As the Portland International Film Festival features new awards, panels and events for its 43rd year (more details to come in next week's Screener), the central attraction remains: more artistic and adventurous cinema than the average person could watch in 10 weeks, much less PIFF's 10 days.
From premieres for Portland directors to poetic Lao horror to an unlikely Pixar screening, the festival presents 120 features, shorts and docs from more than 40 countries. We watched all we could ahead of PIFF's opening night on Thursday. Don't miss these five favorites.
Cinema 21, 8:30 pm Friday, March 13.
Long considered an undersung master by cinephiles, Kelly Reichardt delivers another tale from the former Oregon Territory, as formally flawless and thematically intelligent as prior standouts Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy. First Cow centers on the hazards of frontier capitalism as two milk thieves establish a friendship and an illicit baking business. In a career with arguably no misses, First Cow is quite possibly Reichardt's finest work.
Hollywood Theatre, 8:30 pm Saturday, March 7. Cinemagic, 5:30 pm Saturday, March 14.
A wild hybrid (or maybe refutation) of The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and The Big Country (1959), Bacurau is set in a remote Brazilian village where the residents are united by a history of rebellion. That'll come in handy as invaders target the town's water and Wi-Fi to mysterious ends. Thrillingly anachronistic and completely unafraid to pivot from pastoral to apocalyptic and back again, Bacurau is as cathartic as it is cutthroat. Colonizers, beware.
Anne at 13,000 Ft.
Whitsell Auditorium, 6 pm Sunday, March 8. Cinemagic, 8:30 pm Sunday, March 15.
Each year, dozens of indie movies pose the question: Why can't this quirky loner get it together? The problem with most such character studies is they don't study characters very well—instead, it's all high jinks or cringe-worthy stumbles. Thankfully, Canadian filmmaker Kazik Radwanski threads the needle in his hyper-close-up drama Anne at 13,000 Ft. The title character (Deragh Campbell) isn't a tornado of contrived faux pas, just a flawed responder to other people's expectations, whether at her day care job or in a burgeoning romance. It's a relatable approximation of that oddball friend with whom you lost touch years ago and a heartfelt wish she'll pull through on her own terms.
Whitsell Auditorium, 7:15 pm Friday, March 6. Cinema 21, 8:45 pm Saturday, March 14.
In her feature debut, Portlander Lara Jean Gallagher proves there's plenty more room for Reichardt-style intimacy and craft at PIFF. Clementine centers on a lonely woman holed up at a coastal Oregon cabin, trying to shake off the debris of a bad breakup. Amid all that disquiet, Karen (Otmara Marrero) meets an aspiring young actress (Sydney Sweeney) looking to skip town. It's unclear whether the ingénue wants a lover or a savior, but a brilliant lead performance by Marrero expertly toes the line between impulse and responsibility.
The Long Walk
Cinemagic, 8:30 pm Saturday, March 7, and 3:15 pm Monday, March 9.
Independent genre movies are blessed by the freedom to spurn logic. In turn, Lao director Mattie Do's The Long Walk overflows with maybes. Set on a supernatural stretch of country road, it's maybe about ghosts, maybe about the Butterfly Effect, maybe about Alzheimer's, maybe about a mass murderer communing with his victims. Like a more hypnotic Personal Shopper (2016), The Long Walk thrives on an internal rhyme scheme, not burdened in the slightest by giving only murky clues about which characters are dead or alive, real or imagined.
Portland's Frank and Zed, for its lovingly rendered puppet gore.
France's Sibyl, for never giving up on the gonzo erotic thriller.
China's The Wild Goose Lake, for its wonderfully staged Third Man homages.
Florida's Pahokee, for its documenting of underestimated teens trying their damn best.
SEE IT: The Portland International Film Festival takes place at various venues, nwfilm.org. Showtimes vary Friday-Sunday, March 6-15. $350 for a festival pass, $200 with student ID. Individual ticket prices vary.