Friends: When a French businesswoman full of maternal longings flies off to Patagonia in the Argentinian "Nordest" to buy a baby (legally), she is drawn into a world of intrigue and hardship she never could have anticipated. The bad guys include a gang of pre-teens, doctors selling body parts, abusive boy friends, and an enforcer, who, while trying to intimidate a poor, single mom to leave her shack of a home, runs over her bicycle, the ultimate of evil. This was an accomplished portrayal of social realism by a first time director, which makes the film eligible for the Camera d'Ora as well as any of the Un Certain Regard awards where it was playing.
Veteran Japanese director Kohei Oguri was so incensed that his film "Buried Forest" had been
relegated to the "Un Certain Regard" category, when he was led to believe his film was going to be granted a much more prestigious Competition slot, he withdrew it from the Un Certain Regard and let the Director's Fortnight have it. To appease him, Thiery Fremaux, chief selector for the Competition and Un Certain Regard films, put in a rare appearance on stage at the Director Fortnight's for the presentation of the film in the prime Opening Night 7:30 p.m. Friday night slot. Politics and intrigue are everywhere, but not so much in his film, another movie long on style and short on narrative and character development. Its the story of a small Japanese village where a buried forest emerges. There are dazzling images of whales on a billboard being pulled by a truck through the town and whales lofted by helium balloons and luminous orange lizards on tree roots and even a camel prancing through town that would bring smiles to Fellini or Angelopolous.
Those were my last two films of a six-film day that began once again at 8:30 in the 3,000 seat Palais with a film in Competition, this one "Where the Truth Lies" by Canadian Atom Egoyan, starring Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth as a pair of '60s entertainers bearing a resemblance to Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Egoyan is known for his cerebral, quirky films with oddball coincidences and distinctive intellectual touch, but there wasn't much of that in this tale of a woman reporter trying to solve the mystery of a dead woman found in the entertainers' hotel room years after the event.
Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" was next up in the Palais, a loose imagining of the final days of rock star Kurt Cobain. Michael Pitt mumbles and cowers for 90 minutes in and around a mansion in the woods until his fatal end. The French speakers were lucky, or unlucky, to have sub-titles to make sense of his sporadic mutterings. This didn't have the power of "Elephant," van Sant's Palm d'Or winner of a couple of years ago, but it was another worthy effort. Neither I nor Helen realized Harmony Korine had a small part until the credits.
Against Helen's advice I saw "The Invisible," a French film about another tormented
musician, starring Laurent Lucas, who also starred in "Lemming," probably the only reason the Critic's Week programmed it. It is the first genuine dud outside of the market I've been subjected to.
My sixth film of the day was "The President's Last Bang," a South Korean film about the assassination of a long-time Korean President/dictator. It was an interesting portrayal of his decadence and the chaos among his staff after his death. There is a nice wise-crack about their lack of respect for that 'peanut-farmer' Jimmy Carter.
Market screenings I will miss today: "Adam's Apples" from Denmark--A neo-Nazi is sent on community service with a priest..."Death Train with Lasko" from Germany--A criminal mastermind and his evil cohorts take over a train to Lourdes, but it will take a miracle to strike fear into the pilgrims on board... "Making Waves from the UK"--Some people will go to any wavelength to get a date..."Molotov Samba" from the US--A Brazilian pimp falls in love with a desperate Russian prostitute.
The special daily Cannes editions of "Variety" and "Hollywood Reporter" and "Screen" have loads of money numbers as well: such as how much the last three films of each of the 21 directors in Competition earned in the US..."Fahrenheit 9/11" grossed more money than any
other English speaking Palm d'Or winner, even more than "Pulp Fiction"..."The Passion of the Christ" was the second highest grossing film in Italy and South Africa last year...Japan is second to the U.S. in box office receipts with some U.S. films grossing more in Japan than in the U.S., such as Tom Cruise's "Last Samurai." It earned 139 million dollars in Japan. Just some of the tidbits I pick up while standing in line for the next show.