C21: Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st St.
CM: CineMagic, 2021 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
LM: Regal Lloyd Mall Cinema, 2320 Lloyd Center Mall
LT: Lake Twin Cinema, 106 N State St., Lake Oswego
PP: Regal Pioneer Place, 340 SW Morrison St.
WH: Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave.
WTC: World Trade Center Theater, 121 SW Salmon St.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 22Eternity
Critic’s Score: 67
[THAILAND] Though it is at some level a ghost story, Eternity is much more about absence than presence: The spirit in question is a lone rider who sees nothing but the land itself, and the haunting is mostly by memory and loss. And so a film about a compulsively tittering lover boy and chatterbox is ruled by silence; the sentimental courtship at the center of the film is bookended by symmetrical depictions of the time after the wooer’s early death. The film’s pace and woeful single-mindedness, however, lend to a numbing hypnotism much more than grief or meditation.
It’d be better if: It didn’t live up to its title so handily. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. LM, 6 pm Wednesday and 8:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 22 & 25.
Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Critic’s Score: 80
[CANADA] Few threats are as amorphous and frightening as breast cancer: It is nature’s violent misogyny, sex and death bound up far too tightly. And as Léa Pool’s documentary shows handily, if also a bit diffusely, it is as ripe as any fear to be cynically manipulated for profit by Yoplait or Ford or Estée Lauder—or by the Komen foundation’s cheerily self-propagating charity marketing—even as the money that pours in is siphoned away from research that might actually lead to prevention. It’s sort of a horror film in PR smiles, flower-painted cars and pink Niagara.
It’d be better if: It presented hard numbers on spending, instead of frustratingly folding them into a brief pie chart. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. C21, 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 22. WH, 3:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
THURSDAY, FEB. 23Corpo Celeste
Critic’s Score: 85
[ITALY] Ah, the small urban Italian church. The priest is a middling, disappointed bureaucrat troubled by politics; his attendant is a lobotomized, sexually sublimated old maid; and the janitor beats a bag of 10 kittens against a sidewalk and drowns them in an inlet. Not a place for a 13-year-old girl from Switzerland, apparently, but that’s where she is, and it’s all quite confused and sweetly searching and shot through with disappointment, the way a gentle European coming-of-age story should really always be.
It’d be better if: The kittens came back for their revenge, backed up by a vengeful, bloody-eyed Jesus. Or not. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. LM, 6:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 23. C21, 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
Short Cuts VI: Made in Oregon
Critic’s Score: 70
[PORTLAND] After three weeks of anguish tourism, this raft of local work feels gratifyingly insouciant and low-stakes. Most welcome is the return of Orland Nutt, two-time Peripheral Produce Invitational winner at the lamented PDX Fest, bring with him Dear Peter, Goats and Dear Peter, Yaks: twin mock-poetic animal meditations that may not mock anything. Also noteworthy: Kurtis Hough’s placid giant-slug doc Mossgrove/Bed of Moss, and Jesse Blanchard’s Shine, which communicates the same existential dread as The Turin Horse but in a three-minute 3-D puppet show about a barbershop quartet getting its limbs sliced off.
It’d be better if: Oregon soundtracks didn’t employ acoustic fingerpicking quite so much. AARON MESH. WH, 6:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
Critic’s Score: 38
[AUSTRIA] In pursuing the world’s oldest prurient interest, Michael Glawogger doesn’t uncover any bleak truths not grasped by, say, Born Into Brothels, but he does manage to be singularly invasive and detached. Trolling the colorful, ravaged lives of prostitutes in Bangkok, Bangladesh and Reynosa, Mexico, his camera gains staggering access to degradation. Many of the shots have a whiff of arty scorn, however, while the CocoRosie and PJ Harvey songs aestheticize the montages of suffering, not letting these women speak for themselves. But, look: a 200-peso blow job! The real thing! It’s a politically conscious mondo film.
It’d be better if: The director had a heart of gold. AARON MESH. C21, 8:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
The Day He Arrives
Critic’s Score: 78
[SOUTH KOREA] The 12th film by Hong Sang-soo is, as ever, a metafilmic enterprise about a director—in this case, one who is unable to film. The flick is essentially a light, black-and-white Godardian fillip, an ever-repeating set of drunkenly philosophical streetside and barside encounters that vary as in a fugue, or as the inconsistent humors of a man in a fugue state; memory seems impossible and life only improvisational. And as in Woody Allen movies, the awkward old director somehow always ungratefully gets the girl.
It’d be better if: The aw-shucks main character had any charisma whatsoever that could make us believe he might get the girl. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 23.
Critic’s Score: 57
[TURKEY] After a panicked breakdown, insomniac checkpoint attendant Kenan (Serkan Ercan) is exiled to a sunflower-dappled countryside so sun-baked and sluggish I promptly dozed off. I awoke often enough to recognize the guy as an heir to those 1970s Bob Rafelson heroes clawing at the walls of their lives, and the movie as an Anatolian Five Easy Pieces. Don’t mistake early jauntiness as a sign pointing toward one of those droll little comedies about working stiffs; the road leads to something far more morbid and distressed.
It’d be better if: I could get a side order of wheat toast. AARON MESH. PP, 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 23. LM, 3:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
FRIDAY, FEB. 24
Critic’s Score: 16
[AUSTRALIA] Every PIFF needs its walkout movie, and here’s the winner for 2012: Even the protagonist keeps trying to leave the room. A rangy kid who looks just like Jesse Eisenberg, Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is molested by his mom’s boyfriend, raped by his older stepbrother, and finds a rosy-cheeked savior in John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), the worst serial killer in Australian history. Justin Kurzel’s film recalls Monster, not least because Dixie County, Fla., and Adelaide could be the same subtropical snake pit. But Snowtown achieves new lows in the unendurable and loftily gratuitous: Grok those artful close-ups of contusions, and peer into the relieved eyes of torture victims allowed to finally die. Or don’t, and keep a little piece of your humanity.
It’d be better if: You never walked in. AARON MESH. LM, 6:30 pm Friday, Feb. 24. WH, 8:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
Critic’s Score: 95
[SPAIN] Following up on 2007’s much-venerated, sordid metaphysical puzzle box Timecrimes, director Nacho Vigalondo again cracks the genre box wide open. Across all of Spain, 4-mile-wide flying saucers have appeared above the cities, but rather than descend into an alien mind piece or shoot-’em-up, the film uses the saucers as an excuse to empty Madrid aside from a terrifically human, comedic love quadrangle in which everyone is in love with the same woman (Michelle Jenner). Indeed, the whole damn film is a testament to rampant, ridiculous love gone wild in the old Spanish style, and to its absolute distortion of the world. Ever-pendant apocalypse has never been so affectionate or endearing or sweetly sad.
It’d be better if: I thought maybe Michelle Jenner might notice me, too. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 8:45 pm Friday and 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 24 & 25.
Grandma, A Thousand Times
Critic’s Score: 81
[LEBANON] The most pretentiously titled film of PIFF could also be the most touching. It sounds like a recipe for dour falafel, but Mahmoud Kaabour’s documentary, in which he interviews his 82-year-old granny in order to preserve her wisdom, is an absolute delight because of its subject. Teta Kaabour is a sass-pot for the ages, a loving, illiterate, ball-buster matriarch from another era who smokes her hookah and screams at street vendors from her apartment’s balcony all day. We get only 50 minutes with Teta in the doc (part of a grandmammy double feature, paired with the French homelessness short I Could Be Your Grandmother). I’d be content to listen to her for days.
It’d be better if: Teta, irritated by the misleading title of her grandson’s film, went on a quest to fight 999 other matriarchs. AP KRYZA. WTC, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 24.
The Loneliest Planet
Critic’s Score: 84
[GERMANY] Featuring the most indelible scenes inside a tent since The Blair Witch Project, this subtitle-free study of engaged backpackers (Hani Furstenberg and Gael García Bernal) and their Caucasus Mountain tour guide (Bidzina Gujabidze) is based on a Hemingway-influenced short story by departing Portland writer Tom Bissell. As such, it hinges on one instinctual decision that colors every interaction before and after. That unthinking choice is made unforgettable by director Julia Loktev (Day Night Day Night), who stages it as a kind of dire dance step.
It’d be better if: You didn’t know that crisis was coming. But then you might not go. AARON MESH. C21, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 24.
Critic’s Score: 67
[GREAT BRITAIN] For the first 84 of its 85 minutes, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List is an effectively unnerving descent into human depravity. It also features enough comedic bickering between the leads to resemble The Trip, if Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon were hitmen and, instead of touring Northern England’s finest dining establishments, they traveled around the country bludgeoning people to death with hammers. In other words, for its first 84 minutes, Kill List is the most intriguing (and most unflinchingly brutal) genre experiment of this year’s PIFF. As the violence grows more gratuitous, though, you get the sense that all it’s building toward is one big, empty shock. Then it happens, in a final reveal so preposterous it curdles everything that came before into waste. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? You will.
It’d be better if: Wheatley went with literally any other ending. MATTHEW SINGER. C21, 11:30 pm Friday, Feb. 24.
SATURDAY, FEB. 25Darwin
Critic’s Score: 86
[SWITZERLAND] It’s a town in Death Valley, so you think you know exactly which 35 people would choose to live there. It’s an exploration of extreme Yankee eccentricity by a visiting European, so you think you know exactly what Nick Brandestini wants to find. And yes: There are elements here of the Paranoid Style in American Burnouts (the main street keeps catching on fire; we find one fat, bearded anarchist checking to see where he buried his guns). But there is also something credible in this portrait. Like the best contemporary essaying—the stuff by John Jeremiah Sullivan and John D’Agata—it finds dark and light rhythms running like rock strata through forlorn human lives.
It’d be better if: Looniness weren’t the initial selling point. But that’s to say it’d be better if we lived in a different world. AARON MESH. C21, 1 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
Critic’s Score: 41
[SWEDEN] Well, the movie certainly isn’t mistitled. In fact, making out is pretty much the foundation of the film’s central relationship, between two soon-to-be stepsisters. They kiss in a tool shed. They kiss in an elementary-school restroom. They kiss in a dewy meadow populated by grazing deer. Occasionally, they augment the kissing with sensual lovemaking, sometimes while bathed in enough gauzy sunshine to light a toilet paper commercial. In between all the Sapphic tonsil hockey is a stultifyingly standard rom-dram that only faintly touches on Swedish mores regarding homosexuality, and even then so tritely it doesn’t matter.
It’d be better if: It was just a two-hour make-out session set in various odd locations: in the Vatican; inside a double-wide suit of armor; in the hollowed-out corpse of a dead camel, etc. MATTHEW SINGER. C21, 8:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
Invasion of the Alien Bikini
Critic’s Score: 41
[SOUTH KOREA] When you shoot a flick for $5,000, the one thing that isn’t typically compromised is inventiveness, particularly in a film about a sex-starved alien babe who crash-lands on Earth to slurp the sperm out of a virginal vigilante. While Invasion of the Alien Bikini looks great, it’s surprisingly unoriginal. The film starts well—a campy fight scene and an erotic game of Jenga—before devolving into a stew of South Korean cinematic clichés: the standard kink, shockingly brutal violence against women, martial arts, kitsch, oddball humor, and overwrought metaphors about sexuality and aging. It looks like most of the budget went into an overlong torture scene. Maybe a couple bucks could have been invested in a script rewrite.
It’d be better if: There were actually a sentient bikini sidekick. AP KRYZA. C21, 11:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 25.
GO: The Portland International Film Festival ticket outlet is at the Portland Art Museum Mark Building, 1119 SW Park Ave., 276-4310. nwfilm.org. General Admission $10, Art Museum members, seniors and students $9, children 12 and under $7, Silver Screen Club memberships from $300.