Thursday, May 12, 2005

Day 1

Friends: While those willing to attire themselves formally were at the Opening Night film in the Palais for the French film "Lemming" about a rodent that clogs a sink pipe triggering a dizzying series of events, I and about a dozen others were watching a Norwegian film on surfing in a nearby 50-seat market screening room. Our theater should have been packed, as "Lemming" opened commercially the next day all over France, and how often does a film about surfing in Norway come along. It was most certainly a movie that had to be seen.

Not only do the Norwegians surf their rugged coastline, but they have competitions and guys try to win the hearts of women by taking up surfing, or at least as portrayed in "Monsterthursday," Arild Ommundson's second film. The suitor and would-be surfer is a 30-year old who is in love with his best friend's wife and is looking after her while her husband is off on a prolonged business trip to Singapore. The husband is a champion surfer, so his friend decides to take up surfing while he's away. He struggles, testing the patience of his zen-like mentor, but eventually he's surfing monster waves.

Even though this was a market screening, which often means less than competent film-making, as the backers of such films have paid big bucks for their films to be screened here, in contrast to the 100 or so invited films in the four official categories, this film was an exception. From the very start the cinematography of the stark and beautiful Norwegian country-side indicated those making this film knew how to make a movie. One can often tell from the very first shot of a market screening. There was loads to like about this film. They golf as well as surf in Norway. Whenever the surfer and a friend drive pass the local golf course they like to shout at those on the putting green, "Get back to reality," easily the best line of the festival so far.

It doesn't have much competition, as I only managed three films on Day 1 as there were no morning screenings and my final film of the evening was canceled as the projectionist couldn't sync the sound. That will change today, with screenings commencing at 8:30 a.m. Other than "Lemming," all that was on offer on Day 1 were a handful of market screenings, just enough to whet out appetites.

There wasn't much to choose from. The closest film I could find to something bicycle-related was "The Longest Penalty in the World," a Spanish film about soccer. The credits were clever with the names of the cast batting around a ball, but after that the movie was a barrage of cliched caricatures and not much soccer.

My other movie, "Josh Jarman," from Australia, wasn't much better. Josh is a young playwright whose work only plays in small theaters seating no more than a couple dozen, but then he gets a break when a big-time producer is willing to put on his latest work if he'll be a boy-friend to his daughter, a wild woman who has had a series of disastrous boy friends. He agrees, but as the play is rehearsed it is greatly transformed from the original, compromising Josh's integrity and vision. Josh was as much of a cliched buffoon as the characters in "The Longest Penalty," pretty much standard fare for a market screening. But one never knows and has to take chances. At least I was rewarded by "Monsterthursday."

Later, George

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