Saturday, May 15, 2004

Cannes #3

Friends: I spoke a little too soon in yesterday's report about the ease of getting into screenings. Twice yesterday I heard the dreaded "complet" (sold-out), and both times when I was within 15 people of getting in at the Director's Fortnight. It was Friday night, bringing with it an extra surge of attendees. The first time I heard that heart-plunging word was after I made the fatal mistake, that Helen had warned me about, of getting in the wrong line. One has three choices at the Director's Fortnight theater. I was in the line for people with market passes, as I have, but I missed the small print that it was only market pass holders who were buyers. I won't make that mistake again.

Fortunately, I had a back up and just walked three blocks over to the Critic's Weekly theater for a screening half an hour later at 5:30. It was the Mexican film "Duck Season" by Fernando Eimbcke. The man who introduced it said that "Amores Peros" had previously screened in the Critic's Weekly. If it bore any resemblance to a popular Mexican film it was the road movie "Y Tu Mama Tambien" of a pair of teen-aged boys who go off to the coast with an older woman. This too was a movie about a couple of teens, though it was anything but a road movie. It takes place in a middle class apartment. The teens are a couple of bored, somewhat rebellious 14-year olds who like to play video games. They order a pizza and refuse to pay for it because it was eleven seconds late. The 35-year old dufus of a delivery boy simply refuses to leave until he's paid. There's also a 16-year old girl from another apartment in the kitchen cooking, because the stove in her apartment is broken. She's the older woman of this film. She teaches one of the boys to kiss. Many in the audience gave up on the film before it had a chance to develop some poignancy, as the acting seems at first inept and the black-and-white stock seems cheap and shoddy. I was sorry to have to leave ten minutes before it ended to dash back to a Director's Fortnight screening at 7:30.

I was in line 20 minutes before it was to start, but once again was thwarted just short of gaining
admittance. That wasn't entirely bad, as it gave me the opportunity to see the only film in the festival with bicycle in its title--"Fish Without a Bicycle," an American feature by Brian Austin Green that had played at the Philadelphia, Phoenix, DIY and Palm Beach Film Festivals earlier this year. That wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement, as none are particularly noteworthy festivals. I wasn't expecting another "Triplettes of Belleville," launched here last year, but one never knows. Nor was I heartened by its description of being a female "Swingers." There were about 25 of us in the 70-seat market theater at the Palais. The director and one of the female stars introduced it. It began with a narrative by the 25-year old woman lead lamenting her life just as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" began. After an hour without a sign of any bicycling, just a woman learning that she didn't necessarily need a man in her life, I slipped out to make sure I got in to the ten p.m. Director's Fortnight screening. I could have opted for a ten p.m. screening of Benoit Jacquiot's latest in Un Certain Regard, but that theater requires having my bag searched and my body scanned, unlike the Director's Fortnight. Its no big deal, and its so perfunctory that no one has dug deep enough into my bag to discover my bike pump, but its still an intrusion that I prefer to avoid. There are quite a few enforcers present, guarding the theaters. It is a bit irksome, though I don't mind at all the packs of gendarmes on the street, as they are good insurance against anyone tampering with my bike.

I was first in line at 9:15 back at the Director's Fortnight, a little more than a half mile bike ride along the beach from the Palais. A divided four lane road runs along the beach, but two lanes of it are closed to motorized traffic during the festival. There are a few others besides Jesse and I pedaling from theater to theater with passes dangling from their necks, though I doubt any of them biked from Paris to the festival.

There was no need for me to arrive so early, as the theater wasn't even three-fourths full. I'm not sure if that was a commentary on the interest in the film or people opting for a Friday night party. The film was "Bitter Dream," the first film by a 30-year old Iranian mathematician, Mousen Armiryoussefi. I thought I saw Kirostami in the audience, or at least I hoped so, as he is partially to blame for all these Iranians thinking they can just point a camera at people being themselves and think they have a movie. The subjects of this yawner were those who wash
corpses before they are buried, and those who dig the graves. It was the first movie that sent my mind wandering, allowing me to reflect back on the ten-day, 800-mile ride Jesse and I had through rural France to get here, and also to start looking forward to our continued travels on to Italy and beyond after the festival ends in nine days. My interest in the film was perked when the elderly grave digger asked for someone's bike as payment, even though he didn't know how
to ride a bike. He said he could learn, but the client was too smart to give up his bike, offering his watch instead.

There was no hot water back at the campground when I returned after midnight, nor this morning either. The cold shower this morning wasn't as cold as some of the dips I took in the rivers of Finland on my ride from Helsinski up to the Midnight Sun Film Festival north of the Arctic Circle a few years ago, but still something I hope not to have to repeat during our stay here, although its a good way to wake up in the morning.

"Shrek 2" was the competition film playing at the Palais this morning, so we could opt for "Tarnation," an American film by Jonathan Caouette in the Director's Fortnight that was produced by Gus van Sant. We'd already heard good things about it, and they were merited. It was the first extraordinary, or at least, out of the ordinary, film, I have seen here, and
probably on the lowest of budgets of anything, including those in the Market. Word is that Caouette's initial out of pocket expense was $250. It is the narrative of a young man telling of his mother's tortured life and his own. It is a phenomenal weaving of snap shots and video footage, often in an experimental nature, that works. As with last night's Mexican film, I at first feared this was going to be a dud, but it turned into a near masterpiece.

We followed that up with the South Korean film "Old Boy" by Park Chan-Wook. It was another of those stylish films in Competition that was an attention-holder, but not a grabber. Jury President Tarantino will like the teeth being yanked out with the reverse end of a hammer and someone cutting off a tongue with a pair of scissors, but the gangster genre doesn't do much to enthuse me.

Back to the movies, George

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