horizontally suspended, as they say, between life and death. He is an ultra-free-range beekeeper, and the father of the tiny protagonist Yusef (Bora Altaş), who functions as a kind of human Lassie, running to get help. The third film in Semih Kaplanoglu’s backward-running trilogy on Yusef’s life, Honey is distinguished by majestic, verdant mountainscapes, and by holding rigorously to the perspective of child, from which little happens but so much is cause for anxiety. AARON MESH. BW, 6:15 Wednesday, Feb. 23. Encore screening: WH, 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 27.

The Man Who Will Come

[ITALY] A drama about Nazi atrocities in a small town. CM, 6:15 pm Wednesday, Feb. 23.

A Somewhat Gentle Man

60 [NORWAY] Another entry in the Scandinavian cinema of filthy snow and facial expressions rationed like sugar in wartime, Hans Petter Moland’s aging-hoodlum comedy allows some wan light to seep in. Stellan Skarsgård (have you noticed he’s become a dead ringer for Werner Herzog? You will have time to consider this) is a jailed murderer. When he’s paroled after 12 years, everybody he knows expected him to get out at some other time—Thursday, maybe?—indicating, along with the title, certain social expectations of him. There’s some marvelously unsentimentalized coitus between odd-looking folks, and it’s a wonder to see Skarsgård’s deadpan mug melt into a helplessly affectionate grin; other than that, the movie is dry ice. AARON MESH. BW, 6:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 23.

Circo

79 [MEXICO] This keen yet unobtrusive doc by Aaron Schock follows ringmaster Tino Ponce and family as they make the rounds of rural Mexico with their humble one-ring circus, the major draw of which seems to be candied apples and the chance that something horrible might happen to the man on the motorcycle in the steel cage. But the odd world of itinerant circus performers is almost incidental to Schock’s pursuit of a more universal issue: What do you owe a family you had no choice but be born into? Schock observes the conflicts and compromises that devolve from this cutting question with a refreshing empathy—there’s no freakshow at this circus. CHRIS STAMM. 3:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 24.

Revolución

[MEXICO] An omnibus of shorts celebrates Mexican independence. WH, 3:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 24. BW, 3:30 pm Friday and 12 noon Saturday, Feb. 25-26.

Martha

[MEXICO] A 75-year-old office worker is laid off, considers suicide. BW, 4 pm and 9:15 pm Thursday, and 5:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 24 & 26.

Black Bread

[SPAIN] A boy searches for a murderous monster. BW, 6 pm and 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 24. WH, 3:15 pm Friday, Feb. 25.

Sawako Decides 

55 [JAPAN] A nation’s domestic cinema continues to grapple with the themes of Ozu—social duty, filial loyalty, heavy drinking—though I don’t remember Tokyo Story containing the line, “This watermelon grew from your poo!” The titular heroine (Hikari Mitsushima) reluctantly travels home to helm her dying dad’s freshwater clam-packing facility; eventually she writes it a stirringly odd commercial jingle (“From the bottom of our river, into your hearts”). Mitsushima and her director, young tyro of quirk Yûya Ishii, travel a familiar arc from catatonic deadpan to jubilant mediocrity: This is the Japanese fisherfolk Little Miss Sunshine, basically. AARON MESH. CM, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 24.

Chicogrande

[MEXICO] Pancho Villa rides again! WH, 6:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 24. BW, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 25.

The Woods

[OREGON] Roseburg filmmaker Matthew Lessner starts a forest utopia. C21, 6:30 pm Thursday and 5:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 24 & 26.

Lope

[SPAIN] A biopic of playwright Lope de Vega. BW, 8:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 24. C21, 12 noon Saturday, Feb. 26.

The Robber

85 [AUSTRIA] Andreas Lust may be the most fit man in PIFF history. Two years ago, he spent a good portion of Revanche running, literally, from guilt. With The Robber, he jogs his well-formed ass all over Austria as a real-life marathoner with an addiction to bank heists. The film plays out as an examination of single-minded obsession, with Lust’s fleet-footed criminal driven by adrenaline, which turns him into a robotic monster continually pursuing stimulation. But The Robber is less an action film than a drama with great foot chases, a controlled thriller that goes the distance. AP KRYZA. CM, 8:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 24.

My Life With Carlos

[CHILE] An autobiographical doc about the Disappeared. BW, 6 pm Friday and 2:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25-26.

Cold Weather

[PORTLAND] See review on page 48. C21, 6:30 pm Friday and 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 25-26.

Nostalgia for the Light

[CHILE] A doc about astronomy, and the Disappeared. BW, 6:45 pm Friday, Feb. 25. WH, 12:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 26.

Encore Screenings:

Boy

67 [NEW ZEALAND] Taika Waititi, in the first part of Boy, applies the same broad Napoleon Dynamite ain’t-we-retro-trashy pop-culture brush as in his first feature, Eagle vs. Shark, but this time around the batshit antics are balanced with a slow-dawning reality principle that eventually impinges on the characters’ fantasy-addled lives. Title 11-year-old character Boy and shanty-town Maori cohorts (other characters are named Rocky, Falcon Crest and Michael Jackson) improvise amid the rubble until Boy’s oafish dad resurfaces from prison and pretty much screws everything up so consistently that even his young children are forced to notice; what had been an exercise in style and suspended disbelief becomes something instead much closer to home, if perhaps too late to fully register. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 10:30 am Sunday, Feb. 27.

Steam of Life

89 [FINLAND] If you see only one movie about naked Finnish men lounging in saunas this year, make it a porno. But if you see two movies about naked Finnish men lounging in saunas this year, make the second Steam of Life, a deeply moving study of the raw emotions men feel while sweating their balls off. In carefully framed vignettes recalling Ulrich Seidl’s nonfiction films, various dripping dudes gather round hot rocks to discuss lost loves, pet bears, dead children and even, once in a while, joy. Consider this the movie His & Hers should have been: a documentary that finds messy universal truth in a strictly delimited sample group. This is also the first time since junior high that a bunch of really sweaty naked guys has made me cry. CHRIS STAMM. WH, 12:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 27.

 
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