The 29th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, continues through Sat., Nov. 20. Call 412-681-5449 or see www.3rff.com for the complete festival schedule of films and related events. Following are reviews of select films.
MR. PLEASANT. John Rice's 38-minute film, adapted from a short story by Jim Daniels and shot in Pittsburgh, follows one weekend in the life of a college student named Tim with a knack for making bad choices. He's hard to sympathize with, but a heavy-handed script and clumsy acting don't help. When Tim wakes up next to the horrified girl he hooked up with the night before, we get dramatic, nonsensical lines like this: "The sky's the kind that almost makes you happy to be sad." The film, however, is well shot, and does manage to squeeze in a lesson about accepting different sorts of people. To be preceded by the winning entries in the Steeltown 2009 Film Factory short-film competition. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 19. Regent Square (Chris Young)
POETRY. Lee Chang-ding's meditative but affecting film depicts the life of Mija, an elderly woman living in a smallish South Korean town. She works as a cleaning lady, and is raising her sullen teen-age grandson alone. Seeking beauty, she enrolls in a poetry class, while simultaneously confronting ugliness at home: Her grandson is implicated in the rape and subsequent suicide of a classmate. Words come hard for Mija: She struggles to translate her feelings into poetry, and her early-stage dementia causes her to forget the names of common objects. Add to that her lowly social standing in a male-dominated society that expects such women to be silent and acquiescent. Jeong-hee Yoon is marvelous as Mija: She carries the film, her quietly expressive face and body language revealing her hard-won strength, wisdom and moral fortitude. Such actions speak louder than words. In Korean, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 18, and 4 p.m. Sat., Nov. 20. Harris (Al Hoff)
QUEEN TO PLAY. The gentle French romantic comedy featuring slightly rumpled but still beautiful intellectuals is almost a sub-genre of its own. Fans of such films should slip comfortably into Caroline Bottaro's low-key charmer, set on the scenic island of Corsica. There, Helene (Sandrine Bonnaire) works as a maid, and tends her mildly disaffected husband and teen-age daughter. A chance encounter with a chess set leads Helene to take up the game. Discovering an affinity for the strategic game, she enlists her employer, a grumpy professorial American (Kevin Kline), to play with her. And in a sweet twist, this game, so associated with the introspective and socially awkward, provides lively re-awakenings for Helene, her boss and family. In French, with subtitles. 2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 20. Regent Square (AH)