Saturday, May 27, 2006

Day 10

Friends: Gerard Depardieu can sing, and so entertainingly in the French "I Did It My Way," for awhile I thought he could be a threat to win the best actor award for his performance. But his role as a lounge singer, who will even sing at retirement homes, isn't quite enough to overcome a standard plot that lacked much imagination.

The picture could just as well have been called "Ladies Man," as that is what a young real estate agent, who is the object of his affections, continually calls him. She alternately encourages and discourages his attentions. He calls her a "prick tease", which doesn't much phase her, but "easy lay" is end of conversation and sends her running. She has a mysterious past. The clues to it only come in not very satisfying droplets. This film may not have been worthy of the Competition field, but it was still an enjoyable dose of cinema thanks to Depardieu. His repertoire of love songs would make for a nice CD. As he said, "My songs tell the truth, especially the love songs."

The Portuguese "Juventude em Marcha," the 18th of the 20 films to play in competition, was easily the most walked-out-upon film of the festival, but not because it was so bad. It was just horribly dull, tedious and uninvolving. Before an hour of this two hour and twenty minute film had unspooled I was the lone person left in my aisle of 20 people. The film is a succession of dreary, rambling monologues straight into the camera of Cape Verdians living on the fringe
in Lisbon. I have been lucky to have seen only one such film of this "testing-the-audience's patience" genre of art films this year.

Its not a film festival without at least one film devoted to trying to understand what led to a suicide. There are times when it can emerge as the dominant theme of a festival. So far this year, the documentary on the Golden Gate Bridge is the only film I've seen devoted exclusively to the subject. "Two Thirty Seven" from Australia broke that string. Audiences may split over this film, but one certainty is that every review will compare it to Gus Van Sant's "Elephant," not only for its on-the-money portrayal of a day at a high school, but also for its meshing of scenes and the impending doom that hovers. It begins with the discovery of a suicide victim in a locked bathroom. We don't see who it is. The story flashes back to the start of the day and follows the stories of a handful of students, interspersed with black-and-white commentaries of them speaking into the camera.

So we are left to figure out which of half a dozen possibilities is the one to die--the girl who discovers she is pregnant, the gay guy who is out of the closet, a gay guy who is still in the closet, the guy who has two bladders and can't control one of them wetting himself, the guy who only gets an 87 on his final test when he needed a 90, a girl rejected by her boy friend. At first it looks as if this is an extremely heavy-handed, manipulative story, but the portrayals are so true that one can't but help to start liking this film by a young director who dedicates the film to a friend who committed suicide. But by the end the manipulation becomes a bit much. Helen was livid at the film's conclusion, especially at the depiction of the suicide. It received a rousing response from the audience, however.

I was the last person admitted to "Congorama" and only because I clung to the backside of the person in front of me and prevented the usher from sticking his arm out in front of me, as he tried to do. Experience paid off. This was the first time I had managed to get into the Director's Fortnight theater this year, as its slate of films has been much better received than in the recent past. I've still managed to see a bunch of them, but only when they replayed at another theater. This French Canadian feature maintained the exemplary standard of this sidebar.

The story follows a couple of slightly askew inventors, one in Belgium and the other in Canada. The Belgian has been threatened by his boss that if he doesn't find a buyer for one of his inventions in the next two months, he'll be returned to the factory floor. He flies off to Canada trying to sell a de-icing device and also to find his family, as he was born there and put up for adoption. The film is a potpourri of wackiness and seriousness, including a stray emu that saves the day, although at first it seems to have ruined it.

I concluded my day with "Sway" from Japan, after walking out of the screening of the award-winning film at the Critic's Week. All indications were it would be the Norwegian "Bothersome Man," which I had earlier been shut out of. But much to my dismay, "Poison Friends," which I had already seen, won the Critic's Week Award. I liked the film, but not enough to see it again or to agree that it was more than good. It was French, which may have helped its cause.

I had six minutes to bike the mile to the Arcades Theater down Antibes, the main shopping street, which is just one lane wide. There wasn't much traffic at this hour, and when there was I could hop up on the sidewalk and pass it. "Sway" refers to a narrow, unsteady foot bridge over a mountain stream that a woman falls off. A man is accused of having pushed her off. He is incarcerated and is held until the conclusion of his trial, adding this to the long list of movies this year of someone who has been imprisoned. The movie becomes a courtroom drama. It was fascinating to see the Japanese version of this genre. Those on the stand are not protected from badgering, as in the U.S. The prosecuting lawyer is even allowed to ask the defendant if he had sexual designs on the woman. Very rarely was there an "objection."

If this movie had started on time, I could have seen "Clerks 2" at 12:30 a.m., but I was spared having to stay out late.

Later, George

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