For a city full of some of the most creative people on the West Coast, Portland can occasionally feel like a cultural desert. You wander the Pearl District aimlessly, encountering the promise of hydrating culture only to have it dissolve in your fingers – just a mirage. Your fingers swell up from artistic thirst, your lips become cracked and dry. Will you ever find inspiration again?
And then there comes PIFF, a cinematic oasis. Filling your husk with life-giving art and wetting your lips with broad-reaching vision. Lap at this natural spring of inventive narrative. Go to the fucking movies.
Thursday, Feb. 17
Regal Broadway Cinemas, 1000 S.W. Broadway Ave.
"Yoshino’s Barber Shop" (Japan) 5:30 p.m.
"Days of Santiago" (Peru) 6:30 p.m.
"Four Shades of Brown" (Sweden) 8 p.m.
"The Man Who Copied" (Brazil) 8:30 p.m.
Guild Theatre, 829 S.W. Ninth Ave.
"Machuca" (Chile) 6 p.m.
"Short Cuts II" 8:45 p.m.
Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 S.W. Park Ave.
"Take My Eyes" (Spain) 6:15 p.m.
"Notre Music" (France) 8:45 p.m.
"Or" (Israel, Keren Yedaya, 2004)
Another outstanding debut feature film, "Or" is an emotionally taxing glimpse into the lives of Ruthie and her daughter Or who, with varying degrees of success, try to overcome the effects of the mother’s life of prostitution. Many films have unflinchingly explored similar themes, but several things make this one distinctive The complexity of the lives and personalities of the characters make "Or" notable. Ruthie, filled with sadness and unable to exist as a functional adult, depends on Or as a child depends on its mother. Or, mature and energetic, loves Ruthie as a nurturing parent loves a child. The spare direction and photography, an excellent example of the realist tradition, enhance the actors’ performances. Dana Ivgy so successfully inhabits the role of Or that the viewer is drawn in to understand the character’s psychology with great detail and subtlety.
The film, similar to the outstanding works of British director Ken Loach, will reward those willing to face painful and difficult subjects with remarkable insight into the social context of personal relationship.
Anyone who’s ever worked a mundane, low-paying job knows that boring but repetitious tasks lead to daydreaming. Maybe while you drop the basket of fries into the deep fryer, you dream of the day when you’ll be able to sit on a talk show couch and joke about how the fryer used to always burn you in the spot between the end of your plastic glove and your elbow. Or maybe, like the hero of "The Man Who Copied," you eye armored trucks with a knowing look that says, "If I had a gun and a ski mask I could rob that truck no problem." But of course you never followed through.
The problem with "The Man Who Copied" is that its hero Andre is a lowly Brazilian wage-slave, yet in the period of a couple of weeks he has more adventures and commits more felonies than most people do in a lifetime. And this would be fine if the movie was a comedy and the fact that Andre got mixed up in so much trouble was part of the joke. But "The Man Who Copied" veers uncomfortably between comedy and drama, never sure if it wants to be a coming-of-age story, a droll comedy or a rags-to-riches adventure movie.
The difficulty with "The Man Who Copied" is that there are so many things to like about it. It’s well written, the leads are all attractive and charming, and writer-director Jorge Furtado has a wonderfully un-self conscious directing style that suits the movie perfectly. There’s a wonderful scene early in the movie where Andre explains how the copier works and how to feed the paper, and then adds drolly that he’s told you all you need to know to do his job. Another delightful thing about "The Man Who Copied" is that the romance between Andre and Silvia developed so slowly and carefully that even a cynic like myself was rooting for them to get together. Furtado doesn’t spare the viewer the awkward beginnings of the relationship, where both people know they like each other but don’t know one another well enough to do anything about it.
And that’s what makes what’s wrong with "The Man Who Copied" so frustrating.
So many of the events in the plot are so improbable that they take you completely out of the movie. A plot twist involving the numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 is impossible to believe, not to mention an incredibly dumb device for any movie to use. When events occur in a movie that we couldn’t imagine, even in our wildest dreams, happening to us, we lose our ability to sympathize with the people we see on screen and have to smirk our way through the rest of the film. At the end of "The Man Who Copied," I just felt irritated and confused, unsure why a charming film about a working-class Brazilian boy on the make had to turn so confusing and convoluted to tell its story.