Thursday, May 17, 2007

Day 1

Friends: I'll have to wait until the end of the festival when all the Competition films are rescreened to see Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's Opening Night Film "My Blueberry Nights," his first filmed in the U.S. Both press screenings were packed with press leaving no room for us with Market passes and since I brought no formal attire I couldn't get into the two
official screenings. Early reports though are I didn't miss much, other than another sterling performance from Daid Straithern. He's been piling them up lately, since even before "Good Night and Good Luck." He would make a worthy tributee at any film festival.

That was the only film of any significance playing on Day One of the festival, so all my other choices were shots in the dark in the Market, most of which were misfires. Anyone can pay to have a film shown in the Market, unlike the four competitive categories, which are by invitation. In years past the market screenings didn't commence until mid-afternoon on the first day of the fest as the 35,000 attendees of the festival gathered. But this year the screenings began with a pair at 9:30, and then another 85 scattered throughout the day, about a third of what it will be

I was among six other eager beavers at the 9:30 screening of the American documentary "Rock the Bells" about a young gung-ho promoter trying to pull off a final concert performance of the Wu-Tang Clan with ODB. He was like an Internet entrepreneur that have been profiled in other documentaries. He had to mortgage his house without his wife's approval and get a loan from his mother. I only intended to watch the first half hour before slipping into something I had more desire to see unless it was something truly exceptional. I had few fears of that happening. The highlight was catching a glimpse of a yellow Livestrong wristband on one of the band members as he was making a call on his cell phone.

There was a considerably larger audience for "A Bloody Aria," as it was from South Korea, a national cinema that has a strong following. It began and ended with operatic flourish and in between was filled with menace and mayhem. A music professor has designs on a female student. She accompanies him on a drive out into the country. When he speeds through a red light, he comments, "Only fools abide by the rules." He's pulled over by a cop and protests, "You must be mistaken. I always abide by the rules." His lies and duplicity get the both of them in deep trouble when he gets his car stuck in the sand alongside a river, fails in his seduction of his student and a quartet of thugs happen upon him, two of whom have a hostage in a burlap bag
on the back of one of their motorcycles. With its oddball elements and bent to the macabre, it owes much to Kim Ki-Duk, who is the master of such films.

"I Hate My Job" would more aptly have been titled "I Hate My Life." This English production features five women, including Neve Campbell, who work in a semi-upscale restaurant. The movie opens with the monologue of the prep cook, who has been elevated to head cook that day even though she's ill-prepared for the position. She's an aspiring novelist who has just received a rejection letter from a publisher saying her novel reads like a saxophone solo in misery. The
same could be said for the characters of this movie.

I greatly anticipated "Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust," a Japanese comedy about a woman who
inadvertently invents a time machine. She decides to go back in time 17 years to save the Japanese economy from going bust, trying to persuade the government not to pass the legislation it did on March 30, 1990 that led to the Japanese bubble bursting. When she doesn't
return, her daughter, who works as a bar hostess, is sent to rescue her. She is almost helpless without her cell phone and is appalled by disco and has everyone telling her to pull up her jeans as they hang low exposing her navel. There is much commentary that only someone truly familiar with Japanese society would understand--references to upcoming writers and movie stars and sports figures. She tells a soccer player on the national team she runs into at a disco
what to do to avoid a defeat and win the World Cup.

Taking the risk to get into the four p.m. press screening of "My Blueberry Nights" and failing
prevented me from seeing another South Korean film, this one called "Bunt" about baseball and also a Danish film about a bank heist. There are lots of heist films in the market, so I'll have plenty of chances for another. So I had to settle for the French film "Please Don't Go" about a psychiatrist who discovers a patient of his is having an affair with his wife. This was hardly an original subject, though when the patient discovers he's been spilling the beans to the psychiatrist he withholds his knowledge and engages in a game of mental warfare on the couch,
that the psychiatrist soon realizes as well and continues the game. This was competently done and will satisfy French audiences who thrive on verbal byplay.

I feared it would be buyers only for Steve Buscemi's "Interview," a film he stars in as well as
directs. The sixty-seat theater nearly filled and was my biggest audience of the day, but there was no selectivity to who could get in. Buscemi plays a jaded reporter who is accustomed to covering worldly events, but has grown suspect with his editor for using unreliable sources and has been reduced to personality profiles. The interview of this 81 minute movie is with a young woman starring in a TV situation comedy and has also starred in a series of b-movies. Buscemi
isn't happy at all about having to interview her. He's greatly frustrated not to be in Washington pursing the latest Chaney scandal. His mood is soured even further when the actress arrives an hour late for their interview at a restaurant just a few blocks from her loft.

He begins the interview admitting he hasn't seen any of her movies or her TV show. That doesn't please her at all. As they become increasingly adversarial he admits he did see one of her movies on a flight but with the sound off. Even paying it that little attention he was so irritated by it he wished the plane would go down. She curtly cuts off the interview, but ends up taking him back to her loft when the cab he is in crashes, bloodying his head. She feels responsible because the cab driver was distracted by her walking by on the sidewalk and began talking to her, then slams in to a truck. The interview goes on for a couple of hours as they alternately bare their souls and start bonding, then reject each other and hurl invective insults. Buscemi is his usual brilliant self and Sienna Miller is quite good too.

I ended the day with "My Brother." Not even Tatum O'Neal as a seductress could save this movie. The brother is a mentally challenged (retarded) black man in his 20s. He lives with his older brother, who looks after him, and is an aspiring comic with virtually no talent. He is reduced into some criminal activity, which he bungles, sending thugs after him. The movie had the best of intentions, but fails miserably. As a misfire, it has barely enough gunpowder to dribble a bullet out of a gun barrel. Venessa Williams is the single parent who raised them,
seen in flashback, as she dies when they are pre-teens forcing the boys into separate orphanages.

Later, George

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