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PIFF 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by sndybeech on January 28, 2013

Alas, it’s over, at last! Pretty worn out and ready. I’ll leave these up so you can check on films as they come to your cinema house or when you check what’s available online (I’ve heard many are on NetFlix already)

 Here are my short takes on all the films I saw. They are alphabetical for ease in finding…this festival had many good films but, of course, there are a few losers. I’ve bolded my favorites. I am not bothering to tell you what each is about since the film center’s website has all that info and many are on Rotten Tomatoes and other film website.


A Simple Life (Hong Kong) Beautiful film about aging, kindness and love.

Alien Boy: The Death and Life of James Chasse (Portland) Very well-done, sad and enraging. Excellent use of limited photos and footage and a well-built story. Portlanders should see it. It will be at Cinema 21 later in the month as well.

Barfi! (India) Fun, sometimes silly, but great characters, a good story and a very fresh and loving treatment of differently abled.

Beyond the Hills (Romania) Cinematography is good, excellent acting and seeing modern Romania is very interesting. I found the story a bit hard to take but some loved it. Way too long (two and a half hours). Editing please!

Blancanieves (Spain) or Snow White. A black & white silent film, entertaining but nothing special. Perhaps I’m a curmudgeon on this one, but I couldn’t see why it was silent aside from the fact that The Artist won an Academy Award last year. Next day: thought more about it and like it a lot more and see that the silence fits a melodrama. Suitable for children who can take the violence of real fairy tales though all the blood is off-screen.

Blood of My Blood (Portugal) story of a working-class family (mother, grown daughter in college, son just out of reform school, and the mother’s sister living together) their troubles and the dedication both older women have to the well-being of the younger members. I liked it.

Caesar Must Die (Italy) Prisoners from the high-security wing of a Roman prison rehearse and perform Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The movie cast is the actual prisoners–not clear to me if the rehearsals are re-enactments. In any case, they are wonderful actors, especially Brutus. I wished for a bit more of the real-life relationships between the prisoners, but that is probably not a realistic desire.

Carmina Or Blow Up (Spain) Very entertaining, great character.

Chinese Take-Out (Argentina) Delightful comedy

Clandestine Childhood (Argentina) Set during Argentina’s Dirty War, a autobiographically-based script from the point of view of a 12-13-year-old boy living under a false identity with his anti-military junta activist parents. This is a genre already but I always enjoy them. This one had a very nice touch: all the violence was animated, a la comic book art–easier to take!

Comrade Kim Goes Flying (North Korea) Corny piece of romanitisized propaganda, but worth seeing as a cultural experience. Coal miners in N. Korea living a middle-class life? Workers spouting slogans in daily life? Laugh and enjoy.

80 Million (Poland) enjoyable if sometimes confusing political heist film. Black comedy. Minor violence

Flicker (Sweden) Hilarious. The town electric company, about to launch a 4G network, is at the center of this very fun, very Scandinavian (i.e. deadpan) comedy.

Hannah Arendt (Germany) Not a perfect film but worth seeing because of the fascinating story which focuses on her coverage of the Eichmann trial. The German actors are excellent. Wish the American ones were!

In the Fog (Ukraine) set during the German occupation, Ukrainians are confronted with moral life and death decisions. very moving. A bit confusing as the usual hints of a flashback are not given–be aware, you are going to get the back story of each of the three central character so when the story shifts and you wonder where you are that’s it.

In the Shadow (Czech Rep.) Political noir in Stalinist Czechoslovakia.

Just the Wind (Hungary) I was looking forward to a movie about the Romany in Hungary, but I found it very slow with occasional gripping moments. Probably a true picture of the terrible prejudice against the Romany in present day.

Keep Smiling (Georgia) I was expecting a light comedy. This was much more interesting and complex.

La Camionela (USA) interesting and informative but nothing earthshaking.

Laurence Anyways (Canada) In French. Laurence and Fred (a woman) are crazy in love but he admits he’s transsexual. Despite histrionics a bit over the top, this is a thoughtful look at the difficulties encountered and the courage  needed to live out.

Lore (Australia though it’s set in Germany and in German) I liked this a lot but be warned there are some pretty brutal images and scenes. It’s the story of children of Nazis (siblings) coping with the aftermath of World War II as they try to get to their grandmother’s house 500 miles away.

Love, Marilyn (USA) I liked this more than I expected, partly because it’s just wonderful to watch Marilyn Monroe and there was new material: recently discovered journals and poems nicely performed by a variety of actresses.

Men at Lunch (Ireland) was interesting but not enough material IMO for 80 minutes. My favorite parts were seeing more of the photos taken during construction of Rockefeller Center in 1932.

Modest Reception (Iran) a rather unusual plot of two people driving in a remote area of Iran near the Afghan border trying to give large sums of money away–their difficulties and the psychological effects on them. Not sorry I went but it wasn’t great. Actually weird and not what we’ve come to expect from Iranian films.

More Than Honey (Switzerland) documentary about bees. Early part of the film told me a lot I already knew but then it moves into the problems with disease and ‘killer’ bees and becomes new information. Some good cinematography too. International focus too.

Neighboring Sounds (Brazil) some will find this slow but I liked it a lot.

No (Chile) The only film from Chile in this year’s festival, a political theme, finalist status for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and starring the gorgeous Gael Garcia Bernal caused me to look forward to this one! Not disappointed. It’s the story of the No campaign in Chile’s 1988 plebiscite from the point of view of a major creative consultant. Enjoy it more by not brushing up on your history first.

Our Homeland (Japan) Korean Japanese family welcomes home a son who was repatriated to North Korea for a visit. Sigh. Just count your lucky stars. Very worth seeing. Pair with reading Nothing to Envy

One Night (Cuba) Only film from Cuba this year. Three Havana teenagers decide, all for different reasons, to try to escape to Miami. Great shots of Havana streets, surprisingly honest depiction of prostitution and a feeling of a police state. Not entirely believable but engaging and beautiful characters and a story that holds one’s attention.

Our Children (Belgium) a woman’s slow disintegration under difficult circumstances; based on a true story, marvelous performance by the lead, not for children.

Old Dog (China) I went because I wanted to see Mongolia but it would have been nice to have a something better than a shaggy dog story. Very loud amateur sound. The hills are beautiful but the town sure is awful.

Paradise: Love (Austria) A middle-aged woman takes a vacation at a beach resort in Kenya known for sex tourism. Verging on soft porn, there is humor, but it became more and more painful to watch as it progressed.

Piazza Fontana (Italy), good but hard to keep track of the characters. A color version of In the Shadow (which I think I preferred)

Pieta (South Korea) NO! Sick and utterly disgusting are some of the responses I heard. This festival has many wonderful films; don’t waste your time on this one.

Purge (Finland) I really liked it, very well made but because of the violence, including very graphic sexual violence, I hesitate to recommend. If you do decide to go I suggest you bone up on Estonian history in the first half of the 20th century first.

Realities (Italy) I wanted to like this but didn’t really. There’s a great Italian family and nice visuals of Naples but the story sort of loses it.

Renoir (France) very beautiful as befits Renoir the elder though it’s just as much about the younger (the filmmaker) and a young model.

Short Cuts II & III are pretty much all good, programs worth seeing. Some good animation too. I did not see but heard that I was uneven though there was one everyone said was excellent. IV not quite as good but still worth seeing.

Shun Li & The Poet (Italy) good story, good characters, lovely settings.

Sightseers (Great Britain) a very black comedy (in color!) but I enjoyed it. Lots of blood and laughs if you are able to suspend reality and just enjoy. Not for kids.

Something in the Air (France) I wanted to like this but watching a bunch of teenagers in the early 70s be Anarchists, Trotskyists and Maoists and make stupid mistakes based on their politics was pretty darn boring in 2013.

Starry Starry Night (Taiwan) take the kids if they can handle subtitles. Some nice visuals and touching story.

Tabu (Portugal)in  two parts: Paradise Lost and Paradise. The first is set in modern Portugal, the second in colonial Mozambique in the early 60s. The first is less compelling than second section but it’s a interesting film.

The Angels’ Share (Great Britain) Ken Loach’s latest. A fun caper film with great characters that could benefit from subtitles. Everyone had trouble with the working-class Scotch accents but there’s a lot of action so even I (who is awful with accents) understood what was happening though I missed a lot of the laughs.

The Double Steps (Spain) Very mysterious film, set in the Mali desert, gorgeous visuals and great music. Not the artist documentary I expected.

The Exam (Hungary) It’s a year after the Uprising and all the intelligence employees are being tested and what a test! Fast moving and full of surprises.

The Gatekeepers (Israel) See this film for the amazing candor of a number of former heads of the Israel Secret Service (Shin Bet) and some great archival film on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Last Shepherd (Italy) is a businessman as well as I guy who walks around the mountains with his sheep. Quite interesting and some beautiful shots especially at the end. Older children should enjoy too

The Painting (France) a nice animated children’s movie for kids who are old enough to cope with subtitles that adult can enjoy. Nothing revolutionary in the animation.

The Sapphires (Australia) Wonderful movie! Great music in this story of an Aboriginal singing group in 1968 who go entertain the troupes in Vietnam. Good relationships and politics.

This Ain’t California (Germany) documentary about a group of skateboarders in East Berlin during the 80s.  Managed to got back (after the electricity failed half an hour into my first watching) and see the whole thing at the very last screening of the festival. It’s a very interesting film, another aspect of living under Soviet East German rule. You don’t have to be a skateboarder to find it of interest.

Unfair World (Greece) a small film but very engaging. Interesting characters, some great laughs and some sweetness too.

War Witch (Canada) In French, filmed in Congo by a director named Nguyen and interwoven with stories of child soldiers from Burma, the focus is a girl child rebel soldier. I loved it and not surprising since it’s one of the finalists for best foreign film Academy Award.

Wrinkles (Spain) nothing special about the animation but a very touching story set in a nursing home with lots of humor lightening things up.