Friday, May 18, 2007

Day 2

Friends: "Zodiac" led off the Competition screenings today at the Palais at 8:30. Having seen it Stateside already I was free to start my day with the market screening of "The Last Winter," a cautionary tale of global warning by award-winning actor/director Larry Fessenden, director of American independents "Habit" and "Wendego." He ventures to an oil drilling site in the Alaskan arctic for this supernatural thriller.

It could be the last winter, as global warning has it raining in the arctic in February and the
permafrost is melting and nature has unleashed certain evil forces in retaliation to man's desecration. It hasn't been cold enough to freeze the tundra so the oil drilling company can put down a road to bring in their equipment. There is an alternative method of bringing it in on rollers, but the on site ecological consultant must approve, but he's not disposed to do it despite the bullying of the swashbuckling, wise-cracking oil man in charge nor the urgings of the
number two person on site, his former girl friend who is now sleeping with the environmentalist hoping to sway him. The three are part of an eight person crew working in isolation at this encampment of trailers. The intrigue among the three is enough to carry this picture, but there is much, much more to it. When one of the oil workers runs off naked into the arctic night, they all realize there are forces manipulating them they can't fathom. They begin to realize the
earth is fighting back and they are at its mercy.

Later in the day I saw the Canadian documentary "Manufactured Landscapes," which carried a similar theme of the crime of the desecration of the planet, as seen through the lense of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky. The film shows snippets of a Burtynsky lecture and also follows him in his quest to photograph mines, quarries, factories, dams, highways and other examples of the plundering of the planet. Much of the movie focuses on the vast construction
projects going on in China. This is an important and worthwhile film.

The highlight of the day by far was "Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days," a Romanian film depicting the anguish and terror of getting an abortion to a greater depth than it probably ever has been. It takes place in 1987 Romania when it was a serious crime with heavy prison time to get or give an abortion. The college student seeking the abortion is four months, three weeks and two days pregnant. The film spans the day she goes for her abortion. She is accompanied by her roommate. The abortion is arranged through an intermediary and they meet the abortionist that day. He is extremely cold and insensitive and makes a shocking demand of both of them before he will perform the abortion. It is all portrayed with such staggering, gut-wrenching realism it is hard to believe that the two women hadn't been through such a horrific experience. There isn't a false note to this powerful film that will make Top Ten lists around the world come December.

The three other features that followed all seemed trivial by comparison, though they were all
had merit. "Waterlilies" by a young first-time French woman director was about teen-aged girl synchronized swimmers and their sexual urgings. They aren't all sure if they like boys or girls. The film focuses on a girl too young to be a part of the team who has a crush on one of the girls. The director originally intended to film this as a short, but the subject matter seemed appealing enough that she was given financing to make it a feature-length film. This was good enough to have a film-festival and small art house life, but probably not much more outside of France.

Juliette Binoche added some zest to Hou Hsiao-hsien's "Flight of the Red Balloon," but
otherwise this film, which takes place in Paris, would have been just a little more than tedium. The hook is a red balloon that bobs and drifts about Paris at the beginning of the film and a couple times later and then at the end. Otherwise, its Binoche's nanny making pancakes for her son, listening to his wretched piano lessons, hearing the piano tuned. Hou Hsiao-hsein said
he wanted to examine what life is like for a single parent and child--pretty boring.

An emerging theme of the festival is relationships in crisis. Binoche's husband was off in Montreal trying to write a novel. She has one angry phone conversation with him. In the Romanian film the girl friend who is helping her friend has several arguments with her boyfriend, not sure of where they stand. In "The Last Winter" there are a number of
arguments in its love triangle. Several films yesterday also dabbled with such matters, while it was the subject of the French movie about the shrink. And it was the focus of today's final movie, "The Milky Way" from Brazil. It was all about a professor who fears he's losing his younger girl friend. The whole movie is his obsession with this. He spends all too much time driving around Sao Paulo in near grid-lock having nightmares, real and imagined. A nice sound track and artfully done, but another minor film.

Later, George

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