So you say you like film, but most of Portland's film festivals leave you bored and antsy, scanning the rows in front of you for an unsuspecting soul to whip some popcorn kernels at? Welcome to the club. That said, get ready to get excited: for the first time, RESFEST--an international digital film fest that also boasts parties, workshops, and live music--is coming to Portland.
Showcasing live action and animated short films, pioneering music videos (from the likes of Radiohead and Quannum Projects), and tutorials on filmmaking and technology, RESFEST is like nothing that's hit Portland before. There are daily shorts programs, a collection of activist shorts, and music video showcases. And while there are Big Names aplenty--from Michel Gondry to Jonathan Glazer to Michael Moore--check out the shorts from the unknowns, too; I guarantee that even your jaded ass will be surprised at how intelligent, moving, and stunning some of them are. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Sat Oct 23
John Cameron Mitchell (director, writer, and star of Hedwig and the Angry Inch) recently called Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation "the first example of outsider filmmaking" he had ever seen. After viewing Tarnation--and if we define "outsider art" as something made by someone who lacks the traditional schooling or training in the medium in which they work--I have to agree. This made-on-a-Mac cheapie is like viewing a Jackson Pollack painting before the abstract expressionist movement began.
The story of Caouette's mother, Renee, is at the center of Tarnation's many ruminations: we see how pretty she was as a young woman, then witness the havoc wreaked by 15-plus years of electroshock therapy. When Jonathan moves to New York in the late 1990s, his mother falls apart--leaving Jonathan to decide if it's better to let her live with him and his boyfriend in their postage stamp-sized apartment or let her rot in Texas.
Tarnation is a dense testimony to the struggles of family, mental illness, secrets, being queer, and a multitude of other weighty topics. Appropriately enough, "testimony" is a term Caouette uses often; by successfully combining autobiography, fiction, experimental oddity, vintage photography, and video footage, he's created a highly personal masterwork. MICHAEL SVOBODA
Opens Fri Oct 2
Set in Shakespearian London, a time when it was literally illegal for women to act on a public stage, Stage Beauty revolves around an interesting situation, but it can't figure out how to twist it into a consistently involving story.
Claire Danes is Maria, a servant whose master, Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup), is the greatest female impersonator on the London stage. His Desdemona from Othello is legendary, and as Maria watches the performance unfold nightly from the wings, she is inspired to defy convention and try acting herself. Her secret is quickly discovered, however, but so charming is she that the current king, Charles II (Rupert Everett) immediately declares that henceforth it shall become legal for all women to act publicly. This news opens up the theater to all women, which essentially ends Kynaston's career. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that the suddenly famous Maria can't really act--so she tracks down the ruined Kynaston, and the film turns into a Rocky-esque "training for the big fight" scenario between student and master.
The film hints at a passion between the two, but it trips itself up by making Kynaston very gay-ish--and therefore it's hard to really take seriously any progress made by Maria on the romantic front. (Oddly, this doesn't really seem to bother Maria much, which robs the movie of a tension it sorely lacks.) Things culminate in a nice theatrical moment that brings the master-teacher dynamic full circle, but the confusing, half-baked relationship between the two makes it a lot less satisfying than it could have been. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS