The Three Rivers Film Festival | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Three Rivers Film Festival

The 25th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, continues through Nov. 16. The program includes foreign-language works, American independents, documentaries, a silent classic and experimental cinema, as well as new short works from local filmmakers.

Tickets for most films are $7 each; exceptions are tickets for the Wounded Warrior Project benefit screening of Home Front ($75), on Wed., Nov. 8; and the closing-night film, Speedy ($10). A Six Pack festival pass offers six single admissions for $35, plus a free T-shirt.

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

Following are reviews and descriptions of films screening through Thu., Nov. 16.

AMERICAN STAG. "Tickle Me Fancy." "TV Repairman." "Oh Doctor." "Slave Girl." At 67 minutes, Ben Meade's documentary excerpts a fascinating array of stag films dating from 1915 through the 1970s, when these naughty, artless, no-budget shorts -- surreptitiously screened in garages and Elk Clubs -- fell to videotape and professional porn. In interviews with film historians, filmmakers and aged former exhibitors, Meade bemusedly notes stag's cultural import, its racial and gender politics, even its role educating naïve guys about sex. But this diverting film feels too survey-like, and Meade's digression into celebrities' pre-fame stag roles -- including legendary footage of Marilyn Monroe -- just makes you feel dirty. Moreover, while dependence on anecdote and opinion inevitably inspire skepticism about histories of underground phenomenon, American Stag feels particularly short on sourcing and documentation. (An assertion that stag producers were "the first independent filmmakers" is simply silly.) Bonus points: an hilarious, surreally ribald 1930s short, purportedly from the artists behind Betty Boop. "Transitions," a three-minute camera-less animation film from REBBYRO, also screens. Director Meade is scheduled to appear. 7:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11, and 3 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12. Melwood (Bill O'Driscoll)

THE AURA. In this slickly filmed crime drama from Argentina, written and directed by Fabian Bielinsky, the unnamed hero is an epileptic taxidermist with 100 percent photo-quality recall and unfailing spatial-relations memory. It is, to put it mildly, a specialized skill set. And all of these aspects come into play when he stumbles into the middle of an armored-car heist. El Aura is long on stunning cinematography -- by Checco Varese -- but fairly short on logic. At various points, the characters are required to be either breathtakingly brilliant or jaw-droppingly stupid in order to advance the story. Very high production and acting values make up for a lot. In Spanish, with subtitles. Wed., Nov. 8. Regent Square (Ted Hoover)

AVENUE MONTAIGNE. A waitress working at an upscale cafe makes the acquaintance of several colorful characters in this ensemble romantic comedy set in Paris. Local filmmaker Mike Bonello's 2006 short "Glitter" also screens. In French, with subtitles. 7:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8, and 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9. Regent Square

THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT. "Make cats, not war." In the year following Sept. 11, 2001, French filmmaker Chris Marker uses his pursuit of cat-themed street art to examine burgeoning Iraq war protests and other political and cultural shifts. In his engaging hour-long essay, the experimental filmmaker uses the appearance of the grinning cats, painted on seemingly random Parisian locales, to ruminate on topics as trivial as the four-legged creatures themselves, as significant as the co-opting of past rebellions by contemporary demonstrators and politicians, and even a murder which ensnares a celebrity couple. Heady in places, Cat feels as light and sly as its grinning namesake. In addition to 20 minutes of vintage Marker short films, two shorts from local filmmakers -- Tentatively, a Convenience's 2001 "I.A.C. Deer Head Sculpture @ former Rankin Steel Mill" and M.R. Day's 2005 "Junior vs. the Helicopter" -- also screen. 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9. Melwood (Al Hoff)

THE CHELSEA GIRLS. Andy Warhol's landmark 1966 film depicting residents of New York City's Chelsea Hotel features many of the artist's regulars and anointed superstars: Ondine, Nico, Gerard Malanga, International Velvet, Ingrid Superstar and Mary Woronov, among others. To be screened via two projectors. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8. Melwood

CINEMATOGRAPHER STYLE. Utterly defying a viewer's expectations, Jon Fauer's documentary about cinematography contains virtually none of it: no clips from classics or ground-breaking works, no scenes to illustrate a point or technique. Instead Fauer points his camera at the talking heads of more than 100 working cinematographers and simply lets them talk. Through deft editing, this compendium of facts, anecdotes and opinions regarding how best to shoot a film is fairly interesting, albeit most likely to those already well versed in film technique and history. I'm less forgiving of the fact that Fauer identifies the participants just once, leaving us with over an hour of mystery men (and a couple of women) talking. Truly, how many cinematographers can you identify on sight? The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and a reception. 7:30 p.m. Mon., Nov. 13. Harris (AH)

CLOSE TO HOME. Two young Israeli women, serving their compulsory military duty as border police, become friends amidst political turmoil. Vardit and Vidi Bilu direct. In Hebrew, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 10; 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12; and 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 14. Regent Square

DELWENDE. In West African nation of Burkina Faso, superstitions still hold strong -- and perhaps even more so in the dusty rural villages barely touched by modernity. S. Pierre Yameogo's quiet drama relates the true story of two women -- one cast out of her village, accused by what appears to be a bundle of sticks of being a destructive witch; the other, her daughter, who defiantly vows to retrieve her mother from an abject shelter for cursed women and to set right the wrong in the village. Delwende is a critique of willful ignorance (only the village "crazy man" listens to the radio with its news reports), and of traditional customs that amount to marginalizing women as troublesome lessers. In More, with subtitles. 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 10; 3 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11; and 6 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12. Harris (AH)

DODO. If you didn't tell the truth about someone in a fiction film and a one-man stage show, can you tell it in a documentary? Comedian Bob Golub grew up in Sharon, Pa., one of eight siblings in a volatile, no-holds-barred family under the dubious rule of his father, a drunken, angry, one-eyed roofer and Steelers fanatic nicknamed Dodo. In his earlier Dodo narratives, Golub fears, he "held back"; Dodo retells the story using contemporary interviews with family and friends, plus excerpts from Golub's standup and 25 years of home video. While skepticism is advisable whenever one guy (and his wife) tells his family's story, the 70-minute Dodo is a fast-paced mix of seemingly unsparing reminiscence and brutal humor; if nothing else, it proves that the real McCoys are twice as funny, and 10 times more unsettling, than the actors Golub hired to play them. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 10; 5:30 p.m. sat., Nov. 11; and 7:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 13. Melwood (BO)

FILM KITCHEN. (See preview on page ##.) 7 p.m. Tue., Nov. 14. Melwood

4. This controversial Russian 2004 film with strong political overtones, from Ilya Khrzhanovsky, depicts three strangers who meet in Moscow bar, and tell each other outlandish tales, before going their separate ways in a nightmarish landscape. In Russian, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9, and 5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11. Harris

HOME FRONT. Servicemen surviving battles and attacks with devastating injuries has become a hallmark of the Iraq war. One such soldier, Army Ranger Jeremy Feldbusch, of Blairsville, was blinded in Iraq; he and his family are the subjects of Richard Hankin's documentary. Home Front is frank about the myriad costs borne -- not just by Jeremy, but also by his family, their finances and plans, and even the larger community, which must balance feelings of patriotism with anger and frustration. A caring family is clearly Feldbusch's rock, but so too is the Wounded Warrior Project, a support group for disabled vets that he becomes an advocate for. It can be tough to stare directly into the lives of Feldbusch and his fellow disabled vets, with both the minutiae of their loss and the accumulation of new triumphs, but they've earned the right to ask us to look and listen. The Nov. 8 screening is a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project; tickets are $75 and include a Q&A with Feldbusch and director Hankin, as well as a reception. 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8 (Harris) and 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9 (Melwood). (AH)

JOHAN. Johan is the only male in his large family not obsessed with football; he'd rather sing. Nicole van Kilsdonk directs this comedy. In Dutch, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 14, and 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 15. Harris

JUMPING OFF BRIDGES. Four tight-knit teens, whose hobby is jumping off bridges in their home of Austin, Texas, splintered when the life of one boy, Zak (Bryan Chafin), turns tragic. Writer/director Kat Candler keeps the histrionics to a minimum; she knows that a lot of teen life is defined by moody silences and mumbled non sequiturs. Still, it's hard to shake the niggling sensation that Jumping is a better-than-average TV movie, rife with familiar plots and coming-of-age themes. Fans of Michael Emerson, who plays creepy "Henry Gale" on Lost, may enjoy his far warmer performance here as Zak's struggling good-guy dad. Chris Smalley's short film "Momentum" will also screen. 3:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11, and 7 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12. Melwood (AH)

LA MOUSTACHE. Middle-aged Marc (Vincent Lindon) shaves his moustache off, nobody notices, and he descends into madness. That's one interpretation of Emmanuel Carrère's existential dramedy, which flings open various doors labeled "memory," "dream state," "reality," "conspiracy" and even "time travel" and lets you decide which -- or even how many -- the protagonist has stumbled through. As such open-ended exercises are apt to be, the set-up is more intriguing than the denouement, but the well-acted La Moustache is sure to generate some lively post-film discussion. In French, with subtitles. 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 14, and 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 15. Regent Square (AH)

THE LIVES OF OTHERS. Set in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's political thriller tells of a playwright and his girlfriend, an actress who come under state scrutiny. In German, with subtitles. 4 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11, and 7:15 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12. Regent Square

THE MOTEL. His ethnicity and his writerly proclivities alike cut both ways for adolescent outsider Ernest Chin. Stuck at the by-the-hour motel his tough-cookie mother runs along Any Roadside, U.S.A., chubby Ernest enters a writing contest -- but his mom says his honorable mention means "you're not even good enough to lose." He's crushing on the teen-age waitress, and he's befriended by a dodgy young Korean-American guy who sets up housekeeping in one room. Writer-director Michael Kang's bittersweet comedy is highlighted by offbeat humor, a wonderful performance by Jeffrey Chyau as Ernest, and a fresh, winnowing sense of the pleasures, perils and compromises inherent to coming of age. 9:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8. Harris (BO)

PITTSBURGH. Keith LaBrache and Chris Bradley's film is an oddity: a multi-level vanity piece-slash-mockumentary (I think)-slash-shaggy comedy. In 2004, actor Jeff Goldblum (who's treated here like an A-lister, though I think he's moved to the B-team) decides to do a two-week run in the musical-theater chestnut The Music Man, in ... Pittsburgh (cue laughter from outside Western Pa.). That's vanity No. 1 for Homestead native Goldblum, who exhibits few singing and dancing skills; vanity no. 2 is filming the whole she-bang, as part of his artistic "development" (or not -- maybe the whole thing was a prank). Enjoyment of this film is likely to depend on your affection for the slightly smarmy Goldblum. More fun is to be had with a couple subplots, including Illeana Douglas' ill-advised romance with the porn-addicted Moby (gosh, is it true?), and Ed Begley Jr.'s alternative-energy obsessions (a tie-back to Music Man's chicanery?). Amuse yourself wondering, and scoping out all the Downtown Pittsburgh scenery. Tickets for the Nov. 2 screening are $35, and include a post-film reception to be held at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. 1:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11; 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12; and 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 15. Melwood (AH)

OFF THE BLACK. James Ponsoldt directs this coming-of-age drama set in the realm of high school sports, where a boozy has-been coach (Nick Nolte) and one of his players form an unlikely bond. 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 10, and 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 13. Regent Square

THE PIANO TUNER OF EARTHQUAKES. You won't soon see anything like this feature from the Quay brothers, the veteran U.K.-based cult-favorite animators. Neither might you soon make sense of what feels like an adult fable built from a series of poetic conceits. On a bizarre island, a villa suggesting a puppet stage is home to reclusive inventor Dr. Droz, who's kidnapped the beautiful opera star Malvina, and who invites a piano tuner named Felisberto to service (not a piano but) his weird automatons -- tableaux vivant behind glass that seem magical but are actually mechanical. Servile overalled gardeners creep backward through forest; the perpetually overexposed daytime sky, a blinding silver, is a monstrous, undifferentiated glow. It's Cocteau surrealism with Lynchian emotional obscurity and Guy Maddin's aggressive artifice, plus vivid stop-motion animation and enough unsettling dream imagery to keep you up the night. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 10; 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12; and 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 14. Harris (BO)

SHORTS PROGRAM A. The first half of 18 entries for the competitive short-film program are "Dancing Ground" (Tobin Addington); "Jukebox" (Alex Budovsky); "Untold Coffee Stories" (Carolina Loyola-Garcia); "Dramatically Repeating Lawrence of Arabia" (Les Leveque); "Sissy Boy Slap Party" (Guy Maddin); "Portrait of a Campaign" (Erica Peiffer); "Gesture Down" (Cedar Sherbert); "Anger Stone" (Dave Ryan); and "Chronicles of Impeccable Sportsmanship" (Erika Tasini). 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 10. Melwood

SHORTS PROGRAM B. The second half of 18 entries for the competitive short-film program are "Larry, Go Home" (Alina Bliumis); "Little Spirits" (Cecelia Condit): "I Am Like Cities" (Ben Hernstrom); "Bowl Digger" (Kristy Higby); "Vacant Viewables" (George Kuchar); "The Dawn Chorus" (Hope Dickson Leach); "Wilson' Woodworkers" (Don Swanson); "Negative Douglas" (Keith Tassick); and "Teenagers from Outer Space" (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE). 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 13. Melwood

SPEEDY. Harold Lloyd's restored silent classic follows the travails of a love-struck soda jerk (Lloyd) involved in a frantic public-transportation battle: trying to save a horse-drawn tram from the clutches of the railroad. This 1928 comedy also features lots of on-location color from New York City, with scenes shot at Coney Island and Yankee Stadium, and a cameo by Babe Ruth). Boston's Alloy Orchestra will provide live musical accompaniment. 8 p.m. Thu., Nov. 16. $10. Regent Square

TALES OF THE RAT FINK. Ron Mann's kooky and kandy-kolored bio-pic is an exuberantly affectionate portrait of the late Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, progenitor of Kustom Kulture. Among Roth's contributions to pop culture: custom hot rods, wacky T-shirts, the cartoon character "Rat Fink," monster-rod model cars and plenty of that sunny iconoclastic Southern California vibe that helped define the cool weirdo kids in their struggles against the squares in the '50s and early '60s. Mann employs a mix of animation, talking cars (with voices supplied by Ann-Margaret, the Smothers Brothers, Brian Wilson and Tom Wolfe, among others) and archival footage; John Goodman subs for the voice of Roth. This hagiography is great fun for fans, though the more cynical side of me would have dug some discussion on Roth's facile co-opting of "rebellion" into consumer goods, and how that help lead to our current moribund cultural state. Local hot rods and their drivers will be parked outside the theater at the Sat., Nov. 11 screening. 2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11, and 7:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 13. Regent Square (AH)

TEN CANOES. Peter Djigirr and Rolf de Heer's adventure film takes place in Australia a thousand years ago. Ten tribe members prepare for the goose-egg-gathering season, while dealing with jealousies, rituals, betrayals and revenge. This is the first Australian film shot completely in an indigenous aboriginal language. With subtitles. 7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11, and 3 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12. Regent Square

TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror classic depicting lost teen-agers, power tools and a decidedly dysfunctional family gets freshened up with a new score, "Songs of Muerto County," to be performed live by the duo Puerto Muerto. To summarize the soundtrack: tunes that evoke spaghetti Westerns and weird Americana, plus revving chainsaws and lots of shrieking. 10 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11. Regent Square

13 TZAMETI. An Georgian immigrant working in a small French seaside town decides to adopt his dead employer's identity in this black-and-white drama from first-time director Gela Babluani (himself a Georgian who now lives in France). What seems like a good idea -- the deceased was due to come into an immediate and large sum of money -- turns into a nightmare. The film, which moves from the quiet seaside via rail to a secluded house in the forest, all the while ratcheting up the tension, is reminiscent in places of Hitchcock and the moody French crime thrillers of the 1950s. What eventually unfolds is unthinkable, yet under Babluani's methodically controlled direction, we believe it. In French, with subtitles. 5:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9; 7:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11; and 4 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12. Harris (AH)

WORDS OF MY PERFECT TEACHER. Lesley Ann Patton trails after her Buddhist teacher, the renowned Dzongsar Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche, from his residence in West London to his mountain-top homeland in Bhutan. As her camera runs, Rinpoche ruminates, by turns acts silly and priestly, and occasionally just disappears; he's not a fully cooperative subject, though he himself is a filmmaker (The Cup, Travelers and Magicians). Patton fills in the gaps by rambling about her own spiritual journey, and interviewing assorted colleagues about theirs. Perhaps a spiritual query is inherently meant to be unfocused and prone to navel-gazing, but it does tax the viewer to follow along. Footage from the gorgeous remote Bhutan is a welcome addition late in the film, as is the unlikely reincarnated monk Patton finds banging around Los Angeles. 9:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9. Regent Square (AH)

Wed., Nov. 8

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Avenue Montaigne

9:15 p.m. The Aura


7 p.m. Home Front

9:15 p.m. The Motel


7:30 p.m. The Chelsea Girls

Thu., Nov. 9

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Avenue Montaigne

9:15 p.m. Words of My Perfect Teacher


5:30 p.m. 13 Tzameti

7:30 p.m. 4


7:15 p.m. Home Front

9 p.m. The Case of the Grinning Cat

Fri., Nov. 10

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Off the Black

9:15 p.m. Close to Home


7:15 p.m. Delwende

9:15 p.m. The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes


7:15 p.m. New Short Films

9:15 p.m. Dodo

Sat., Nov. 11

Regent Square

2 p.m. The Tales of Rat Fink

4 p.m. The Lives of Others

7 p.m. Ten Canoes

10 p.m. Texas Chainsaw Massacre


3 p.m. Delwende

5 p.m. 4

7:30 p.m. 13 Tzameti


1:30 p.m. Pittsburgh

3:30 p.m. Jumping Off Bridges

5:30 p.m. Dodo

7:30 p.m. American Stag

Sun., Nov. 12

Regent Square

3 p.m. Ten Canoes

5 p.m. Close to Home

7:15 p.m. The Lives of Others


2 p.m. The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

4 p.m. 13 Tzameti

6 p.m. Delwende


3 p.m. American Stag

5 p.m. Pittsburgh

7 p.m. Jumping Off Bridges

Mon., Nov. 13

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. The Tales of Rat Fink

9 p.m. Off the Black


7:30 p.m. Cinematographer Style


7:15 p.m. Dodo

9 p.m. Short Films Program

Tue., Nov. 14

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Close to Home

9 p.m. La Moustache


7:15 p.m. The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

9:15 p.m. Johan


7 p.m. Film Kitchen

Wed., Nov. 15

Regent Square

8 p.m. La Moustache


7:30 p.m. Johan


8 p.m. Pittsburgh

Thu., Nov. 16

Regent Square

8 p.m. Speedy

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