Friday, May 16, 2008

Day 2

Friends: Cannes isn't official until a Depardieu film has been screened. There were two today, up against each other, both in the market. One was a disco dancing movie and the other a Jew-returns-to-Israel movie--Hello Goodbye. That was an easy choice, what with Israel fresh in my travel experience. Plus I shuddered to imagine that whale of a man on the disco floor. But the off-to Israel movie put Depardieu on the tennis court for a quick scene, though only from the waist up and in close-up as he whacked a couple of balls while playing doubles with his wife Fanny Ardant.

Depardieu plays a gynecologist, a not so uncommon profession in cinema these days, with grown children. His wife is bored with their Parisian existence and suggests they immigrate to the homeland. Depardieu isn't so excited about the idea but he goes along with it. What follows is a comic series of mishaps. The job he had been promised is not available. There is an abundance of gynecologists in Israel so he is reduced to washing cars. The house they had put a 25% deposit on hasn't been built and the contractor is bankrupt. Depardieu's wife is falling in love with the rabbi who is teaching her Hebrew and Jewish history. The container with all their belongings was damaged in transport and was pitched into the sea. They are given 322 euros in damages. It was nice to see various historic sites in Jerusalem and the beaches of Tel Aviv, but the highlight of the movie was seeing Depardieu interrogated by the actor who played the Egyptian band leader in "The Band's Visit" when Depardieu elects not to board a fight leaving Israel to return to France. The movie would have been a lot more worthwhile as a drama than as a comedy.

This was the third Israel-themed movie I had seen in two days. The first had been the first half of a documentary on Israel's prime minister Sharon, who is presently in a coma, that I squeezed in on Day One. The best of the lot was the Competition entry "Waltz with Bashir" that Milos liked so much, the second film I saw in the Palais today. It was exceptional, not only in its animated style, but in its substance, the lead reliving his nightmare experience as a young soldier 25 years previously.

The theme for the day was prison experiences. It was the subject of three of the six films I saw. "Lion's Den" from Argentina offered the story of a 20-year old pregnant woman who is placed in a special prison for mothers with young children after she has been charged with the murder of her boy friend. She denies it, though she can't remember the circumstances of his death other than finding him in their bed with a guy. Both she and the guy are injured, but it isn't clear who has done the killing. The film unflinchingly portrays what such prison life is like and how the women look after each other. Its far from a pretty experience, though heart-warming at times as well. She comes from wealth. Her mother returns from overseas to look after her, but her help isn't particularly welcome. The lead is the wife of the director. She is an early contender for the best actress award.

"Hunger" was an even more graphic portrayal of prison life--this one of IRA prisoners in 1981. It is the true story of a hunger strike that left ten prisoners dead. Its lead also gives an extraordinary performance, starving his body to a virtual skeleton. There is extreme violence, guards beating prisoners, and extreme abuse of bodies. This a not a movie for the faint of heart. There is minimal dialogue the first half of the movie, concentrating on the pain of prison life and then an extraordinary scene of non-stop dialogue done in one shot between the leader of the strike and a priest, as he tells the priest what he is about to undertake--not suicide, but martyrdom.

One of the three segments of "Tokyo", each by a different director, featured a prisoner. A man-monster who has been terrorizing Tokyo is finally caught, imprisoned and put on trial. He speaks a language that only two other people in the world can understand. Godzilla is the most popular character in Japanese cinema. Fascination with monsters, scarce and cramped living quarters and the neuroses of the young confining themselves to their apartments and never leaving are common themes of Japanese life and were the three subjects featured in this movie. They were each well done.

"Freezer Burn" was my wacky throwaway movie of the day. I knew I was taking a chance seeing this Canadian feature on global warming with Crispin Glover playing an alien who dresses in black and speaks with a Dutch accent, but I was wiling to give it a chance. Glover and a cohort have come to earth to accelerate global warming so they can turn earth in a Club Med for aliens. They choose to set up their operation in Canada because the people there are so polite and follow orders, they will make good attendants for the Club Med. It is November and the temperature is still so hot the ice is melting in the indoor hockey rink, a genuine catastrophe for the Canadians. One local frets, "It is hotter than two gophers fucking a wool sock." All but one person in this market screening bailed within 15 minutes seeing that this movie was more tacky than wacky and that Crispin Glover was only a minimal presence.

Later, George

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