AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
The 18th Annual Cascade Festival of African Films runs until Saturday, March 1. More info: africanfilmfestival.org.
I don't know if Bono was somewhere behind this film, but it sounds like it. Bamako asks, "Are Western financial institutions responsible for African poverty? Is globalization the cause or the solution of economic injustice?" And I mean it literally asks: The film plays out as a mock trial set in a Mali village, judging the impact of World Bank policies on Africa. As such, it moves along just like a mock trial, with heady, policy-specific diatribes from both sides. Overall, it's tedious, and its slowness defies all laws of physics. But if you're looking for a date movie for that hottie you met at the anti-globalization protest, have I got a movie for you! SCOTT MOORE PCC Cascade Campus.
A revenge film set in "the aftermath of Chad's bloody 40-year civil war." PCC Cascade Campus.
THE LION MOUNTAINS
A young British man discovers Sierra Leone's history. PCC Cascade Campus.
MASAï: THE RAIN WARRIORS
Masaï adolescents must find a lion's mane in order to bring rain to a drought-stricken land. PCC Cascade Campus.
MOVING TO THE BEAT
Portland hiphop group Rebel Soulz travels to Freetown, Sierra Leone. Rebel Soulz and co-director Abdul Fofanah in attendance. PCC Cascade Campus.
THE WOODEN CAMERA
Two 13-year-old boys in Cape Town discover a movie camera and a gun. PCC Cascade Campus.
PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
A Man's Job (Finland)
The Northwest Film Center's vague synopsis of this film—which includes the warning that the film is "adult" in nature—makes us suspect this is a drama about male prostitution. Gigolos, if you will. Man whores. Broadway Metroplex.
Significantly more linear than his previous spectacle, 2002's The Russian Ark, Aleksandr Sokurov's Alexandra is no less beautiful. In wartime Chechnya, Alexandra (Galina Vishnevskaya), a typical elderly Russian woman (read: stern yet loveable), visits her grandson in a Russian army camp. Despite having lived through many wars, she discovers that this conflict is more surreal than any she has ever experienced. WILL GARDNER Broadway Metroplex.
The Band's Visit (Israel)
See review. Newmark Theatre.
Blind Mountain (China)
A "raw and powerful melodrama" about a girl who's tricked into a slavery-like marriage. Broadway Metroplex.
Breath (South Korea)
An artist from Seoul falls in love with a Death Row prisoner. Broadway Metroplex.
Named for the hot, gooey candy used to wax body and facial hair in a dingy Beirut beauty salon, Caramel is the story of the women who work and congregate there. In an environment where merely being alone with a man you are not wedded to is asking for trouble, the salon provides a sanctuary for them to be open about their particularly feminine travails: an affair with a married man, the terror that a soon-to-be husband will discover his bride is not a virgin, the insecurities brought on by aging, the shyness of being a lesbian in a conservative society, and the sacrifices of happiness one must sometimes make to fulfill familial responsibilities. Caramel succeeds in pointing out the universalities of being a woman, but it's also this quality that makes it less than extraordinary: You've already seen a million you'll-laugh-you'll-cry films about sisterly friendships and female bonding; this one just happens to be in a different language. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Chicago 10 (US)
This is vital, fascinating stuff: Pairing incredible, expertly edited footage from the riots of the 1968 Democratic National Convention with animated re-enactments of the chaotic trail that followed, director Brett Morgen creates an extraordinary film about our freedoms of speech and dissent. With voice acting from the likes of Hank Azaria, Jeffrey Wright, Nick Nolte, and Mark Ruffalo, plus an adrenalin-soaked soundtrack featuring Rage Against the Machine, Black Sabbath, and Eminem, Chicago 10 is an urgent, razor-sharp take on one of the most murky and important events in American history. Exhilarating, funny, terrifying, and inspiring. ERIK HENRIKSEN Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Chop Shop (US)
Ale (Alejandro Polanco) is a charming, foul-mouthed urchin who works long days at a NYC chop shop and hustles stolen goods to earn money to take care of his older sister. He's relentlessly optimistic, mining for hope in a world that offers little—but this is not inspirational material. Chop Shop's filmmakers sagely bear in mind that no matter how charming you are, dire poverty is pretty damn hard to get out of, and in this surprisingly moving little film, Ale is no exception. ALISON HALLETT Broadway Metroplex.
The Counterfeiters (Austria)
Don't let the fact that The Counterfeiters is yet another Holocaust film deter you: It's based on the true but infrequently examined story of the Nazis' counterfeiting operation, the largest in history. Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) is the best forger in the world, but after his arrest in Berlin and the onset of the war, he finds himself in a concentration camp. Intent on survival, he schemes to make his talents known to his captors, and winds up as the key expert forced to work on Operation Bernhard. In this top-secret arrangement, special treatment is given to prisoners who in exchange produce counterfeits of the English pound and the American dollar. Excellently told, The Counterfeiters is a fascinating examination of one of history's dark corners. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Duchess of Langeais (France)
I vastly prefer the original title of this French film: Ne Touchez pas la Hache, which translates to "Don't Touch the Axe." An adaptation of a Honoré de Balzac novel, this is more like a play—one of those great, dusty comedies of manners and melodrama—set to film (a nearly two-and-a-half hour film, no less). It centers on the wryly tedious romance between Antoinette and Armand—she a child of frivolous early 19th-century Parisian society with an absent duke husband, he a curmudgeonly war hero with a limp and little patience for coquetry. Of course, the only measures taken by either of these two are dramatic and drastic, and their story is at once amusingly stupid and awesomely, well... stupid. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Edge of Heaven (Germany)
"Six lives intersect in a never-ending search for love" in Germany and Turkey. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Family Ties (South Korea)
This week, the irrepressible Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) discovers a get rich quick sche—oh, wait. This is a family drama from South Korea. Never mind. Broadway Metroplex.
Flight of the Red Balloon (Taiwan)
Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon is a charming little story about a boy and the red balloon that follows him around like a pet dog. It is delightful. It is 34 minutes long. Flight of the Red Balloon is an homage to that 1956 classic, about a young boy and his babysitter and the red balloon that bobs into their lives. Running time? One hundred and thirteen minutes. That is approximately 79 minutes too long. Juliette Binoche is lively and unhinged as a single mom working as a puppeteer, and director Hsiao-hsien Hou's camera gives an intimate, street-level portrait of Paris, but the film is meandering and unfocused. No matter how many times you remind yourself that the balloon symbolizes "wonder," it's still awfully hard to focus on this dull film. ALISON HALLETT Broadway Metroplex.
The concept behind this documentary is a good one: Interview visitors at Paris' famous Père-Lachaise cemetery, to find out what motivates pilgrims from across the world to lay flowers on the grave of Jim Morrison or plant lipstick kisses on Oscar Wilde's headstone. Unfortunately, in an attempt to make some broader (and duller) connections about art and life and death, filmmaker Heddy Honigmann wanders far outside the cemetery, and in so doing, tramples over the simple premise that made the film potentially interesting in the first place. ALISON HALLETT Broadway Metroplex.
Albert Maysles chronicles Christo's 2005 art installation. Broadway Metroplex.
Home Song Stories (Australia)
An "epic immigrant saga" about a Hong Kong night club singer who marries an Australian. Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
So this sounds depressing: A film about a Ukrainian nurse who is forced to become first a porn model and then a cleaning woman, as well as a debt-ridden German who's forced to take a job in the Ukraine. Broadway Metroplex.
In Bruges (Great Britain)
Martin McDonagh's uneven but entertaining dark comedy follows two hit men (perfectly played by the often terrible Colin Farrell and the always excellent Brendan Gleeson) stranded in a tiny Belgian tourist town. Dealing with midgets, Euro trash, and a fair amount of blood, both men crack wise, get fucked up, and make increasingly bad decisions. Awkwardly teetering between melodrama and slapstick, In Bruges never finds its footing, and it all goes shamefully and irrevocably to shit in its final act (despite Ralph Fiennes' fantastic attempt at a last-minute save, playing Farrell and Gleeson's disgruntled boss). But up until then: Great characters, and certainly a fun enough way to kill a few hours. ERIK HENRIKSEN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Irina Palm (Belgium)
Marianne Faithful stars in this film about a downtrodden woman, Maggie, who turns to unglamorous sex work to pay medical bills for her dying grandson. No longer the Rolling Stone-baiting bombshell she was 40 years ago, Maggie's character is reduced to "manning" a gloryhole—work for which she's well suited, thanks to her soft palms and caring nature. The film avoids cliché, portraying Maggie's Faustian bargain with depressed sex club manager Miki (Miki Manojlovic) in plausibly romantic terms. MATT DAVIS Broadway Metroplex.
It's a Free World (Great Britain)
A tedious reminder of the vital role sympathy plays in narrative drama. Ken Loach's When the Wind Shakes the Barley was one of the best films of the past few years, in no small part because it paired solid, sympathetic characters with interesting politics. There's no such balance in this, his follow-up, which examines Britain's exploitation of illegal immigrants. Here, Loach's characters are either stupid, despicable jerks or naïve, helpless cartoons; regardless of their designation, all of them spout dumbed-down polemics rather than speaking like actual people. The whole thing's an overly simplistic, utterly uninvolving chore. ERIK HENRIKSEN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Jar City (Iceland)
This glacial mystery offers little in the way of visceral thrills, but as a cerebral, heavily plotted crime drama—with the requisite grumpy police officer and sordid, long-buried secrets—it does just fine. When an old man is found bludgeoned in his apartment, detective Erlendur (Ingvar Sigurðsson) finds himself searching for clues in crimes that took place more than 30 years ago, tracking secrets inscribed in long-dead blood and bone that lead uncomfortably close to home. The film proceeds in an orderly fashion to a logical conclusion, with a tidiness that is, if not thrilling, then at least satisfying. ALISON HALLETT Broadway Metroplex.
Taking a break from Star Trek conventions, Colm Meaney desperately tries, one more time, to show he can play characters who aren't named Miles O'Brien. Broadway Metroplex.
La Antena (Argentina)
Dateline: the future. (Or possibly the past.) An entire city has lost its voice and can only communicate through subtitles, except for one woman who can still talk, and consequently doesn't need subtitles to speak to others, and is used as an unwilling tool by the megalomaniacal Mr. TV to take all of everybody's words away forever. Oh, and her son can sometimes speak, too. Are you following this? Argentinean director Esteban Sapir's visually ravishing homage to black and white photography, silent films, and Robitussin fugues doesn't make a lick of sense, but in an intriguing, endearing fashion, it's a trip, man. ANDREW WRIGHT Broadway Metroplex.
M for Mother (Iran)
An Iranian woman discovers that her unborn child has been damaged by the chemical attacks of the Iraq-Iran War. Hijinx ensue! Broadway Metroplex.
Mister Foe (Great Britain)
A murder mystery about a 17-year-old trying to find the reason for his mother' death. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
See review. Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Not by Chance (Brazil)
Through flows of traffic and the game of pool, Not by Chance attempts to explore the metaphysics of choice and desire. It fails miserably. Rather than one coherent picture, Not by Chance strings together two short films by the flimsiest of threads. The first, focusing on the life of an intelligent but reluctant traffic engineer, might've been something if given time to grow, but the B-story sticks its head in for no good reason at all, and motivations are arbitrary at best, unfathomable at worst. The only endearing character is the big, bright, beautiful city of São Paulo, though even it's compromised by the film's asinine themes. Having life's great questions compared to traffic is every bit as boring as it sounds. ANDREW TONRY Broadway Metroplex.
Romulus, My Father (Australia)
A family drama based on Raimond Gaita's memoir. Broadway Metroplex.
The Russian Triangle (Russia)
A political thriller dealing with the war in Chechnya. Though it also sounds like it could be about some weird sex position we don't know about in the States yet. Broadway Metroplex.
Saviour's Square (Poland)
A critically acclaimed look at "a family's struggle to stay afloat in post-Communist Poland." Broadway Metroplex.
Short Cuts I: International Ties
Short films from all over the world. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Short Cuts II: International Ties
More short films from all over the world. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Taxi to the Dark Side (US)
The latest in a long line of political documentaries to critique the US' reprehensible policies in our War On Terror, the Oscar-nom'd Taxi to the Dark Side begins with the death of an innocent Afghani man at the Bagram Airbase—the proverbial "man at the picnic" upon which director Alex Gibney anchors his Powers of Ten-style indictment of the Bush administration's flagrant disregard for the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. It's thoroughly convincing in its condemnation of our country's top brass (not too hard these days), but more than that, Taxi is a powerfully well-crafted document of the moral ambiguity that has lately become the expected norm in American foreign policy. ZAC PENNINGTON Broadway Metroplex.
Then She Found Me (US)
Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where the guy's face gets all melty and you can see his skull behind it? That is exactly what Helen Hunt looks like now. And while it should be refreshing for a woman in Hollywood to direct herself "au naturale" with nary a hint of rouge, this was just—oh my god—not refreshing. Hunt plays a 39-year-old (okaaaayy) woman whose husband, played by Matthew Broderick, has second thoughts about being married—presumably to a dried-up corn husk—and leaves her. Next, her adoptive mother dies and her real mother (Bette Midler!) shows up, hoping to establish a relationship with Hunt. Meanwhile, she begins dating Colin Firth, which makes total sense as he's all charming and dreamy and Helen Hunt is a rusty ironing board with hair. A very unfunny, untouching movie. KIALA KAZEBEE Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
The Trap (Serbia)
Director Srdan Golubovic describes his modern film noir as "a Balkan version of Crime and Punishment." Finally! Broadway Metroplex.
Tuya's Marriage (China)
A romantic comedy that suggests "the quest to find a good, reliable man in Inner Mongolia is as thankless as it is anywhere else in the world." Tell me about it, sister! Sigh. Broadway Metroplex.
Under the Same Moon (Mexico)
A sweet, innocuous film about a young boy trying to reunite with his mother. Rosario (Kate del Castillo) is an illegal immigrant who snuck across the Mexico/US border four years prior and is now working as a maid and housekeeper in East LA, trying to earn enough money to send for her son. Her nine-year-old boy, Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), still lives in Mexico under the care of his grandmother—until she unexpectedly dies and he's faced with trying to find his mother on his own. Young Carlitos' journey from Mexico to LA is filled with predators and kindly immigrants in this well-acted family film. COURTNEY FERGUSON Broadway Metroplex.
The White Silk Dress (Vietnam)
A Vietnamese family overcomes adversities. They also have a weekly game of Twister. Broadway Metroplex.
See review. Broadway Metroplex.
You, the Living (Sweden)
50 comic vignettes about modern life. Broadway Metroplex.
Blood Tea and Red String
A stop-motion animated feature directed by Christiane Cegavske, who'll be in attendance at this screening. Clinton St. Theater.
A documentary about civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Q Center.
The Business of Being Born
A documentary dealing with the debate between having babies at home or in a hospital. It's executive produced by Ricki Lake, which is enough to keep us far, far away. Hollywood Theatre.
See My, What a Busy Week!. Someday Lounge.
Diamonds, Guns, and Rice
A documentary about the civil war in Sierra Leone, told via the perspectives of women. The co-director of the film, PSU prof Jan Haaken, will be in attendance. Fifth Avenue Cinema.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Movies that are "based on a true story" are usually dismal affairs—extraordinary human experiences flattened into pseudo-inspirational morality tales. An emphatic new exception is Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the autobiography of the completely paralyzed Jean-Dominique Bauby. Diving Bell is that rare case where an amazing story and amazing filmmaking collide, a rich and beautiful film that does full justice to its source material. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Starlet Jessica Alba has said in interviews that she hopes this remake of a 2002 Hong Kong horror flick will help establish her as a serious actress. Which is weird, because The Eye wasn't screened for critics. We bet it's because Alba's performance was so good that the studio wanted to keep it secret! Oh, wait. That doesn't make any sense. At all. Sorry, Jess. Various Theaters.
See review. Various Theaters.
Hannah Montana Concert Tour in 3D
Apparently, regular ol' 2D Hannah Montana just isn't enough. Various Theaters.
Millions: A Lottery Story
Millions follows six lottery winners, including Phylis Breth, a dishwasher in a Minnesota high school who won a 16th of $95 million on Powerball along with her fellow canteen workers. Breth keeps her job, but buys a fridge with an ice-maker, asking with tears in her eyes, "Who would have thought I could have gotten the things I want?" There's also Louis Eisenberg and Curtis Sharp, the first New Yorkers to win $5 million from the lottery in the '80s. Both are now broke, although Eisenberg doesn't regret it, and Sharp found God at rock bottom. He visits prisons as a pastor these days. It's well-told, existential stuff. MATT DAVIS Hollywood Theatre.
Over Her Dead Body
The plot is ludicrous. In Over Her Dead Body, a gigantic angel ice sculpture crushes dead-eyed Kate (Eva Longoria Parker) on her wedding day. Her fiancé, Henry (Paul Rudd), begrudgingly consults a psychic a year later to see if Kate's ghost will let him start dating again. His psychic, Ashley (Lake Bell), falls for him. Kate decides that's not going to work out for her selfish dead ass, and begins harassing the ghost-whispering Ashley to leave her man alone. And because I knew all this going into the theater, I was filled with foreboding even before the previews started rolling. But thank god for lowered expectations, 'cause this pithy piece of fluff is downright funny. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novels, Persepolis and Persepolis II, are reimagined in an excellent animated treatment that condenses the events of the two books into a frank, poignant coming-of-age story that surpasses its source material in both visual elegance and storytelling economy. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a sexually repressed high school student who, unbeknownst to her, has vagina dentata—i.e., her red snapper has really, really sharp teeth. Combining black humor, monster-movie horror, and the best of '70s sexploitation flicks, writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein's fascinating film manages to avoid the Fatal Attraction cautionary tale pitfalls and successfully aims for a message of female sexual empowerment. COURTNEY FERGUSON Fox Tower 10.
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie
See review. Clinton Street Theater.
Two or Three Things I Know About Her
A restored print of Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 drama. Hollywood Theatre.
Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show
See review. Various Theaters.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
See review. Various Theaters.