Thursday, May 25, 2006

Day 8

Friends: Today was a day of marital strife, a key component in three of my six films. It has been happening often enough to qualify as the dominant theme of the festival. Two earlier Competition films focused on it--Ceylan's "Climates" and Moretti's "The Caimain"--and it has been more than an incidental element in many other films.

Both Competition films today continued the theme. The matrimonial disharmony in Sofia Coppolla's "Marie-Antoinette" was more casual and light-hearted than the usual pitched, furious battles of most of the spouses at odds in the festival. But that was the tone of Coppola's feature, her third film on a young girl trying to find her place. Marie-Antoinette is 14 when she is married off to a young Louis. She and all of France are highly impatient for Louis to consummate their marriage. It takes him over seven years.

Marie-Antoinette is a blond, and she fulfills many of the stereotypes--ditsy, a little simple-minded and innocent, but harmless and good-hearted. The film starts off with great promise of portraying the life of the times with telling detail as she is shuttled from Austria to France and taken possession of at the border. She has to disrobe and exchange her Austrian clothes for French and even give up her dog Mops. When she takes up residence at Versailles, she is waited on hand and foot by a legion of servants..It is so excessive, at one points she says it is "ridiculous." The film, however, does not go beyond the superficial detail of her sumptuous, luxurious court life. There is not a hint in the world that the guillotine awaits her. Though her marriage is finally consummated, this film is not.

The quibblings of an unemployed husband and his working wife are at the heart of the Belgian "The Right of the Weakest." When the wife's scooter breaks down and they can't afford to replace it, it sets in motion a robbery scheme. The wife's father buys her one as a gift, which makes the emasculated husband furious. He demands that she give it back, threatening to move out if she keeps it, but she refuses, as it allows her an extra hour of sleep. Its an ugly, prolonged argument.

The young husband's older, also unemployed, friends want to come to his rescue. They've recently made the acquaintance of an ex-con, a former bank robber just released from prison, played by the film's director, Lucas Belvaux. He is another in a series of ex-cons who have been a popular character of choice in this year's films. The ex-con organizes the heist, but then backs out when the young husband is included. The schmucks decide to go through with it anyway, saying, so what if they're caught, "could life be worse in prison?" This tale of the misery of the
unemployed did not meet with much favor from the audiences here. At least there was a noteworthy bicycle mention. The guy the robbers buy their guns from doesn't provide ammunition. When the buyer demands a discount, he scoffs, saying, "And a free bicycle too?"

Laura Linney and Gabriel Bryne are the couple imploding in the unsettling Australian feature "Juindabyne" by Ray Lawrence, director of the acclaimed "Lantana" from several years ago. Linney is brilliant as usual playing a wife greatly upset with her husband. She treats him with contempt making nasty, sniping remarks towards him at every opportunity even before he goes off fishing with three of his buddies for a weekend and makes a horrific error in judgment that incenses their entire community.

Bryne and his pals discover the naked, dead body of an aboriginal woman in the river they are fishing their first day there. Rather than immediately alerting the police, they wait for two days until their return. The aboriginals in particular are enraged, trashing the homes or businesses of all four of the men. The men's action is headline news in the newspaper and the talk of the town. Most surprising was that the men did not even discuss what they should do when they discovered the body. Not one of them said, "we've got to send someone in to let the police know." That didn't seem entirely plausible, but maybe that was the point of the movie, and
Australians do behave in such a manner. I feared the movie would conclude saying it was based on a true story. Instead, it was based on a short story. Another nagging issue undermining my full appreciation of the movie was how nasty everyone is in this movie, not only husbands and wives, but the so-called buddies. Nor is the murder resolved, though we see it happen. Some say this film was worthy of being included in Competition rather than the Director's Fortnight. That I can't say.

There were no fighting husbands and wives in my day's other films--two documentaries and an animated feature. A goat and a wolf become pals in "Stormy Night," more animation from Japan. They strike up a friendship by happenstance when they both take refuge in an abandoned cabin on a hill in a vicious storm. It is so dark, they don't realize their companion is a mortal enemy. They spend the night bonding and agree to meet up again the next day in a meadow for lunch. When they do, they are shocked to discover who they have befriended. The wolf comments, "This is like having lunch with your lunch." It is hard for him to resist chowing down on the young goat, especially since he lost his lunch on the way over.

They continue meeting. Eventually both of their tribes discover their friendship and are appalled, convinced that it is a plot by the other to learn the habits of their enemy. They are both ordered to turn spy and get such information out of the other. If they don't, the wolves will kill the wolf, and the goats will exile the goat.

I was turned away from "Fuck" a couple of days ago. Today I got in, though I had to stand as all 18 seats in the small screening room were filled. This was a thoroughly comprehensive examination of the origins and history of the word. It even includes Lee Elia's infamous uncensored tirade lambasting Cub fans which got him fired from the Cubs over 20 years ago.

George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Eddie Murphy and Hunter S. Thompson are also heard from as are Pat Boone and Miss Manners. There are clips from a couple of dozen Hollywood movies, including "Scarface," which uses the f-word 182 times. Kevin Smith was proud to say his "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" used it 278 times, just beating out South Park. "Fuck" concluded by saying fuck was heard 629 times in this documentary.

Among the users were Dick Chaney on the Senate floor, Lyndon Johnson complaining that panty hose brought about the demise of finger-fucking, excerpts from the Nixon tapes, and on and on. There were many examples from cinema. The documentary claims the first Hollywood movie to include the word was "M.A.S.H." The representative of Think Films, who will be distributing the film, introduced the film saying, "It's fun, so enjoy." He was right.

Another film I was turned away from a couple of days ago that I was able to see today was "Zidane a XXI Century Portrait." I had earlier seen another documentary on Zidane, the greatest French soccer player ever, the man who led them to the World Cup Championship eight years go. He is a god here and this film was meant to further deify him. It followed his every move in a game he played for super team Real Madrid, with teammates Beckham and Ronaldo, a year ago. It trained 17 cameras on him, most in close-up. The movie is the game from first whistle until the final kick of the ball. There is no commentary, just the thud of the ball and cheering and occasional grunts. There is an occasional subtitle of comments from Zidane about his career.

This film will win no converts to the game. Any American who does not appreciate the game will use this as evidence to prove how boring it is, as Zidane spends a lot of time just shuffling about. But for the soccer fan, this could be pure bliss.

Later, George

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