Thursday, May 20, 2004

Cannes #8

Friends: This festival is so huge, there are three English publications ("Hollywood Reporter," "Variety" and "Screen") offering a free daily issue devoted to festival news with reviews, interviews and schedules. I had been partial to "Variety" since it is my Internet outlet, but I now turn to "Screen" first after discovering they have a one sentence blurb on most of each day's screenings. It hasn't altered any of my choices, but it does help me when I have options. If I were a Chowhound, I might have changed today's plan of attack with the discovery of another movie about a chef playing in the market. It is "Hungry Hearts" from the U.S. "Screen" says, "An up-and-coming chef caters a party for four women, only to discover they have a shocking surprise in store for him."

For the first time an usher had to find me a seat in the Palais for the afternoon screening of the Competition film "Exils" by Tony Gatlif of Algeria. That is the one venue that requires tickets/invitations, so there should have been seating enough. There are always people hovering around the Palais with signs asking for "invitations" or asking verbally. From my own experience outside Wrigley Field looking for extra invitations/tickets I know there all always some to be found and always empty seats in the ball park, so I was quite taken aback when I started hiking up to the distant reaches of the Palais and didn't see any vacancies.

"Exils" was another of those Competition films that was long on style and short on substance. Its the simple tale of a very photogenic Algerian couple in their 20s living in Paris who decide to return to their homeland. They travel overland through Spain and then by boat across the Mediterraen. Gatlif directed the acclaimed, rousing musical "Latcho Drum" some ten years ago, and this film too is rich with rousing music. That's about all it has going for it.

I next took my chances on the Philippine film "The Woman of Breakwater" by Mario O'Hare over at the Director's Fortnight. Philippine films tend to be overblown melodramas that have no place in film festivals except to draw the Filipino community. This film was no exception, even though the producer promised "realism" and so did the film's pre-credit announcement--"41% of Filipinos live below the poverty line. These are some of their stories." It was an hour before the aisle I was sitting in the middle of had cleared out so I could escape without stepping over anyone.

Next up was a rare film from Uruguay, "Whisky" by Juan-Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll. This was great film fest fare, and a film that is not likely to be seen anywhere but at a film festival. It is the simple story of two brothers getting together for the first time in years. The older 60-year old has to enlist the help of his 48-year old assistant from his sock making factory to masquerade as his wife. The boss is very cold and distant and has nothing more than a professional relationship with this most taciturn and submissive woman. The younger brother is much more successful and flamboyant than his older brother, singing at karaoke bars and telling jokes. The woman has never had so much attention lavished upon her as she receives during their weekend together, but she remains her taciturn self. This was a perfectly cast and executed movie that was a fine finish to the day.

Since the much anticipated "2046" was in transit from Bangkok, as Kar-Wai Wong went to the deadline and beyond with his finishing touches, I was free to attend the French Canadian "CQ2" (Seek You Too) at 8:30 this morning instead. I figured I made the right choice when I saw none other than jury president Quentin Tarantino slink stoop-shouldered and unaccompanied into the Bunuel Theater. He's been seen quite frequently with Sofia Coppola, but not this early. There was no applause as he entered, so I wasn't entirely sure it was him until I heard his distinctive voice ask, "Is that an empty seat?" as he made his way down the third row. He knows the importance of being as close to the center when gazing at the screen.

When the movie opened in a woman's prison I thought that explained why Tarantino was there, but the prison scenes are over quick. Instead, the movie turned into another of those featuring a teen-aged girl in turmoil. This one was 17, about to turn 18. She was more rebellious and out-of-control and confused and unrealistic than any of the others so far portrayed here. As the Australian girl in "Somersault," she flees her mother and is trying to make it on her own. She attaches herself to a 35-year old woman dance instructor who's just been released from prison. The script withholds the reason she was in prison as long as it can for no other reason than to try to keep our attention. That is the least of the faults of this unadulterated mess that had one fatal plot flaw after another. This early audience didn't bother to boo, though it should have. But neither was there a single clap, almost as damning a reaction.

After the screening I grabbed the three daily publications and high-tailed it to an eleven o'clock screening half a mile away. The blurb on "Strange Crime" by Roberto Ando in the Critic's Weekly sector said, "A writer attends his step-son's wedding in Capri and meets another woman." This was an Italian film, so I should have known it would turn into another movie about a successful 50-year old man having an affair with a woman less than half his age, as I had been subjected to twice already this past week. At least this one developed some more intrigue than "when will his wife find out and how will she react." Daniel Auteuil plays a successful writer who is a bit of a libertine. He writes under a pen name and may have some plagiarism in his past. A couple of woman try to blackmail him. I looked for Kathleen Turner, who is on the jury here, in the audience, as it was such a movie that launched her career. Maybe if I hadn't been scarred by those two earlier Italian films about old men and their mistresses I would be more enthusiastic about this film, but it seemed like more standard fare with not that much of a twist.

For the first time we are under threat of rain today, forcing me to add a rain coat to my pack, which is just added camouflage for my bike pump and tools when the bag is inspected.

Later, George

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