Sunday, January 30, 2011

DOGTOOTH: Not for the weak of heart

The critically acclaimed (and Academy Award nominated) Greek film Dogtooth was finally released on dvd in the U.S. this past Tuesday.  The basic premise of the film involves an aging couple who have raised their children to fear that which lies outside the gates of their home.  Playing out like some kind of Freudian nightmare sporting a wink and a twisted grin, Dogtooth fashions a world that is fully enclosed within the repressed fantasies and regressed understandings of those now adult offspring.  As the film unfolds, those characters play an endless series of nonsensical games which only partially discharge the sexual friction that grows between them.  And every once in a while, when the safety imposed upon them by their parents is challenged, the father punishes the offender brutally.

Dogtooth resides in the same darkly tense terrain as films like Todd Solondz' Happiness and Michael Haneke's Funny Games.  Like those past films, it provokes without moralizing, interrogates without resolution and leaves the heavy lifting of interpreting the thematics almost entirely to the audience.  With its primary meaning not at all locked down, a post-screening discussion of Dogtooth is likely to produce just as many interpretations as there are audience members in attendance.  My own reading of the film vacillates somewhere between a fairly standard critique of the family and/or the socialization process as it starts at birth and continues until death.  Yeah,'s just that wide open.

A warning: the film is not for the overly squeamish.  There are some truly shocking moments peppered throughout its run time.  It's plenty disturbing but also funny, engaging and completely original in its approach.


One last note: as a bonus feature, the Kino released dvd has an excellent 12 minute interview with director Yorgos Lanthimos on the production, casting and his overall filmmaking philosophy.  Very much worth checking out.

ALIEN BOY needs your help

Alien Boy: The Death & Life of James Chasse is the new film by Portland documentary filmmaker Brian Lindstrom.  Brian's been at the doc game for quite some time now and maybe you've heard of or seen his last full-length project, Finding Normal:

According to the official website for the film, Alien Boy examines how:

In September 2006 James Chasse was tackled by three law officers on a downtown street corner before a dozen eyewitnesses. James was not suspected of a crime, he had not committed a crime.

The officers beat him, kicked him, broke 17 ribs and his shoulder. They used a Taser on him repeatedly. He screamed for mercy.
The officers thought James was a drug dealer, a homeless person, a non-person, a ghost. They were wrong. James was a poet, a musician, he had a family which loved him, friends, neighbors, dreams and hopes. He was an artist; a small, shy, gentle person. And he was a person with schizophrenia.

James was sent by paramedics to jail. Jail nurses refused to admit him. He died en route to a hospital in a police car driven by the same officers who had earlier beaten him.

A grand jury refused to indict those officers. The City and County refused to terminate or discipline them.

Alien Boy is a feature length documentary film about the life and death of James Chasse. 

A massive amount of local PDX media coverage of the story and its continued fallout can be found here.

BUT...on to the main point of this post:  Alien Boy is in the post-production stage of its existence at this moment.  In order for the filmmakers to be able to present this important story to an audience, they need to raise additional funding for post.  Lindstrom and company have decided to take their need directly to the people via Kickstarter, the popular fundraising website that's being used for the crowd financing of so many creative projects lately.

At the moment of this posting, Alien Boy has received pledges for almost a third of it's post-production funding via this Kickstarter campaign.  More info about the film and how you can join the 70+ backers of the project via a financial donation of anywhere between $1 and $5000 (or more) can be found on the Alien Boy Kickstarter page.

More links:
The official website for the film.
The Alien Boy production blog.
Alien Boy's Facebook page.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

PIFF schedule online

The schedule for the 34th annual Portland International Film Festival is now available online.  The festival runs from Feb. 10th through the 26th.  Hit the link for listings, dates, venues and ticket purchase information.

Time to geek out, y'all.

Hot off the presses: PIFF schedules are out!

I stopped by the offices of the Northwest Film Center School of Film yesterday and--lo & behold--was rewarded for my drive with a copy of this year's schedule for the Portland International Film Festival.  Lots of opportunities to see films (88 features and 42 shorts, by my count) from around the globe in February.

I'm pretty excited about the inclusion of this Chilean film by director Patricio Guzmán (The Battle of Chile):

as well as When We Leave, the debut feature from Turkish German director Feo Aladag, starring Sibel Kekilli (of Fatih Akin's Head-On):

I'll keep an eye out and post an update when the online schedule goes live.  If waiting isn't your game, you've got a pretty good chance of scoring a copy of the printed version over at the Whitsell Auditorium, Portland Art Museum or NW Film Center offices.

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, I'll be checking out the first of the press screenings for this year's festival this Monday.  First up, Kawasaki's Rose from the Czech Republic:

and Silent Souls from Russia:

Until then...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What's in a name?

Just in case anyone's wondering, the name of the blog is inspired by two things:

First off, there's the old folk song "Portland Town" by Derroll Adams:

Here's a beautiful cover of the song by Jeremy Barnes' (formerly of Neutral Milk Hotel) band, A Hawk and a Handsaw:

Secondly, I've had the simple rhyme "The Rain Shits Down on Portlandtown" drifting through my mind for past many winters spent in PDX.  Been saving it as the title for a song (so don't steal it, folks) but haven't got around to writing that ditty yet.  For some reason, when naming the blog, I decided that while it was the perfect name for a tune, it might be a tad too crass as a blog name--thus, the slight change.  Ah, my personal aesthetics...sometimes they're a mystery even to me.

So, there you have it.  The long way 'round how we (the royal we, obviously) arrived at the name.  Hopefully, it's not too boring a tale.  And, seriously, check out the A Hawk and a Handsaw's gorgeous!

Grand Detour and Reverse Town

This past Tuesday night (1/25), PDX' own experimental film and video exhibition group Grand Detour presented a series of shorts produced by the filmmakers of Reverse Town at the Hollywood Theater.

Reverse Town is a six-member collective of film geeks who all met while gathering skills at the NW Film Center School of Film.

The Grand Detour program consisted of eight short films, including:
Positive dir. by Liz Lewis (trailer)
Bobby Beats by Liz Lewis (full film link)
Death Walker dir. by Daniel Klockenkemper (full film link)
Rougarou dir. by Michael Roberson (full film link)
and additional work by Brian Lancaster, Mario Garza and Ian Geronimo.

MAN ON A TIGHTROPE & the Elia Kazan boxset

As of last night's home screening of Man on a Tightrope (1953), I've made it through all six of the films that are exclusive to the recently released Elia Kazan Collection dvd boxset (one of which is the documentary A Letter to Elia, narrated and co-directed by Martin Scorsese).   

Man on a Tightrope was released just one year after Kazan testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) in 1952.  His testimony, which included the giving up of names of former colleagues in the Group Theater to the committee, has in retrospect significantly tainted the reception of his art to the public at large, making it difficult to address the films without at least some acknowledgment of the political actions of their creator.

Most audience members today will point to On the Waterfront (1954) as a prime example of Kazan (and screenwriter Budd Schulberg) grappling with his collaboration with the HCUA.  But if you look at this sequence from Man on a Tightrope, I think you'll notice Kazan's social dialectics being applied to not only an examination of the story being told in the film (artists being restricted by the political landscape of communist Czechoslovakia) but also to his own history.

As for the overall quality of the film, Fredric March delivers a solid performance as Karel, the aging clown/circus ringleader who repeatedly claims he's apolitical and is only interested in practicing his trade.  Gloria Grahame, playing Karel's wife Zama, is quite good but feels a bit too young and unseasoned both in the role and when balanced against March's performance.  Cinematographer Georg Krause, who also shot Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, brings his keen eye for strong framing that supports the sometimes outmoded dramatics of the film.

Tightrope isn't close to the best film exclusive to the Kazan boxset.  Personally, I emotionally connected most with America, America (1963), which instantly entered my top 20 list of favorite films.  The good news for fans unable or unwilling to spring for the rather pricey boxset: America, America will be getting its own standalone dvd release in February.

Also very good from the set:
Wild River (1960) (hit link for clip) and, especially, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cinema Project & NW Film Center present EMPTY QUARTER

Cinema Project and the NW Film Center are banding together this coming Friday, January 28th at 7pm to present a special screening of the new 16mm film by directors Alain Letourneau and Pam MintyEmpty Quarter is, as the film's promotional website describes it:

"...about the region of Southeast Oregon, an area populated by ranching and farming communities, in Lake, Harney, and Malheur counties. The region is roughly one-third of Oregon’s landmass yet holds less than 2% of the state’s population.

Southeast Oregon, though familiar by name is a foreign place, particularly to those who reside in urban environments. It is a landscape in the making, constantly undergoing change, being re-worked. It is a highly politicized landscape, evoking differing opinions concerning resource management and land use. It is also a landscape that is, despite some beliefs, rich with diversity, as seen by the presence of East Indian families, Japanese families, ancestors of Basque sheep herders, home to the Paiute tribes people, and to Latinos who have come to help work the land.

Empty Quarter borrows from earlier forms of documentary. Rather than subscribe to a modern form of documentary replete with talking heads and B-roll images, Empty Quarter presents stark portraits, waiting to be explored and digested by the viewer. Their meaning can be felt in the slow process of accumulation and measured response. Through a series of stationary shots, recording open landscapes and activities of local residents, Empty Quarter reflects on the character of the region. Natural areas are viewed among images of industry, various labor processes, resource management and recreation. Voices of local residents describe the history of pioneer settlement, social life of rural communities, and the struggles of small town economies."

Empty Quarter screens at the Whitsell Auditorium at 7pm this coming Friday night (1/28).  The Whitsell Auditorium is located at 1219 SW Park Ave.  Portland, OR 97205

Portland ❤ film & February is a great month for film in PDX

Hello and welcome to The Rain Falls Down on Portlandtown, a multi-topic blog focusing mainly on cinema but also on art, life and more in the little big city that is PDX, Oregon.

I've been toying with the idea of blogging for about a year now, mostly due to wanting an outlet for writing about film.  This February, I'll be working the door at one of the six screening venues for the 34th annual Portland International Film Festival (PIFF).  The gig translates, for me, as access to press screenings, etc. and it seemed like the perfect excuse/opportunity to force myself into (blogging) action.  No time like the present, eh?

The full festival schedule won't be announced until February 1st.  However, the following films have been confirmed by various local media outlets such as The Oregonian, Willamette Week and The Portland Mercury:

Certified Copy dir. Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, Close-Up)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives dir. Apichatapong Weerasethakul (Syndromes and a Century, Tropical Malady)
Some Days Are Better Than Others dir. Matt McCormick (The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal)
When We Leave dir. Feo Aladag
Honey dir. Semih Kaplanoglu
How to Die in Oregon dir. Peter Richardson (Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon)
Son of Babylon dir. Mohamed Al Daradji (Dreams)
Outrage dir. "Beat" Takeshi Kitano (Fireworks, Sonatine)
Potiche dir. Francois Ozon (Water Drops on Burning Rocks, Swimming Pool)
In a Better World dir. Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, Brothers)
The Revenant dir. D. Kerry Prior (Roadkill)
The Princess of Montpensier dir. Bertrand Tavernier (Coup de Torchon, The Clockmaker)
Of Gods and Men dir. Xavier Beauvois (Le Petit Lieutenant)
Cold Weather dir. Aaron Katz
Flamenco, Flamenco dir. Carlos Saura (Tango, Carmen)
Mutant Girls Squad dir. Yoshihiro Nishimura (Suicide Club) and Noburu Iguchi (The Machine Girl)
Passione dir. John Turturro (Romance & Cigarettes) 
Rubber dir. Quentin Dupieux

The festival begins on the 10th and comes to a close on the 27th of February.  I'll be sure to post again as soon as the official schedule appears online.  Plus, I'll spend some time talking about films as I see them.  Thanks for taking the time to peruse this post.  Press screenings begin on Monday, so keep an eye out for updates.  And, who knows, I might find something else to blather on about before then...
submit to reddit