February is the month of the Portland International Film Festival, now in its 36th year. Kate and I always hit as many PIFF films as we can, and this year we’ve got tickets to the following:
- The End of Time (Feb. 9, 3:15 PM, World Trade Center)
- The Painting (Feb. 9, 8:45 PM, CineMagic)
- Shun Li and the Poet (Feb. 10, 5:00 PM, World Trade Center)
- Alois Nebel (Feb. 12, 8:30 PM, CineMagic)
- 80 Million (Feb. 16, 3:00 PM, Lloyd Center)
- English Vinglish (Feb. 17, 7:00 PM, Lloyd Center)
- Men at Lunch (Feb. 18, 12:00 PM, Cinema 21)
Here are my reviews of the ones we’ve already seen:
The End of Time is a beautiful, languid meditation on the nature of time that spans the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, lava flows in Hawaii, crumbling buildings in Detroit, and a Buddhist funeral in India among others. The images are gorgeous, often motionless or nearly so; the music is ambient and contemplative. The film will make you think about time, but it doesn’t provide any answers and the connection between the theme and the words and images on the screen is sometimes tenuous. It reminded me a lot of 2001, with its lingering, painterly shots and willingness to focus on the banal details of life while the big picture can only be seen by stepping back. But, pretty though it is, it goes on a bit long; I might have fallen asleep if it hadn’t been a matinee. I give it three stars out of five.
The Painting is an animated film that mixes computer-generated, hand-drawn, and live images in a delightful, painterly fable about characters who live in a painting. The conflict between the “all dones,” the “unfinished,” and the “roughs” provokes a Romeo and Juliet plot, but the real adventure is very meta as the characters (who know from the beginning that they are paintings and that they were created by an artist) wander out into other paintings and the real world. Will the Artist ever return to complete his creation? I enjoyed this one a lot, but I was annoyed by its almost complete lack of dramatic tension; whenever there is any danger to the characters it is resolved very quickly, and something about the painterly motion of the animation made everything seem very friendly and unthreatening. This lack of tension makes the film suitable for small children, but I think its complex ideas would be baffling to them. Four stars out of five.