Friends: I was lured to see the market screening of "My Place in the Sun" from France, as its description in the festival catalog mentioned it began with a teenager riding his bike getting hit by a car, setting off a series of encounters. It didn't promise too much bicycling, but it was the lone bicycle reference in the entire program of the more than thousand films playing here, so I felt obligated to give it a look.
It wasn't long into this hodgepodge of miserable characters, who made anyone watching the movie feel miserable, that I began seething at the absolutely unnecessary mention of the bicycle in the description, leading me to being there. The movie does start with a kid joyously riding his bike, celebrating his sense of freedom, just before he is hit by someone pulling out of his driveway without looking, but there is no more biking in the movie, nor even the kid, only the
older driver who is one of the lost souls of this prototypical French film of characters bemoaning their meaningless lives, looking for lovers and ruining their lives in the attempt.
The perils of getting laid was also the theme of the French film "Just About Love?" This one focused on teens who were desperate to lose their virginity. The film opens with two girls walking along, talking about a classmate who lost her virginity the day before and how they ought to make a resolution to do the same before the end of the school year. "But that's just a week away," one says. "How about by September." They both succeed in getting laid much
more hastily than they anticipated, leading to all sorts of misery and despair. Van Sant's "Paranoid Park" included a similar story thread, but was high art compared to this run-of-the-mill, rambling, but probably all-too-true, story.
A third French film for the day, "A Lost Man," included a series of encounters with prostitutes in the Middle East by a vagabond French photographer who enjoyed photographing his amorous encounters with one hand as they were transpiring. At the center of this true story was the photographer befriending a mysterious male and trying to figure out his past. He is very evasive and combative at times, but the photographer is relentless, even hiring a prostitute to learn more about him. At least this film took place in an interesting environment.
The Competition category offered another exceptional film that is making this year better than
most. "The Edge of Heaven" by the German/Turkish director Fatih Akin splits its time between Germany and Istanbul following six characters (two sets of mothers and daughters and a father and son--four Turks and two Germans). The spellbinding, continually evolving plot includes the unfortunate, accidental deaths of two of them.
The linear plot, which doesn't try to interweave multiple stories simultaneously, but just proceeds relentlessly ahead, follows a Turkish/German professor of German to Turkey, where he tries to track down the daughter of his father's live-in prostitute. Ironically, the daughter has come to Germany to track down her mother. The daughter is involved with a militant group in Turkey and seeks asylum in Germany. She is befriended by a good-hearted young woman who
has recently returned from several months in India. Her mother does not appreciate the intimacy of their friendship.
The day's other Competition film, Hungarian Bela Tarr's "The Man From London," wasn't quite as well-received. It was by far the most walked-out upon movie to play so far. His fans, however, will be delighted with this moody, murky, black-and-white affair that begins with a signature, snail-paced, 12-minute pan of a ship in harbor at night. It takes all one's powers of concentration to figure out what is going on. A night watchman at the ship yard recovers a suitcase full of money that a man from London has come to retrieve.
The only movie I could squeeze in between Bela Tarr and the bicycle movie was "Summer Love," reputed to be the first Polish Western. It would most likely be a waste of time, which it was, but one never knows.
I also squeezed in thirty minutes of the final installment of Ken Burns' "War." There had been three four-hour programs over the last three days preceding this last two-hour segment. I was hoping Burns might be there to introduce it, giving me the opportunity to let him know his favorite Telluride Film Festival staffer, Lyndon, had recently married. Burns hasn't missed a Telluride Festival in twenty years and is one of its strongest supporters.
Burns was indeed there, but he was late in arriving, and was hurried directly to the stage. And
as is required by all directors at such special presentations, he was obligated to sit and watch his
film so he could be applauded by the audience at its conclusion, preventing me from having a word with him. If it had been crucial, I could have sat through the film and caught him on the way out, but that would have meant the sacrifice of two other movies. There were only about 50 people in the 300-seat Bunuel theater, so it would have been no difficulty talking to him afterward. Ken will just have to wait until September to find out, if he hasn't already.