Sunday, May 21, 2006

Day 4

Friends: I'm fully into the routine of up at 7:10, quick shower, pick up food for the day from the local "8 to Huit" convenience store, which fortunately is open by seven and even on Sundays, bike three-and-a-half miles in along the Mediterranean, swing by the "Variety" tent for that day's magazine to read while awaiting to be joined by friend on the aisle for the 8:30 Competition screening in the Palais. The last two days it has been Kim after a couple of days with Charles. The routine continues with a rush out of the theater and a dash over to the French pavilion to pick up Competition screening invitations for me and Kim for the next day. Back for the next Competition screening. Hit the Internet and then piece together another four movies. Expectations are always high for each film.

If it weren't French, "Charley Says" may not have been included among the 20 or so films in Competition. It was an ambitious film attempting to combine a hodgepodge of stories with the common theme of loneliness. There is a town mayor with a mistress and corrupt cronies, a high school science teacher who was once a very promising archaeologist but suffered a break down, his Finnish wife who is having an affair with the father of one of the teacher's students, a young tennis pro, a prominent archaeologist in town for a conference who tries to re-enlist the high school teacher on a dig, a couple of petty criminals, and more. It takes all too long for the many story lines to sort themselves out and begin to interweave. Not all of them are necessary and are not fully integrated or resolved, padding the movie to two hours and ten minutes. This film could be saved with some aggressive editing, as there are worthy moments of poignancy and truth, but such an act is not very likely.

No editing is necessary in the masterful "Red Road" by first-time Scottish director Andrea Arnold, who won an Oscar for the short "Wasp", which played at Telluride. She is the only first-time director in Competition and could be the discovery of the festival. Likewise her lead actress, who could well walk off with best actress honors for her sterling performance of a 30 something woman who has yet to recover from some unknown tragedy in her life. She works as an observer of surveillance cameras posted around a city, alerting the police when she observes an accident or crime. She learns that someone has been released early from prison for good behavior. She is not happy about this and begins stalking him. We know not why. It is the third troubled woman seeking revenge film of the festival, a theme perhaps set off by de Heer's "Alexandra's Project" a couple of years ago and continued with the recent "Hard Candy." All these revenge films have been intricate with a highly personal motives.

The Chinese film "The Road" was market filler for me. This film about a rural bus driver no doubt received an A-plus from the Chinese censors. There is loads of stunningly spectacular mountain scenery on dirt roads with little traffic that I'd love to bike. But more important than the postcard scenery to the censors would be its continual honoring of Mao. The bus driver at one time met Mao, so people are eager to shake the hand that shook Mao's. It starts in 1960. Workers chant "Long live Chairman Mao" and sing a song with the lyric "Chairman Mao you are the red sun in our hearts."

The documentary "Requiem for Billy the Kidd" and its cast were introduced by festival director Thierry Fremaux. The cast included two cowboy hat-wearing sheriffs from New Mexico from the town where Billy the Kid is buried. Kris Kristofferson narrates the film, but he was not in attendance. Fremaux may have had extra incentive to include the film in the festival as it drew a comparison between Billy and Rimbaud, who both lived at the same time and both had six-year
careers, one writing poetry and the other killing, that overlapped. This film too had pleasing landscapes of west Texas and southern New Mexico. I didn't need to yearn to bike its roads, as I just did six months ago.

I joined a scrum of people already congregated for Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" playing immediately afterward in the same theater--the Bunuel. The trailer for this documentary on global warning says it received three standing ovations when it premiered at Sundance this past January. It can now add Cannes to that list. Gore, wearing a tux with a bow tie, received a standing ovation when he joined the film's producers on stage after being introduced by Fremaux. He gave lame, haphazard high-fives to the men and quick kisses to the two women. He said, "I never thought in a million years that my slide show would get me on the red carpet at Cannes." He then joined Tipper in the second row to sit through a lecture that he has given hundreds of times so he could take the stage again after the film and acknowledge another standing ovation.

The filming of his slide show is interspersed with footage of Gore's home in Tennessee and many of the sites he comments on in his lecture from the north pole to dried-up lakes. It does not bog down at any point. He cites one alarming trend and statistic after another, but in such a buoyant manner, it doesn't convey the sense of doom and catastrophe that it ought to. Nor does he take the American consumer to task for the peril it has placed the planet. It is much more of a feel-good experience than it should be.

He does ask towards the end of the film, "Are you ready to change the way you live." But Gore doesn't press the issue, as he wouldn't want to make demands on others that he wouldn't want to comply with himself. We see him flying around the world first class and being driven around in limos. There is not a mention of the bicycle as an alternative travel option until the very end when the film lists a handful of things people can do to alter global warning. The list includes recycle, use one's thermostat, use energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, buy a hybrid car, and "when you can, walk or ride your bike." Prayer is also mentioned. It is still an important movie that everyone should see. He expresses hope as he mentions some successes, such as no longer damaging the ozone and bringing communism down.

There were enticing reviews in the dailies of "Princess," the opening night film in the Director's Fortnight. The comparisons to Gaspar Noe and the comments that it would be one of the most talked about films of the festival altered my plans for the day to see its final repeat screening at 10:30 in one of the market outlets. It was a Danish animated feature about a priest whose sister is a porn star. She is killed in an auto accident so he takes on the responsibility of her five-year old daughter, who was deeply scarred by her upbringing. When he places her in a tub to give her a bath, she reaches out and pulls down his zipper, which totally freaks him out. This turns into a revenge movie as he and she seek out those who abused her. The most talked about scene is when the five-year old brutalizes a guy with a crow bar between his legs and then on the rest of his body. One reviewer compared the artistry of the animation to "The Triplettes of Belleville" another allure for me. My expectations were too high to have much appreciated it. I should have listened to Kim's advice that it wasn't all that noteworthy.

Later, George

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