Friends: Soccer has traditionally been the dominant sport film at Cannes, both among features and documentaries. But not this year. In years past it's been a given that there would be a handful of documentaries focusing on a player or a team or the sport in general, but this year there's not a one.
One year there were two alone devoted to French star Zidane. He is the object of attention in an Indian film in the market, "Little Zixou," about a soccer-obsessed boy driven by the dream of enticing him to Bombay. Fixation on a soccer star is also at the center of Ken Loach's "Looking for Eric" in Competition featuring retired Manchester United star Eric Cantona, a man of French heritage. Love of the game is just one of the themes of this only marginally "socially realistic" film from the master of the genre. Realism is out the window when the film culminates with a crowd-pleasing, extravagant, fantastical revenge scene even beyond Clint Eastwood's wildest imaginings.
Cantona is one of two Erics in the movie. The other is an unraveling 50-year old postman. Cantona is his hero. He has a life-size poster of him in his bedroom amidst a galaxy of soccer memorabilia. He lives with his two teen-aged step-sons, who are not on the straight and narrow. They are hiding a gun for a friend of theirs. Eric the postman does occasional baby-sitting duty of his grand-daughter, as his daughter is busy completing her college degree. It forces him to become re-involved with his first wife, contributing to his turmoil. But his mates at work and his fellow soccer buddies are continually looking out for him. This was surprisingly gentle fare for Loach. All predictions are it will be his greatest commercial hit.
The publicist for the Bulgarian bicycling film "The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around" warned me before the screening that it was more of a backgammon film than a bicycling film. She said the director was hosting a backgammon tournament at the Bulgarian pavilion the next day between six and eight. I would have gladly attended if he'd had any kind of bicycling awareness. Even though the latter part of the film is a tandem ride from Germany to Bulgaria by a grandfather who has come to Germany to rescue his grandson, who is recovering from an automobile accident that erased his memory, there is little reality to their ride.
It was painful to watch the pair riding on a tandem that was way too small for them, preventing them full leg extension. Their knees would have been shot. Plus they wear long baggy pants. The grandfather won the Bulgarian Tour in 1954, but there is no evidence of that in his riding or his comments on bicycling. All the truths in this film are devoted to backgammon. But since I was once a devotee of the dice, the film was not a disappointment. It has played in quite a few film festivals, including Moscow, and was the audience favorite at another.
A parallel story line is the very realistically portrayed escape from Communist Bulgaria by the grandson as a seven-year old with his parents interspersed throughout the move. "Endgame" was an even more realistically told story of political events. I might not have sought it out if I hadn't recently spent two months in South Africa, but I was very glad that I did. It recounts the secret negotiations by representatives of the outlawed ANC party with Afrikaners in an English villa in the late 1980s seeking Nelson Mandela's release. William Hurt plays a South African philosophy professor integral to the negotiations. His accent and performance were most convincing. This film was so riveting, at one point as I was munching on a cheese crepe, I had to remind myself I was in France and not South Africa.
The program described the German film "Kaifeck Murder" as a thriller. It was more of a horror film about the murder of six people in a small Bavarian village in 1922. A photographer and his young son happen upon the village and then try to solve the mystery. I was regretting that for the second time I had been turned away from the Sundance mumblecore hit "Humpday" about a couple of guys who decide to make a gay porn film starring themselves, forcing me to see this.
I could have also done without "Dogtooth," a Greek film in Un Certain Regard. It was an absurdest tale of parents who hold their three grown children hostage in their villa, protecting them from the world. The father blindfolds a woman and brings her to his son periodically to fulfill his sexual desires. A cat is graphically killed. There are other surprise flashes of violence, a sister slashing her brother, one of the sisters clobbering herself violently several times trying to knock out her dogtooth, as when they lose their dogteeth they can learn to drive and go out into the world.
I made up for my no documentaries yesterday with two today, one on the Free Masons and another on a Swedish version of a Rainbow/Burning Man gathering. "Masons" was a Spanish production by a young woman whose father was in the Masons. Her film is a quest to understand the organization and also to join up. The Swedish annual gathering of 1,000 seekers occurs three miles north of the small town of Molkom in a forest alongside a lake. The movie takes it titles from the location, calling itself "Three Miles North of Molkom." It focuses on a handful of the participants. They include a young Australian rugby coach who has been invited to the gathering by a friend. He hates it, not relating at all to the "touchy-feely tree-huggers." But he is won over and doesn't want to leave.
I didn't make an attempt on the mid-day Palais screening of Lars Von Trier's film "Antichrist", awaiting the next day screening. If I fail to get in tomorrow, it'll have to wait until Sunday. And tomorrow is the screening of the final bicycling movie, the one from Albania. Always something exciting to anticipate.