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February 13th, 2013 WW Staff | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

PIFFing the Night Away

PIFF knocks you down. But you get up again.

piff_kontiki_3915KON TIKI - Photo courtesy of PIFF
If the Portland International Film Festival is a night out drinking, it’s time to rally. Though PIFF’s second week includes some real drags, keep the tab open: You’ll also find a few exceptional offerings, such as the local documentary Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse (reviewed on page 41). PIFF is growing up, too. While the first week teemed with struggling young people, this second batch features middle-aged office stiffs, swinging senior citizens, elderly painters and even an old dog.

PIFF may be a week older, but that doesn’t mean it’s any wiser. Neither are we, but we’ve still taken it upon ourselves to offer some advice. Buck up and take a shot. 

 

PIFF Perfect

Flicker

Critic’s Grade: B+  [SWEDEN] More Swedish Office Space than Ingmar Bergman, writer-director Patrik Eklund’s deadpan comedy features characters with a stunning array of quirks. There’s technology dunce Kenneth, who takes a Luger to his BlackBerry; janitor Birgitta, who suffers from crippling arachnophobia; and technician Roland, who develops oozing facial rashes due (maybe) to electro-sensitivity. They’re all employees of a communications company haplessly stuck in the past, which Eklund shores up with an unceasing succession of beige costumes. Flicker zips between its intersecting tales with a sort of pokerfaced sympathy, whether it’s a woman coming to terms with her husband’s sterility or a mechanical-armed desperado leading a group of radical Luddites in an act of sabotage. The film’s fictional town might be plagued by blackouts, but Flicker keeps its absurdist comedic charge burning to the end. REBECCA JACOBSON. LC, 9:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 14, and 5:15 pm Monday, Feb. 18.


Kon Tiki

Critic’s Grade: A-  [NORWAY] Whether you see it because it’s about a guy named Thor braving Mother Nature, or because you can watch ripped Norwegian dudes sailing the Pacific in their tighty-whities, or because you want to witness a shark getting stabbed in the head, the important thing is that you see Kon Tiki. Based on the true story of Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl, who set off in 1947 to float 5,000 miles from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa-wood raft, this gorgeously shot adventure flick is not only awesome because of the epic voyage that could easily fail. It’s awesome because of Heyerdahl’s utter certainty that it will not. EMILY JENSEN. WH, 7:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 17. LC, 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19.


The Gatekeepers

Critic’s Grade: B  [ISRAEL] The Shin Bet is the Israeli government equivalent of the CIA, and its leaders come out of hiding in The Gatekeepers. Interviews with all six surviving former heads of the secretive counterterrorism group, speaking publicly for the first time, compose Dror Moreh’s documentary. Some events may not ring a bell, but digital re-enactments mesh with photographs to help bring them to life. Aside from these animations, The Gatekeepers relies exclusively on one-on-one interviews, but its clean organization keeps wandering thoughts at bay. Though the Palestinian side of the story is completely absent, Moreh doesn’t pull any punches. The Shin Bet leaders’ replies are honest, astute and even compassionate as they let the cruel skeletons out of their closet. MITCH LILLIE. C21, 5:15 pm Sunday, Feb. 17. CM, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 21.


Memories Look at Me

Critic’s Grade: B+  [CHINA] Ever visit Ma and Pa, or some beloved auntie with a skin condition, or maybe your ne’er-do-well brother in the capital, and think, “Golly, this would make for a bracingly ascetic cinematic experience”? I have just the film for you. Song Fang’s bittersweet, fitfully funny directorial debut is billed as a narrative feature, despite the fact that Song, who acted opposite Juliette Binoche in 2007’s Flight of the Red Balloon, stars as “Song,” a budding filmmaker from Beijing who travels to the city of Nanjing to visit her aging parents, played by—you guessed it—Song’s parents. Shot almost entirely in her parents’ small apartment, Memories manages to capture perfectly the quiet rhythms and buried frustrations of family life. MARSHALL WALKER LEE. C21, 2:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. FT, 9 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19.


No

Critic’s Grade: A  [CHILE] During the 1988 election in Chile that led to the ouster of Augusto Pinochet, TV advertising played as major a role in the political process as traditional campaigning: For 27 days, each side had 15 minutes each night to state its case. No puts this into sharp historical perspective via Rene, a quietly intense ad exec (Gael García Bernal) who brought a soda-commercial flair to the anti-Pinochet TV spots. Director Pablo Larrain amplifies the tense yet hopeful mood by shooting the movie on era-appropriate video cameras, meshing new footage with original ads and news footage of protests and police actions. ROBERT HAM. WH, 6 pm Friday, Feb. 15. LC, 4:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 17.


Sleep Tight

Critic’s Grade: A  [SPAIN] César performs his daily tasks as concierge of an apartment building with a calm spirit and robotlike precision. But little by little, the viciousness behind his wide eyes begins to appear, and that’s when your skin will start to crawl. The unassuming figure at the front desk reveals his one simple goal: to make the tenants in the building as miserable as possible. Director Jaume Balagueró and screenwriter Alberto Marini focus César (acted to devilish perfection by Luis Tosar) on his toughest competitor, the beautiful and optimistic Clara (Marta Etura), and let viewers follow every creepy and thrilling step of the way. Like all good psychological horror films, this breathless masterpiece is as repulsive as it is spellbinding. ROBERT HAM. WTC, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 15, and 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 23. C21, 7:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 17.


Something in the Air

Critic’s Grade: A  [FRANCE] You could call it something in the air, but it’s more like the poetry of air going out of a tire. Director Olivier Assayas has evolved from stylist (Irma Vep, Clean) to an empathetic documenter of the political made personal (Carlos), and his newest ensemble film is a nostalgic what-next for radical youth after the student riots of May 1968. The answer, of course, is that after a failed revolution one is left, simply, with life. The French youth of those days belong also to the youth of today—adrift, a bit mercenary and far from the storm. So what happens to the party when the party is over? Mostly, it seems, it turns into an Antonioni film. A damn good one. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. LC, 5:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 21.

FLICKER
Photo courtesy of PIFF

 

The Wild Ones

Critic’s Grade: B  [SPAIN] Through much of its first hour, Patricia Ferreira’s film about three Catalan teens seems to tell an unremarkable story about the frustrations and rebellions of adolescence. Her characters—graffiti artist Alex, quiet kickboxer Gabi and overprivileged Laura—squabble with their parents at home and with their jaded teachers at school. They get drunk at the park, skip class to go to the beach and sneak into a shopping mall after hours. But midway through this keen-eyed and subtly haunting film, it becomes clear that The Wild Ones is much more than a tale of disaffected youth. Abetted by Ferreira and Virginia Yagüe’s nonlinear screenplay that cuts persuasively between narrative strands, The Wild Ones neither seeks answers nor places blame for the horror that unfurls—and that makes it all the more unsettling and affecting. REBECCA JACOBSON. CM, 6 pm Friday, Feb. 15 and 4:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 17.


Eh, Why Not?

3 Million

Critic’s Grade: B-  [URUGUAY] Documenting Uruguay’s bid to claim the World Cup in 2010, 3 Million is part inspirational sports documentary and part South African travelogue, with popular singer Jaime Roos and his filmmaker son, Yamandu, hitting parties, visiting petting zoos and generally behaving touristy. The soccer footage is electric, with the camera getting up close and personal with players and fans during the epic pandemonium of the world’s biggest sporting event. But when the filmmakers turn the camera on themselves—which they do a lot, as when Roos whines about referee calls in endless voice-over—it feels like watching another family’s vacation videos for more than two hours. AP KRYZA. WTC, 9 pm Saturday, Feb. 16.


4some

Critic’s Grade: C+  [CZECH REPUBLIC] 4some is an enjoyably naked romp through the sexploits of some aging Czechs. OK, maybe more enjoyable for the film’s characters than for viewers: Couples Vitek and Marie and Ondra and Dita are unavoidably middle-aged. The neighbors are peas in a pod—communal dinners, work partners, children dating each other. But familial bliss comes with stale sex lives, and director Jan Hrebejk does nothing to romanticize the cringe-worthy fornication as his unsparing camera work meets American Pie 2 on the couples’ Caribbean vacation. A good half-hour of contemplation and discussion sucks much of the sexiness out of the subsequent acts, but Hrebejk still manages an endearing and sweet film, complete with sagging body parts and even a dusty dildo. ENID SPITZ. CM, 8:45 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19, and 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 20.


80 Million

Critic’s Grade: B-  [POLAND] For those not up on their modern Polish history, here’s a primer to help you through Waldemar Krzystek’s political thriller: In December 1981, panicked about the growing pro-democracy movement, Poland’s authoritarian government introduced martial law. When resistance group Solidarity got wind of the plan, members of its Wrocław branch hatched a plot to withdraw 80 million zlotys from its bank account before it could be frozen. That’s the tale that unfolds in the upbeat 80 Million, which blends its requisite political elements with the brisk pace of a heist movie, refreshing shots of dark comedy and even scheming Catholic priests. As the jauntily sadistic baddie fed up with his blundering henchmen, Piotr Głowacki is delightful, but the Solidarity activists are too hastily sketched to leave a lasting impression. REBECCA JACOBSON. LC, 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. FT, 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19.


American Winter

Critic’s Grade: B-  [UNITED STATES] It’s a little dubious to litter a documentary set during a Portland winter with images of snow-covered streets (did they film all the exteriors in one day?), but it suits American Winter’s framework well. Directors Harry and Joe Gantz train their lens on families dealing with joblessness, homelessness and hopelessness during the financial crisis as they struggle to keep their heat on and rely increasingly on the kindness of strangers. The film’s narrative is one of devastation, which almost renders the talking-head interviews—with politicos and policymakers lambasting corporate America—unnecessary and overwrought. These are true stories of hardship with little triumph, and the film’s ability to hold a mirror to the problem is at times heartbreaking. AP KRYZA. WH, 3 pm Sunday, Feb. 17. CM, 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 18.


Blood of My Blood

Critic’s Grade: C  [PORTUGAL] Ah, Portugal: So trained have they become on the Brazilian soap opera, seemingly everything they now make is either steaming melodrama or—as in João Canijo’s newest—an attempted sly commentary on it. It’s the same have-your-cake-and-eat-it of Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven. But Blood of My Blood is strangely bloodless. The film goes from the gritty social realism of a poor family trying to hold itself together to the massive contrivances of mother-daughter shared sex lives and drugsploitation. Without the lightness of tone or the control of its script that could have buoyed it, Canijo has aimed at a high-style, grittily exaggerated character study in the old Mike Leigh mode but made instead middling TV. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. C21, 7 pm Monday, Feb. 18. FT, 8:45 pm Wednesday-Thursday, Feb. 20-21.


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Critic’s Grade: B  [GERMANY] Werner Herzog, in 2010’s Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, takes us to a remote fur-trapping village in central Russia, where 300 people live a long helicopter ride from civilization. Divided into sections for each of the four seasons, the film is a pastoral portrait of the villagers, working wood into traps with the same tools used for generations. They seem no more or less happy than the subjects of any of Herzog’s earlier documentaries, which are better paced and far better scored than Happy People. Nevertheless, Herzog’s hilariously poignant monotone, laid over scenes of expansive and desolate beauty, helps redeem the documentary. MITCH LILLIE. C21. 5:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. WH, 8:45 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19.


La Pirogue

Critic’s Grade: B  [SENEGAL] The endnote to Moussa Touré’s third feature provides a grim statistic: Of the 30,000 who attempted the sea voyage from Senegal to Europe from 2005 to 2010, 5,000 perished. This quiet dedication concludes a film that takes a raw topic—the desperation that prompts West Africans to board barely seaworthy boats bound for Europe—and treats it with balanced naturalism. Touré spends most of his film on the water, centered on a single brightly painted vessel (the Pirogue of the title). The 30 passengers, some of whom have never seen the ocean, forge tenuous bonds that are tested throughout the predictably perilous journey. One man cries and clings to his chicken; the discovery of a woman stowaway prompts anger and fear; and the passengers are met with turbulent weather, sickness and death. But grounding it all is a sense of earnest empathy, which allows La Pirogue to steer clear of sensationalism. REBECCA JACOBSON. CM, 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. LC, 7:45 pm Monday, Feb. 18.


Laurence Anyways

Critic’s Grade: B-  [CANADA] A film about gender identity and the weight public pressure puts on private relationships, Laurence Anyways is 23-year-old Canadian prodigy Xavier Dolan’s bid to become the Pedro Almodóvar of the Great White North. He takes his sweet time rendering the love affair between Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), a literature professor and newly out transsexual, and her girlfriend, Fred (Suzanne Clement), stretching their 10-year on-off romance over nearly three hours. Is it worth the commitment? Eh. Dolan’s got a knack for the surreal: He makes ’90s-era Montreal glow neon over throbbing electro-pop accompaniment, and the metaphorical dream sequences are mesmerizingly feverish. It’s reality he has a problem with. Laurence and Fred are the kind of couple who exist only in art films—scrawling poems across each other’s skin, compiling an ongoing list of Things That Minimize Our Pleasure—and Laurence’s transition into life as a woman seems more like a performance art project than an internal struggle. After a while, the movie devolves into a loop of breakups, reunions and shouting matches, and Dolan’s visual panache only underscores the emptiness of it all. MATTHEW SINGER. C21, 8 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. LC, 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 20.


Masquerade

Critic’s Grade: B  [SOUTH KOREA] Farts ring through the halls of King Gwang-hae’s palace as his body double, a courtesan house jester named Ha-sun, indulges in the kingly prerogative to do whatever the hell he wants. Ha-sun is pretending to be Gwang-hae following the king’s near-deadly poisoning, in order to prevent panic in the kingdom while he recovers. Though Masquerade initially seems an odd Judd Apatow knock-off, with a surprising bounty of poop jokes for a film set in the 17th century, director Choo Chang-min’s modern riff on The Prince and the Pauper evolves into an often triumphant tale. Sadly, much like Apatow does in his films, Chang-min let it run about 45 minutes too long. EMILY JENSEN. LC, 7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19.


More Than Honey

Critic’s Grade: B-  [SWITZERLAND] John Miller, owner of Miller Honey Farms, stops his truck in the middle of an orchard exploding with almond blossoms and the thick sound of his bees. “Can you hear that?” he asks. “That’s the sound of money.” Miller is one of the more capitalistic interviewees in Markus Imhoof’s documentary More Than Honey, which chronicles modern honeymaking and mass bee deaths around the world. An old-school Swiss beekeeper insists on “racial purity” (of the bees, thankfully) and a Chinese woman runs a business collecting and selling pollen, as her country long ago killed off its bee population. Imhoof includes many macro shots, filmed at 70 frames per second—he claims this captures bee movement the best—and these images of dancing and swarming bees go beyond simple nature documentary. However, the natural beauty of More Than Honey is largely invalidated by artificial, computer-generated shots, such as bees against a night sky. MITCH LILLIE. WH, 8:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 14, and 2:15 pm Monday, Feb. 18.

MORE THAN HONEY
Photo courtesy of PIFF

 

Our Children

Critic’s Grade: B  [BELGIUM] Knowing the fate that is to befall the children in this film—murder at the hands of their unstable mother—does not take away one iota of the power of Joachim Lafosse’s quietly tense feature. Rather, it allows you to focus on the mother, watching for the cracks to appear in her delicate façade. Thankfully, young actress Émilie Dequenne is up to this challenge, giving a nuanced and breathtaking performance as a woman struggling with internal demons and the pressures placed upon her by both her husband and his adoptive father. ROBERT HAM. LC, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 15. FT, 7:30 pm Sunday,  Feb. 17.


Polluting Paradise

Critic’s Grade: B  [GERMANY] In this documentary, director Fatih Akin takes a devastating look at a small Turkish village whose health and security are threatened by the introduction of a garbage dump. Situated in a defunct copper mine, the refuse heap pollutes groundwater and streams and fills the air with terrible odors. Akin keeps his cameras rolling over the course of five years as community members, including elderly residents and schoolchildren, fight the smug bureaucrats who signed off on the dump, while they attempt to maintain their daily existence as farmers, fishermen and students. Akin does what all good activist filmmakers do best: expose the stark divide between everyday citizens and the people who supposedly represent them, urging viewers not to let a similar fate befall their hometowns. ROBERT HAM. WTC, 3 pm Sunday, Feb. 17, and 12:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 23.


Renoir

Critic’s Grade: B-  [FRANCE] “Color should control the structure of a work, not line.” So opines Pierre-August Renoir in Gilles Bourdos’ oversaturated but ultimately underwhelming examination of two generations of Renoirs: the aforementioned painter, enfeebled by arthritis in his seventh decade, and his son, Jean, who would go on to become arguably the greatest filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century. Like the elder Renoir, the film Renoir rejoices in the sensual pleasures of Provençal life (it’s easy to have joie de vivre when your vivre consists of seaside villas, lavish parties, naps and picnics) and celebrates the beauty of the female form, specifically the form of actress Christa Theret, who spends roughly 60 minutes in the buff. Like a nice dry Côtes du Rhône, Renoir is mildly intoxicating, but as Bourdos thickly applies his azure blues and lemon yellows, it all but collapses under the weight of its own prettiness. MARSHALL WALKER LEE. LC, 8:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 13.


Together

Critic’s Grade: B  [TAIWAN] Looking for a PIFF-approved “love story” that doesn’t feature gratuitous nudity, graphic intercourse or incest (I’m looking at you, Pieta)? Hsu Chao-Jen’s Together is just the sort of airy, sweet confection PIFF-ers need to cleanse their palates. Taking a page from the Mary J. Blige playbook, Hsu maintains a strict “No Drama” policy as he leads us through a series of loosely connected love affairs, platonic trysts and near-miss relationships in modern-day Taipei. Will Xiao Mao and Tian Tian ever resolve their lovers’ quarrel? Will Lang accept the advances of co-worker Michael? Will Li, the affable print shop owner, declare his love for the daughter of a business associate? One thing’s for sure: Everyone is sure to walk away fully clothed, mildly contented and more or less unbroken. MARSHALL WALKER LEE. C21, 9:15 pm Friday, Feb. 15.


White Tiger

Critic’s Grade: C  [RUSSIA] When faced with the choice of making a film about a ghost tank terrorizing the Russian countryside during World War II and a film about old officers talking, the choice should be as obvious as an armor-piercing shell to the face. Alas, director Karen Shakhnazarov has made both with White Tiger, and the results are wildly uneven. The opening two-thirds of the film plays like Jaws, only the shark’s a possessed tank—a concept that, let’s face it, is awesome. But then, suddenly, the film blows a tread, and the anticlimax follows previously unintroduced characters (and Hitler, oddly) as they discuss terms of surrender and war metaphors. Wasn’t the ghost tank enough of a metaphor on its own? And isn’t it always better when your metaphor’s blowing shit up? AP KRYZA. FT, 9 pm Thursday, Feb. 14, and 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 18. LC, 9 pm Saturday, Feb. 16.


For the Completist Only

The Double Steps

Critic’s Grade: D-  [SPAIN] In the 20th century, esoteric artist François Augiéras painted his “Sistine Chapel” in an abandoned bunker in the Malian desert and covered the entrance with a stone. Over time, it was covered by sand and abandoned to 21st-century treasure hunters. So goes the backstory to Isaki Lacuesta’s impenetrable The Double Steps. The plot centers on Abdallah Chambaa (Bokar Dembele), who inexplicably channels the spirit of Augiéras as he traverses the same Malian desert. A narrator chimes in at intervals to announce cryptic koans like “inside each fruit, there is a fish,” while real-life Spanish painter Miquel Barceló shows off his craft. If this sounds infuriatingly confusing, you’re not alone. The Double Steps is buried deep in a plotless desert of trite symbology, where hopefully it will remain undiscovered. MITCH LILLIE. C21, 3 pm Sunday, Feb. 17, and 9 pm Tuesday, Feb 19. WTC, 9 pm Saturday, Feb. 23.


English Vinglish

Critic’s Grade: C  [INDIA] Bringing the Bollywood tradition of countless musical montages to the magical world of ESL classes, English Vinglish tells the tale of an uncultured housewife (Bollywood superstar Sridevi) who takes leave of her snotty daughter and husband’s incessant mockery of her Hindi-only language skills to go to New York for a wedding. There, she enrolls in a four-week English class populated by cultural stereotypes (the Chinese hairdresser, the flamboyantly gay teacher, the sexist Pakistani, the horny Frenchman). Eventually she earns the respect she’s craved, but it takes more than two hours to get there—and it’s two hours that feel like hanging out in a freshman-level language course, but with a bit more dancing and a lot more melodrama. AP KRYZA. LC, 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 14; 7 pm Sunday, Feb. 17; and 1:30 pm Monday, Feb. 18.


Hannah Arendt

Critic’s Grade: C-  [GERMANY] Goodness knows there’s a fascinating film to be made about the titular philosopher, writer and theorist, but this sure ain’t it. That’s mostly because director Margarethe von Trotta chooses to home in on a key moment of Arendt’s last years—when she covered the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker—while skimming over her years as a student and lover of Martin Heidegger and her escape from Nazi-occupied France. This candy-colored, overacted biopic instead relies on too many scenes of Arendt staring wistfully out of a window, smoking, as she struggles with Jewish guilt and “the banality of evil.” ROBERT HAM. WH, 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. LC, 4:30 pm Monday, Feb. 18.


Here and There

Critic’s Grade: C-  [MEXICO] Good intentions are not synonymous with cinematic success. Here and there they align, but in Antonio Méndez Esparza’s Here and There, that’s not the case. Pedro returns from America to his wife and conflicted teen daughters in Mexico, kindling dreams of success with his band. But the film flatlines through trials of limited finances, young men trying to reach America and difficult childbirth. Perhaps the film’s success is capturing the tortuous slog of field work and dwindling dreams, but unbearably long shots and sparse speech dull any viewer investment. When Pedro first returns to Mexico, we watch a prolonged hill climb in real time. The rest of the film is similarly drawn out, only flat. ENID SPITZ. CM, 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 16; 5 pm Monday, Feb. 18; and 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19.


In the Fog

Critic’s Grade: D+  [UKRAINE] In Nazi-occupied Belarus, the resistance fighters in Sergei Loznitsa’s sluggish film each have their moments of cowardice and bravery. Sushenya was captured and released by Nazis, so two fellow partisans are dispatched to execute him for presumed collaboration until the Nazis catch them in the act. As the three men fight side by side deep in the forest, flashbacks to old moral dilemmas provide some character development, but these scenes lack clear visual clues to signify the time shift. Stone-faced musings on the nature of war make up the dialogue, which feels tired even at the opening of this two-hour epic. The morbid ending is as bleak as the dim autumn scenery, the fog obscuring what brief beauty there was. MITCH LILLIE. C21, 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19. WH, 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 23.


Key of Life

Critic’s Grade: D  [JAPAN] It occurred to me at various points that Key of Life was probably meant to be a comedy. What else to think of the woman so type-A she plans her marriage without a suitor, an amnesiac ex-yakuza fixer who unwittingly becomes an actor in gangster roles, and a schlub who fails even at suicide before taking over the fixer’s identity? But while this Japanese farce about identity is certainly a bit less tedious than a Will Ferrell vehicle, it takes none of the wild risks and carries none of the wild energy. Its tone, instead, is an animatronic plod through light mud, and by the time the action warms up, the film has already warmed over. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. FT, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 14. LC, 8:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 20.


The Last Sentence

Critic’s Grade: D  [SWEDEN] With this biopic, 81-year-old director Jan Troell works overtime to set up Torgny Segerstedt, the editor-in-chief of a daily newspaper in Sweden during World War II, as a kind of antihero. From behind his desk, he spins out uncompromising missives against the actions of Hitler, finding himself at odds with the political leadership in his home country. While at home, he ignores his long-suffering wife in favor of his prized dogs and his mistress. But the stern tone of the film and the pinched performances by the leads (particularly Jesper Christensen as Segerstedt) make it hard to empathize with anyone or anything onscreen. ROBERT HAM. WH, 8:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 13. FT, 4:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 17.


Old Dog

Critic’s Grade: C  [CHINA] It’s hard to fault a film for being modest, but let me try: Pema Tseden’s Old Dog is ostensibly a tale of crushing poverty, cultural erosion and family discord set amid the arid fields and amber foothills of the Himalayan steppe, but Tseden’s timid, artless approach to the material is so tedious I feel confident asserting that this very sentence, shambling though it may be, is several times more stimulating than the film itself, which concerns the attempts of an impoverished Tibetan sheep herder to sell his father’s mastiff. MARSHALL WALKER LEE. CM, 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 17. C21, 2 pm Monday, Feb. 18.


WW critics were unable to screen 13 of the films, but here’s a bit about each:

After Lucia

[MEXICO] A Mexican teen comes to terms with her mother’s death and bullying at school. FT, 2:15 pm Sunday, Feb. 17. WH, 8:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 21.


Carmina or Blow Up

[SPAIN] When an insurance company doesn’t pay up after a chain of robberies, a chain-smoking, 58-year-old bar owner must find another way to support her family. CM, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 14. LC, 8:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 16.


The Exam

[HUNGARY] A thriller set after the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution. FT, 8:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 13, and 5:15 pm Monday, Feb. 18. WH, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 18.


The Hunt

[DENMARK] Mads Mikkelsen stars as a kindergarten aide accused of inappropriately touching a student. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg. WH, 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 18. LC, 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 18.


Just the Wind

[HUNGARY] Ethnic violence claims a Roma family. LC, 6:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 16, and 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 20.


Keep Smiling

[GEORGIA] Tbilisi housewives compete in a beauty contest. LC, 7 pm Monday, Feb. 18, and 8:45 pm Tuesday, Feb. 19.


The Last Shepherd

[ITALY] A shepherd dreams of leading his flock into Milan. CM, 8:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 13; 8:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 16; and 12:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 17.


Love, Marilyn

[UNITED STATES] In this documentary, director Liz Garbus brings together archival footage with readings of Marilyn Monroe’s diaries and letters by noted film stars. LC, 3:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 16. C21, 4:30 pm Monday, Feb. 18. WH, 3 pm Saturday, Feb. 23.


Men at Lunch

[IRELAND] A documentary about the iconic 1932 photo of men eating lunch on a skyscraper girder. WTC, 5:15 pm Sunday, Feb. 17. C21, noon Monday, Feb. 18.


The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

[GREAT BRITAIN] Sophie Fiennes follows up on the 2006 The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema with Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek continuing his exploration of film’s hidden languages. C21, noon Sunday, Feb. 17, and 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 21.


Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy

[ITALY] A thriller based on the true story of a 1969 bank bombing in Milan. LC, 1:30 pm Monday, Feb. 18. WH, 6 pm Friday, Feb. 22.


Two Years at Sea

[GREAT BRITAIN] A next-to-wordless film about a man who lives alone in a Scottish forest. CM, 7:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 17, and 8:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 20.


Unfair World

[GREECE] A crime comedy about a lonely police officer. LC, 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 17. WH, 8:45 pm Friday, Feb. 22.

 
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