Monday, May 29, 2006

Day 11

Friends: The last two Competition screenings this morning gave a final double dose of innocent citizens brutalized by those who are supposed to be serving and protecting them, continuing the dominant theme of this festival.

The first occurred in Franco's Spain in the Mexican feature "Pan's Labrynith", the second such
film devoted to that era. The first was "Salvador" playing in the Un Certain Regard category. Whereas "Salvador" took place in the '70s and was based on a true story, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a fable of a movie taking place in 1944.

The film opens with a mother and a daughter being taken to the mountain outpost of the mother's new, second husband, the commanding officer of this unit, who is a truly villainous man. He recklessly murders two locals he suspects of being rebels, and tortures the captured trying to get information out of them. But the movie is the girl's story more than the captain's. Little does she know, but she is a princess is waiting. She allows a bug, who turns into a flying elf, to lead her through a labyrinth where Pan resides. He gives her various assignments.
When she violates his order to not eat anything off a banquet table in the netherworld she is led to, all hell breaks loose. This is directed by Guillermo del Toro, one of the minority of directors in Competition who has had any commercial success with films such as "Hellboy," "Blade 2" and "The Devil's Backbone." This too will have more appeal to the movie-going crowd who
go to the multiplex for escapism rather than the cinema crowd who seek out art houses.

"Cronica de una Fuga" offers up brutality and torture Argentinian-style. This true story takes
place in 1977 Buenos Aries. Various young men, including a B-level soccer goalie, have been arrested under suspicion for being revolutionaries. They are being held in a secret location for an indefinite period of time as they are interrogated and tortured. The brutality here is more
psychological than physical, but their torture still includes beatings and having their heads held under water. Their torturers are patient men. Their incarceration lasts for days and weeks and months. Some of them break and others hold out. There have been much more gripping movies done on this era, but this was still a commendable portrayal.

Often the last day's Un Certain Regard offerings can be accused of having been held to the end of the festival when many people have left and all the better films have been shown. That was true again this year. The Hong Kong "Re-Cycle," about a young woman writer, degenerates into a horror movie. She finds herself in a realm of things that have been abandoned, and not only things such as books and toys, but also ideas, including ideas of the supernatural she has been writing about. It is filmed with great technical virtuosity, and could please those who like to be frightened, but there isn't much appealing to the intellect here.

The Russian "977" takes place in a secret research institute that makes experiments on people. I had little clue as to what all the people in white lab coats were up to. Finally we are told one of the research subjects doesn't exist. "She never did."

The Polish "The Boy on a Galloping Horse" was a quiet, melancholy tale in black-and-white of a famous author who retreats from the city to a small rural town. He has to return to the city with his son, who needs an operation that he may or may not survive. The son does not realize how serious it is. The father is tortured by not only that, but reconciling with his wife and also his writing. This was a most accomplished film that looked great and offered captivating performances.

I was among about 150 stalwarts who ended the day with "Cabiria," a recently restored Italian silent three-hour epic from 1914. It played with piano accompaniment and no intermission. It is a seminal film that included an on screen introduction by Martin Scorcese. The audience included young film students and others devoted to the art. The audience was scattered enough in the Buneul that as Thierry Fremaux introduced the film he could look around and acknowledge some of those devotees. Ebert was near the back. Before the film started he commented that for the first time in nine years he would not be broadcasting the awards ceremony the next night with Annette Insdorf as Bravo had decided not to carry it. "They're dumbing down," he said.

"Cabiria" takes place three centuries before Christ, with Mount Etna erupting, spewing lava down its sides and upon nearby villages. An army is on the march in the high snow-covered mountains with elephants. There are also picturesque desert scenes of camels on the march. Battles are waged, seemingly impregnable forts assaulted, prisoners taken, a black hulk of a man tossing bodies left and right. This film has a great grandeur and sweep.

After the film I met the Tribune's new lead film critic, Michael Philips. He is a gung-ho,
enthusiastic guy enjoying his first time at Cannes, though he said, "I feel like I've been run over a
truck...several times."

One day to go, George

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