Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day 6

Friends: Halfway through the festival, and unlike last year when Egoyan and Wenders presented sub-standard fare, so far none of the established directors in Competition have disappointed their supporters. Today was no exception. The two films in Competition were "The Caiman" by Nanni Moretti and "Lights in the Dusk" by Aki Kaurishmaki. And though they succeeded in living up to expectations, neither of them went beyond.

Moretti's film about Italy's controversial right-wing prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who was recently defeated for re-election, was said to have contributed to his very narrow defeat. There was much less about politics and the prime minister in this film, however, than a director's marriage falling apart as he was trying to make a film about the prime minister. Moretti, who usually stars in his films, did not give himself the role of the director. Rather, he emerges at the very end of the movie as the choice of the director to play the prime minister. The film had many of the farcical elements that Moretti is known for.

Kaurasmaki's entrance to the Palias for his afternoon screening nearly upstaged his movie. He has had to make that promenade up the red carpet many times, and no doubt doesn't appreciate the protocol of having to linger for several minutes while a legion of photographers blast away. Rather than posing, he grabbed one of his actresses and began dancing. This was all on the big screen in the theater for those of us seated, awaiting his arrival. The rest of his cast followed suit, so there were five couples clutching each other and twirling about to the music that plays
pre-film. There was laughter and applause in the theater.

He lit one last cigarette as the cameras followed him into the theater. He peaked around the doorway and then backed off, as if he was nervous about coming in. This drew even greater laughter. He repeated the routine several times. This was all entertaining, but it was delaying the start of the movie, and most of us have our day planned to the minute. His antics were squandering crucial time. He finally relented, making his entrance and taking his seat, cigarette still in hand. Thierry Fremaux, festival director, had to pry it from his fingers.

"Light in the Dusk" was the final film of his trilogy on the plight of the Finnish working man. This one featured a security guard. He is framed for a crime, stoically goes to prison, and is released. After he is released a friend asks, "How was it." "You couldn't get out," he says. This does not transcend any of his previous films, just a good solid effort. There were less comic moments than he is known for, but he remains the master of the droll.

The highlights of the day both came in "Uncertain Regard." The first was "URO" a Norwegian thriller about a rookie under-cover cop who works for the narcotics unit, whose acronym is URO. The cop becomes mixed-up with friends from his not-so-clean past who are involved in drug trafficking. There is a chance his mother has compromised his identity. The tension mounts both on screen and for those of us watching. I was glad not to have a movie to immediately dive into after this, so I could unwind.

There is tension too, and also an ex-con for the third time today, in "Luxury Car" from China. The luxury car is the stolen Audi the owner of a bordello drives around in. The father of his favorite prostitute is visiting his daughter. He is a school teacher in rural China. His daughter lives in the large city he was exiled from 40 years previously for a revolutionary indiscretion. He is a simple, kindly, wise man, who after experiencing the city admits, "Now I prefer the country." He does not realize his daughter's profession. When he does, he simply accepts it. Among his reasons for visiting is trying to track down his son. He bicycles around the city with a police officer friend trying to locate him. This is a tender, father/daughter story as well as a sad tale of urban life.

The rest of my day was spent dabbling in the market. The one film I had to see was "The Real Santa" from Hungary, the lone film of the thousand plus here whose write-up mentioned a bicycle. The film was described as, "A down-on-his-luck pianist, who takes a job as a Shopping Mall Santa is followed by an orphaned girl who demands to receive a bicycle for Christmas, just as her mother promised she would when she turned eight years old."

The film's opening shot is of Paris in 1994 with snow falling and two bikes parked in front of a bar. We get to feast our eyes on those bikes for several minutes as the credits roll. The pianist is shot in the leg during a robbery and the movie fast forwards to ten years later in Budapest. The pianist has become a disheveled bum. He is enlisted to fill in for a Santa at a mall, who was snowed in. His job is to wander around the mall and the streets outside singing and passing out candy. That is when a young girl starts haunting him, demanding a bike. They eventually become pals and he considers trying to rustle up the money to buy her a bike. They get in
and out of trouble, but in the end he not only gets her a bike, but gives bikes to everyone in the mall. Hundreds of people flock from the mall with bikes all singing a rousing song of joy celebrating the bike--"Life is a bicycle. It won't go by itself...with wheels that always turn so keep your eyes on the road."

My other market screenings were "Fragile" from Switzerland and "Severence" an English/Hungarian collaboration. The relationship of a brother and sister whose mother has Althemier's Disease is very fragile. They constantly bicker. It wasn't much more than made-for-TV fare."Severence" was another of the many horror films seeking attention in the market. My packed audience thought all the killing and gore of a group of college kids in the woods of Hungary was hilarious.

Later, George

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