Portland International Film Festival
Fri Feb 11-Sun Feb 27
Guild Theater, Whitsell Auditorium, Broadway Metro
It's a festival that spans three weeks, three theaters, and just about every filmmaking country in the world. But despite the fact that the Northwest Film Center has been putting on the Portland International Film Festival for 28 years, hardly anyone outside of the NWFC's hoity-toity donors (which is to say no one, really) knows or cares about PIFF.
The blame can be laid on NWFC's publicists or--more damningly, but less likely--Portlanders' lack of interest. Either way, while affluent NWFC donors are enjoying some of the best of world cinema, most Portlanders are left in the dark. But here's your chance to give PIFF a chance by checking out this festival's unique selections. Here are our picks; for more, hit page 53, and for a full schedule of this week's offerings, see page 55.
The Ballad of Jack and Rose (dir. Miller, US)--Taking up the thin line between familial and romantic love, The Ballad of Jack and Rose is not nearly as creepy or sordid as one might think. Inhabiting an old commune, the handsome, rugged father (Daniel Day-Lewis) and angel-faced adolescent daughter (Camilla Belle) toil in post-hippie paradise while classic folk rock accompanies them on the soundtrack. The ballad is rich with incident--it's touching, anguished, disturbing, strange, and occasionally hilarious. MS (Sat at Broadway; Tues at Whitsell)
Daybreak (dir. Runge, Sweden)--This fascinating thriller examines the stories of three families whose lives all reach a climax on the same morning. One family is crippled by a selfish husband's egotism and adultery, another by a bitter divorce, and the third by a husband's greedy workaholism. Daybreak succeeds because of its attention to detail--the subtly nuanced characters make each person seem like they could be your kooky neighbor or your clueless ex-husband. KS (Sat at Whitsell; Mon at Broadway)
Muchuca (dir. Wood, Chile)--An outstanding film set in the final days before Pinochet's coup in Chile, told from the point of view of two young boys (Matías Quer and Ariel Mateluna). Machuca shows a vehemently divided country through the relatively unbiased eyes of its young characters. It's a singularly moving story--seething with hatred, but at least temporarily transcending it. MS (Sun at Broadway; Thurs Feb 17 at Guild)
Millions (dir. Boyle, Britain)--The last thing one would expect from the director of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later is a warm family film, but Danny Boyle's tale of two young brothers (Alexander Nathan Etel and Lewis Owen McGibbon) who find a duffel bag stuffed with cash is remarkably enjoyable. Keeping the money secret from their widower father (James Nesbitt), one boy hallucinates Christian saints who urge him to donate the money, while the other delights in spending the cash. Ultimately, Millions becomes less about the money and more about the boys' splintered family; despite a retarded subplot about a criminal looking for the cash and some unforgivably sappy moments, Millions is definitely worthwhile. EH (Sat at Whitsell; Weds at Broadway)
Take My Eyes (dir. Bollaín, Spain)--Take My Eyes depicts a couple whose passionate love will never outrun the seething anger of the male. Absolutely refusing to take sides, Bollaín portrays luminous Pilar (Laia Marull) and her husband Antonio (Luis Tosar) with masterful evenness and precision. Antonio's awareness of his own violent jealousy is heartbreaking, but his bouts of insecure rage are uncontrollable and dangerous. Bollaín paints domestic rage not as a personality flaw, but as a disease as harmful and devastating as cancer--we'd hate Tosar, if only we didn't know how badly he yearns to be healed. JWS (Thurs Feb 17 at Whitsell; Feb 19 at Broadway)
Turtles Can Fly (dir. Ghobadi, Iran)--A slyly humorous, emotionally devastating story about Kurdish refugees along the Iraq-Turkey border. The centerpiece of the film is a precocious 13-year-old boy, Satellite (Soran Ebrahim), who commands a small army of loyal orphans who gather land mines and trade them for whatnots. But in the middle of the impending American invasion, Satellite falls for a haunted young woman and manages to simply be a boy. An incredibly moving film, with a perspective on the Iraqi war that you certainly won't see on Fox News. PB (Sun at Broadway; Weds at Guild)