Film

Portland International Film Fest

Separating the Curd from the Turd

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The Mercury thinks the following PIFF films are worth a couple hours of sitting on your ass this week. See Film Shorts pg 39 for more.

Go

(dir. Yukisada, Japan)

This flick from director Isao Yukisada is like a cross between A Clockwork Orange and Powder. Sugihara is a Japanese teen of Korean ancestry who just can't seem to fit in anywhere, and spends much of his time outrunning subway trains and beating the crap out of anyone who challenges him. Happily for those who have been getting their noses bloodied, he meets Sakurai; a hubba-hubba hottie who teaches him about love. Unfortunately, class distinctions rear their ugly head, and Sakurai must come to grips with being a teen "without a nation." Director Yukisada initially grabs us by the inseam with his stylish rat-a-tat-tat editing style, which beautifully illustrates Sugihara's disaffected and violent nature. Unfortunately, it doesn't last. By its third act, Go done got up and left, slowing to a romantic mushy stop. However, the acting is great, and the story is darling, so let's not kick just because it's 30 minutes too long. WM. STEVEN HUMPHREY

Wed Feb 19, 6:15 pm, Broadway Theater

Laurel Canyon

(dir. Cholodenko, U.S.)

An outwardly airtight, upwardly propelled couple (Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale) reluctantly relocate to the crumbling, groupie-haunted manse of his rock producing, party hearty mother (the gorgeously desiccated Francis McDormand, spinning a neat 180º from her dowdy Almost Famous turn). Romantic entanglements, Oedipal spit-takes, identity crises, and Kip Wingeresque excess swiftly follow. As in her previous High Art, director Lisa Cholodenko takes an affectionate dissection knife to The Creative Type, resulting in a refreshingly even-handed, open-ended, and, at times, seriously hot exploration of the delicate arts of self-loathing and psyche implosion. Nothing new, exactly, but it's a finely etched, occasionally hilarious trip through La La Land. Alessandro Nivola steals the show/rocks the mic as a proudly dunderheaded, long-lost Gallagher brother. ANDREW WRIGHT Fri Feb 14, 7 pm, Whitsell Auditorium

Man Without A Past

(dir. Kaurismaki, Finland)

An amnesiac hangdog slips between the urban cracks and discovers purpose, amour and the healing power of rockabilly in this masterfully deadpan, melancholy-tinged comic fable. Finnish writer/director Aki Kaurismäki (Leningrad Cowboys Go America) is clearly his own quirky man, but imagine if Jim Jarmusch had taken a swing at Memento to get an inkling of the downbeat sleight-of-hand on display. The subject matter treads perilously close to mawkish pathos at times, but both cast and crew keep it light on its feet and easy on the heartstrings, with the blessed sense to treat its downtrodden as recognizable folks, rather than holy fools or mere comic relief. Endlessly quotable and effortlessly charming. AW Fri Feb 14, 7:15 pm & Sun Feb 16, 2:45 pm, Guild Theater

OT: Our Town

(dir. Kennedy, U.S.)

Few things in life feel better than capping off the grueling multiple-month rehearsal process most theatrical productions require with an opening night performance that doesn't suck. Enormous levels of built-up stress instantly fall into waves of relief and pride so palpable it's almost orgasmic. Our Town taps beautifully into this cycle by following a group of high school students in Compton trying to put on the first play their under-funded, sports-obsessed school has seen in twenty years. Rehearsing on plastic chairs in the cafeteria, the kids are more than loveable, but not ready for theatrical commitment. The tension becomes almost unbearable as opening night approaches and it becomes increasingly clear that the cast is not ready. Amazingly, this film about kids putting on a play actually induces squirms of suspense. It's the closest a person who doesn't do theater will get to knowing what it's like, and it's a wonderful look at the noble underbelly of a neighborhood so frequently stereotyped as being nothing but trouble. JUSTIN SANDERS Sat Feb 15, 6:45 pm & Sun Feb 16, 1:30 pm, Broadway

A Wedding In Ramallah

(dir. Salama, Australia)

This documentary follows Bassan, a Palestinian exiled in Cleveland, and Mariam, his near estranged, arranged-marriage wife. It gives an authentic, rare glimpse into the everyday reality of Middle Eastern families, and their attempts to carry on a semblance of normalcy despite the turmoil surrounding them. It's fascinating to watch Mariam and her peers goofing off, playing with makeup, and singing. Then the documentary jars into alien scenes in which women are punished for having cell phones without asking their husbands. Bassan does eventually bring Mariam to Cleveland, only to be shut in his cheap apartment all day cleaning, sleeping, and cooking, having been forbidden to go outside. The contrasts and similarities between life in Palestine and the U.S. are endlessly riveting and disturbing. Perhaps the saddest element of the film is the women's pining for visas to the United States, conflating it in their minds as a promised land. MARJORIE SKINNER Sat Feb 15, 1:30; Mon Feb 17, 7 pm; Whitsell Auditorium

PIFF encompasses three theaters--Whitsell, Guild, and Broadway--from Fri Feb 14 through Sun March 2. Tickets and passes are available in the lobby of the Portland Art Museum, and it is recommended you buy them in advance.

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