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February 16th, 2011 WW MOVIE STAFF | Screen
 

PIFF Rolls East

Ghost monkeys, a killer tire and other Portland International Film Festival treats.

PIFF.Feature.Boonmee_3715UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES - IMAGE: Courtesy of PIFF
     
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Gephyrophobia: the fear of crossing bridges. This malady has longed plagued the eastside cinephile during the Portland International Film Festival. But not this year. In its second week, PIFF jumps the Willamette River to two fresh venues, CineMagic and the Hollywood Theatre. Some of the festival’s tastiest entrees play in these newly added old rooms this week—including a Palme d’Or winner and the first selection in Dan Halsted’s PIFF After Dark series (not the same movie). Here’s our handbook for what you should see, with or without traversing water.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

97 [THAILAND] I still care about movies because once in a while something extraordinary like Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives comes along, and I fall in love with the medium all over again. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cannes-laureled cinematic séance is a work of terrifying beauty, a slow initiation into a spirit world of dead lovers, ghost monkeys and amorous catfish. Weerasethakul handles such outlandishness with a deadpan reverence befitting a movie that is actually about one man’s date with death; the surreal flourishes, all of them sublime, are essentially stand-ins for the universal mystery that Jeff Mangum once nipped in the bud thusly: “How strange it is to be anything at all.” It is screening twice. See it twice. CHRIS STAMM. WH, 8:45 pm Wednesday, Feb. 16. CM, 9 pm Friday, Feb. 18.

Come Undone

21 [ITALY] Want to feel bad for two married folks who jaunt off to fuck in love motels while their families wait at home? Director Silvio Soldini sure does, and he spends the overlong entirety of Come Undone trying to make us sympathetic to pretentious adulterers depressed because they can’t kiss in public. Here’s a thought: Get a fucking divorce. Otherwise, you can cry your eyes out all the way to the beautiful Tuscan chalet where your hot, naked lover is waiting to please you. (But at least she feels bad after she comes for a third time.) AP KRYZA. BW, 9 pm Wednesday, Feb. 16 and 2:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 16 & 19. CM, 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 22.

La Pivellina

65 [AUSTRIA] Like PIFF darling Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo), directors Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel are interested not in concrete narrative arcs and showy scenes, but rather in fly-on-the-wall looks at life. La Pivellina follows the story of an elderly circus performer who comes across an adorable, abandoned toddler and decides to take her into a trailer-park community until her mother comes back. There are ample moments of sweetness throughout the film, particularly in the relationships between neighboring outcasts. But unlike Bahrani’s works, La Pivellina is a tad too episodic and unfocused to burrow under the skin. AP KRYZA. BW, 9:15 pm Wednesday and 8:45 pm Thursday, Feb. 16-17.

Illegal

76 [BELGIUM] When we meet Tania (Anne Coesens), she is melting the whorls on her fingers down to blank tissue in order to avoid detection by the authorities. Things, as things are wont to do, only get worse from there: Tania, an undocumented Russian immigrant, is eventually arrested and threatened with deportation, and her refusal to name herself or her country of origin lands her in a purgatory of institutional confinement and bureaucratic grief. Although director Olivier Masset-Depasse lets some light slip in intermittently, Illegal is a downbeat beatdown of a film that makes up for its predictability with truly frightening glimpses of the kind of panic only prisoners feel. CHRIS STAMM. BW, 7 pm Thursday, 6:45 pm Friday and 7:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 17-19. CM, 9 pm Tuesday, Feb. 22.

The Housemaid
Credits: Image courtesy of PIFF

The Last Report on Anna

63 [HUNGARY] Director Márta Mészáros’s latest is irreproachably cosmopolitan, and as thickly Hungarian as “paprika potatoes from a pan”—which is pretty damn folksy Hungarian, if the film is to be trusted. It probably is: Mészáros did her time behind the Iron Curtain, and her drama about principled exile Anna Kéthly (Enikö Eszenyi) is heartfelt. It’s worthwhile just for the vintage footage of Budapest. But it’s a creaky drama, with Eszenyi delivering most of her performance in old-age pancake makeup. AARON MESH. BW, 9:15 pm Thursday, 9 pm Saturday and 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 17 & 19-20.

My Tehran for Sale

70 [IRAN] Directed by Persian poet Granaz Moussavi, the film shows Marzieh, a young actress, struggling to emigrate, be an artist, live as a person at all amid a sort of unrelenting grayness: all haunted eyes and haunting lack of future or present. Strange that what this Iranian film should recall most for me is the East German New Wave—The All-Around Reduced Personality: Redupers, say, or Kluege’s Yesterday Girl—but the types of isolation and repression that My Tehran for Sale depicts, and the free-flowing, culturally literate society that exists underground or at the margins, do lead right back to the old Berlin in its affecting, symbolic bleakness. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 6:15 pm Friday and 5:15 pm Sunday, Feb. 18 & 20.

The Whistleblower

43 [CANADA] To remain effective, human-rights violation bloodboilers have been forced to up the ante on atrocity. The Whistleblower, a Rachel Weisz vehicle about U.N. security contractors aiding sex trafficking in Bosnia, is very effective: Enslaved teenage girls are sodomized with pipes. As sadism piled atop debasement, I began desperately hoping the movie would hop genres and become Rachel Weisz’s Death Wish. But since this is outrage porn for a better sort of audience, she reports the crimes to her superiors, then to the press. I am not a better sort of audience. “You want blood on your hands?” a peacekeeper asks Weisz. Yes yes yes yes yes. Kill ’em all, and let the U.N. sort ’em out. AARON MESH. CM, 6:15 pm Friday, noon Sunday and 5 pm Monday, Feb. 18 & 20-21.

The Housemaid

40 [SOUTH KOREA] Im Sang-soo’s tepid remake of 1960’s The Housemaid, a nanny-vs.-wife showdown played out in the sterile spaces of the super rich, is the kind of erotic thriller they just don’t make anymore, and for good reason: The Skinemax boning is as timidly prurient as a drooling peeping tom, the women are essentially birth canals and blowjob queens, and logic is summarily dismissed in the final 10 minutes so that something interesting can finally happen. If you missed the whole Hand That Rocks the Fatal Basic Animal Instincts thing that crawled out of Joe Eszterhas’ mullet in the early ’90s, or if you are 11 and stupid and haven’t figured out how to find porn on the Internet yet, check it out. CHRIS STAMM. BW, 8:15 pm Friday, Feb. 18. CM, 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 19.

How I Ended This Summer

75 [RUSSIA] Constant drab light, isolation and cold lead to a sort of insanity, or so every film ever made about the Arctic summer has informed us. In How I Ended This Summer, breakdown is already assumed; young geophysicist Pavel arrives in the remote Russian north to do a tour at a meteorological station with an old hand, Sergei, who is quickly revealed to be an intolerant sadist. The film, though much of it is almost as tedious and cramped as the life it signifies—watch out for the pathetic fallacy, here—becomes much more, by its end, than the tense psychological thriller originally implied by the setup: something, perhaps, human, and ingrained deep into emotional memory by that very same tedium. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 9:15 pm Friday and 1 and 5 pm Sunday, Feb. 18 & 20.

Rubber

86 [FRANCE] Rubber is essentially a road film following the curious Robert across the scorched Arizona desert on a voyage of precocious discovery. Robert has the ability to make obstacles explode using telekinesis. Oh, and he’s a tire. Beginning with a hysterical monologue about the importance of nonsense in movies, director Quentin Dupieux (who provides the soundtrack under his better-known name, Dr. Oizo) has crafted an amazingly gonzo picture that loses some footing with a pretentious shtick condemning overanalytical audiences. But whenever the surprisingly engaging Robert sends brain matter flying with Cronenbergian flair, Rubber is a nutso joy. AP KRYZA. HW, 11:30 pm Friday, Feb. 18.

7 Days in Slow Motion

55 [INDIA] Ah, what’s life without a film-festival crowd pleaser? This one’s cute, full of children and in love with film and infinite possibility, and thus eminently watchable despite its stereotype-driven farce, hilariously bad acting from the token Bollywood-based white guy and implausible-to-the-point-of-retarded happy ending. But let’s not mistake what we’re dealing with, here. As for the plot? A kid loves film, and decides to make one despite the hammering of his all-too-shrewish mother about his studies, which he neglects entirely. Young Ravi’s film turns out to be sentimentally satisfying in its way—much more so, in any case, than the grimly sketchy comedy that surrounds it. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. CM, 1:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 19. BW, 12:15 and 3:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 20.

The Arbor

87 [GREAT BRITAIN] A prismatic docudrama-cum-oral history delving into the short and sad life of playwright Andrea Dunbar and the fractured family she left in her wake, The Arbor stages “interviews” with actors lip-syncing along to audio interviews with the real Dunbars. It also weaves in old BBC footage and street-theater versions of Andrea’s autobiographical play, The Arbor, for good measure. Split the difference between a profoundly depressing live-action version of Aardman’s Creature Comforts and the postmodern antics of William Greaves’ Symbiopsychotaxiplasm for some idea of what you’ll be getting into here. The final act veers into maudlin anti-drug PSA territory, but director Clio Barnard is performing a high-wire dance, and she earns a few sways and stumbles along the way. CHRIS STAMM. BW, 2:15 pm Saturday and 8 pm Sunday, Feb. 19-20.

Poetry

75 [SOUTH KOREA] How’s this for a game of exquisite corpse? The title card of Lee Chang-dong’s drama is juxtaposed against a schoolgirl’s body floating facedown in a river. Her death is quickly traced to the actions of a pack of teenage boys—one of the little rapists is the grandson of Mija (Yoon Jeong-hee), a housekeeper who joins a poetry class even as she begins to forget nouns. The story line is very close to last year’s Mother—together, the two films suggest the fears of a Korean generation losing control of carelessly savage offspring—but Poetry seems designed to test an audience’s patience, with long shots of breeze on water and irresolute scenes of people trying to give voice to violent emotions. In other words, it’s a delicate turd blossom. AARON MESH. WH, 2:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 19. BW, 6:30 pm Monday, Feb. 21.

Russian Lessons

52 [NORWAY] Diving headlong onto the front lines of the bloody and brief conflict between tiny Georgia and juggernaut Russia, documentarians Olga Konskaya and Andrei Nekrasov offer an intimate look at the lives cratered by violence between neighboring countries. In addition, the film effectively calls bullshit on Russia’s media claims of casualties and causality. Pity, then, that both directors feel the need to include themselves so much in the story. With all the suffering, tragedy and humanity they uncover, it’s safe to assume the directors were affected by what they saw—but in case that was unclear, they make sure to let us know, often. AP KRYZA. BW, 4 pm Saturday and 4:45 pm Monday, Feb. 19 & 21.

How to Die in Oregon

92 [PORTLAND] If one of the afflictions of human life is being the only animal that knows it’s going to die, it is some small consolation to choose the day and the hour. Peter D. Richardson’s expertly wrenching documentary shows Oregon’s Death With Dignity in its quiet rites; it opens and closes with the sound of a spoon clinking as it stirs Seconal into a glass. In between, the doc gives an intimate but not invasive account of the final months of Cody Curtis, a gorgeous, gentle Portland woman with inoperable liver cancer. The film is devastating and eloquent, its title indicating not an instructional video, but a wish for a way we all might face the inevitable. AARON MESH. WH, 5:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 19. BW, 9:30 am Sunday and 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 20-21.

RUBBER
Credits: Image courtesy of PIFF

My Joy

0/100 [UKRAINE] There has never been, even in Sam Peckinpah’s darkest moments, a movie as actively malignant, as unremittingly malevolent toward the human condition as this one. It exists only in highway transit and transience—each driver is Charon, each mile marker the Styx, each brief sign of decency, nobility, pride or respect rewarded with a gunshot or a fatal beating to the sinuses. It is a hollow, useless, awful, brutal, tedious film, hostile to all notions of the human; in the end, only the mute, Dostoyevskian idiot-god survives, fed only on murder. Until now, I had thought only the French could be this hateful, and it had certainly never occurred to me that I could hate a film this much. Also? It was maybe perfect. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 8 pm Saturday and 6:45 pm Sunday. CM, 2 pm Monday.

The Four Times

62 [ITALY] Slow as a man made out of molasses getting stuck in a syrup spill on planet Butterscotch, The Four Times examines the slow cycle of life, death and rebirth as it is very slowly experienced in a rather slow Italian village. The closest thing to a narrative here involves a tubercular geezer literally eating dust and a baby goat getting lost and looking all emo when night falls. Slowly. Director Michelangelo Frammartino has a sharp Tati-esque eye for widescreen absurdity, but stay away if you don’t like goats and the goat things goats do, because much of the movie involves goats doing goatlike things like standing, eating, being born, looking at stuff, breathing and being goaty. CHRIS STAMM. WH, 8:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 19. BW, 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 20.

Short Cuts IV: International Ties

75 This fine survey of animated films from around the world gets off to a too-cute start with Ormie, a four-minute romp of physical comedy about a pig and a cookie jar. It’s about three minutes too long. The Expressionistic gloom of Angry Man is a welcome rejoinder to whimsy: Dedicated to “everyone who is burdened by a terrible secret,” Anita Killi’s dark fairy tale about domestic violence manages to cram real terror and earned redemption into its gorgeous 20 minutes. But the best film here is Sensology, a six-minute abstraction indebted to Oskar Fischinger that captures what a mind’s eye sees when drugs and music start playing with each other. CHRIS STAMM. WH, Noon Sunday, Feb. 20.

Katalin Varga

84 [HUNGARY] With Katalin Varga, director Peter Strickland has directed a rare marvel of a revenge thriller, a road movie in which intricately drawn characters intersect, where violence is often sidestepped in favor of depth and the morality of even the most dastardly human being is given a chance to shine. The forceful Hilda Péter traverses a medieval-looking (though contemporary) Transylvanian countryside with her son, seeking the men who raped and impregnated her years before. It’s a simple premise, but one so hauntingly conceived that it holds you captive until its abrupt and jarring conclusion. AP KRYZA. BW, 1:30 and 6:30 pm Sunday and 7 pm Tuesday, Feb. 20 & 22.

Louder Than a Bomb

72 [CHICAGO] That I did not loathe Louder Than a Bomb is rather remarkable, as it combines three of the most annoying things I can think of: high school, poetry and talented teenagers. But the competition-doc formula perfected by Spellbound and cribbed here could make even my dog’s slow death engaging and exhilarating, so I found myself rooting for these baby Baudelaires as they prepared for the titular poetry slam tournament. It’s cinematic comfort food smothered in cheese, and while it’s frightfully familiar stuff, it is a million times better than reading poetry or going to high school. CHRIS STAMM. BW, 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 20. WH, 5 pm Monday, Feb. 21.

In a Better World

21 [DENMARK] Susanne Bier’s turducken of shamelessly overwrought mixed messages goes to risible lengths to locate some salient lesson about the nature of violence. Bier even spatchcocks a subplot about the Kenyan civil war into what is essentially a Lifetime-grade morality play about bullying and revenge; the grisly images of tribal violence—sliced bellies, dead kids, maggot-infested wounds—amount to little more than decontextualized shock tactics, nasty breaking-news reports interrupting the regularly scheduled soap opera about pubescent sadism. At least I finally know what an Iñárritu film stripped of coincidence and temporal tomfoolery would be like: still empty, only more so. CHRIS STAMM. CM, 4:45 pm Sunday, Feb. 20. BW, 7:15 pm Monday, Feb. 21.

Some Days Are Better Than Others

73 [PORTLAND] Experimental documentary auteur Matt McCormick (The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal) ventures into dramatic filmmaking and, thankfully, leaves none of his obsessions behind. A study in seasonal affective disorder openly influenced by the early work of David Gordon Green, Some Days gets moving if uneven performances from James Mercer and pre-Portlandia Carrie Brownstein, but it’s more than an indie-rock mood ring: Notice the attention McCormick pays to kaleidoscopic soap-film images and condemned houses. With a lovely turn by Renee Roman Nose as a thrift-store worker who will not abandon an urn, the film clings to fragile things worth caring for. AARON MESH. WH, 7:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 20.

A Somewhat Gentle Man

60 [NORWAY] Another entry in the Scandinavian cinema of filthy snow and facial expressions rationed like sugar in wartime, Hans Petter Moland’s aging-hoodlum comedy allows some wan light to seep in. Stellan Skarsgård (have you noticed he’s become a dead ringer for Werner Herzog?) is a jailed murderer. When he’s paroled after 12 years, everybody he knows expected him to get out at some other time—Thursday, maybe?—indicating, along with the title, certain social expectations of him. There’s some marvelously unsentimentalized coitus between odd-looking folks, and it’s a wonder to see Skarsgård’s deadpan mug melt into a helplessly affectionate grin; other than that, the movie is dry ice. AARON MESH. BW, 2:15 pm Monday and 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21-22.

Chekhov for Children

22 [UNITED STATES] If somebody asks you if you want to see a video of them way back in their grade-school production of a Chekhov play, and you agree, you’re either a complete sucker or you’re in love with them (in which case you’re a different kind of sucker). As much significance as director Sasha Waters Freyer and onetime play director (and middling essayist) Philip Lopate try to wring from it, a poor interpretation of Uncle Vanya by a bunch of fifth-graders remains stubbornly what it is: a momentary fit of uncomprehending overacting. The only moment of entertainment or human truth comes from a former classmate who declines a phone interview and then laments that he’s depressed and doesn’t even own an operational belt for his pants. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 2:30 pm Monday, Feb. 21.

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff

61 [UNITED STATES] Cinematographer Jack Cardiff literally changed the way we see the world. A pioneer whose career spanned more than 70 years, Cardiff became the go-to master of Technicolor and worked with everybody from Alfred Hitchcock to Michael Powell on films as diverse as The Red Shoes and Rambo: First Blood Part II. Extra-credit cinephiles should find great pleasure in Cameraman’s portrait of the artist who saw classic paintings as templates for screen bliss. Everyone else would get a better idea of Cardiff’s genius by taking a bong rip and watching the trippy Red Shoes. AP KRYZA. BW, 5 pm Monday and 8:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21-22.

Short Cuts VI: Everywhere Was the Same

61 Cinema Project’s hit-and-miss miscellany of avant-garde work from around the world borrows its title from Basma al Sharif’s Everywhere Was the Same, a solemn slide show gone apocalyptic and the only film here that delivers the shocks and shivers I crave from experimental work. Also quite good: the eerie animations and tactile abstractions of Joshua Bonnetta’s elegaic Long Shadows, which only wants for the spooky Grouper soundtrack it was clearly born to be blessed by. Like Liz Harris’ melancholy compositions, Bonnetta’s film finds that sweet spot between creepy and sad and stays there just long enough to soak it all up. CHRIS STAMM. WH, 6 pm Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Honey

78 [TURKEY] Few movies this year will have so compelling an opening scene: A man throws a rope into a towering tree and climbs, only to have his supporting branch break, leaving him horizontally suspended, as they say, between life and death. He is an ultra-free-range beekeeper, and the father of the tiny protagonist Yusef (Bora Altaş), who functions as a kind of human Lassie, running to get help. The third film in Semih Kaplanoglu’s backward-running trilogy on Yusef’s life, Honey is distinguished by majestic, verdant mountainscapes, and by holding rigorously to the perspective of child, from which little happens but so much is cause for anxiety. AARON MESH. BW, 6:15 pm Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Crab Trap

35 [COLOMBIA] Daniel (Rodrigo Vélez) really, really wants to get out of a coastal Colombian fishing village. You can’t blame him. There are no fish to be caught. There is no stimulation except an occasional beachside soccer match or a romp with the local leader’s wife. Hell, within the first 10 minutes of Crab Trap, it becomes apparent that virtually nothing is going to happen, except for a few depressing slogs through a Colombian bog in search of fish. But if you like watching a dude smoke a joint while lying in a hammock, this is your movie. AP KRYZA. BW, 6:15 pm Tuesday, Feb. 22.


Portland International Film Festival Ticket Outlet:

POETRY
Credits: Image courtesy of PIFF

Portland Art Museum Mark Building, 1119 SW Park Ave., 276-4310, nwfilm.org.

General admission $10, PAM members, students and seniors $9, children 12 and under $7, Silver Screen Club memberships from $300.

BW—Regal Broadway Cinemas, 1000 SW Broadway

CM—CineMagic, 2021 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

HW—Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd.

WH—Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave.

Showtimes listed are for Feb. 16-22 only.


Even More PIFF!

WW was unable to review the following films by print deadlines, or reviewed them in previous coverage:

A Barefoot Dream

[SOUTH KOREA] An aging soccer star aids kids in East Timor. WH, 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 16.

The First Beautiful Thing

73 [ITALY] The First Beautiful Thing has all the trappings of a sappy melodrama: mother in hospice, junkie son, estranged father, reunions, revitalization and self-actualization. Clichés aside, director Paolo Virzì has crafted a bittersweet drama that defies convention while playing it close to the heart, tracing 40 years in the life of Anna (the luminous Micaela Ramazzotti), a devoted mother whose insulated son (Valerio Mastandrea) is forced to reconnect with her in hospice, triggering flashbacks to the chic Italy of yesteryear. Touching, elegant and witty, it’s a thing of beauty itself, making it easy to forgive its overindulgence in the requisite corn. AP KRYZA. BW, 6 pm Wednesday, Feb. 16.

The Robber

85 [AUSTRIA] Andreas Lust may be the most fit man in PIFF history. Two years ago, he spent a good portion of Revanche running, literally, from guilt. With The Robber, he jogs his well-formed ass all over Austria as a real-life marathoner with an addiction to bank heists. The film plays out as an examination of single-minded obsession, with Lust’s fleet-footed criminal driven by adrenaline, which turns him into a robotic monster continually pursuing stimulation. But The Robber is less an action film than a drama with great foot chases, a controlled thriller that goes the distance. AP KRYZA. BW, 6:15 pm Wednesday and 7 and 9:30 pm Friday, Feb. 16 & 18.

Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow

[GREAT BRITAIN] A documentary on Anselm Kiefer’s giant art installations. BW, 7 pm Wednesday, Feb. 16. WH, 8:15 Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Young Goethe in Love 

[GERMANY] A biopic about the author’s sorrows. BW, 8:45 pm Wednesday and 6:15 pm Thursday, Feb. 16-17.

Aftershock

52 [CHINA] Feng Xiogang has been called the Spielberg of China, and as if to prove the point he’s made his own Saving Private Ryan, albeit as multigenerational mainland melodrama; after manipulative, sopping sentimentality to establish our care for the family and its young twins, they are then killed, amputated or ripped apart, along with many thousands of others—in gripping, soul-bruising, brilliantly filmed detail—by the 1976 Tengshan earthquake. Later on: adoption and unwanted pregnancy for the daughter, compulsory cinematic patriotism, a life of unmitigated suffering for the mother, enough tears to re-drown Indonesia, infinite hope and resilience, and filmic epigraphs for those who heroically got crushed by poorly made buildings. Come for the pain, if you must. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. WH, 5:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 17.

Barbershop Punk

48 [HILLSBORO, OREGON] Making an interesting documentary about net neutrality is, let’s say, an uphill battle. So it’s fairly impressive that directors Georgia Sugimura Archer and Kristin Armfield have achieved averageness with Barbershop Punk, a somewhat alarming report on how the sinister tentacles of Comcast wrap around our free expression (and file sharing). The best bits feature Robb Topolski, a Hillsboro software engineer, barbershop-quartet enthusiast and accidental neutrality crusader with a Glenn Beck-like penchant for tearing up when he thinks about Important Freedoms. The worst bits feature Henry Rollins. AARON MESH. BW, 6 pm Thursday, Feb. 17.

Boy

67 [NEW ZEALAND] Taika Waititi, in the first part of Boy, applies the same broad Napoleon Dynamite ain’t-we-retro-trashy pop-culture brush as in his first feature, Eagle vs. Shark, but this time around the batshit antics are balanced with a slow-dawning reality principle that eventually impinges on the characters’ fantasy-addled lives. Title 11-year-old character Boy and shanty-town Maori cohorts (other characters are named Rocky, Falcon Crest and Michael Jackson) improvise amid the rubble until Boy’s oafish dad resurfaces from prison and pretty much screws everything up so consistently that even his young children are forced to notice; what had been an exercise in style and suspended disbelief becomes something instead much closer to home, if perhaps too late to fully register. MATTHEW KORFHAGE. BW, 6:45 pm Thursday, 6 pm Friday and 8:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 17-19.

The Princess of Montpensier

[FRANCE] A 16th-century bodice-ripper. WH, 8:30 pm Thursday and 8:15 pm Friday, Feb. 17-18.

Steam of Life

89 [FINLAND] If you see only one movie about naked Finnish men lounging in saunas this year, make it a porno. But if you see two movies about naked Finnish men lounging in saunas this year, make the second Steam of Life, a deeply moving study of the raw emotions men feel while sweating their balls off. In carefully framed vignettes recalling Ulrich Seidl’s nonfiction films, various dripping dudes gather round hot rocks to discuss lost loves, pet bears, dead children and even, once in a while, joy. Consider this the movie His & Hers should have been: a documentary that finds messy universal truth in a strictly delimited sample group. This is also the first time since junior high that a bunch of really sweaty naked guys has made me cry. CHRIS STAMM. BW, 8:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 17.

All That I Love

[POLAND] A kid’s punk band faces political crackdown. WH, 6 pm Friday, Feb. 18. CM, 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 21.

The Light Thief

[KYRGYZSTAN] An electrician fights greedy developers. BW, 8:30 pm Friday and 12 noon Saturday, Feb. 18-19.

Short Cuts III: International Ties

A collection of short films from across the globe. 12 noon Saturday, Feb. 19.

Sawako Decides

55 [JAPAN] A nation’s domestic cinema continues to grapple with the themes of Ozu—social duty, filial loyalty, heavy drinking—though I don’t remember Tokyo Story containing the line, “This watermelon grew from your poo!” The titular heroine (Hikari Mitsushima) reluctantly travels home to helm her dying dad’s freshwater clam-packing facility; eventually she writes it a stirringly odd commercial jingle (“From the bottom of our river, into your hearts”). Mitsushima and her director, young tyro of quirk Yûya Ishii, travel a familiar arc from catatonic deadpan to jubilant mediocrity: This is the Japanese fisherfolk Little Miss Sunshine, basically. AARON MESH. BW, 2 pm Saturday, Feb. 19.

The Double Hour

[ITALY] A noir about a maid with bad timing. CM, 4 pm Saturday, Feb. 19. BW, 2 pm Monday and 8:45 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21-22.

Circo

79 [MEXICO] This keen yet unobtrusive doc by Aaron Schock follows ringmaster Tino Ponce and family as they make the rounds of rural Mexico with their humble one-ring circus, the major draw of which seems to be candied apples and the chance that something horrible might happen to the man on the motorcycle in the steel cage. But the odd world of itinerant circus performers is almost incidental to Schock’s pursuit of a more universal issue: What do you owe a family you had no choice but be born into? Schock observes the conflicts and compromises that devolve from this cutting question with a refreshing empathy—there’s no freakshow at this circus. CHRIS STAMM. BW, 5:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 19.

Flamenco, Flamenco

[SPAIN] Director Carlos Saura keeps on filming dancing. CM, 6:45 pm Saturday and 2:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 19-20.

Pink Saris

[GREAT BRITAIN] A documentary about Indian women protesting the caste system. BW, 6:45 pm Saturday, 7:45 pm Sunday and 2:30 pm Monday, Feb. 19-21.

Outrage

[JAPAN] The second PIFF After Dark selection is the latest yakuza thriller from Takeshi Kitano. HW, 11:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 19. 

Budrus 

70 [UNITED STATES] The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a perpetual clusterfuck, it’s difficult to see anything except the big picture. With Budrus, documentarian Julia Bacha trains her lens on a small Palestinian village’s attempt at nonviolent protest when Israeli troops descend on their olive groves to build a border fence. As pacifism and force come head to head, Bacha gives us something we seldom see when discussion of the occupation comes up—human faces, on both sides, striving to make their voices heard amid a world of shouting. AP KRYZA. WH, 2:15 pm Sunday, Feb. 20.

Passione: A Musical Adventure

[UNITED STATES] John Turturro directs a musical set in Napoli. WH, 5 pm Sunday and 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 20-21.

The Man Who Will Come

[ITALY] A drama about Nazi atrocities in a small town. CM, 7:30 pm Sunday, Feb. 20. BW, 4:15 pm Monday, Feb. 21.

Eastern Plays

[BULGARIA] Four people are brought together by a violent attack. BW, 6:45 pm Monday and 9 pm Tuesday, Feb. 21-22. 

 
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