Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cannes, Day Three

Friends: Today was the day of the first screening of the lone movie of the festival with the mention of bicycling in its description. Unlike last year's bonanza of four movies fully devoted to the bicycle, this is it for 2010, back to normal.

It was an Italian horror movie that I otherwise wouldn't have gone near, but I was at least rewarded with a healthy dose of mountain biking for the first twenty minutes until the bikers are taken hostage (kidnapped) along with several others and tortured by some ex-Nazi. The movie commences with the voice-over of an American soldier in Iraq writing a letter to his mother telling her how much he is looking forward to "getting out of this shit-hole and getting back on my bike." Someone has told him about some fantastic biking in the Italian Alps that he wants to try. As is the entire movie, the dialogue is in English.

Then there is an aerial view of him zooming along a dirt track through some stunning mountain scenery, my third straight day of such scenery. After he defends a woman mountain biker in a bar from a couple of thugs, the two of them are chased through the mountains by the pair in their car and also by their dog, as they shoot at them and try to run them down. The four of them fall into the lair of a Nazi who performs experiments on them. Unlike the virtual private screening I had of most of the bicycling films I saw last year, there was considerable interest in this. Horror continues to be popular.

I had forty minutes to spare between this screening and the next so I ducked into the Short Film Forum to search out the bicycling short "PediLove" recommended by Yonder Vittles. It was one of some 1,700 shorts submitted to the festival. The top ten will be screened. The rest are available to watch on computer. There was a mob of young film-makers hobnobbing in the short film quarters. It was a several minute wait before one of the forty computers was available.

Less than half of this eighteen minute short was a pedicab ride in New York's Central Park by a recent college graduate who is visiting Manhattan for the first time to meet her banker boy friend. While she waits for him to get off work she is pedaled around by a long-haired Nigerian. They hit it off. When her boy friend doesn't pay her enough attention when they meet, she goes back in search of the pedicab driver.

There was at least one other short featuring the bicycle--a young girl being given a ride on her father's bike. There was nothing out of the ordinary in it either.

I've been whittling my daily dose of documentaries down from three on day one to two yesterday and just one today--"Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel." The daily trades had full page ads in yesterday's editions advertising today's 9:15 a.m. screening. There was a huge throng outside the theater waiting to get in, but most of them were there to see a 30-minute promo of a John Landis film, with Landis introducing it. Only 13 in the crowd were there for the Hef doc.

Much of the doc is Hef sitting around his mansion in an array of silk pajamas recounting his life's story, though there was a full arsenal of others commenting on his extraordinary life. Of the many commentators (James Caan, Tony Bennett, Dr. Ruth, David Steinberg, Dick Cavet, Jesse Jackson, Pat Boone, Dick Gregory, Joan Baez, Jim Brown, George Lucas, Mike Wallace, his daughter, many former editors) the film-maker chose Gene Simmons of Kiss to lead off the parade saying, "There is not a man who wouldn't want to have lived Hef's life."

As most Hef profiles, this was dominated by bosoms, but there was also considerable time devoted to how he championed racial equality and free speech as well as sexual freedom, while building an empire along the way. This film makes a strong case for him being a seminal figure in the last half of the 20th century.

I passed on Oliver Stone's "Wall Street--Money Never Sleeps" in the Palais knowing it will be easily accessible when it opens in the States come fall, even though it would have been nice to get a four-month jump on the masses.

My lone Competition film for the day was "On Tour" directed and starring Mathieu Amalric, a French Steve Buscemi who won a slew of best-actor awards for his performance in "The Butterfly and the Bell Jar" a couple of years ago. Those on tour are several semi-washed up 30-year old American burlesque dancers. Amalric is leading them around France, alternately speaking English and French.

This seemed like a premise that would curry favor with jury president Tim Burton, a man whose first film was the bicycling film "Pee Wee's Big Adventure." But this was a surprisingly bland and pedestrian effort that just plods along. We learn nothing about the strippers. Too much of the film is devoted to Amalric's character with just random droplets of undigested biography dispensed. All of a sudden his two young sons join the tour. He occasionally leaves for no apparent reason. If he had concentrated on these aging women and their response to France it could have been a helluva movie.

Kevin Kline and Paul Dano share an apartment in "The Extra Man." One of their neighbors is a bicycle-riding John C. Reilly with a flourishing beard half way to his waist. This movie had wackiness to spare. Kline is "an extra man," someone who is on call to accompany wealthy Manhattan widows to their art openings and dinners. He's a full-fledged eccentric just barely scraping by. Dano comes to Manhattan after being fired from the Princeton prep school where is was teaching for being caught trying on a bra. He pursues his cross-dressing in New York. This is one of those movies in the market hoping to stir up some interest, but probably won't find much. I'll be among the few to have ever seen it, even though it wasn't half-bad.

I'll also probably be one of the few non-Taiwanese to see "Rail Truck." I had no intention of seeing it myself, but two other movies I wished to see in its time slot were sold out. But it wasn't a total disappointment. I learned that Japan occupied Taiwan during WWII and that those Taiwanese who supported the Japanese war efforts received better rations than those who didn't.

A young Japanese mother living in Tokyo visits her in-laws on Taiwan for the first time with her two young sons after her Taiwanese husband dies. Her father-in-law resents that even though he served in the Japanese army, he hasn't been able to collect a pension or even had a word of thanks in 60 years.

It was a day of mobs fighting to get into movies. My third and final for the day was the 10:30 pm screening of "Chatroom." The mob was extra impatient as the Debussy staff didn't begin seating us until 10:30, delaying the start until nearly eleven. There was great interest, especially among the young, to see this UK thriller based on the play of the same name about teens and Internet chatrooms.

The set designer is one of the stars of this production, bringing chatrooms most-stylishly to life as if they were an extra dimension in the universe. Teens contemplating suicide is the dominant theme. The parents of one who had slit his wrists, but survived, are in joint therapy with their son. They thought he had overcome his suicidal impulses, but he hasn't. There is much fast-paced commotion of teens in disarray.

Tomorrow I have a Parisian motor-cycle courier film to check out.

Later, George

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