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February 26th, 2003 Nate Berne, Art Chenoweth, Kim Colton, Brian Libby, Becky Ohlsen, Emilie Raguso, Steffen Silvis, David Walker | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

PIFF, Final Reel

The 26th Annual Portland International Film Festival comes to a close.

     
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Bolivia
(Argentina, BW, 4:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 26)

In search of a job and forced to leave his family, homesick illegal immigrant Freddy accepts work at an Argentinian diner for 15 pesos a day. Things are tough all over, though, as repressed, xenophobic taxi drivers with money issues of their own begin to badger, goad and threaten the hapless Bolivian. A grimly downtrodden look at destitute stagnation delivered with dead-on, deadpan realism, Adrián Israel Caetano's too-short, too-tragic cheapo makes excellent use of small sets and urban emptiness. A thoughtful smorgasbord of communal estrangement. (NB)

A House with a View of the Sea
(Venezuela, WH, 6:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 26)

In this bittersweet parable, a gentle widower in the foothills of the Andes struggles to be a good father to his dreamy-eyed son, despite the emasculation he suffers at the hands of an oppressive landowner. It's heavy stuff--a father's remorse at disappointing his son; the son's sudden realization that Papa isn't God; awful sacrifices made for honor. But the superb actors handle the melodrama and avoid most of the schmaltz. And it looks gorgeous; both the landscape and the extraordinary faces of the cast are visual treats. (BO)

Safe Conduct
(France, BW, 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 26)

Amid the bombings and persecution in Nazi-occupied World War II France, its film industry struggled mightily to carry on and actually flourished to an extent (unless one was Jewish, of course) under such directors as Maurice Tourneur and Henri-Georges Clouzot. In Bertrand Tavernier's Safe Conduct, an assistant director and a screenwriter work for a German production company in a compromise of principles dictated by the need to survive. Tavernier personally knew many of the figures his film chronicles, and the personal connection shows, as he gets both the minute details and the larger philosophical questions note-perfect. (BL)

At the First Breath of Wind
(Italy, GU, 8:15 pm Wednesday, Feb. 26)

Director Franco Piavoli's film is a virtually plotless collage of both interior and exterior worlds. It is a meditation on light, nature and loneliness, with roughly 10 lines of dialogue throughout the entire piece. The film covers the space of a family's day in the Italian countryside, with glimpses into the life of each member. Characters range in age from the youngest daughter to her ailing grandfather. This lovingly shot film is primarily composed of long, pensive looks and beautiful nature shots that are more akin to a silent slide show than a film. (ER)

The Deserted Station
(Iran, BW, 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 26)

Alireza Raisian's tale of a childless couple stuck in a remote desert village resonates with a dreamlike quality. When their car breaks down, a couple en route to the holy city of Mashad must make do. The husband goes off with the town mechanic, the village's sole male resident, who also happens to be the teacher. While the men work on the car, the wife stays behind to tend to the small class and, in doing so, rekindles the maternal instinct she has tried to suppress. A visual delight, beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. (DW)

Octavia
(Spain, WH, 9 pm Wednesday, Feb. 26)

A former guerrilla returns to his childhood home to confront the ghosts of his past and the family he left behind.

Atlético San Pancho
(Mexico, GU, 12 pm Thursday and 4:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 27 and March 1)

A Bad News Bears-style tale of ragtag soccer players who defy the odds.

Manito
(United States, BW, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 27)

Writer-director Eric Eason explores Manhattan's Washington Heights, a colorful community where Spanish and English mix indiscriminately. Junior, an ex-convict, haphazardly runs a painting business. His younger brother, Manny, graduates with honors from high school and is saluted by their extended family at a raucous party. As Manny escorts a girl home, two ruffians hassle them. The confrontation plunges Manny into deep trouble. Seeking money to rescue his brother, Junior only exacerbates the misery. Eason artfully builds tension as he evolves his camera from jerky hand-held to surreal set-shots. His background melding of music with documentary-type sound winds the pressure tight. (AC)

Sweet Sixteen
(Britain, GU, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 27. BW, 7 pm Saturday, March 1)

Gray seaside Scotland grows greasy skin and a sneer in this Ken Loach film, as young teen Liam battles drug-dealers, a tattered home life and his own violent will to die. With his mother in prison, his grandfather hounding him for drugs, his sister alone with her baby, and his best friend doping and despondent, Liam turns to drug-peddling to support his ailing circle of allies. Surrounded by violence and depravity, Liam duels with small-time gangsters, smuggles dope by delivering pizzas and eventually comes to butt heads with the local mob boss. A heart-wrenching tale of loss and betrayal, the wickedly funny script underscores a dank, rugged surface with profound yet painful humanism. (NB)

Amen
(France, GU, 6:30 pm Friday, Feb. 28)

The latest film by Constantin Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing) is disappointing, particularly coming after Roman Polanski's more substantial investigation of the Holocaust, The Pianist. Costa-Gavras takes the real life story of SS officer Kurt Gerstein, a good German Protestant who tries to stop the slaughter in the concentration camps while maintaining the system's efficiency. The opportunity for exploring the ways we allow ourselves to be slowly co-opted by political madness (a salient subject for today) is great, yet Costa-Gavras falls back on easy melodrama to make his points. Though the film has some good performances--particularly from Ulrich Tukur (Solaris) as Gerstein and from Mathieu Kassovitz (Amélie)--and does a fairly good job of revealing the Catholic Church's hypocrisy during the war, Amen ends before it begins. (SS)

All the Real Girls
(United States, BW, 6:30 pm Friday and 4:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1)

Sometimes our hearts take us places we never expected to go, while other people conspire to keep us from our destination. The road to love is often difficult to navigate, especially when one has never traveled it before. In his follow up to the sublime George Washington, director David Gordon Green explores the deadly minefield of first love. Crafting a deliberately paced tale of Paul (Paul Schneider, who co-wrote the film with the director), an ambitionless heartbreaker, Green seemingly sits back and observes as the young man falls in love for the first time. Yet beneath the facade of simplicity lurks an emotional complexity that is tangible and frequently painful to endure. The result is love story that eschews all the standard trappings of Hollywood fare, exposing the bitter truth so succinctly espoused by Def Leppard--love bites. R (DW)

Mondays in the Sun
(Spain, WH, 6:45 pm Friday, Feb. 28)

Laid off by their shipyard employer and mired in the world of whiskey and late-night pub-logic, a gaggle of dejected, middle-aged friends turn a downcast, deadpan eye toward post-industrial joblessness and spiritual bankruptcy. Led by Santa (Javier Bardem, the lord of stone-faced satire) and his amusing slew of quibbles, the sad but noble troop fumbles about the hilly, coastal town while attempting to piece their crumbling lives back together. Beautifully depressing dialogue wanders from the boldly crass to the tearful and tender as life without means gathers a melancholy, feisty intensity. (NB)

Raising Victor Vargas
(United States, BW, 7 pm Friday, Feb. 28. WH, 4 pm Saturday, March 1)

If there was a better film than this at the 26th PIFF, excluding a few documentaries, then I must've missed it. Making an impressive feature debut, director Peter Sollett crafts a beautiful, awkward and sometimes painful tale of teenagers venturing into the world of love. Victor Rasuk stars as Victor Vargas, a 16-year-old ticking time bomb of sexual energy living in New York's Lower East Side with his younger siblings and conservative grandmother. Spending the sweltering summer in pursuit of "Juicy" Judy (Judy Marte), Victor embarks on a mission of sexual conquest but soon finds himself lost in the labyrinth of adolescence, that confusing limbo between childhood and adulthood. Excellent writing, great direction and emotionally dense performances breathe life into this wonderful coming-of-age tale. R (DW)

I'm the Father
(Germany, BW, 9 pm Friday, Feb. 28)

Life takes dramatic turns when a German couple begins to realize their marriage is no longer working.

The Dancer Upstairs
(United States, GU, 9:15 pm Friday and 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1)

John Malkovich's directorial debut is a political thriller set against the backdrop of guerrilla warfare in South America. R

Japón
(Mexico, BW, 9:30 pm Friday, Feb. 28)

The sort of foreign film that gives all foreign films a bad name, director Carlos Reygadas' all-around pretentious exercise in mental torture is mind-numbingly tedious. The film chronicles a man who arrives in a remote village with plans to kill himself but finds reason to live when he gets involved in the life of an elderly woman. Reygadas keeps the film moving at a crippled turtle's pace, and only the brilliant closing shot offers any merit. (DW)

Regina!
(Iceland, GU, noon Saturday, March 1)

Warmhearted musical about a young girl who can hypnotize people with her singing.

Loco Fever
(Chile, BW, 1 pm Saturday, March 1)

Quirky comedy set in a Chilean fishing community, where two con artists attempt to swindle local fisherman.

Nine Good Teeth
(United States, WH, 2 pm Saturday, March 1)

Filmmaker Alex Halpern turns the camera on his grandmother Mary "Nana" Mirabito, an Italian-American closing in on 100 years. Halpern uses a wealth of old home movies, photographs and interviews to tell the tale of his family, but it is Nana herself who makes this film come alive. Nine Good Teeth stands as a reminder that the best stories are those about the lives that have been truly lived. (DW)

The Invisible Children
(Colombia, BW, 2 pm Saturday, March 1)

Like a Colombian Stand by Me, this film is a charming and inspired retelling of childhood mischief, friendship and first love. The Invisible Children recounts the story of a group of young boys who, during their summer break, decide to take up black magic and become invisible. Directed by Lisandro Duque Naranjo, this comic tale succeeds despite an unfocused and disjointed political subplot that vaguely attempts to foreshadow the country's impending corruption, and perhaps the children's inevitable loss of innocence. (KC)


BW-Broadway Metroplex, 1000 SW Broadway.


GU-Guild Theatre, 829 SW 9th Ave.


WH-Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave.


Times and titles subject to change. Call 221-1156 or visit www.nwfilm.org to confirm. $7 general admission, $200 festival pass.


Unless otherwise noted, films are not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

ALSO PLAYING:

Carol's Journey (Spain, GU, 5:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 26. BW, 4:30 pm Saturday, March 1)

Waiting for Happiness (Mauritania, BW, 6 pm Wednesday, 8 pm Thursday, Feb. 26-27)

Minoes (Netherlands, GU, 2:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 27)

Bolívar, I Am (Colombia, BW, 4 pm Thursday and 7:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 27 and March 1)

The Last Train (Uruguay, WH, 6:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 27. GU, 2 pm Saturday, March 1)

Monday Morning (France, BW, 6:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 27)

Shorts IV (GU, 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 27)

Bedtime Fairy Tales for Crocodiles (Mexico, BW, 9 pm Thursday and 9:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 27 and March 1)

Love and Fright: Borges (Argentina, WH, 9 pm Thursday and 9:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 27 and March 1)

Poniente (Spain, BW, 4 pm Friday, Feb. 28. 9:15 pm Saturday, March 1)

Kamchatka (Argentina, WH, 9:30 pm Friday and 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1)

There will be encore screenings of selected films on Sunday, March 2. Call the Northwest Film Center or visit the news page of its website (www. nwfilm.org ) for the schedule.

 
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