Portland int. film festival

4 (Russia)
Three strangers in Moscow meet in a bar and tell lies about themselves—and the film then follows their actual lives.

Bluebird (Netherlands)
Already stretched dangerously thin with the effort of dealing with her handicapped brother, an overly book smart middle-grader begins to buckle under the increasing wrath of schoolyard bullies. Originally developed as an after school special for Dutch television, but don't hold that against it. (Andrew Wright)

The Boys of Baraka (US)
A film, shot over three years, that follows 20 12-year-old Baltimore boys with "issues" who are sent to an experimental boarding school in Kenya.

The Child (Belgium)
Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, this drama opens with a young mother returning home from the maternity ward to her barren flat, only to find that the father of her child has sublet it in her absence. Accepting the situation with what appears to be familiar resignation, she finally tracks down Bruno—the boy's father—and within a week, he's sold the child on the black market. Through all of Bruno's absurdly remorseless transgressions, the film's title seems to refer both to the newborn and to his ridiculously negligent father—a difficult protagonist for a largely compelling film. (Zac Pennington)

Cowboy del Amor (US)
"Cowboy Cupid" Ivan Thompson finds Mexican brides for American men.

C.R.A.Z.Y. (Canada)
First, I have no idea why C.R.A.Z.Y. is spelled like an acronym, because the motivation for the title seems to be the Patsy Cline song "Crazy." Moving on, the film is about a French-Canadian kid, Zac, who has a gift for healing people—and might also be gay, much to the dismay of his family. Overall, a pretty good movie—it's pretty meandering, though, making it a tad draggy. Then again, the guy who plays the 20-something Zac is smoking hot, so that helps. (Katie Shimer)

Dog Nail Clipper (Finland)
Finally—a film based on "Veikko Huovinen's beloved novel"!

Factotum (Norway/US)
Matt Dillon stars in this adaptation of Charles Bukowski's novel. Watch for our film short in next Thursday's Mercury.

Fateless (Hungary)
The absurdly well-reviewed Fateless is, for the most part, a surprisingly common entry into the gluttonously crowded Holocaust drama genre. Concerning the fate of a Hungarian Jewish teenager ripped from a comfortable life in Budapest, this strikingly shot, needlessly long-winded epic does occasionally hint at a potential to offer something unique to the familiar Holocaust narrative. Unfortunately, this comes only after the film has spent most of its duration nailing into the ground the familiar litany of concentration camp horrors. (Zac Pennington)

Favela Rising (Brazil/US)
Favela Rising documents the rise of the Afro Reggae movement, a phenomenon that began in Rio de Janiero and uses reggae and ska influenced music to counter the violence and drug trafficking found in Rio's favelas (shantytowns). The film includes gripping footage of both the violence and corruption of the favelas—and of Afro Reggae's powerful, energetic performances. (Alison Hallett)

Forest for the Trees (Germany)
A small-town woman heads out for a teaching job in the big city.

The Heart of the Game (US)
A doc about a girl who struggles to succeed as she plays on Seattle's Garfield High women's basketball team.

The Hidden Blade (Japan)
Yôji Yamada follows up The Twilight Samurai with another meditative, slow-paced samurai flick. Blade deals with pretty much every theme of every other samurai flick—honor, duty, tradition—but it's better than most of them, thanks to its subtle performances and confident, pensive direction. (Erik Henriksen)

Innocence (France)
French writer/director Lucile Hadzihalilovic has collaborated with Gaspar Noé, having produced and edited his extremely discomforting, rather horrific riff on alienation and pedophilia, I Stand Alone. Creepy and poetic, Innocence takes place in an all-girls school that seems to be a kind of purgatory. Hadzihalilovic, working with many young actresses, wisely provides only the sparest of dialogue, never fully explaining what is really going on. For the most part this ambiguity is intriguing, though the film is very slow, and far too long. (Justin Sanders)

Iraq in Fragments (US)
Supposedly one of the best entries from the most recent Sundance Film Festival, this film features first-person narratives from Iraqis who are struggling with the current state of their country.

Iron Island (Iran)
This film—about a group of people living on an abandoned oil tanker in the Persian Gulf—is heavily allegorical, and surprisingly critical of Iran's rulers. It's also gorgeously shot and strikes a few touching notes. But when a story's this loaded, it's hard (if not impossible) to get into it—one can't help wondering about what every character, scene, and comment really means. Iron Island has a strong political voice, but that comes at the expense of its narrative. (Erik Henriksen)

Kinky Boots
It's $9 to get into PIFF's screenings, which puts me in a weird spot—like, I'd totally recommend this film if it only cost $5 to get in, but for $9? Can't quite do it. This true story is about a transvestite, Lola, whose skill for creating sexy shoes saves a conservative town's tiny shoe factory. It's heartwarming, (barely) edgy, and funny and sweet—in short, it's going to be compared a lot too The Full Monty, which is pretty much right on the money. (Erik Henriksen)

Kissed by Winter (Norway)
NWFC says: "[Director Sara] Johnsen pains a portrait of a small Norweigan town where snowflakes cover everything, easing the burden of unbearable loss and muffling the cry of repressed emotion." Ha!

KZ (Great Britain)
A look at former Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen, where tourists show up for tours and locals try to deal with the past.

Live and Become (France/Israel)
A story about one non-Jewish boy's survival of the Ethiopian famine in the '80s as he travels with a group of Ethiopian Jews. (Yes. There are, apparently, Ethiopian Jews.)

Lower City (Brazil)
Two petty criminals encounter a young hooker—and are caught off-guard when emotions come into play more than money.

Mongolian Ping Pong (China)
Mongolian kids find a ping pong ball. Confusion ensues.

Mother of Mine (Finland)
A film taking place in WWII, when 80,000 Finnish kids were sent to neighboring countries for their safety.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold
Jonathan Demme's concert film.

News from Afar (Mexico)
This Mexican film follows the oldest son, Martín, of a family who moved to a small, rural community in search of a better life. Things go from bad to worse when Martín decides to take his own trek into Mexico City, the results of which are pathetic and depressing. A well done film, but a thorough bummer. (Marjorie Skinner)

Paheli (India)
A vibrant Bollywood production set in traditional times of Rajasthan. While the plot gets wobbly if you seek too much logic, Paheli is a refreshing, chick-flicky musical slice of escapism and eye candy. (Marjorie Skinner)

Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea (US)
Narrated by John Waters, this doc examines California's Salton Sea—where an aberration of natural circumstances and man's folly created a sea in the middle of the desert. Once more popular than Palm Springs, the Salton Sea was home to yacht clubs, world-class fishing, entrepreneurs, and tourists galore; fifty years later, the thing's turned into an ecological disaster where fish die by the millions and only a handful of retired stalwarts remain, waiting to die in one of America's great dystopias. Fascinating, funny, and sad. (Erik Henriksen)

The President's Last Bang (South Korea)
Movies probably shouldn't require the viewer to hit up Wikipedia in order to follow the plot, but in the case of this odd dark comedy from South Korea, the payoff is worth the studying. Baek Yun-shik plays the head of the country's version of the CIA in the late '70s, who decides to assassinate the president. The results are bloody and wickedly funny. The film apparently drew a great deal of controversy in South Korea, most likely because the assassin is the closest thing to a hero in the story, and because the unfortunate president, Park Chunghee, still has posthumous support. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) (Scott Moore)

The Proposition
The Wild Bunch set in the Australian outback. Guy Pearce is given nine days to kill his psychopath brother, or his simpleton sibling will pay the price instead. Meanwhile, the captain who makes the proposition in question is being pressured by everyone around him to take revenge on the simpleton. Though unrelentingly dour, the acting and cinematography is reason enough to see the "anti-feel good movie of the year." (Wm. Steven Humphrey)

The Requiem of Snow (Iraq)
A young girl is ordered by her father to ditch her current fiancé and instead marry a old, wealthy business man.

The Second Wedding Night (Italy)
A comic melodrama set in post-war Italy.

So Close, So Far (Iran)
A snobby neurologist discovers that his son has an inoperable brain tumor, and sets off on a voyage into the desert to find him. Do you think that—maybe, just maybe—he'll also find himself?

The Sun (Russia)
As Japan is ravaged and occupied by the US in August 1945, Emperor Hirohito finds himself contemplating his part in the war, his own godliness, and—yes!—marine biology. (Will Gardner)

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (South Korea)
Chan-wook Park's third revenge flick, and the follow-up to his incredible Oldboy.

To the Other Side (Mexico)
The stories of a Mexican boy, a Moroccan girl, and a Cuban boy are woven together in this film about immigration and fatherless children.

Wah Wah (Great Britain)
A coming-of-age story that happens to echo the historical events of the end of the British Empire.

Wandering Shadows (Columbia)
By turns harrowing and sweetly funny, The Wandering Shadows follows the bizarre friendship of two societal outcasts. The film as a whole shows a tragic, ravaged Bogotá, and the everyday sorrows of a country known for violence. (Marjorie Skinner)

We Feed the World (Austria)
A look at "the inefficiencies [and] injustices" of the world's food supply.

Zozo (Sweden)
No, dude. It's not about the Zep.

Short Cuts I & II: International Ties
Short films. From all over the world. That's it.

Short Cuts III: Animated Worlds
The premiere of a touring program that features Portland artists' animated shorts.

Short Cuts IV: Parallax Views
From abstractions of Alaskan ice floes to reflections on entropy and Nietzsche, Cinema Project serves up PIFF's most artful program. (Chas Bowie)

Short Cuts VI: Young People's Film & Video Festival
Selections from last July's Young People's Film & Video Fest.

Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt
A beautifully complex portrait of Townes Van Zandt, who wrote some of the most heartbreak-y flower child/alt-cowboy songs ever recorded. Van Zandt expedited his self-destruction with an addiction to bottles and needles, but Be Here to Love Me paints a three-dimensional profile of the artist, digging not only into his songs, but into his late-adolescent shock treatments, his needlessly run-down life, and his wonderfully metaphoric mind. (Chas Bowie)

Date Movie
In the pervasive TV ads, they're actually boasting that this spoof film comes from "two of the six writers of Scary Movie." Shockingly, it wasn't screened for critics—though it does star Buffy's delightful Alyson Hannigan.

Eight Below
Yes, I cried. So the fuck what? It wasn't like a fat girl "Boo hoo, Voodoo Doughnut doesn't open for three hours" crying; just nine little manly tears that rolled down my cheek. What? Was I not supposed to cry when the eight awesomest dogs ever are left to freeze and starve to death on the South Pole? You may laugh, but I promise you this: If you see Eight Below, on at least four occasions, you will mentally and emotionally live through the death of your favorite pet. Then you can laugh at me for crying, dick. (Chas Bowie)

Since foreigners are always up to no good (Air Force One), Harrison Ford's family are taken hostage by a nefarious limey (Paul Bettany) who coerces Harrison into robbing the bank! So Harrison also has to save his family (Patriot Games), but since he's getting old, he can't only use fisticuffs (Clear and Present Danger)—so he also relies on his wits (Presumed Innocent). (Luckily, he gets some help from a clever secretary [Working Girl].) Too bad he can't go to the cops, because the bad guys have framed him for a crime he didn't commit (The Fugitive). (Erik Henriksen)

See review this issue.

Imagine Me & You
If you like cheesy romantic comedies, but would rather see it with lesbians, here you are. (Marjorie Skinner)

The Pink Panther
If you haven't seen the originals, Blake Edwards' Pink Panther series (starring Peter Sellers) is a magical combo platter of droll humor and slapstick genius. The new version, with a woefully outclassed Steve Martin, is a pale, clunky impersonation from a director (Shawn Levy) who's most famous for failed TV shows and Cheaper by the Dozen. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)

The Second Chance
Another fucking Jesus movie.

Starship Troopers
See My, What a Busy Week! on pg. 17

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
See review this issue.

Through the Fire
Director Jonathan Hock follows hot shit high school basketball star Sebastian Telfair from the projects of Coney Island to being picked up by the Blazers in the 2004 draft. But rather than portraying Telfair as a scrappy underdog fighting his way to the top, the story focuses on Telfair's seduction by colleges, sneaker companies, the media, and the NBA—and how his family and community is seduced as well. (Wm. Steven Humphrey)

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
See review this issue.

Why We Fight
A film about the United States "military industrial complex" in the context of 9/11 and the Iraq War. Awww—another one? I expected yet one more tedious indie-media style documentary, or a semi-hysterical rant, á la Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. At the very least, I prepared to spend 98 minutes getting hit over the head with a dissection of Bush's march into Iraq. I was wrong. (Amy Jenniges)