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February 22nd, 2012 12:01 am MATTHEW KORFHAGE, AP KRYZA, AARON MESH, MATTHEW SINGER | Movie Reviews & Stories

Oh, The Places We’ve Been!

Mapping the terrain of a land called PIFF.

mainscroller.piffisland_3816ILLUSTRATION: Adam Krueger

No festival is an island. They’re regional importers, which is why the Portland International Film Festival shares so many titles with its sisters in Seattle, San Francisco and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. But even as PIFF opens up avenues to the wider world, it exists within an insulated and unmistakable festival ecosystem. PIFF movies share so many common elements that, as you enter the third weekend of global tourism, you might miss the forest for the trees (weeping willows, probably). After reviewing 59 features—find our Week 3 favorites here—we’ve identified the common ground.  


1. Elderly Shenanigan Mountains
Old people behave like children in Attenberg, Darwin, Footnote, Found Memories, Habemus Papam, Patagonia, Salt of Life and Surviving Life.

2. The Garden of Dicks
There are penises onscreen in Aurora, Bonsai, Breathing, A Cat in Paris, Clown: The Movie, The Fairy, Invasion of the Alien Bikini, Rose, The Silver Cliff, Surviving Life, Turn Me On, Dammit!, Whores’ Glory and Woman in the Septic Tank.

3. Vast Cemetery
Dead dogs: Patagonia, Snowtown. Dead children: Darwin, Rose, Snowtown, Surviving Life, Where Do We Go Now? Dead relationships: Bonsai, The Day He Arrives, Elena, Goodbye First Love, The Loneliest Planet, Kiss Me, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Orator, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Snowtown, Surviving Life. Dying horse: The Turin Horse. Dead kittens: Corpo Celeste. Dead kangaroo: Snowtown.

4. Your Mom
Characters have overly close relationships with their mothers in Cirkus Columbia, Salt of Life, Snowtown, Surviving Life, Whores’ Glory and Woman in the Septic Tank.

5. First Girlfriend Pines
Folks get all sad about their ex-GFs or ex-wives in Attenberg, Bonsai, Bullhead, Cafe de Flore, The Forgiveness of Blood, Found Memories, Goodbye First Love, Kiss Me, The Loneliest Planet, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia and Turn Me On, Dammit!

6. The Infernal Torture Basement
We do not want to remember how flesh was mangled in El Sicario, Room 164, Extraterrestrial, Invasion of the Alien Bikini, Kill List, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Rose and Snowtown.

7. The Cone of Prolonged Silence
People stare wordlessly for long stretches in Amador, Aurora, Breathing, Elena, Eternity, The Forgiveness of Blood, Found Memories, The Loneliest Planet, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Qarantina, Rose, The Silver Cliff, Toll Booth and The Turin Horse.

8. Mr. Tree’s House - A Home for Mentally Exceptional People who are also Metaphors
They dwell in Amador, Cafe de Flore, The Fairy, Mr. Tree and Toll Booth.

Don’t Forget to Visit...

Our favorite scenes from PIFF 2012.

The Albanian Breakfast Table!
The Forgiveness of Blood: A long, static shot of a kid eating grapefruit in front of his kitchen window might not sound terribly thrilling, but in Joshua Marston’s Albanian coming-of-age drama, it ripples with quiet tension. Quarantined inside by the sins of his father, young Nik knows there are snipers aiming for him, but we’re much more concerned about it than he seems to be, and Marston lets the camera linger long enough to completely wrack the audience’s nerves. MATTHEW SINGER.

The British Tunnel of No Love!
Kill List: In spite of its hackneyed finale, Kill List manages pure terror as its protagonists are pursued by screeching cultists through a labyrinthine tunnel system. The chase is lit only with headlamps, creating a sequence of claustrophobic horror rivaling The Descent. AP KRYZA.

The Norwegian Penis Poking!
Turn Me On, Dammit!: If they like a girl and want to show it, some guys hold hands, some lean in for a kiss. Others jab her in the thigh with their semi-erect penis and then run away embarrassed. That she takes this well—is thrilled, even—is the genius of the scene. It’s life as if dreamed: all surprise and stupidity. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

The Turkish Tea Party!
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia: In a blackout, somewhere in the sticks, a gorgeous girl brings us tea by candlelight. Her face is enough to resurrect dead longings, dead hopes, dead friends. Then she’s gone: All we can do is go back to the sausage party and talk of the women we’ve actually known. AARON MESH. 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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