34th Portland International Film Festival


Wow, it looks like the majority of flicks you've caught so far have been quite good.
Well, the handful I've done write-ups for so far have been most of the best that I've seen. There has been some middling fare and a couple stinkers, too. I watched three more today, Katalin Varga, How I Ended This Summer and Some Days Are Better Than Others, and none of them was especially strong.

One full week of PIFF left!
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

Pleased to see that you saw and enjoyed The Arbor, HP. I've not seen it, but since I first heard about it I thought it was a great idea and a very interesting way of presenting a documentary. Thankfully it seems that, like you, most people think it works. I'd like to see it someday.
Yeah, I knew about the dubbed interviews beforehand, so I actually went in very skeptically, suspecting it probably wouldn't really work...but man, it was one of the best documentaries I've seen in a while, as much for its craft and individuality as the subject.

Here is an interview with the director, which includes a couple of clips where you can see how the dubbing works a bit...

En Ganske Snill Mann - A Somewhat Gentle Man
Hans Petter Moland, Norway

Winning low key and offbeat comedy, sort of a Guy Ritchie crime movie by way of Dusan Makavejev or Aki Kaurismäki. Stellan Skarsgård stars as Ulrik, who as the film opens is being released from prison after serving a twelve year sentence for murder. But he's no monstrous hardass, in fact as a pudgy middle aged figure he's so well liked and easygoing that even the guards have gotten him a bottle of wine as a going away present, sincerely wishing him well. Once out he reconnects with a couple of the criminals he used to run with as a younger man, including Rune (Bjørn Floberg), his former boss who has financially been looking after his ex-wife. Rune also gets him a rent-free basement apartment in his sister's house and a legit job working in a garage. But all of that is just cover, as far as Rune is concerned, while Ulrik tracks and kills the man who ratted him out to the Police a dozen years before. Ulrik agrees, as that is what is expected of him, but he doesn't have his heart in revenge. He's much more concerned with reconnected with his now adult son who has thought of his incarcerated pop as dead all these years. He also winds up romantically involved with a few women, most especially someone from the garage (Jannike Kruse). Will he pull the trigger when the times comes, or can a man truly change his nature?

Could have been done as a straight ahead revenge action thriller starring Liam Neeson or Jason Statham, but instead the Norwegian sense of humor is dark yet gentle, and Skarsgård as Ulrik is immensely endearing. He plays the deadpan comedy to perfection, and while in genre terms there is nothing surprising in the plotting, it hardly matters. The characters are of paramount importance, and there are plenty of big laughs as you root for this man to change his destiny.


Des Hommes et des Dieux - Of Gods and Men
Xavier Beauvois, France

Docudrama about a small group of Trappist monks in 1990s Algeria who became martyrs after refusing to leave their monastery when armed Islamists in the region began targeting Christians and foreigners. In a small mountain town of Tibhirine, the eight French monks who have lived there for generations coexist in harmony with the almost completely Muslim community around them. The monastery has the only doctor for hundreds of miles, and both the townspeople and the monks respectfully observe and participate in each other's rituals and observances. It is a nearly perfect dynamic, borne of years of harmony and trust. But when Muslim extremists start uprising throughout Algeria, the French and Algerian governments urge the monks to leave, or at the very least accept a military platoon for protection. Their leader, Christian (Lambert Wilson), immediately decides to stay without guns, and the others agree. But on Christmas night when a cadre of armed men show up needing medical attention for their leader, they are faced with how dangerous their choice is. The Algerian military isn't much more understanding or less threatening themselves. After much debate and deliberation, the eight men take another vote, and though a few of them are frightened they ultimately decide to stay, putting their faith in God and their love of the community above their own personal safety.

Very straightforward if well made, and with the ultimate fate of these monks known the narrative isn't focused on suspense, instead quietly observing the character of such men. The cast is good, especially Lambert Wilson who is well suited for the most faithful of the monks, Michael Lonsdale is perfect as the doctor in robes, Olivier Rabourdin as the youngest and most doubtful monk, and Jacques Herlin brings the few moments of levity as the oldest of the men. It's a nice, watchable effort, beautifully photographed, highlighting a true story, but hardly more than that. Not enough artistry or ambition to be anything more than an efficient Sunday School primer.


OK, this year's PIFF is over. Yesterday was the last full day, and today's few encore screenings are flicks I've already seen. Went out with a bit of a whimper (and a lot of snot) as I was hit with a cold Friday and Saturday, so instead of seeing the nine I was expecting to on those two days I had to settle for only three. That leaves my grand total at forty-eight. Didn't get to my fifty-five personal record, but still a Hell of a lot of sitting in darkened movie theatres. It was great.

This is the first time I've ever gotten sick during the Festival. I'm pretty lucky in that I don't often get sick at all, but never anywhere close to PIFF before. Oh, well. Of course I feel fine today, now that there aren't any more festival movies to see.

Will try to do the rest of the reviews in the next couple days, even if I only devote a few sentences to some of them.

there's a frog in my snake oil
Great stuff Holds. Lots of winners there by the looks of it. Cheers for all the write ups
Virtual Reality chatter on a movie site? Got endless amounts of it here. Reviews over here

cool posts. thanks guys ^^

planet news's Avatar
Registered User
cool post. thanks guy ^^
"Loves them? They need them, like they need the air."