Sunday, May 18, 2008

Day 4

Friends: There was enough interest in the Brazilian "Linha de Passe" by Walter Salles this Saturday morning that even people clutching those prized glossy Invitations were turned away. That allowed me to see "Light and the Sufferer," starting at ten a.m., in its entirety. I felt an obligation to give it a look as it is the first effort by Chris Peditto, brother of Paul Peditto, friend from Chicago and award-winning playwright. But first, after being denied at the Palias, I zipped the half mile on my bike to the former Noga Theatre, now the "Palais Stephanie," for a nine a.m. screening of the first Director's Fortnight offering of the day. It seats 500, but I could tell the twin lines already exceeded that capacity. So it was around the corner to the Star Theater for 40 minutes of "Road to Dawn" from China, a historical drama about Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, "the Father of Modern China". It was clear from the start, after a very clumsy portrayal of a woman on a bike being hit by a car, that this was a shoddy bio-pic. I had no difficulty bailing out of it prematurely. It was a few blocks down Antibes to the cluster of five screening rooms in the Gray Hotel.

If I hadn't made the effort to pay my respects to friend Paul, there would have only been one person in attendance at the lone screening of this American independent seeking someone to distribute it. Its not likely to happen, even after Peditto lucked into the film's lead, Paul Dano, being cast in "There Will be Blood" after filming this. Still, this story of two brothers, one a drug addict and all round fuck-up and the other straight and all too normal, has some appeal. When an alien masquerading as a panther type creature with a semi-human face makes its appearance galloping behind the taxi the two brothers are taking to the airport to escape to LA from New York after robbing Dano's drug dealer, I feared the movie was doomed to idiocy, but it actually enlivens the plot. No one they come into contact thereafter seems particularly alarmed by the panther, "Tony the Tiger," as Dano calls him. There is some signature Peditto crisp, snappy dialogue. The story moves along and is wrapped up in a tidy 70 minutes. I have seen much, much worse here over the years.

One of the most anticipated films of the festival is Soderbergh's two-part four-hour saga of Che Guevera. It screens Wednesday. An excellent companion piece will be the Netflix produced doc "Chevolution" telling the story of the photograph of Che that has become the most reproduced photo ever. It screened at noon today in the 150-seat Palais K screening room to a less than half-full theater. The photograph was taken by the Cuban fashion photographer Alberto Korda in 1960 when Che was on stage in Havana's Plaza de Revolution to mourn the loss of many Cubans in a terrorist explosion of armaments being unloaded off a Belgian ship in Havana. The film is as much a biography of Che as the story of the photo and the photograph. The photographer is long dead, but his daughter is one of the featured subjects. Its not clear when the photo was first printed, as it was not for months after it was shot. "Paris Match" may have launched it world-wide in 1968, though it had already been appropriated on posters for demonstrators. This was a most fascinating subject, very well told.

I couldn't resist "Transiberian" a Spanish film starring Woody Harrelson taking the legendary week-long train trip from Peking to Moscow. Harrelson is a hardware store owner from Iowa who hasn't had a very adventuress life. His wife has, so the trip is a gift to her. There is, of course, a murder committed along the way. Ben Kinglsey plays a police detective from Vladistock looking for drug traffickers. This was sumptuously shot, with scene after scene of the train passing through the vast snow-filled forests of Siberia. This was my first standing-room only market screening of the festival, though I was early enough to get a seat.

This ended just as the second Competition screening of the day, "24 City" from China was to start at the Palais. I could see there was no hope of getting in. That allowed me to see "Captain Abu Raed" a Jordanian film about an elderly airport janitor who is mistaken for a pilot by some kids in the neighborhood where he lives when he returns home one day wearing a pilot's cap that he retrieved from the trash. He goes along with the story after resisting it for a while, and enthralls the kids with stories of what it is like to fly the world. The plot veers from that, but it remains a heart-warming story. He befriends and looks after a handful of characters, including a woman pilot. He is well read and fluent in several languages. The woman pilot asks him why he is a janitor. He says, "There is a saying, 'He who chooses the humble life has guidance in his heart.'"
The Australian Gillian Armstrong went to Edinburgh, Scotland to film, "Death Defying Acts", a ravishing and riveting story about a woman, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, who tries to swindle Houdini, played by Guy Pearce, out of the $10,000 he has offered to any psychic who can communicate with his recently deceased mother. I wondered, as someone sitting behind me commented before the movie was to start, why the 71-seat Star 4 Theater wasn't packed.

I concluded my day with my only non-market screening of the day, "Tokyo Sonata," the second film in Un Certain Regard featuring Tokyo. This superbly tells the story of a man who has just lost his job but keeps it a secret from his wife and two teen-aged sons. He discovers a whole colony of salarymen such as himself who go off to work every day in suit and briefcase and have to find some way to occupy themselves. He takes advantage of a noon soup line for the homeless and hangs out at the library and just wanders. Not only his character, but his wife and son's are fully flushed out. The multiple story lines are well integrated. For awhile it looks as if the director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, doesn't have an ending, but then he delivers a knockout punch. This film offers great insight into many, many facets of Japanese culture.

Later, George

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