Monday, May 22, 2006

Day 5

Friends: "Southland Tales," Richard Kelly's much anticipated follow-up to "Donnie Darko," is the festival's first significant disaster--two hours and forty minutes of juvenile claptrap, some pandering, most just nonsensical. This woeful misfire of a movie will find few defenders, even among those legions who gave "Darko" cult status.

From the very start of this post-nuclear disaster movie centered on LA in 2008 it is clear that it has none of the style or wit of "Darko." Wally Shawn as a sleazy bad-guy businessman whose company has created a perpetual-motion fuel replacement for oil is utterly ridiculous, from his greasy hair to his clinging wardrobe and delivery of speech. There is a porn star who has a day-time talk show drenched in adolescent potty talk, that Kelly no doubt thought was hilarious
as he penned it. He meant this to be a sweeping black comedy of social satire, but he isn't capable of much more profundity than "teen horniness is not a crime," and "when the shit hits the fan, it all smells the same." People were bailing out of this movie from the very start. The only surprise was those who stuck around didn't boo. It wasn't even worthy of that. This is such a dud, and so unredeeming, it's hard too imagine anyone giving Kelly money to direct ever again. We can only hope, as he says he has a drawer with five or six scripts that he is continually rewriting.

"Climates," Nurge Bilge Ceylan's follow-up to his highly acclaimed "Distant" of three years ago, was another much-anticipated film. This Turkish director has a cult following of an entirely different sort than Kelly--those who like slow-paced, contemplative art films with no action. And he delivers again. Patrick McGavin called it the first great film of the festival, but he is in the camp who likes such films.

, for the first time, turns the camera on himself in a starring role. His wife in real life plays his wife in the film, and his parents, as parents, have brief cameos as well. Ceylan plays a professor whose marriage is falling apart. He and his wife split, he has a brief affair and then tries to get together again with his wife. And that is that. It has plenty of depth and gives plenty of space for quiet meditation. It is a bit of a travelogue, as he travels to various places in Turkey, from the snowy mountains to Istanbul. It is not a movie for everyone, and hardly the masses, as acknowledged by the smattering of boos it received.

I was able to squeeze in 45 minutes of "Hell," a French film about a 19-year old girl named Hell who lives with her bourgeoisie parents. She has dropped out of school and hasn't done anything for five months except party hard. Coke is her drug of choice, though she says, "its not drugs, its coke." The write-up said she eventually makes a friend who gives her a reason to put an end to her bad habits. Unfortunately, I had a more important film to get to and didn't get to see that part of her story. I left just after a guy she had slept with purchased a fold-up bike. She didn't like it crowding her in his car and wanted to toss it out. This film was well enough done that it would be worthy festival and art house fare, so I may yet have a chance to find out if that bike gets any use.

"The Bridge" concludes with the statement "More people have chosen to end their lives at the Golden Gate Bridge than anywhere else in the world." It says that 24 people jumped to their deaths from it in 2004 and lists the names of all of them, all but three of whose bodes were recovered.

This remarkable film, inspired by a "New Yorker" article called Jumpers, trained its cameras on the bridge for hours and managed to catch half a dozen of those jumpers, and also some that were foiled. It has interviews of friends and families of those who jumped as well of those who were nearby when the person jumped, even a guy who was surf-kiting in the water when a body fell near him. There is also an interview with a rare survivor, a young man who claims that a seal circled around him keeping him afloat until he could be rescued. "You can't tell me that wasn't God keeping me alive," he says. "That's what I'll believe until the day I die."

There is a prolonged sequence of a long-haired man in a leather coat circling around and pacing back and forth on the bridge. Will he or will he not jump. The film is intercut between close-ups of people on the bridge and interviews and distant shots of the bridge. It is caught from many angles and in all its moods--in the fog, in bright sun-light, at sunset and sunrise and even with a rainbow. It alternates from a brooding to mystical to menacing presence. It is quite mesmerizing and ends most dramatically.

"Sideffects" was another filler between significant screenings, a low-budget/no-budget throwaway of a film. This attempt at an expose of the pharmaceutical industry focusing on a young woman salesperson was so inept it made every other movie I've seen seem like a miracle.

I ended my day with two films at the Critic's Week, one a French documentary on Rwanda, "Kigali, des Images Contre un Massacre." This too was a bare-budget film by someone who happened to be there during the massacre of 1994 and how the world ignored it.

"Schnos de Peixe" was a virtual documentary on a small fishing village in Brazil. It focuses on a teen-ager and his girl friend. It alternates between showing the beauty of their lives and the hardships. The director was surprisingly successful in capturing their lives on land and on the sea. He couldn't have had much of a budget, but he made the most of it.

Later, George

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