6 02 2009

The 32nd Portland International Film Festival started tonight, and what an incredibly strong festival this year!!  First off, I know how overwhelming it is to try to pick out which films you want to see based on film descriptions.  PDXFilm has taken some of the guess work out of your decision making process by providing trailers for almost every single film in this year’s festival!  See link below.

By all means, let your film fest friends know about this site so they can take advantage of this valuable resource!!! Email each other about PDXFilm.org!



Tonight started very strongly with GOMORRAH (Matteo Garrone, Italy), which plays again MONDAY, 6PM at The Whitsell Auditorium.  GOMORRAH is a rich tapestry realistically drawing on the current state of the organized crime empire of the Camorra in Naples.  GOMORRAH won the Grand Prix at Cannes and nominated for Best Foreign Film for this year’s Academy Awards.  Additionally, Scorsese has decided to help the film get attention by stamping it with his seal of approval.  The reason this is relevant is because despite Scorsese’s desire to be part of the Hollywood system, he is also a great cinema scholar, particularly when it comes to the Neorealism movement which came out of Italy after World War II.  GOMORRAH borrows as much from the Neorealism tradition as it does from Scorsese unpredictable eruptions of violence.  If you don’t get a chance to see GOMORRAH at this year’s festival, it’s coming to Cinema 21 in the next few months.



A total surprise was MERMAID (Anna Melikyan, Russia), which not only played to a full house, but also thoroughly charmed with its imagination, its ability to cultivate magic in simple and realistic ways, its attention to detail, its playfulness and more than anything, its absurdist sense of humor.  Most every scene had moments of invention and never once did it toe the line of being cloying, unlike our ex-local twee filmmaker, Miranda (July) Grossinger.  In fact, she could take a lesson from Ms. Melikyan’s writing and learn that sometimes salt (in this case, salt water)  is more important than sweet.  And if you see MERMAID, imagine how much better July’s film had been if July had met the same fate as MERMAID’s lovable, fire starting heroine!  Also, don’t believe the unjustifed  comparisons to Amelie; MERMAID is fortifying cake to Amelie’s tubful of lard based blue frosting with mercury sprinkles.

MERMAID is bound to be a festival favorite and its already been given an additional screening.  MERMAID plays twice TUESDAY at 6PM and 8:45PM at The Broadway Metroplex.  I may ditch a film from my schedule to see this one again!


I suspected that  THE CHASER (Hong-jin Na, S. Korea) was going to be strong, but I didn’t think it would have as much depth as it did.  On the surface, it’s a cat and mouse detective thriller, but part of what makes the narrative exceptional is that the antagonist confesses his crime and is in custody of the police within the first thirty minutes of the film, and yet there’s still the threat that he hasn’t really been contained.  Thematically, the film is about male incompetency and impotency and does not tie up nicely in a  happy little bow by the end.  Tense, perfectly structured, great sense of humor and it always amazes me how much of a beating South Koreans take in their cinema before they finally give up.  

THE CHASER plays one more time (!) SATURDAY at 1:15PM at The Broadway Metroplex.

Saturday’s line up is even stronger than the festival’s opening night.  DO NOT MISS REVANCHE (Götz Spielmann, Austria), HUNGER (Steve McQueen, U.K.), and if you’re into docs, you can’t miss with THE ENGLISH SURGEON (Geoffrey Smith, U.K.).  



Other films I’d recommend are as follows, and if you want to learn more, again you can watch the PIFF trailers by clicking HERE.

IL DIVO Paolo Sorrentino, Italy
24 CITY Jia Zhang-ke, China
TULPAN Sergey Dvortsevoy, Kazakhstan
OF TIME AND THE CITY Terence Davies, U.K.
SUGAR Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, U.S.
TOKYO SONATA Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan
LORNA’S SILENCE Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France
TREELESS MOUNTAIN So Yong Kim, U.S./South Korea
GOODBYE SOLO Ramin Bahrani, U.S.


One of the best films of 2008 is finally playing at The Laurelhurst Theater.  It stayed in first run for many months, and now for those of you on a budget (or must drink beer or wine when watching a movie), your time has come to see LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden).

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a coming-of-age vampire film that is stylishly cool, emotionally warm and quietly violent.  If you just can’t afford a 9$ PIFF ticket, but your still want to see some great international cinema, this is one of the best.  

Plays nightly at The Laurelhurst Theater at 9:40pm…And don’t go to the fuckin’ Living Room Theater and pay between $5-$9 to watch a projected DVD.  Go see it ON FILM.

…and HAPPY GO LUCKY continues it’s run at Laurelhurst for yet another week!  “Now that’s what I call a BARGAIN!”




One response

1 04 2009

I wish Tokyo! would have made it into the selection. At least Tokyo! is showing in Portland, Oregon on April 3 at the Cinema 21 theatre.

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