The Mercury thinks the following PIFF films are worth a couple hours of sitting on your ass this week. See Film Shorts pg 35 for more.

Bend it Like Beckham

(dir. Chadha, Great Britain)

Not exactly a masterpiece, this film is a lighthearted, cute escape best suited for parents and teens. An adolescent, soccer-playing daughter struggles against her Hindu parents, who would rather gear her interests towards cooking and otherwise preparing herself to be a proper Indian bride. The plot is unsurprising, with a lot of sneaking around, getting busted, mothers thinking their daughters are lesbians, lying, crushes, etc. And lots of soccer. The best part of the film is a Hindu wedding scene, with wonderful traditional music, dancing, and a whirl of colorful costuming. The cultural conflicts seem legitimate, but the film's treatment of them is way too pat, to the point of contradicting its own declarations of their gravity. Then again, it's the type of movie that conveniently glosses over anything that might interrupt its quest to be a touching, hopeful coming-of-age story about acceptance and determination. MARJORIE SKINNER Fri Feb 21, 7 pm, Broadway Theater; Sun Feb 23, 4:45 pm, Guild

House of Fools

(dir. Konchalovsky, Russia)

Set in 1992 in an asylum on the Chechen border, this is based on the true story of a group of mental patients and their encounter with Chechen rebels as the Russian-Chechen war encroaches. The protagonist, Jana, is an exuberant accordionist whose craziness manifests itself in the belief that she is betrothed to Bryan Adams. (Adams himself makes several appearances in her delusion sequences.) However, Jana falls in love with a Chechen soldier when he jokingly asks her to marry him, but the war--and her loyalty to her fellow patients--will ultimately keep them apart. House of Fools juxtaposes the reality of war against a horde of supposedly crazy people. Though it questions humanity's definition of sanity, none of it is predictable, and the amazing cinematography and stunning, humorous, and touching dialogue make it one of the best films I've seen in ages. JULIANNE SHEPHERD Fri Feb 21, 7 pm, Whitsell; Sat Feb 22, 3:15 pm, Guild

I'm the Father

(dir. Levy, Germany)

Marco is a successful architect. Benny is his adorable young son. Melanie is Marco's wife, who pretty much out of nowhere divorces Marco and disappears with Benny. Without sounding too melodramatic or simplistic, Väter limns Marco's resulting struggle to glue together his cracked sanity, and begin his rocky journey to re-establish a paternal relationship with his son. Väter feels creepily real, due to both its flawless performances and the naturalistic, informal camera. If it weren't for the inherent tenderness of the characters--save Melanie, whose motivations are never made quite clear--the film's heavier-than-lead subject matter would be fairly suicide inducing. Somehow, though, the film ends up being brilliantly moving and uplifting; it's simultaneously a gut-wrenching drama and an insightful meditation on the things that build us up and tear us down: family and emotion, obsession and devotion. ERIK HENRIKSEN Tues Feb 25, 8:45 pm, Broadway


(dir. Crialese, Italy)

A fraying at the seams family of fishermen struggles to cope with both its free-spirited, increasingly bipolar mother (the excellent Valeria Golino) and her erratic effect on the surrounding rumor-starved island community. Based on a Sicilian myth, writer/director Emanuel Crialese's stunningly shot, narrative-lite film skitters dangerously on the edge of pretension, with its Oedipal undertow and irritating subplots. But Golino's performance and the beautiful backdrop makes this combination of lower-class grit (the kids are unvarnished little bastards) and dreamy underwater lyricism worth watching, and it was the winner of the "Critic's WeekBest Film" prize at Cannes. Warning: contains a potentially upsetting scene of mass Old Yeller carnage. ANDREW WRIGHT Sat Feb 22, 6 pm & Sun Feb 23, 7:30 pm, Guild Theater

Short Cuts III

(various dir., various countries)

In conjunction with Four Wall Cinema, PIFF presents The Spaces We Inhabit, a program of four shorts from Hungary, the U.S., Germany, and Japan, which explore the theme from different perspectives and cinematic approach. The standout is Ericka Beckman's colorful "Switch Center," which begins as a seemingly pointless look at circular motion, with men in a factory turning cranks and signaling to each other in mechanical precision. However, with the introduction of a mysterious smoking woman in a circular hat, the silent narrative shows its true plot, and a wonderful sense of humor. You'll wish Shiho Kano's beautifully shot yet dry "Rocking Chair" had an ounce of that lightness, with its whirring soundtrack and five-minute-long shots of feet, interspersed with a blank screen. Harun Farocki's "I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts" deftly explores the treatment of prisoners in their allotted space: concrete prison yards. Finally, Janie Geiser's "The Fourth Watch" superimposes old video over footage of dark, empty rooms, to create a haunted-house effect. It's an interesting program, and the "Convicts" and "Switch" pieces are excellent. JS Mon Feb 24, 8:30 pm, Guild Theater

PIFF toils on until Sun, March 2nd. Tickets are still available in the lobby of the Portland Art Museum. See pg 35 for more times.