When Japanese Schoolgirls Attack 

The Portland International Film Fest—Now with Mutants!

MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD Well, they don't look that mutanty....

MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD Well, they don't look that mutanty....

RATHER INAUSPICIOUSLY, this year's Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) kicks off with Potiche, a French comedy starring Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu. Billed by the Northwest Film Center as an update of "a popular boulevard farce," Potiche wasn't screened for local critics—but I'm going to hazard a guess and say, hey, it's a French flick starring Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. You probably know what to expect.

Which, for better or worse, has been a theme for PIFF for... well, a while. On the upside, every year the Northwest Film Center brings a truly impressive number of foreign films to Portland for PIFF's two-and-a-half-week run (this year boasts a whopping 129 films, culled from over 40 countries). On the downside, it's tempting to scroll through the Film Center's website and succumb to a sense of déjà vu—in many ways, this motley, vaguely interesting assortment of dramas, documentaries, comedies, and shorts feels a lot like PIFFs of the past.

But to write it off would overlook a few key developments that—much like PIFF's 2009 premiere of Coraline—aim to inject some excitement into the fest. First up is an expansion in venues—no longer limited to the Film Center's lecture-hall-like Whitsell Auditorium and the subterranean Broadway Metroplex, this year PIFF spreads to Cinema 21, the Hollywood Theatre, and Cinemagic. There are also new spots for festival attendees to shoot the shit (the "PIFF Lounge" at downtown's Nel Centro restaurant, and "PIFFbar" across from Cinemagic), a Hispanic film showcase, and a solid smattering of films worth seeking out, including the subtly tense Austrian drama La Pivellina; Romania's stressful but oddly upbeat If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle; the unflinching documentary Armadillo, which follows Danish soldiers in Afghanistan as they train, wait, watch porn, and kill; and two heavily buzzed Oregon-based films, the Portland-set mumblecore/detective mashup Cold Weather and the right-to-die doc How to Die in Oregon, which just snagged the best documentary prize at Sundance.

But the real adrenalin shot this year is "PIFF After Dark," a late-night genre series programmed by the Grindhouse Film Festival's Dan Halsted (a guy who's been everywhere lately—he also just took over as the Hollywood Theatre's head programmer). PIFF After Dark showcases four films that—to hazard another guess—will probably pop for Mercury readers: The French film Rubber is a "surreal tale of a psychotic tire out on a telekinetic murderous rampage"; there's Takeshi Kitano's latest yakuza flick, Outrage; there's The Revenant, an American horror film in which an Iraq War veteran returns home as something "between a zombie and a vampire"; and there's Mutant Girls Squad, a blood-splattered action flick about a squad of... y'know, mutants. Who are also pretty schoolgirls. Who also kill things. It probably goes without saying that Mutant Girls Squad comes from Japan.

For the Mercury's take on individual PIFF films, see Film Shorts; for showtimes, see Movie Times. As ever, you can stay updated throughout the fest in upcoming issues of the Mercury and at blogtown.portlandmercury.com.

Russian Lessons (Norway)
Rated NR · 90 min.
Director: Andrei Nekrasov and Olga Konskaya
Cast: Andrei Nekrasov, Olga Konskaya and Gen. Mamuka Khurashvili
Peepli Live
Rated NR · 104 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.akpfilms.com/peeplilive
Director: Anusha Rizvi
Cast: Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Malaika Shenoy, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shalini Vatsa, Farrukh Jaffer and Vishal O Sharma
Budrus (US)
Rated NR · 82 min.
Official Site: www.justvision.org/budrus
Director: Julia Bacha
Writer: Julia Bacha
Of Gods and Men
Rated PG-13 · 120 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.sonyclassics.com/ofgodsandmen
Director: Xavier Beauvois
Writer: Xavier Beauvois and Etienne Comar
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Jacques Herlin, Loïc Pichon, Xavier Maly, Jean-Marie Frin, Abdelhafid Metalsi and Sabrina Ouazani
Aftershock
Rated NR · 90 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.chinalionentertainment.com/aftershock
Director: Xiaogang Feng
Cast: Jingchu Zhang, Daoming Chen, Yi Lu, Jin Chen, Fan Xu, Ziwen Wang, Guoqiang Zhang, Mei Yong, Chen Li and Lixin Yang
Incendies
Rated R · 130 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.sonyclassics.com/incendies
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Denis Villeneuve and Wadji Mouawad
Cast: Lubna Azabal, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette and Remy Girard
Cold Weather
Rated NR · 97 min. · 2011
Director: Aaron Katz
Writer: Aaron Katz, Brendan McFadden and Ben Stambler
Producer: Brendan McFadden and Ben Stambler
Cast: Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raúl Castillo, Robyn Rikoon, Jeb Pearson and Brendan McFadden
The Housemaid
Rated NR · 107 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.ifcfilms.com/films/the-housemaid
Director: Sang-soo Im
Writer: Ki-young Kim and Sang-soo Im
Cast: Do-yeon Jeon and Jung-Jae Lee
Even the Rain
Rated NR · 103 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.eventherainmovie.com
Director: Icíar Bollaín
Writer: Paul Laverty
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Najwa Nimri and Luis Tosar
Rubber
Rated R · 82 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.rubberfilm.com
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Writer: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Thomas F. Duffy, David Bowe, Devin Brochu, Ethan Cohn and Pete Dicecco
The Woodmans
Rated NR · 82 min.
Official Site: www.thewoodmansmovie.com
Director: Scott Willis
The Arbor
Rated NR · 90 min.
Director: Clio Barnard
Producer: Tracy O'Riordan
Cast: Neil Dudgeon, Christine Bottomley, Manjinder Virk, Monica Dolan, Danny Webb, Christine Bottomley, Robery Emms and Natalie Gavin
Carancho (Argentina)
Rated NR · 105 min.
Official Site: www.caranchofilm.com
Director: Pablo Trapero
Writer: Alejandro Fadel and Martín Mauregui
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Martina Gusman and Darío Valenzuela
A Somewhat Gentle Man (Norway)
Rated NR · 105 min.
Director: Hans Petter Moland
Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Bjørn Floberg, Gard B. Eidsvold, Jorunn Kjellsby, Bjørn Sundquist, Jon Øigarden, Kjersti Holmen, Jan Gunnar Røise, Julia Bache-Wiig and Aksel Hennie
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Rated NR · 114 min. · 2011
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Writer: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Producer: Simon Field, Keith Griffiths and Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Cast: Sakda Kaewbuadee, Jenjira Pongpas and Thanapat Saisaymar
Heartbeats
Rated NR · 102 min. · 2011
Director: Xavier Dolan
Writer: Xavier Dolan
Producer: Xavier Dolan, Daniel Morin and Carole Mondello
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Niels Schneider and Marie Camille
Certified Copy
Rated NR · 106 min. · 2011
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Writer: Abbas Kiarostami
Producer: MK2 Diffusion
Cast: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell, Jean-Claude Carrière and Agathe Natanson
When We Leave (Germany)
Rated NR · 79 min.
Director: Feo Aladag
Writer: Feo Aladag
Cast: Sibel Kekilli, Nizam Schiller, Derya Alabora, Settar Tanriogen, Serhad Can, Almila Bagriacik, Tamer Yigit, Alwara Höfels, Florian Lukas and Blanca Apilanez Fernandez
Poetry (South Korea)
Rated NR · 149 min.
Official Site: diaphana.fr/film/poetry
Director: Chang-dong Lee
Writer: Chang-dong Lee
Cast: Jeong-hee Yoon, Nae-sang Ahn, Da-wit Lee, Hira Kim and Yong-taek Kim
The Double Hour
Rated NR · 105 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.samuelgoldwynfilms.com
Director: Giuseppe Capotondi
Writer: Alessandro Fabbri and Ludovica Rampoldi
Producer: Francesca Cima and Nicola Giuliano
Cast: Filippo Timi, Ksenia Rappaport, Gaetano Bruno, Federica Cassini, Giorgio Colangeli, Michele Di Mauro, Lorenzo Gioielli, Giampiero Judica, Roberto Accornero and Barbara Braconi
Circo (Mexico)
Rated NR · 75 min.
Official Site: firstrunfeatures.com/circo
Director: Aaron Schock
The First Grader
Rated NR · 105 min. · 2011
Official Site: www.thefirstgrader-themovie.com
Director: Justin Chadwick
Writer: Ann Peacock
Cast: Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Sam Feuer, Nick Reding and Oliver Litondo
Illegal (Belgium)
Rated NR · 90 min.
Director: Olivier Masset-Depasse
Writer: Olivier Masset-Depasse
Cast: Anne Coesens, Alexandre Golntcharov, Frédéric Frenay, Esse Lawson and Olivier Schneider
The Robber (Austria)
Rated NR · 97 min.
Director: Benjamin Heisenberg
Writer: Benjamin Heisenberg and Martin Prinz
Cast: Andreas Lust, Franziska Weisz, Florian Wotruba, Johann Bednar, Markus Schleinzer, Peter Vilnai, Max Edelbacher, Bernd-Christian Althoff, Michaela Christl and Gerda Drabek
Mutant Girls Squad
Rated NR · 85 min.
Director: Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura
Writer: Noboru Iguchi and Jun Tsugita
Cast: Noboru Iguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Naoto Takenaka, Tak Sakaguchi and Asami
The Revenant
Rated R · 135 min.
Official Site: www.therevenantmovie.com
Director: D. Kerry Prior
Writer: D. Kerry Prior
Producer: Liam Finn, D. Kerry Prior and Jacques Thelemaque
Cast: David Anders, Cathy Shim, Louise Griffiths, Senyo Amoaku, David Ury, Jonathan Mangum, Jeff Rector, Clint Jung, Chris Wylde and Mike Rad
Potiche
Rated R · 103 min. · 2011
Official Site: potichemovie.com
Director: François Ozon
Writer: Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy
Producer: Eric Altmeyer and Nicolas Altmeyer
Cast: Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Deneuve, Judith Godrèche, Jérémie Renier, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Évelyne Dandry and Sinead Shannon Roche
The Princess of Montpensier
Rated NR · 139 min.
Director: Bertrand Tavernier
Writer: Jean Cosmos and François-Olivier Rousseau
Cast: Christine Brücher, Nathalie Krebs, Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Olivier Loustau, Philippe Magnan, Raphaël Personnaz, Mélanie Thierry, Florence Thomassin, Gaspard Ulliel and Michel Vuillermoz

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Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for 7 Days in Slow Motion (India), A Family (Denmark), A Somewhat Gentle Man (Norway), A War in Hollywood (Spain), Aftershock, All That I Love (Poland), Armadillo, Barbershop Punk (US), Barefoot Dream (South Korea), Black Bread (Spain), Boy (New Zealand), Brother and Sister (Argentina), Budrus (US), Cameraman (US), Carancho (Argentina), Certified Copy, Chekhov for Children (US), Circo (Mexico), Cold Weather, Colors of the Mountain (Colombia), Come Undone (Italy), Crab Trap (Colombia), Eastern Plays (Bulgaria), Even the Rain, Flamenco, Flamenco (Spain), Good Morning to the World (Japan), Heartbeats, Hermano (Venezuela), His & Hers (Ireland), Honey (Turkey), How I Ended This Summer (Russia), How to Die in Oregon, If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle (Romania), Illegal (Belgium), In a Better World (Denmark), Incendies, Katalin Varga (Hungary), Kawasaki's Rose (Czech Republic), La Pivellina (Austria), Last Report on Anna (Hungary), Lope (Spain), Louder Than a Bomb, Martha (Mexico), Mutant Girls Squad, My Joy (Ukraine), My Life with Carlos (Chile), My Tehran for Sale (Iran), Of Gods and Men, Of Love and Other Demons (Costa Rica), Outrage (Japan), Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, PDXLAFF: Chicogrande, Peepli Live, Pink Saris (Great Britain), Poetry (South Korea), Potiche, Revolución (Mexico), Rubber, Russian Lessons (Norway), Sawako Decides (Japan), Shorts I: International Ties, Shorts II: International Ties, Shorts III: International Ties, Shorts IV: International Ties, Shorts VI: Everywhere Was the Same, Silent Souls (Russia), Some Days Are Better Than Others, Son of Babylon (Iraq), Steam of Life, The Arbor, The Double Hour, The First Beautiful Thing, The First Grader, The Four Times (Italy), The Housemaid, The Light Thief, The Man Next Door (Argentina), The Man Who Will Come (Italy), The Princess of Montpensier, The Revenant, The Robber (Austria), The White Meadows, The Woodmans, The Woods (US), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, or When We Leave (Germany)

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