Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Portland International Film Festival preview day 1: SILENT SOULS and KAWASAKI'S ROSE

Monday marked the beginning of press screenings for this year's Portland International Film Festival (PIFF). Two movies a day, five days a week for three weeks equals a lot of films to talk about, so I'll probably only have time to touch on each one lightly before rushing off to check out the next set of screenings each day.

Things fall apart, it’s inevitable.  Our bodies, minds and even our culture are all positioned on a path that leads towards dissolution.  Silent Souls, the new film by Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko, explores this base fact in a mode typical of Russian cinema, by which I mean that the film is bleak in subject, slow moving and comes off as somewhat emotionally neutral when compared to films we see being produced in the west.  It’s also a visually stunning movie that allows ample time to be fully drawn into the world being depicted.

Silent Souls tells the story of two men, Aist and Miron, on a mission to lie to rest the body of Miron’s wife.  Both men are descendants of the Merjan (or Meryan) people, whose culture was long ago absorbed into the larger Russian society.  Fedorchenko presents the disappearance of their culture and its accompanying rituals as a lens through which we can view the more direct and personal loss felt by these characters, slowly revealing the intersections between these parallel experiences.

Silent Souls is definitely one to catch at the festival, especially if you're a fan of visually rich, Russian cinema. I adored this film.

Silent Souls plays at 6:15pm on Feb. 11th at the Broadway Theater. A second screening is scheduled for 4:45pm on Feb. 13th at the Whitsell Auditorium.

The second film of the day was Kawasaki's Rose (dir. Jan Hrebejk), hailing from the Czech Republic. The story: A well-respected psychiatrist, Pavel, is about be honored for his work before, during and after the Velvet Revolution. The conflict? Well, it turns out that the doctor has a much darker past than most of his family ever imagined. Kawasaki's Rose is a solid film but it does spend a bit too much of its run time establishing characters on the periphery of the central narrative, eventually picking up a great deal of steam as it goes along.  And some of those supporting performances, Antonin Kratochvil's turn as the sculptor Borek, in particular, make it worth catching if you're planning on seeing a wide swath of the programming at this year's festival.

Kawasaki's Rose plays at 6pm on Feb. 11th at the Whitsell Auditorium. Additional screenings at the Broadway Theater are at 3:30pm on Feb. 13th and 6:45pm on Feb. 14th.
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