Mr. Movie

Portland International Film Festival previews

I will be posting reviews of films being show at the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) for the next couple of weeks.

It is part of an effort to broaden my horizons and film-going experience and yours.

It will also demonstrate that I have horizons much broader than Gnomeo & Juliet and that I not only pan commercial hits such as Inception, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 but am willing to stretch to the film that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Later this year, I will attend some of the screenings and post reviews for the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).

PIFF starts Friday and runs until Feb. 26. To see a schedule go to http://festivals.nwfilm.org/piff34/.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives — shows Feb 16, 18

A good friend caught this one in London. She got the last ticket for the late show and paid $25 for the honor. After all, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a film from Thailand, and it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

One of the judges, the legend himself Tim Burton, called it “a beautiful, strange dream.”

My friend fell asleep.

One has to wonder if Burton and the other judges weren’t asleep, too, and that his strange and beautiful dream actually was a strange and beautiful dream.

Stay awake, stay awake, stay awake.

Those words kept flowing through my mind as I watched endlessly long shots of a water buffalo, or a bedroom or a princess being carried by men on a litter. She spends time at a pool doing a pity party because she’s ugly. A catfish talks to her, says she isn’t ugly, and later in the extra long scene ends up between her legs.

Ew.

And no, it is not the climax of the movie.

None of this seems to have anything to do with Uncle Boomnee, whose kidneys have failed and who is dying. His nephew, sister, a guy from Laos and a couple of ghosts -- one of whom looks more like a monkey with bright red, glow-in-the-dark eyes -- hang out with him in his last days.

Some of the screening audience — like my friend — fell asleep. Others walked out. It truly is a terrible movie.

Why would you see it? Why did I give it a recommend-you-see-it grade?

Curiosity.

I want to know if you agree with Tim Burton and the judges at Cannes that Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a great movie and “hypnotic and playful” — as PIFF describes it — and a film that deserves to be seen.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Not rated — Probably PG. It plays at PIFF Feb. 16 and 18. Go to http://festivals.nwfilm.org/piff34/ for the location and times.

Aftershock — Shows Feb. 13, 14 & 17

China submitted this to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination. It didn’t get nominated, but it isn’t bad.

It begins in 1976 with the Tangshan Earthquake that killed 250,000 people. A fictional family centers the drama. Mom and dad are outside when the quake hits. Their twin children — a boy and a girl — are inside. The father dies trying to rescue them.

When the building collapses, both children are pinned under a slab. Rescuers can only save one. Their mother has to decide which will live. After much agony, she picks her son. It appears the daughter has died, but later she wakes up and is transported to a hospital.

Aftershock follows their lives from the quake to modern day. Separated from her surviving parent and sibling, the little girl remembers very little. She is adopted by a couple. The son, who lost an arm in the rescue, and his mom stay in Tangshan.

Finally remembering what happened, the daughter is distant and aloof. She remembers the ultimate rejection. The son is negative, rebellious but ultimately very successful. Mom never gets over the guilt and refuses to leave her home because it is the only place the ghosts of her assumed dead daughter and husband can find her.

Aftershock follows their intertwining lives for what seems like an eternity. Part of the film’s problem is length. Trim 30 minutes, lose choppy editing and sometimes sloppy filmmaking, get some better actors for the key parts and it’s a much better movie.

Here’s what does work and why it ought to be seen. The highly emotional and gut-wrenching choice the mother must make, how it impacts her life and the lives of her children and the emotional payoff in the last act is worth wading through the very slow middle.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars

Not rated — Probably PG-13 for mature themes and some violent scenes. It plays Feb. 13, 14 and 17. Go to http://festivals.nwfilm.org/piff34/ for the location and times.

More reviews on PIFF films coming mid-week, next week.

To see what’s happening at PIFF, the films being shown and their schedules, go to http://festivals.nwfilm.org/piff34/.

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