Our films in this year's Portland International Film Festival will be crammed into just a few days due to lots of travel in February. We're seeing one or two films a day for a week, and that's it.
So far we have seen...
Target (Russia) reminded me a lot of Kubrick, especially A Clockwork Orange. Stately in its pace, full of intriguing ideas, with gorgeous cinematography and subtle but effective touches to convey the near-future Russia of 2020, it's beautifully made. But it drove us out of the theatre with its relentless violence, appalling misogyny, numerous scenes of ugly joyless sex, and complete lack of any admirable qualities in its characters. It takes a lot to make me walk out of a movie, but this film managed it. this review is pretty much the one I would write if I wanted to spend any more time thinking about this film, which I don't.
A Cat in Paris (France) was a delight. An animated film with a colorful, energetic visual style that reminded me of Lynda Barry, it was full of adventure, humor, and fun. Tightly plotted, with serious tension, great moments of humor, and some genuine human emotion, this film works at multiple levels. The villain manages to be ludicrous and seriously threatening at the same time, there are some delightfully unexpected visual tricks, and the score is fabulous. Also, the cat (although smarter than the average cat) is a cat, and manages to be the film's central character without talking, fetching things (other than a dead lizard), or doing anything else impossible for a cat in the real world. Highly recommended for adults and kids.
Hello! How Are You? (Romania), an Eastern European You've Got Mail!, was a bit of a mixed bag. A romantic comedy about a long-married couple who each begin an online flirtation with a stranger, the best thing about this film is the subsidiary characters, especially their horndog son whose self-aggrandizing audio diary provides unconscious insight into the lives of his parents. This is a movie about sex and romance, and how sometimes getting what you thought you wanted is the worst thing that can happen. And, although I describe it as a romantic comedy and I laughed out loud on many occasions, the overall impression I came away with is sweetly sad. A reminder, as many romantic comedies are, of how important it is to communicate with one's partner.