These are what have kept me from posting this month but life has returned to a more predictable pace.
For friends from New Mexico and California you wouldn't think that February in the NW is a likely destination. Fortunately, it's been cold but largely dry in Portland which was especially appreciated while my visitor and I stood in line to see some of the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) offerings.
Each February for two weeks, PIFF presents close to 60 full length feature films from the world over as well as shorts. True aficionados spent two weeks eating, breathing, sleeping films. Our aim was more modest , about 2 movies each evening for a week.
Here are my choices for best and worst:
Beaches of Agnès: (France) a cinematic autobiography by the French director Agnès Varda (born and raised in my own Brussels neighborhood, I want you to know). Interesting, witty, moving and charming. It just won Best Documentary Feature at the French Cesar Awards.
Séraphine: (France) Also just received a slew of awards at the Cesars. A biopic of the rags to riches to mental illness of Seraphine de Senlis (see Wikipedia). Beautifully acted and photographed. Flawless supporting performances.
Pressure Cooker: (USA) A rousing testimonial to superb teaching in inner city Philadelphia. It will have you grabbing the edge of your seats while cheering for the culinary art teacher and her students. A must-see!
Lorna's Silence: (Belgium) The Dardenne Brothers are Belgium's counterpart to the Coen brothers. They make in your face, edgy movies on the dark side of society. This one is about a young Albanian immigrant caught in a dangerous immigration scheme to remain in Belgium.
I walked out of the first two.
Il Divo: (Italy) recounts in brutal details the byzantine political life of Giulio Andreotti. Even if you are well-versed in Italian politics of the times, the relentless violence and corruption are hard to stomach.
Karamazovs: (Czech Rep) An acting group opts to rehearse a stage version of the book in a dismal abandoned factory. The unkempt actors themselves exhibit traits of the roles they play. A double whammo of ongoing torment and discord.
Nightwatching: (UK) A Peter Greenaway movie so you expect it to be "different" and it is. Gorgeous period costumes, sets and photography, BUT unintelligible audio. The actors whisper in colloquial regional britspeak against loud musical "background". Less than 20% of the dialogue was intelligible so the story of Rembrandt's masterpiece and its political ramification was lost on the audience.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Opium Wars (Afghanistan); The Lemon Tree (Israel)
I missed the last two planned movies when this year's winter cold hit my household. Too bad, but we'll get another chance next year!