Portland International Film Festival

I love the Portland International Film Festival. I like it because I have seen some awesome movies at past festivals that have never been released in the U.S. and I can’t find on DVD. I don’t see as many movies as I would like to when I go since I get worn out and it does last about three weeks. I swear it used to only be two weeks but maybe I’m imagining things. I’m going to try to see these movies this year, but we’ll see what the final tally of movies I actually see will be. 🙂

Here are the movies I plan to see and I’m stealing the descriptions from the film site.

YOU, THE LIVING
SWEDEN
Director: Roy Andersson

Intertwining a series of seemingly unrelated events surrounding a wide cast of characters, You, the Living portrays human flailing for self-fulfillment in a surreal world. As in his critically acclaimed Songs From the Second Floor, Andersson uses a sardonic, starkly formalistic technique to create a series of 50 visually ingenious, cleverly choreographed and frequently uproarious vignettes of modern life—”what you might get if Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot wandered into the moody existential vistas of Andrei Tarkovsky!”—Sight and Sound. “A strong contender for the accolade of funniest film in the Festival.”—London Film Festival. This year’s Swedish submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

IRINA PALM
BELGIUM
Director: Sam Garbarski

In order to finance a potentially life-saving operation for her grandson, frumpy 50-something Londoner Maggie (Marianne Faithfull) applies for work at a Soho sex club. At “Sexy World,” the shy but sprightly widow meets the club’s charming manager, Miki, who gently introduces her to her tasks as a “hostess.” Along with the cash, Maggie gains renewed self-confidence, realizing that she’s not as old, unattractive and useless as she thought. But as her reputation as the “wanking widow” grows, Maggie struggles with the knowledge that she stands to lose everything if her secret is discovered by her conservative family and friends. With a delicate eye for detail and a keen sense of irreverence, screenwriters Martin Herron and Philippe Blasband transport us into a world full of wonderfully flawed characters.

 

JAR CITY
ICELAND
Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Based on a best-selling novel, Jar City follows aging, old-school detective Erlendur as he investigates what he considers to be a typically “messy and pointless” Icelandic crime. When a local lowlife is found murdered, Erlendur and his partners methodologically track down leads, but soon discover there are greater and darker forces at play. At the same time, a father mourning the death of his daughter from a genetic condition obsessively searches for information on the origin of the disease. These two apparently disparate stories dramatically converge at a genetic databank, which controversially holds information on all of Iceland’s inhabitants. Wrapped in the complexities of an intriguing thriller are profound questions about where our pasts end, how much we want to know, and how much we should know.

 

FAMILY TIES
SOUTH KOREA
Director: Kim Tae-yong

Witty and warm-hearted, Family Ties uses a clever flashback structure to explore the various forms of love that bind families. In the first of three chapters, a humble small-town woman’s wayward brother and his new chain-smoking bride come to live with her, turning her quiet, orderly life upside down. In the second, a rebellious young woman must come to terms with her estranged mother’s terminal illness. These tales intertwine in the third segment, which follows the lives of a young couple, offering bittersweet observations of contemporary suburban life in Korea and many surprising turns. Winner of the Best Film Prize at the Korean Critics’ Choice Awards as well as Best Film at the Grand Bell (Oscar) Awards.

 

THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS
FRANCE
Director: Jacques Rivette

Antoinette (Jeanne Balibar), the Duchess of Langeais, is a married coquette who frequents the extravagant balls of 1820s Paris, where hypocrisy and vanity reign. Flattered by declarations of love from a handsome general, Armand de Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu), the alluring Antoinette orchestrates a calculating game of flirtation and seduction, but repeatedly refuses Montriveau. When the humiliated man seeks his revenge, Antoinette’s love awakens. But is it too late for the star-crossed lovers? Based on Balzac’s romantic melodrama “History of the Thirteen,” Rivette uses theatrical space and acting styles to explore themes that have preoccupied his distinguished, five-decade filmmaking career: the fragility of identity and the nature of cinematic representation.

 

BREATH
SOUTH KOREA
Director: Kim Ki-duk

Yeon, a bored Seoul artist whose husband is cheating on her, is gripped by a news story about a Death Row prisoner who has attempted suicide by stabbing himself with a sharpened toothbrush handle. Oddly drawn to him, Yeon heads to the prison to become his new best friend—and his unofficial interior decorator. As she brightens his cell with wallpaper and trinkets and his silent existence with song, a relationship develops that confounds observers. Infused with the languid romanticism and black humor found in his earlier films, this gentle, off-beat love story explores the inherent difficulties in human communication, and the ineffable mysteries of the human heart.

 

La ANTENA
ARGENTINA
Director: Esteban Saphir

A dazzling homage to comic book science fiction and silent film, La Antena owes much to cinematic masters such as Fritz Lang, Luis Buñuel and Tim Burton, but has a fresh imagination all its own. In a surreal, fairytale world where a diabolical media magnate, Mr. TV, has stolen the citizens’ voices, a fractured family must come together to stop him from stealing their words as well. Mixing live action and animation with both whimsy and sophisticated allegory, Saphir’s magical tale offers an intelligent meditation on the power of the media to hypnotize and oppress the masses, a warning all too pertinent to the history of Argentina.

 

TAXIDERMIA
HUNGARY
Director: György Palfi

“A new zenith of body horror in the cinema, the resolutely unclassifiable Taxidermia provocatively charts three generations of men in a profoundly peculiar family: hair-lipped, self-abusing grandfather Vendel begets 1950s Olympic speed-eater Kálmán, who sires anti-social, fearfully imaginative taxidermist Lajos. Moving from an explicit exercise in central European miserabilism to grotesque comedy to David Cronenberg’s worst nightmare, each segment mixes shock value with macabre, faintly sentimental mystery—just what one would expect from the director of festival favorite Hukkle.”—Sydney Film Festival. Winner of numerous Hungarian Film Week Awards, including Best Picture and Art Direction, and this year’s Hungarian submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Adult.

 

ROMULUS, MY FATHER
AUSTRALIA
Director: Richard Roxburgh

Based on writer and philosopher Raimond Gaita’s acclaimed memoir, this complex, heartbreaking family drama tells a story of immigrant survival in rural Victoria in the 1950s and 60s. The story is told from the perspective of Rai, a sensitive and spindly boy who lives alone with his Eastern European father in a ramshackle cottage on the edge of a dustbowl. Their solitude is disrupted by the return of Romulus’ feisty and volatile wife Christina, back from a sojourn in Melbourne and determined to have her cake and eat it too. For although Christina has begun a new life with a new man, she remains emotionally and financially dependent on Romulus. When the adults in his life begin to lose their bearings, Rai must find a way to cope—with a little bit of help from his philosophizing uncle Hora. Winner of the Australian Film Institute Best Film Prize.

 

A MAN’S JOB
FINLAND
Director: Aleksi Salmenperä

Juha is a caring husband and father. He’s trying to keep his family together, although they don’t know he’s been laid off and money is getting tight. While he is trying his hand at odd jobs, a female client asks for a service he hadn’t considered. When he confides in his friend Olli, rather than being shocked, Olli offers to find and manage clients for Juha. Maybe, if he can cope with the demands, Juha could be a much wealthier and happier manÉ “Writer-director Aleksi Salmenperä treats his characters with dignity and compassion, finding exactly the right tone for each intimate scene. Juha’s clients of course have many needs beyond the purely physical, and in understanding these Juha makes surprising personal discoveries about how he could be a better husband and father himself.”—London Film Festival. Adult.

 

YELLA
GERMANY
Director: Christian Petzold

Determined to escape her estranged husband after he attempts to kill them both, small-town East German girl Yella (Nina Hoss) sets out to create a new life for herself in Hanover. She finds a job with Philipp (Devid Striesow), a hard-bargaining venture capitalist. He introduces her to the thrills of the negotiating table, where Yella’s icy beauty and demeanor are assets as valuable as her quick wit. Attracted as she is to the business world—and to Philipp—she is simultaneously distracted by something sinister just beyond her, and our, understanding: is it the past catching up with her, or a dark premonition? With stylistic confidence, controlled direction, and more than one twist, Petzold crafts Yella into a mysterious metaphysical thriller.

 

THE ART OF NEGATIVE THINKING
NORWAY
Director: BĂĄrd Breien

The Idiots meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. That’s how Variety described this politically incorrect black comedy that follows a therapy group for handicapped people that goes into total disarray when a rebellious newcomer challenges their positive outlook on life. Group psychologist Tori’s sugary outlook on life makes her believe that everything can be seen from the bright side. She has a slogan and a response to every possible hint of self-pity or criticism. But when she decides to include the partially paralyzed Geirr in her group of “saved” members, she ends up fighting to the limit. For he can see nothing positive in his new existence of being wheelchair-bound after an accident. With the help of booze, drugs and biting black humor, he gradually manages to get the others in the group to reveal their darker sides.

 

A GENTLE BREEZE IN THE VILLAGE
JAPAN
Director: Yamashita Nobuhiro

In the isolated and mountainous countryside of Japan, Soyo (Kaho) attends a village school where she is the oldest of only six pupils. The children, all in the same class even though they are different ages, create their own little family. Just-about-adolescent Soyo lives in a dreamlike, innocent world (nevertheless with its bitter moments), which is changed by the arrival of a city boy (Okada Masaki), and disrupted by the knowledge of her imminent move to high school in frenetic Tokyo. A Gentle Breeze is based on a successful manga comic strip for girls.

 

GETTING HOME
HONG KONG
Director: Zhang Yang

When his old friend and co-worker Liu suddenly dies, Zhao vows to return the body to Liu’s distant hometown for a traditional burial. With no car and little money, his original plan is to take the bus with a “drunkenly sleeping” Liu. But when thwarted, Zhao is forced to improvise. From a sympathetic gang leader and a street-smart scavenging mother, to a bullying restaurant boss and a black market blood donation solicitor, Zhao encounters a startling variety of people in the course of his roundabout journey. But with a little luck, the kindness of strangers, perseverance, and a trick or two, Zhao may just be able to keep his promise to Liu. Zhang Yang’s humorous road movie offers unique insight into the lives of the common people who ultimately define this touching story about a man’s dedication to his friend.

 

THE YEAR OF THE NAIL
MEXICO
Director: Jonás Cuarón

Using voiceover and a year’s worth of photos of spontaneous events and day-to-day activities, CuarĂłn creates an inventive and powerfully observed fictional story. Fourteen-year-old Diego and visiting American college girl Molly spend a year together in Mexico. Instantly in love, Diego says, “She has a gringo ass, and she talks like a Mexican!” Unfortunately, it’s hard for them to get close because his grandfather is sick, his cat must be spayed, and Molly must return to New York. Imbued with Cuaron’s energy, The Year of the Nail is a thoughtful, evocative portrayal of friendship, love and longing, and the sometimes static nature of life.

 

IN THE HELIOPOLIS FLAT
EGYPT
Director: Mohamed Khan

In the Heliopolis Flat is a romantic comedy-drama filled with the faith that the dreams of youth can inspire the future. Yehia rents an apartment in the Heliopolis suburb of Cairo, away from his parents and close to the investment firm where he works, but finds that the spirit or ghost of an ex-tenant haunts the rooms. One day Tahany, a girl from rural Egypt, knocks on his door, and thus begins a fateful journey to find a ghost that represents true love. Acclaimed director Mohamed Khan delivers a timeless story, infused with the culture, sights and characters of modern-day Egypt—from the urban sophistication of Cairo to the traditional beliefs found in the Upper Nile.

 

Unrelated
GREAT BRITAIN
Director: Joanna Hogg

Anna, a woman in her mid-40s, arrives alone in Tuscany at the holiday home of an extended bourgeois family. She’s the old school friend of matriarch Verena, but is soon distracted from the adult circle and drawn into the vital and energetic escapades of the teenagers in the group, and is especially enticed by the cocky Oakley. Gradually, we come to understand that all is not right in Anna’s world, and that the time spent with people more than half her age is an attempt to fill a void and claim something missing in her own life. Hoggs’ portrait has been compared to the work of French director Eric Rohmer in its style and subject, particularly its careful attention to the subtle nuances of life. Awarded the International Critic’s Prize at the London Film Festival, the film was described by one juror as “Simple in its construction but endlessly complex in its psychology. Unrelated marks the arrival of a filmmaker whose talent seems as boundless as her compassion for her characters.”

 

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS
ROMANIA
Director: Cristian Mungiu

This year’s Romanian submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and the Winner of the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Cristian Mungiu’s emotionally shattering film manages to be political without a single conventional reference to politics. It is 1987, near the end of the Ceausescu era in Romania, and college roommates Otilia and Gabita live in fear and oppression. Gabita is pregnant, and together they prepare to meet with a cruel abortionist who asks them for more than money in return for his dangerous and illegal procedure. Their story, set against this false and infectious political system, offers an unforgettable lesson in the price repression exerts from the soul. Also the winner of the the European Film Awards for Best Film and Best Director.

 

TELL NO ONE
FRANCE
Director: Guillaume Canet

Popular American mystery writer Harlan Coben’s novel “Tell No One” is transposed to the streets of Paris in this action-packed adaptation directed by actor Guillaume Canet. Francois Cluzet is in dynamic form as a widowed pediatrician who receives a mysterious e-mail video featuring his wife—presumedly murdered eight years earlier. The case is reopened, bodies are found and Cluzet takes to his heels hotly pursued by cops and killers who would all like to see him dead. A heart-thumping thriller that Hitchcock would have been proud to call his own. Winner of Cesar Awards for Best Film and Best Actor.

 

PRICELESS
FRANCE
Director: Pierre Salvadori

In this charming screwball comedy, Jean (Gad Elmaleh), a sweet, timid waiter, tries to pass himself off as a billionaire to win the heart of frivolous Irene (Audrey Tautou), a glamorous gold digger whose hunting ground is the luxury hotels along the French Riveria. She soon discovers his guise and tries to leave him behind. But Jean is in love, an affliction that leads to a chase that will ruin his life. Salvadori’s tightly knit romantic comedy about two lost souls in the paradise of the CĂ´te d’Azur is a quintessentially French confection.

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