Monday, May 23, 2005

Day 12

Friends: A different jury could have easily granted "Battle in Heaven" the Palm d'Or, which would have delighted some and appalled many others. This Mexican feature by second time director Carlos Reygadas was by far the most audacious, and perhaps the most artful, film in Competition, not only with its extremely graphic sex, but its story and its handling of it.

It qualified as the ultimate film of the festival featuring a teen-aged girl satisfying her lusts, though that is not the main thrust of the story. The movie revolves around a dumpy, forlorn forty-year old security guard who also serves as the driver for a teen-aged girl who lives with her wealthy family. The guard is especially morose as he and his wife have kidnapped a baby and it dies, though we see none of this. He seeks solace from the girl, engaging in very explicit sex with her. Reygadas even films his stiff member slowly collapse after their congress, just one of his many devastatingly original shots. Unlike most of the other teen-aged girls in heat movies, this didn't pander or sensationalize. Reygadas establishes a very somber mood and maintains it throughout. Perhaps more than any other movie of the festival, I am eager to experience this one again.

The credits of David Cronenber's "A History of Violence" warn that it is based on a graphic novel. Maybe that was meant as a disclaimer for the ridiculous, almost farcical, behavior of the characters of this movie, which jerks from scene to scene with as many holes in them as the multitude of shot-up characters in this movie about a man with a past that catches up to him 25 years later.

I had no desire to see "Sin City," the American film by Robert Rodriguez that opened in the States a month ago and was included in Competition here, but since there was nothing else to see when it was playing, I gave it a look. An hour of the barrage of wall-to-wall violence with a little sex sprinkled in was enough for me.

"Tale of Cinema" from Korea was a good antidote to this pair of pulp movies meant to titillate. It was almost an exercise in making an art movie, slow-paced and with an inconsequential story of suicide and the love of cinema and a distressed young man obsessed with an actress.

My twelve days of wall-to-wall movies concluded with the Chinese "Shanghai Dreams" by the director of "Beijing Bicycle." It takes place in the 1980s in rural China, where people from the city have been sent to work in their small factories. Few are happy about it. This finely captures the detail of such life and is accentuated by a handful of dramatic moments. Among the noteworthy scenes is a remarkable dance hall episode with the young men of the town dancing together to "Rivers of Babylon" while the young women shyly stand shoulder-to-shoulder, some
gripping each other, watching.

And my totals for my twelve days of cinema: 66 movies, which included all 21 of the films in Competition, 14 of the 22 in Un Certain Regard, 10 of the 21 in the Director's Fortnight, 7 of the 14 in the Critic's Week, 13 of the 1,200 or so films in the Market and the closing night film, and I was happy to have seen most of them.

There were seven that could easily end up on my Top Ten List for the year: Battle in Heaven, Hidden, Down in the Valley, Broken Flowers, The Child, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and The Death of Mister Lazaresqu. There were another seven that have the potential to make that year end list: Grizzly Man, Factotum, The King, Johanna, Room, Me and You and Everyone We Know and One Night. There are another seven that after gestating for a while could move up to that group of films in waiting for the top ten: Grain in Ear, The Bow, Earth from Above, Last Days, Lemming, Wolf Creek, and Once You've Been Born. There are another seven just a cut below that I was glad to have seen and will stick with me: Monster Thursday, The President's Last Bang, Northeast, Pele Forever, Time to Leave, Free Zone and Southern Extreme.

As I review the films I have left out, I see others that were an enjoyable movie-going experience: Manderlay, Habana Blues, Off Screen...

And, in a class by itself was "Hell on Wheels," the German documentary on the Tour de France, a film that had me beaming from start to finish.

Now it is off to the Alps to scout out this year's Tour de France route and also to see a mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia.

Later, George

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