Friends: If I weren't so determined to give as many movies a chance as possible to dazzle and transport me, I'd be taking an afternoon break to return to the campgrounds to put all my gear out in the sun to dry. Day 7 was marred not just by a prolonged shower, but by a deluge complete with thunder and lightening that flooded my tent and forced me to sleep in a damp sleeping bag last night. With it warm and sunny today I'll take a chance on my gear drying out on its own within the confines of my tent.
The storm was severe enough that the "Variety" booth shut down their Internet in fear of electrocuting us at the terminals. The rain did deter the masses from making the trek from Festival Central by the Palais up to the Director's Fortnight and Critic's Week theaters, making it a snap to get into their screenings. I didn't intend on seeing the Lithuanian "7 Invisible Men", but the storm allowed me to slip into it just across the street from the "Variety" booth on the beach. This tale of ne'er-do-wells in Crimea, who go off into the country and hang out at a rustic farm with loads of turkeys and pigs, wasn't much. It was picturesque enough, but failed completely at establishing anything to be interested in.
I could afford a yawner after starting off the day with a bang, Jim Jarmush's "Broken Flowers" starring Bill Murray. It was just the second competition film since the festival started that earned a better than three point average on a scale of four from "Screen" magazine's panel of ten journalists. The only film to score higher has been Haneke's "Hidden." The film hinges on the wacky, but credible premise of Murray searching out four former girl friends from 20 years ago, one of whom may have sent him an anonymous letter telling him that she'd had a son by him and that he might be coming to visit him. Murray doesn't much care, but his amateur sleuth of a neighbor, all to eager to solve the mystery, forces him to go off on this adventure, arranging all his flights and hotels and car rentals. It is a superbly crafted film with one comic moment after another. Jarmush does not let up. His keenly observant eye finds the comic underbelly in every situation and predicament Murray finds himself in. There are chattering, witless teen-aged girls sitting besides him on an airport bus, one of his ex's is now a professional closet-organizer and another an animal communicator, one has a daughter named Lolita who is a Lolita. Murray's character's name is Don Johnston, so he is often confused with Don Johnson when he introduces himself.
The other competition film for the day "The Child" by the Belgian Dardenne brothers, former Palm d'Or winners with "Rosetta," offered up an equally fine film, though it was anything but comic. It is the story of a young unmarried couple who have just had a child. The father is a petty thief who scorns anyone who is stupid enough to work. His occasional partner-in-crime is a 16-year old still in school. They rob homes and purse-snatch and will do just about anything that comes along to make a buck, including pan-handling, and then the ultimate, selling the baby without telling his girl friend. She passes out when she learns what he has done and is so faint he takes her to the hospital. She's raving mad at him and brings in the cops. The film does not waver in its veracity.
"Zim and Co" from France was a not dissimilar film about three guys around twenty who have no direction in life and can't find work to their liking and are not adverse to breaking the law, though not as extreme as the protagonist of "The Child." They are pals who come to each other's need. Zim faces prison after he is involved in an accident on his scooter at the start of the movie and tests positive for marijuana. He's told if he gets a job, he might not have to go to jail. That is not such an easy task, but he's diligent in trying. The film is not as bleak as it could have been, showing these characters do have humanity and hope. The film does have a conscience. Zim and his girl friend both pull out condoms, the first allusion to safe sex in the 40 or so films I've seen so far.
My token market screening for the day was the British "Stoned," a biopic on the last days of Brian Jones of the Stones. It played to a packed house of close to 200 at one of the the local theaters that are given up to market screenings. This film was a marked contrast to Gus Van Sant's polished and artful "Last Days," also a depiction of a rock star given to excess doses of alcohol and drugs who meets an early demise. There wasn't much depth to this rendition stocked by a cast who just marginally inhabit the characters they are portraying.
There was still a slight drizzle at nine p.m. when I went to get in line for the ten p.m. screening of the Australian thriller "Wolf Creek" that had played at Sundance to rave reviews. The tuxedoed guards at the Director's Fortnight let us all wait in the lobby rather than out in the rain. The Australian Tourist Board is going to have a big job ahead of itself encouraging people to come to Australia, or at least its Outback, after this film, based on a true story, of three travelers, two British women and an Aussie bloke, who are taken hostage and terrorized by an Outback dweller. This engaging tale of travelers in the starkly beautiful Outback doesn't turn into a horror movie until about two-thirds of the way through.