MEDIA

Music@Home: Desktops and devices are the new venues

Burgeoning availability of live streams gives Oregon contemporary and classical music lovers home access to concerts from around the world

Story and screenshots by GARY FERRINGTON

As I grow older, I find it more difficult to go out on those dark, wet and blustery Oregon evenings to enjoy a concert of classical or contemporary music. Although I’d prefer sitting in a venue enjoying a live performance, I know it won’t always be possible. So, it is with much personal pleasure that I’ve discovered Internet live-streaming and have spent the last couple of years exploring the availability of both statewide and worldwide concert performances.

Live From Beall: Otis Murphy (Saxophone) and Haruko Murphy (Piano) May 17, 2016.

Live From Beall: Otis Murphy (Saxophone) and Haruko Murphy (Piano) May 17, 2016.

With the click of a mouse or a tap on a trackpad or screen, music lovers can connect to streams of live music performances from most anywhere around the world on the internet. From major international festivals and concerts overseas to two Oregon colleges taking the lead in bringing live performances online, viewers and listeners who may seldom or never be able to experience distant concert events have the option to do so on their computers or mobile devices. The increasing availability of live streaming offers real benefits, beyond mere convenience, to composers, musicians, and music lovers in Oregon and beyond.

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INTERVIEW: Vanessa Renwick talks “Next Level Fucked Up”

The veteran experimental filmmaker discusses her current installation at PAM, her upcoming retrospective at the NW Film Center, and the decline of Portland

Vanessa Renwick has been kicking ass for over twenty years. It says so right there in the name of her website, the Oregon Department of Kick Ass.

Using a variety of media, primarily film and video, she’s probed the uncomfortable intersection between nature and so-called civilization, the paradoxes of humanity’s relationship with the wild, and the shifting fortunes of her adoptive city, Portland. These concerns intertwine in Renwick’s newest installation, “Next Level Fucked Up,” which currently inhabits the Apex Gallery of the Portland Art Museum.

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Dead cert: an extra’s adventure in Grimmlandia

A first-time television actor discovers the real world in the fantasy of NBC’s made-in-Portland "Grimm": just lie down and play dead

By CYNTHIA D. STOWELL

Two days before NBC’s Grimm wrapped its fifth year of occupying the streets, cafés, forests, and psyches of Portland, good news came to the cast and crew: the show had been granted a sixth season. Cheers went up on Twitter and Instagram from actors who had settled into houses in their adopted city, and from writers who’d been indulging in black humor about the number of characters they were going to kill off before the “finale” (ominously, they weren’t saying “season finale”).

It had been making me nervous, both as a fan and as a recent performer on the show, so I celebrated, too—happy that I’d have another whole season of mythological beasts, intrepid detectives, and Black Claw revolutionaries to watch … but also relieved that my amateur acting hadn’t singlehandedly driven the show into the ground.

Magic in the "Grimm" makeup trailer was performed by Morgan Muta, makeup artist, Corinna Woodcock, key makeup artist, and Laura Loucks, department head makeup. Their wizardry transformed 64-year-old extra Cynthia Stowell into 90-year-old Summer Blake. (Morgue-worthy wig by Shelia Cyphers, department head hair, and Emie Otis, key hair.)

Magic in the “Grimm” makeup trailer was performed by Morgan Muta, makeup artist, Corinna Woodcock, key makeup artist, and Laura Loucks, department head makeup. Their wizardry transformed 64-year-old extra Cynthia Stowell into 90-year-old Summer Blake. (Morgue-worthy wig by Shelia Cyphers, department head hair, and Emie Otis, key hair.)

“Acting” is an exaggeration of my contribution to Season 5 of Grimm. It’s more accurate to say that I sat in a makeup chair for three hours, laid down, held my breath, and played dead. And got paid an amount that certainly didn’t bring NBC to the brink of financial ruin.

But for the three months I had to wait for my Skin Deep episode to air, I worried that I’d not looked dead enough, that I’d twitched a finger or flared a nostril, and that they’d had to replace me with someone who knew what she was doing. Never mind that almost any transgression of mine could have been corrected with editing or CGI. In my imagination, the whole success of that episode—and the entire future of the series—was resting on my wrinkled body.

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Travels with Wim: Northwest Film Center serves up a baker’s dozen of Wenders’ wonders

Dive into the German filmmaker's five-decade career with this month-long retrospective

The Northwest Film Center’s retrospective of the work of German filmmaker Wim Wenders, which runs from Friday, March 5 through Sunday, April 3, is called “Portraits Along the Road.” It’s an apt moniker for a series devoted to a director known for his peripatetic characters and his fascination with character studies and photography as a medium. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Wenders was born in August 1945, barely three months after the surrender of Nazi Germany. Like the other standard bearers of the New German Cinema who emerged in the late 1960s, being a member of the first German generation to have little or no memory of the war shaped his work in significant, not always readily apparent ways.

His characters are more likely than not to be uprooted souls travelling through a world they struggle to make sense of, and the temptation would be to describe them as symbolically running away from the past. Instead, though, it’s more like they’re on a railroad track parallel to history, where it can be contemplated but remains forever out of reach.

Rudiger Vogler in "Alice in the Cities"

Rudiger Vogler in “Alice in the Cities”

Wenders was one leg of a triangle–with Werner Herzog, born 1942, and Rainier Werner Fassbinder, born in May 1945—who played a huge role in revitalizing German film. (Other notables included Margarethe von Trotta and Volker Schlöndorff.) If you ever want to impress someone with your knowledge of New German Cinema, be sure to drop the phrase “Oberhausen Manifesto” into the conversation. It was a 1962 document, signed by 26 German filmmakers, that promised a new style of film “free from all usual conventions by the industry.”

Wenders didn’t sign the Oberhausen Manifesto (neither did Herzog nor Fassbinder), but he did graduate from high school in Oberhausen the year it was signed. Coming from a presumably comfortable background—his father was a surgeon—Wenders may seem an unlikely radical. And in fact his films demonstrate a more detached, ironic perspective than Herzog’s operatic portraits of derangement or Fassbinder’s overheated queer melodramas. But he was a quiet revolutionary in his way.

After studying painting in Amsterdam, he returned to Germany and graduated from the University of Television and Film Munich. His thesis film and first feature, completed in 1970, took its title from the Lovin’ Spoonful hit “Summer in the City.” In the early years of his career, at least, Wenders shared the simultaneous sense of fascination and repulsion towards America that has animated so many European artists of the postwar era.

This is especially evident in “Alice in the Cities,” the 1974 film that’s the best and most significant of the three early Wenders features screening during the retrospective’s first weekend. In its first act, a German journalist named Philip Winter (Rudiger Vogler) has been travelling around the U.S., taking Polaroid photos of its highways, byways, and forgotten souls. He smashes a hotel TV at one point, enraged at the commercial interruptions to classic Hollywood movies, and attends a Chuck Berry concert later on.

The homeward-bound Winter is delayed in New York by an air traffic controller strike, and he strikes up a friendship with a single mother about to return to Germany with her ten-year-old daughter. The mother abandons Alice to Winter’s care, and they spend the rest of the movie meandering around Germany in search of her grandmother.

This familiar set-up—grouchy adult man bonds with precocious young girl–often leads to either quirky sentimentality (“Paper Moon”) or queasy subtext (“Taxi Driver”). But in the hands of Wenders, Vogler, and juvenile actress Yella Rottländer, “Alice in the Cities” is a refreshingly unadorned story of unlikely friendship and a man reconnecting with the world. It also continued fruitful, long-lasting artistic relationships among Wenders, Vogler (who played characters named Philip Winter in several later films), and Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller, whose black-and-white images in “Alice” are a direct antecedent to his work on Jim Jarmusch’s “Strangers in Paradise.”

“Alice” is often cited as Wenders’ first “road movie,” the first in an unofficial trilogy including “The Wrong Move” and “Kings of the Road.” But his second feature, “The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick,” also stars Vogler as man on the move. Here he’s a soccer goalie who abruptly shoves a referee during a match and is ejected. He then begins an aimless, amoral journey across Germany, committing an emotionless act of violence at one point that seems to neither haunt nor hinder him. It’s the sort of depiction of existential malaise that a 25-year-old who grew up in a society haunted by unspeakable violence might make, and I mean that in a good way.

“The Wrong Move,” like “Goalie,” is based on the writing of experimental novelist Peter Handke, and it’s the least audience-friendly of these opening three films in the Film Center’s series. Volger again stars, again as a writer wrestling with how to engage with the world, and the people, around him. Travelling from his hometown to Bonn, he assembles around him, without trying, a makeshift crew of eccentrics that includes an aging athlete who competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, the mute young acrobatic woman accompanying him (Natassja Kinski, in her film debut), and the beautiful object of our hero’s desire (Hanna Schygulla).

There’s something Pirandellian about this random, allegorical group, although Handke’s screenplay is actually adapted from Goethe’s “The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister.” Even with very little real narrative to cling to, it remains a compelling experience, though not Wenders’ most memorable.

“Portraits Along the Road” will continue to trace Wenders’ career over the next few weeks, from the peak of his art house popularity in the 1980s and 90s with “Wings of Desire” and “Until the End of the World” (presented in its rarely seen 5-hour director’s cut!) to his Oscar-nominated documentaries: “Buena Vista Social Club,” “Pina,” and 2014’s “Salt of the Earth.” Along the way, there will be opportunities to see rarities including 1977’s “The Left-Handed Woman” (directed by Handke and produced by Wenders), 1982’s “The State of Things” (co-starring Sam Fuller), and 1985’s “Tokyo-ga,” a worshipful meditation on the cinema of Yasujiro Ozu.

The final moments of “Alice in the Cities” were shot from a helicopter, starting out focused on the face of Vogler in the window of a train and then rising into the sky. The opening of “The Wrong Move” is another helicopter shot, traversing the rooftops of a small town before settling on Vogler, again behind glass. He immediately shatters the window he’s looking out of, and soon embarks on his journey. These are the sorts of synchronicities that become apparent when you immerse yourself in the work of a film artist of Wenders’ caliber. There should be plenty more.

 

(“The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick” screens at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 4; “The Wrong Move” screens at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 5; “Alice in the Cities” screens at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 6; all at the Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. For a full schedule of “Wim Wenders: Portraits Along the Road,” visit www.nwfilm.org)

 

BAM! POWFest strikes a blow for gender equality in filmmaking

The 9th edition of the Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival features special guest Catherine Hardwicke and a vast array of female-created content

In a year when attention has been drawn to the continuing lack of diversity in the film industry like never before, an event like the Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival would seem more vital and necessary than ever.

The stories come fast and fairly furious. The pay gap between male and female actors continues to exist, from Jennifer Lawrence to Gillian Anderson. Hollywood and its vaunted Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences remain largely a “straight, white, boys’ club.” And, of course, #OscarsSoWhite.

And yet, some people you’d think would embrace the notion of a film festival devoted exclusively to works by women directors have expressed skepticism or outright hostility. Three years ago, I interviewed POWFest’s guest of honor, Penelope Spheeris, and apparently annoyed her by daring to get her take on the hurdles female filmmakers face. And earlier this year, director Marjane Satrapi railed against the notion of a female-centric festival when I interviewed her.

These women have a point, to a degree. In a perfect world, there would be no need to carve out an artistic space dedicated to any particular race, gender, or religion. And it’s as reductive to ask female artists only about their experience as women as it is to obsess about their red carpet gowns to the exclusion of all else. The dangers are twofold: movies by women can get ghettoized, and audiences can be induced to watch substandard stuff because of political correctness.

Director Catherine Hardwicke, the guest of honor at this year's Portland Oregon Women's FIlm Festival, on the set of "Twilight."

Director Catherine Hardwicke, the guest of honor at this year’s Portland Oregon Women’s FIlm Festival, on the set of “Twilight.”

However, this isn’t a perfect world. Steps do need to be taken to ensure a level playing field, and to spur a risk-averse industry into acknowledging the artistic and financial power of appealing to an audience as diverse as the world we live in. That’s where Executive Director and POWFest founder Tara Johnson-Medinger comes in. She puts it best: “I think it is important for any underrepresented community to have a space to have their voices heard. Until we truly have achieved equal representation in the director’s chair, the need for POWFest (along with the many other women-centric film festivals) is there.”

After laboring in the Hollywood salt mines for years, Johnson-Medinger and her husband, both Oregon natives, moved to Portland in 2002. “I was really ready to leave L.A. and network television. I became disenchanted with ‘the industry.’” Before long, she found her calling, starting the production company Sour Apple Productions in 2004 and taking over POWFest in 2009. “I recognized that there was a need for this kind of festival in Portland and I felt like this is where I want to take my life’s work – helping put the spotlight on women’s voices in the industry.”

Over the years, filmmakers such as Gillian Armstrong, Oscar-winner Katherine Bigelow, Amy Hecklerling, Alison Anders, and Spheeris have been guests, providing inspiration and instruction to attendees. This year’s honoree is Catherine Hardwicke, whose career has spanned Sundance success with her 2003 directing debut “Thirteen” to franchise blockbuster mania with 2008’s “Twilight,” which holds the record for the biggest opening-weekend box office haul for a female-directed film.

Both of those films will screen during POWFest, as will Hardwicke’s most recent feature, “Miss You Already,” a well-crafted friendship melodrama starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette as best pals dealing with major life events. The filmmaker will be in attendance for all three screenings, and will also conduct a master class with attendees on Sunday morning, drawing on her roots as a production designer for movies such as “Tank Girl” and “Three Kings.”

A scene from "Ex-Girlfiend," one of the short films playing in this year's POWFest

A scene from “Ex-Girlfiend,” one of the short films playing in this year’s POWFest

The heart of POWFest, though, is its short film selection. This year’s assortment, divided into five programs, put to rest any outdated notion that female filmmakers only make movies about a certain range of topics or in a certain style. The “Quirky” and “Dark” programs, which both screen Friday night, contain several well-crafted, twisted gems. Lauren Ludwig’s “Ex-Girlfiend” is a hilarious web series about an undead woman who haunts her former boyfriend, much to their mutual chagrin. “La Fille Bionique,” aka “Bionic Girl,” as a cleverly designed, Michel Gondry-esque mini-musical about a woman who creates a robotic clone of herself in order to avoid dealing with the outside world. And “No Breath Play” is a hilarious depiction of BDSM gone wrong.

Those three are all in the “Quirky” set. The “Dark” stuff is really pretty dark. (It should be clear that both are not intended for young audiences.) Young girls are confronted with unpleasant realities in the Icelandic “Sub Rosa” and the Australian “The Aquarium,” while “Vessels” takes a look at the horrific lengths a transgender woman will go to in order to meet society’s physical expectations.

It’s inspiring to see talent from around the globe represented, with films from Armenia, Portugal, South Korea, Cuba, Iran and more represented, in addition to the nations mentioned above. Women all over the world have stories to tell, and POWFest is a marvelous showcase for them.

The two non-Hardwicke features in this year’s POWFest both dare to tackle tough issues. “The Girl in the Yellow Shoes,” from Argentine director Lujan Loioco, follows the sexual awakening of a young teenage girl in a small town beset by workers building a new luxury hotel. “The Armor of Light,” a documentary directed by Abigail Disney (Walt’s grand-niece) follows a conservative evangelical minister as he wrestles with whether his pro-life beliefs require him to preach against the epidemic of gun violence in America.

A shot from the scandalous 1915 silent film "Hypocrites," part of POWFest's closing night program.

A shot from the scandalous 1915 silent film “Hypocrites,” part of POWFest’s closing night program.

For students of film history or early 20th century feminism, or the merely curious, the festival’s closing night double feature might be its highlight. The first decades of filmmaking were open in ways that were later restricted by the growth of the studio system, the Production Code, and so forth. This includes the prolific careers of female film pioneers, two of whom are spotlighted.

Lois Weber has been credited as “American cinema’s first genuine auteur.” Her career peaks include the 1913 one-reeler “Suspense,” one of the first films to employ a split-screen technique to demonstrate simultaneous action, and the 1921 feature “The Blot,” in which she used natural light and real locations to tell a story of genteel poverty. Weber’s most notorious film, though, is the one POWFest is screening: 1915’s “Hypocrites,” a critique of religion that features the earliest surviving non-pornographic full-frontal female nudity in film history.

Alice Guy-Blaché was even more of a cinematic pioneer. Her filmmaking career began along with the movies, in the final years of the 19th century in France. She made hundreds of films, most only minutes long, during the art form’s infancy, eventually relocating to New Jersey. Only three of her features survive, among them “The Ocean Waif,” a parody of melodrama with a sly feminist undertone.

It was Guy-Blaché who, according to most sources, gave Weber her start in the film business, and it’s this all-too-necessary sort of networking that POWFest engenders, not only by exhibiting films and bringing audiences in contact with their makers. Johnson-Medinger has also spearheaded “POWGirls,” a mentorship program for young women filmmakers aged 15-19. Several of the results of POWGirls’ 2015 workshops will be screened during POWFest, and the program aims to provide talented, motivated teens with the tools to pursue a career in film.

The third prong of Johnson-Medinger’s attack on gender inequity, after exhibition and education, is starting to take shape as well. With the backing of Portlander Vicki Mee and the Faerie Godmother Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, she’s been able to expand POWFest’s resources and staff, with an eye towards creating a fund dedicated to helping talented women behind the camera bring their ideas to life and, ultimately, to a theater near you.

These three components, says Johnson-Medinger, “really do feed into each other. Strong media education helps create solid production which will translate, ideally, to a well-received film in front of the audience. One key is mentorship–the importance of passing on your knowledge.” Whether that knowledge comes from a veteran director like Hardwicke, a passionate producer and organizer like Johnson-Medinger, or any of the other devoted and talented artists swarming the Hollywood Theatre this weekend, it’s sure to inspire.

(The 2016 Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival runs from Thursday, March 3 through Sunday, March 6 at the Hollywood Theatre. Visit powfest.com for a full schedule.)

PIFF best bets for Friday & Saturday, Feb. 26 & 27

The festival's final two After Dark selections are a sly indie thriller and an endearing portrait of a video game champion

And now, the end is near…

The 39th Portland International Film Festival is drawing to a close, and if that leaves you feeling like Col. Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now,” don’t worry. There will still be plenty of marvelous movies coming our way, and ArtsWatch will be there to help you negotiate them. In the meantime, there are a couple more PIFF picks to draw your attention to. The final entries in the PIFF After Dark sidebar (one of the fest’s highlights, for sure) may not be terribly international, but they’re both mighty entertaining, perhaps serving as a bit of a palate cleanser after a couple of weeks dominated by some dark, depressing flicks. (There are also encore screenings on Sunday and Monday.) Enjoy, and with any luck we’ll still be here to commemorate PIFF’s 40th birthday next year!

The Invitation 2 copy (1)

“The Invitation”: There’s a new trend in American independent film, at least according to the adage that three examples equal a trend: the dinner-party-meets-genre movie. Low-budget auteurs have always liked the single setting and ensemble cast aspects of a story that revolves around the inherent drama of people getting together, eating, talking, drinking, and eventually baring their souls.

Now these movies come with a twist. “It’s a Disaster,” a weekend brunch is interrupted by a comical apocalypse. In “Coherence,” a get-together gets weird after a passing comet disrupts quantum reality. And in Karyn Kusama’s “The Invitation,” a reunion of old friends grows tense as it gradually becomes apparent that the hosts are members of a malevolent cult. Or are they?

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend (Emayatzy Corinealdi, who shines here and in the upcoming “Miles Ahead”) are driving through the Hollywood Hills on their way to the beautifully appointed home of his ex-wife, who Will hasn’t seen in a couple of years. A startling encounter with local wildlife gets their evening off to an unnerving start, but that’s nothing compared to what lies in store.

The gathering hosted by Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) features some faces familiar to Will and some that aren’t, including a mysterious older guy (John Carroll Lynch, who does banal yet foreboding better than almost anyone). As the night progresses, Will’s suspicions mount—or is he just paranoid and unnerved being back in the house he shared with Eden before the death of their young son drove them apart?

Well-acted and effective, this is a nice comeback for Kusama, who had a breakthrough debut with 2000’s “Girlfight” before, like so many female filmmakers in Hollywood, having trouble getting attached to worthy follow-ups. And it has a killer final scene.

(United States, 99 min., in English) Fri., Feb. 26, 11 p.m., Cinema 21.

Man Vs Snake 2 copy

“Man vs. Snake”: Not to be confused with “Men and Chicken,” also in PIFF, this offbeat documentary focuses on a battle for arcade video game supremacy. The game in question is “Nibbler,” a less-than-iconic Pac-Man rip-off in which players guide an ever-growing snake through a maze, trying to avoid eating their own tail. What made Nibbler unique in video game lore was that it was the first one to feature a nine-digit score readout, which meant a player could conceivably score one billion points.

The hero of “Man vs. Snake” is Tim McVey (not to be confused with Timothy McVeigh), who did just that as a sixteen-year-old in 1984. McVey grew up just down the road from Twin Galaxies, the arcade in tiny Ottumwa, Iowa that somehow became the repository of gaming’s official records. (The story of Twin Galaxies and its eccentric, obsessed owner, Walter Day, would make a great documentary on its own.)

Twenty-five years later, McVey comes out of retirement after it emerges that some Italian guy may have broken his Nibbler high score. Directors Andrew Seklir and Tim Kinzy, who worked together as editors on TV’s “Battlestar Galactica,” follow McVey’s training regimen (he’s not in great physical shape, and breaking a billion points means playing for at least 36 hours straight) and introduce us to his challenger, a punk-rock-loving, dreadlock-sporting Canadian named Dwayne Richard.

If all this calls to mind the 2007 documentary “The King of Kong,” that’s not surprising. (Donkey Kong champion Billy Mitchell lends expert commentary in “Man vs. Snake.” But the saga of Nibbler has its own rough charm, and you’ll be left shaking your head in admiration and/or befuddlement at the things people do for notoriety.

(United States, 92 min., in English) Sat., Feb. 27, 11 p.m., Cinema 21, with directors Andrew Seklir and Tim Kinzy in attendance.

 

PIFF best bets for Thursday, Feb. 25

Two award-caliber French films and a meditative film essay from Jem Cohen are today's picks

Welcome to the penultimate edition of ArtsWatch’s daily recommendations during the 39th Portland International Film Festival. (We’ll do one final roundup of the final weekend’s titles tomorrow.)

Today’s highlights include a pair of the most-nominated films at tomorrow’s Cesar award ceremony, a/k/a the French Oscars. Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Days” is up for 11 awards, while Jacques Audiard’s “Dheepan” has nine nods. There’s also the latest from experimental indie filmmaker Jem Cohen, whose previous winners have included the Fugazi documentary “Instrument” and the meditative “Museum Hours.” In other words, just the typical array of fascinating flicks we’ve come to expect from the Northwest Film Center.

 

deephan

“Dheepan”: French auteur Jacques Audiard (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “A Prophet”) is one of the most talented and exciting filmmakers working today, crafting one great film after another. (Even his last effort, the messy “Rust and Bone,” has its share of great moments.) So it’s a tad strange how little attention his latest film, “Dheepan,” has received since winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year. It may not be his best work, but its mix of topicality and the director’s neo-realist genre aspirations packs a real punch.

This immigration tale, about a former Tamil soldier from Sri Lanka given a fake family and identity who flees to France with a fake family and a new identity, only to find more violence in his new home, is very au courant, but thankfully it never resorts to didactic speechifying or lazy melodrama. Instead, the film delivers a more experiential, immersive style that plays like Paul Greengrass (“Captain Philips,” the “Bourne” films) taking on “Taxi Driver.”

Dheepan is the new name given to the protagonist (Jesuthasan Antonythasan, who’s fantastic), this film’s version of Travis Bickle. He’s a broken man right from the beginning, but the film yearns for him and his ersatz family to make good on this opportunity. It’s not to be (or maybe it is, depending on how you read the final scene), and though the film is shot like a docudrama, certain sequences take on a kind of dream logic. But that’s nothing new for Audiard, who often adds touch of spiritual poeticism to his films. This is a great film that doesn’t deserve to get lost in the shuffle, but just might. See it if you can. [Erik McClanahan]

(France, 115 min., in Tamil, English, and French with English subtitles) Thu., Feb. 24, 5:45 p.m., Empirical Theater at OMSI; also Fri., Feb. 25, 5:45 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium.

counting1

“Counting”: I happen to like boring movies. Not “a story badly told” boring, but the kind of boring where narrative is pushed aside in favor of wordless reverie. Jem Cohen’s “Counting” is this kind of boring – relaxing-boring. It’s less like taking in a story and more like taking a bath.

Cohen’s camera crawls across the globe, from New York City to Moscow, to Istanbul and beyond, bookended by cryptic chapter titles. Nothing really happens, although a lot does: a radio plays, construction workers begin their day of labor, an open air market bustles with activity, a casket is carefully wheeled into a funeral home, political protesters chant in unison, a cat licks its paws. At times it evokes that touchstone of cult experimental film, “Koyaanisqatsi,” pulsing with the chaos and vastness of life on earth. At other moments it’s a humble traveler’s scrapbook, concentrating hard on little details like a paper cup of tea abandoned on a Turkish sidewalk.

To many readers, this will sound terribly boring, but fans of experimental filmmakers such as Chris Marker will appreciate its visual ebb and flow. (Cohen describes the film as a reaction to the passing of Marker and an attempt to channel his impressionistic cine-essay techniques.) [Lily Hudson]

(United States, 111 minutes, English) Thu., Feb. 25, 8:30 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium; also, Fri., Feb 26, 8:30 p.m., Regal Fox Tower and Sat., Feb 27, 3 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium.

My Golden Days

“My Golden Days”: The original French title of Arnaud Desplechin’s film translates as the more evocative and specific “Three Souvenirs of My Youth.” It’s both a sequel and a prequel to his 1999 breakthrough film, “My Sex Life (or How I Got Into an Argument),” in Mathieu Amalric played Desplechin’s on-screen alter-ego, Paul Daedalus.

It’s nearly twenty years later, and Paul is preparing to return to Paris from Tijikistan after several years working there as an anthropologist. There are irregularities with his passport, however, and so he ends up in a room with a government employee (André Dussollier), to whom he relates the second of the “souvenirs,” flashbacks to Paul’s youth which take up the bulk of the film. (The first is a brief but potent memory of his tyrannical mother.)

As a teenager, Paul (Quentin Dolmaire) is enlisted in a slightly dangerous mission while on a school trip behind the Iron Curtain, back when there was an Iron Curtain. He and a friend smuggle travel documents to Russian Jews trying to emigrate, their low-grade spy antics presented with wry, youthful amusement rather than real tension.

In the third and longest segment, Paul pursues his studies in Paris, as well as relationship with the lovely Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet), as the Cold War comes to an end in the background. Both the young, fresh-faced leads are fantastic, and they’re each responsible for one of the film’s 11 César award nominations, tied for the most this year with “Marguerite,” which also played during PIFF. The ceremony is tomorrow, so this is your last chance to get a head start on that César office pool! [Marc Mohan]

(France, 123 min., in French with English subtitles) Thu., Feb. 25, 5:45 p.m., Cinema 21; also Sat., Feb. 27, 5:45 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium.