Sunday, May 16, 2004

Cannes #4

Friends: Another feature of Cannes that distinguishes it from any other film festival I've attended is that screenings are often punctuated by an outburst of applause when a character makes a political statement that someone in the audience agrees with. It happened again in yesterday afternoon's magnificent "Moolaade" by the Senegelese master Ousmane Sembene, when one of the woman villagers comments, "It takes more than balls to be a man." There were numerous occasions worthy of applause in this powerful tale about women rebelling against female castration in their extremely male-dominated society. This was one of those movies that fully endorse the life I have chosen--traveling the world by bike, allowing me to submerge myself into cultures different than my own. I just love to plop down in such environments, from Laos to Bolivia, that I've passed through on my bike, and observe the daily life in such places. We certainly learn much about the people of this small village. I'll be happy to relive this movie again, whether on the screen or in real life.

I had to walk my bike through the worst mob so far of the fest swarming around the Palais for a glimpse of the stars who provided the voices for "Shrek 2." There was a goodly crowd, though only of fest-goers, also awaiting the screening of the Italian film "The Scent of Blood" by Mario Martone at the Director's Fortnight. Jesse and I were among the last to be seated and ended up in the last row of the balcony, which wasn't all bad, as it enabled us to exit fast to get to the
next screening. We stayed to the bitter end of this cliched portrayal of a 50-year old guy with a mistress and a wife who he magnanimously allows to have a lover as well. Of course, he becomes jealous of her latest lover and is much tormented. This was a big "So What," the European version of Hollywood product.

We were lucky to be turned away from the next screening at the Director's Fortnight, as we were rewarded by the best performance of the festival so far in the French feature "Brodeuses" by Eleonore Faucher over at the Critic's Weekly. There was more emotional impact in a single quiver of the eye of the sensational 17-year old actress who played Claire than in all the utterances and posturings of the Italians in their lust-fest. Claire is four-and-a-half months
pregnant, living on her own, working in a supermarket, and has told no one about her pregnancy. She's taunted by her co-workers for becoming fat. She's fiercely independent, but sullen and uncertain and virtually friendless, though she finally finds one in an initially cold woman she starts doing some embroidering for, something she is truly gifted at.

We had an exhilarating ride back to the campground after midnight, negotiating the still lingering throngs of people, enabling us to put our messengering skills to use. Jesse led the way. He's come a long way since we met working at the Telluride Film Festival two-and-a-half years ago. Jesse was between his junior and senior years at CMU in Pittsburgh and hadn't been on a bike in five or six years. He was inspired by my life as a bicyclist to buy a bike when he
returned to school and now he rides like a fiend. He's strong, fearless, has great instincts and pedals as smoothly as a Tour de France vet. Not only did he take up the messenger life in Philadelphia, where his girl friend is getting her doctorate, when he graduated, he's now conquering foreign lands on his bike. The world awaits him. He took one small step to start riding that anyone can take. It is a great joy to see how enthusiastically he is embracing the
bicycle touring life that I've been able to introduce him to on this trip. Since he was a film major at CMU, he's in hog heaven here.

This Sunday morning there were more bicyclists than usual out pedaling along the coast as I zipped in for my first screening while Jesse slept in, and I felt no great urge to join them. This is day five of the festival and I am into full movie-going mode. My legs hardly twitch at all any more wanting to be out riding. In another week we'll we able to resume the pedaling, but for now there are movies to be seen and after yesterday's good batch I'm eager for more.

Today led off with another film featuring a young girl, this one a 12-year old Lebanese girl in the
French production "Maarek Hob" by Danielle Arbid that takes place in 1982 Beirut in war time. Her father has deep gambling debts that imperil his life and her mother is almost as dominated by him as the African women in "Moolaade," though she has none of the strength of
the African women to stand up to him. They live with the girl's autocratic Aunt, who slaps and berates their slave of a servant girl, who the 12-year old tries to defend. But she lives in a very selfish environment and falls prey to it herself. This was another very touching and worthwhile film.

Next was "In Casablanca the Angels Don't Fly" by Mohammed Asli of Morocco, a place I made a circuit of on my bicycle. I was continually reminded of my month-and-a-half there by all the small nuances of life in Morocco this film portrayed from the pouring of tea to bathing in the bath houses. This was the heart-rending tale of a man working in a restaurant in Casablanca while his wife and children remain in their small mountain village. It was a sad, but noble tale worthy of any film festival, as good as anything I've seen so far.

I'd love to rave on about these films, but there are too many movies out there awaiting me and often the less one knows about a film going into it, the better. You already know more than I've known about most of what I've seen. Next up is an Argentinian film by Lucrecia Martel, whose first film, "La Cienaga" (The Swamp), played the festival circuit in 2001 to much acclaim. It is in competition here and that is all I know about it.

Later, George

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