Portland International Film Festival

Glamour and Portland are two words rarely heard in conjunction. We’re a casual city, and we dress accordingly. But times are changing and so should your wardrobe. Take this opportunity to join me on the frontlines of the war on dressing down. Spend some money, wear some sequins and rent a limo. We’ll be the talk of the town. I’ll be the one in tails.

Tuesday, Feb. 22

Regal Broadway Cinemas, 1000 S.W. Broadway Ave.
"Days of Santiago" (Peru) 6:30 p.m.
"Four Shades of Brown" (Sweden) 7 p.m.
"Beautiful City" (Iran) 8:45 p.m.

Guild Theatre, 829 S.W. Ninth Ave.
"Czech Dream" (Czech Republic) 6:15 p.m.
"Short Cuts III" 8:30 p.m.

Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 S.W. Park Ave.
"Mardi Gras: Made In China" (U.S.) 6:30 p.m.
"Old Boy" (South Korea) 8:45 p.m.

"Producing Adults" (Finland, Aleksi Salmenper퀌_, 2004)
Films from Finland don’t often make it to Portland, Ore. Unfortunately, this reviewer was ultimately disappointed by "Producing Adults," which has more in common with network prime time dramas from the United States than with the work of fellow Finn director Aki Kaurism퀌_ki. My expectation was not that all Finnish films are similar, but unlike Kaurism퀌_ki, first-time director Salmenper퀌_ has not yet succeeded in showing his viewers much distinctive flair.

"Producing Adults" is not bad; it’s a perfectly diverting and entertaining comedy-drama with some very satisfying moments. Its subject is Venla, a woman in a long-term relationship with a man who cannot communicate that he is not ready to have children. As he secretly sabotages her efforts to get pregnant, she surreptitiously explores other sources of fertilization. In the course of her family crisis, she becomes closer to Satu, a bisexual female co-worker. For a number of reasons, Satu is the most interesting character in the film. While gay and lesbian subjects have begun to make many inroads into the film world, bisexuality is rarely portrayed with much depth, so there were rich opportunities in Satu’s character for that reason alone. Other characters were poorly developed, such as Venla’s fianc퀌�, who might have added more to the film if he had been just a little less moronic.

"Producing Adults" is an enjoyable and competently produced film, but it doesn’t say much of interest about its characters and their problems. Viewers who want challenging, thought-provoking films will have much else to choose from throughout the festival.

"In Your Hands" (Denmark, Annette Olesen, 2004)
Ten years on and the Dogme 95 movement, while it may have lost some steam, has not even begun to run itself into the ground. For the uninitiated, Dogme 95 began when four Danish filmmakers sat down and wrote a manifesto of film production guidelines "in only 25 minutes and under continuous bursts of merry laughter." Nevertheless, those ideas and rules – no sets, props, score, sound effects, genre conventions, special filters or lighting effects, etc. – have been taken very seriously by filmmakers in Denmark and around the world as a challenge to jettison film’s traditional artistic goals in the interest of employing a new and disciplined style of making movies. Beginning with the success of the impressive "Festen" ("The Celebration"), Dogme 95 films became known as a way of attempting to make films that were great in a way completely the opposite of "auteurist" classics such as "Battleship Potemkin," "Citizen Kane" and "8 1/2."

Dogme 95 films – with their often improvised acting, handheld digital camerawork and ability to devastate viewers emotionally – are not for everyone. "In Your Hands" is no exception. The story concerns Anna, the new priest at a women’s prison, who is about as confident in her position as a child on the first day of kindergarten. The prison’s real spiritual guide is the newest prisoner, a quiet and mysterious chain smoker named Kate. The acting is excellent all around, but many of the characters remain frustratingly underdeveloped.

Like some Dogme predecessors, "In Your Hands" creates moods by pushing viewers’ emotional buttons, although not always for an effective purpose. Judging from how often I see people leave the theater laughing and chatting with one another after an upsetting film such as this one, it seems safe to assume some filmgoers enjoy the experience of having their buttons pushed and do not take the films all that seriously.