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The Three Rivers Film Festival 

The 28th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, runs from Fri., Nov. 6, through Nov. 21. The program of more than 50 films includes foreign-language works, American independents, documentaries, shorts, local works and experimental cinema, as well as a sidebar of five Polish films. Once again, the popular Alloy Orchestra returns to provide a live score to two restored silent classics, Douglas Fairbanks' The Black Pirate and the Soviet masterpiece, Man With a Movie Camera.

Tickets for most films are $8 each. A Silver Screenie pass ($125) admits the bearer to all films and parties. A Six Pack festival pass offers six single admissions for $40, plus a free T-shirt. Tickets are available at the door, or in advance from ProArts (412-394-3353 or proartstickets.org). See www.3rff.com for complete purchase information for tickets and passes.

All films screen at the Harris Theater, Downtown (809 Liberty Ave.); the Melwood Screening Room, North Oakland (477 Melwood Ave.); or the Regent Square Theater, Edgewood (1035 S. Braddock). For more information, call 412-681-5449 or visit www.3rff.com.

 

Following are reviews and descriptions of films screening through Thu., Nov. 12.

 

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ARAYA. Fifty years after its original release, Margot Benacerraf's film -- a meditation on the lives of laborers in the salt marshes of Araya, in Venezuela -- is shown in a restored black-and-white print. Araya treads the line between documentary and poetic landscape, narrated by a dramatic masculine voice who tells the subjects' story without much tangible input from the residents themselves. The shots are beautiful on the whole, and the pre-industrial story is interesting. But the film's indecisiveness is at times frustrating: Were it either more explanatory or, alternatively, more opaque, perhaps it would be more memorable. In Spanish, with subtitles. 5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 9. Regent Square (Andy Mulkerin)

 

THE BLUE ANGEL. Josef von Sternberg's smoldering 1930 melodrama about a nightclub singer named Lola (Marlene Dietrich) and the teacher (Emil Jannings) whose life she ruins made an international star of the young German actress. The film concludes the Sex Symbols in Sepia series, and will be followed by a discussion. In German, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Melwood

 

BRONSON. Nicolas Refin's new drama is based on the true story of Britain's "most violent prisoner," who turned his three decades in solitary confinement into something of a performance art, adopting the alter ego "Charles Bronson." 9:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11, and 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Regent Square

 

CAFÉ SOCIETY. Writer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist and motorcycling enthusiast Mike Seate had two goals with this hour-long documentary. One was to counter chopper-centric media with an homage to the speedy, stripped-down old-school bikes called café racers. The other was to capture interviews with aging veterans of the original British café-racer scene, its origins brewed from that country's post-war infatuation with rock 'n' roll and raw speed. The results will surely intrigue aficionados, with vintage footage and a pilgrimage to London's rebuilt Ace Café, whose former denizens tell stories of "teddy boys," their media-hyped clashes with scooter-riding mods and more. Non-enthusiasts, meanwhile, might get lost in all the talk of twin-spark heads and featherbed frames. And the film's meandering structure offers more talking-head time to contemporary café revivalists than insight into their passions. The machines, at least, get their due. 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7. Harris (Bill O'Driscoll)

 

CASE UNKNOWN. After a flood lands patients from another hospital under his care, Dr. Grot (Borys Szyc) encounters a taciturn man (Grzegorz Wolf) whose case file is nearly empty. Finding the man's identity and nursing him back to health becomes an obsessive mission for the doctor, as his family life falls apart and his career is threatened. As he draws closer to understanding the patient's past, Grot finds that there may be forces at work more sinister than mere clerical error. The pace in Feliks Falk's drama (co-written by Agnieszka Holland) occasionally drags, but quality acting and production make up for the slow spots. In Polish, with subtitles. 1:45 p.m. Sun., Nov. 8, and 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 9. Regent Square (AM)

 

CLOUD 9. Under guise of just happening to be in the neighborhood, Inge, a seamstress in her sixties, stops by a client's apartment and says, "I thought I'd drop off your trousers." And that she does. Her quiet excitement over the extramarital affair with an even older man are interspersed with moments of guilt over what she is doing to her husband of 30 years. There's no shortage of elderly sensuality and nudity in Andreas Dresen's romance, which may disconcert the average American moviegoer. Mostly what one notices, though, is the beautiful direction and brilliant acting. In German, with subtitles. 2:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 4 p.m. Sun., Nov. 8. Regent Square (Lydia Heyliger)

 

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EGON AND DONCI. In this computer-animated Hungarian feature from Ádám Magyar, a scientist and his overfed, catlike companion set off on a journey across worlds and universes. The pair, who live an isolated life on an Earthlike planet, bumble through atmospheres in their homemade ship, narrowly avoiding disasters through sheer pluck and cuteness. Their wordless yet nuanced not-quite-language calls to mind The Triplets of Belleville. The music, all composed for the film, is suitably atmospheric and often quite dreamlike and electronic. 2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 7 p.m. Tue., Nov. 10. Melwood (Melissa Meinzer)

 

THE EXPLODING GIRL. The acting is strong and the cinematography beautiful, but the storyline of this indie film goes nowhere. Bradley Rust Gray's film tracks Ivy (Zoe Kazan), a college student suffering from epilepsy, who's home for summer break in Brooklyn with her best friend, Al (Mark Rendell). Through phone conversations dominated by long pauses, we learn that Ivy's long-distance relationship with her boyfriend is crumbling. Meanwhile, Ivy and Al's friendship evolves into something more. Though the filming and acting effectively capture the movie's emotionally unstable mood, you've seen this tedious, juvenile plot before. 4 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 4:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 8. Melwood (Chris Young)

 

FREEDOM HOUSE: STREET SAVIORS. Gene Starzenski's documentary uncovers the little-known history of Pittsburgh's pioneering paramedics known as Freedom House. Its members were recruited in the late 1960s and early '70s from the ranks of unemployed African Americans. During their time serving Presbyterian and Mercy hospitals, these independent medical professionals introduced CPR and helped design a 911 dispatch system. Starzenski will introduce the film. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11, and 5:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Harris

 

HIS PEOPLE. Edward Sloman's 1925 melodrama spotlights the lives of Jewish immigrants living in New York's Lower East Side. Old country parents are befuddled by their assimilating sons, one who denies his religion to become a lawyer, and the other who chooses to marry an Irish girl. Live piano accompaniment will be provided by Dr. Philip Carli. 7:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 8. Regent Square

 

IF IT AIN'T BROKE, BREAK IT. Local filmmaker -- and physician -- Ravi Godse debuts his third locally made feature. The man who gave viewers Dr. Ravi and Mr. Hyde returns with a feel-good farce. In it, Godse's character is given six months to live, and decides to improve the lives of six others before he goes. The film features such local thespians as Adrienne Wehr, Patrick Jordan and Dave Petti -- plus TV's Steve Guttenburg. $15 ticket includes opening-night gala reception on site. 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9. Melwood

 

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS. It was probably strange to begin with, but when Heath Ledger, the star of Terry Gilliam's morality fable, died mid-shoot, the director replaced him with three disparate actors -- Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. This trippy tale about a pact with the devil (Tom Waits) is also the director's tribute to Ledger. $15 ticket includes opening-night gala reception at Pittsburgh Filmmakers (477 Melwood Ave.) 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 6. Regent Square

 

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LITTLE MOSCOW. During the Cold War, the Soviet military set up its Polish headquarters in Legnica, earning the city the nickname "Little Moscow." Waldemar Krzystek's melodrama, based on real-life events, is set there in 1967, and follows the travails of the beautiful young wife of a Russian pilot who becomes the secret lover of a Polish soldier. The flashback structure makes the film a little soapy, but there are solid understated performances from the three leads. Krzystek will introduce the film. In Polish and Russian, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Tue., Nov. 10, and 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11. Regent Square (Al Hoff)

 

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NORTH FACE. In 1936, top European mountain-climbers vied to complete the last challenge in the Alps, ascending the sheer and icy North Face of Eiger. Philipp Stoelzl's adventure drama, based on real events, tracks two young Germans in their quest; they climb for fun, but the tenor of the times means their conquest is virtually mandated for the glory of the Third Reich. The alpine scenery is gorgeous and the quest lighthearted -- until the mountain becomes a death trap. Indeed, the climbing scenes are harrowing (particularly with a unique score that mimics the ice axe hitting pitons), but Stoelzl also works in a shimmer of a romance, as well as critique of the prevailing nationalism. A must-see for armchair mountaineers. In German, with subtitles. 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 8, and 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 10. Harris (AH)

 

PRECIOUS. There's much buzz at the big film festivals for Lee Daniel's inspirational tale of Precious, a poor and pregnant 16-year-old Harlem girl, who, with the help of a sympathetic teacher, fights her way out of a life of neglect and abuse. $15 ticket includes opening-night gala reception at Pittsburgh Filmmakers (477 Melwood Ave.) 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 6. Harris

 

STAY THE SAME NEVER CHANGE. What's life really like for tweener girls living in a Midwestern city? That's the query director Laurel Nakadate and her crew of amateur actresses pose in her nonlinear film. 6:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 9:15 pm. Mon., Nov. 9. Melwood

 

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TERRIBLE HAPPY. After some unnamed disgrace, a Copenhagen cop gets sent to a tiny town in the Danish hinterlands, and quickly realizes that things there are pretty off-kilter. The townsfolk have too many secrets. First, he's their unwilling confidante. Then he has his own secrets to protect. Henrik Ruben Genz' dark comedy-melodrama-quirky thriller offers shades of the Coen brothers (and The Wicker Man), while effectively mining the Jutland region's beautifully spare landscape. In Danish, with subtitles. 5:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 7 p.m. Tue., Nov. 10. Harris (AH)

 

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THIRST. Sexy vampires are hot -- and also the focus of this hit Korean film from Chan-wook Park, which nabbed the Prix du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. This dark comedy relates the take of a priest, back from the dead, who now craves blood -- and another man's wife. In Korean, with subtitles. 9:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Regent Square

 

VIDEO DATA BANK. Abina Manning, director of Chicago's Video Data Bank, will present a selection of the media-arts center's recent releases from national and international video artists. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11. Melwood

 

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WE LIVE IN PUBLIC. Ondi Timoner's documentary about 1990s Internet whiz-kid and self-styled art provocateur Josh Harris will have you spinning: Harris' fascinations with the Internet's then-nascent abilities to interlink vast quantities of user-generated content seem at once surreal, antiquated and stunningly visionary. Harris couldn't have precisely foreseen our Facebooked, YouTubed, Twittered lives, but his forays into the future are fascinating from this vantage point. (If there weren't 24/7 film of his 1999 underground living experiment, "Quiet," you might not believe it happened.) Part mash-note, part cautionary tale, Timoner's film, while occasionally amateurish, is compellingly unnerving. 3:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7; 4:30 pm. Sun., Nov. 8; and 7:30 p.m. Mon., Nov. 9. Harris (AH)

 

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A WOMAN IN BERLIN. Max Färberböck's handsome and harrowing drama explores a long-suppressed side of World War II: abuse of Germans by Soviet occupiers at war's end. Based on a German woman's anonymous (and infamous) memoir, it's a survival story. The protagonist is a journalist (Nina Hoss) who after repeated rapes vows she will choose her Soviet partners ("I decide who gets me"), and whose example other women follow. Färberböck (Aimée & Jaguar) exercises a clear-eyed humanism, neither condemning the story's persecutors nor elevating the victims for anything more than their ability to adapt under duress. In German and Russian, with subtitles. 8:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7, and 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 8. Melwood (BO)

 

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THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD. Known as The Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno have garnered worldwide fame for punking global capitalism. Fix the World documents their greatest hits, like speaking at an energy expo to propose using human corpses as a power source. The pranks range from leaden to hilarious: a highlight is the "Survivaball" -- personal protective gear that makes the wearer look like a giant swollen tick (and that made appearances during Pittsburgh's G-20). The Yes Men, who also direct, come off as a bit too self-satisfied -- a hazard of making a documentary about yourself -- but they're clear-eyed about how much change their pranks bring about. (Answer: not much.) 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 9, and 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 10. Melwood (Chris Potter)

 

THE YOUNG VICTORIA. Emily Blunt stars as the titular British royalty in Jean-Marc Vallee's biographical film that highlights both the young monarch's romance with Albert and the political machinations among European royalty. 7:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 7. Regent Square

 

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YOUSSOU N'DOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's vibrant documentary follows the wildly popular Senegalese singer, social activist and practicing Sufi Muslim through his struggles to produce -- and have accepted -- an album of Islamic spiritual songs. Along the way, viewers can enjoy rousing performances from N'Dour, more intimate visits with his extended family and colorful footage from the singer's globe-trotting lifestyle. It's openly hagiographic, thus a must for fans of N'Dour. In English, and French, Wolof and Arabic, with subtitles. 8 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12, and 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15. Harris (AH)

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