Portland isnt that far from Tri-Cities so if youre an art film lover you may want to consider catching some of the 35th Annual Portland International Film Festival.
For buffs of excellent cinema, there is plenty to pick from. During the next couple of weeks, Ill feature reviews and information on where to see those reviewed.
The festival runs Feb. 9-25 and features films from 36 countries. There are 140 films 93 features and 46 shorts.
Festival officials are highlighting international award winners:
Breathing that took Canes Best European Film.
Jean Gentil, the Special Jury Mention at the Venice Film Festival.
Elena, the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize winner at Cannes.
The festival kicks off 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a special opening night screening of Salmon Fishing in Yemen reviewed here. If you want to go to the screening and party and these things are always a blast tickets cost $25 and are available now at http://festivals.nwfilm.org/piff35/events/.
Here is the festival schedule: http://festivals.nwfilm.org/piff35/.
Admission: $10 general; $9 Portland Art Museum members, students, seniors; $7 Silver Screen Club Friends.
Salmon Fishing in Yemen shows just once, and that is opening night. Here is my review.
The focal point of Salmon Fishing in Yemen is getting salmon to Yemen for fishing. Salmon as you know are not native to Yemen. Or anywhere in the Middle East. A sheik wants to bring prosperity to his little country. Those not knowing geography, or who do not pay much attention to Middle East news, Yemen is a real country. Its south of Saudi Arabia and next to Oman.
The country is real. The story however is not.
The sheik has a castle in Scotland. Thats where he fell in love with salmon fishing and where he got his idea. He wants better lives for his people and has dreams of building a dam to bring water and jobs to his not-to-much-a-paradise desert. If youre going to do a dam and all that, why not stock it with salmon?
Damn good idea.
But Salmon Fishing in Yemen isnt totally about salmon. Its a love story. And a pretty good one.
Ewan McGregor who for the first time in recent memory plays a Scotsman and does dialogue in his native tongue is an expert on fish. Hes unhappily married and, on some level, also unhappily married to his job. McGregors Dr. Fred Jones gets an email from Emily Blunts Harriet Chetwode-Talbot. Its about the salmon and the dam and all. He turns down the dam and cans the salmon. Dr. Jones would have stood his ground except for political pressure from the information guru of Britains prime minister.
Bad press for the Brits over a faux paux in the Middle East demands a positive story as a counter. She uses her power, pressure and financial persuasion to get her way. By the way, the info guru is played nicely, and quite wickedly by Kristin Scott-Thomas.
Back to the love story. Blunts Harriet is in love with a soldier who is missing in action. McGregor and his bride split. Political opponents fear Western influence in Yemen, but the sheik perseveres. And then theres the fish.
Thats a love story of sorts, too.
McGregor, Blunt and the chemistry between them is pitch-perfect from scene one. Their interaction and the connection to Amr Wakeds (Syriana) sheik drive the movie. Love blossoms slowly, perfectly. McGregor and Blunt swap lines in an easy, real-life manner with respect and humor.
By the way, Waked, like his co-stars, is also terrific.
When he gets it right or has the right screenwriter director Lasse Hallstrom is a very good storyteller. Cider House Rules and An Unfinished Life prove that. And in my book, Salmon Fishing in Yemen lets us forgive him for Dear John and Chocolat.
Simon Beaufoy of Slumdog Millionaire fame pens the story from Paul Tordays novel. Like Hallstrom, when he gets it right and he usually does Beaufoy tells a great story, too.
While it is a Middle East movie, and I agree building dams and having westerners bring salmon to the land could create a clash of cultures, it is nice to see a film about the area that doesnt involve international intrigue, a focus on terrorism, language and violence.
Unfortunately, neither Hallstrom or Beaufoy, have anywhere to take the story other than to a cliche crisis. The clash of culture at the climax in the end breaks the proverbial feel-good dam and manages to wash away what could have been one of 2012s best.
But love prevails over cliche. Love. Respect. Dignity. Deep, likable, multiple-dimensioned characters with real-life problems work.
It is the love story that hooks you and keeps you hooked. The storytelling skills of Hallstrom and Beaufoy let the chemistry of McGregor and Blunt reel you in.