Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day Four

Friends: Thanks to the tradition of inserting a Hollywood blockbuster with considerable star power into the Palais schedule early in the festival, I was free to start off the day with "Deadball," the second of two Japanese bicycling films in the market, skipping "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger T," even though one of the trade papers gave it high praise, predicting it was "poised to plunder massive worldwide coin."

A young boy with supernatural powers kills his father with his fastball after catapulting it from the heavens. He resolved never to play baseball again. He turns into a youthful samurai doing good deeds and bad. He's wanted on 54 charges including dropping televisions on people. When he's placed in prison he's forced to play on the prison baseball team by the crazed woman superintendent for a grudge match against a prison of young women whose uniform is black halter tops and and black leather short shorts supervised by men with swastika armbands. This movie piles on the campy elements and lapses into horror with frequent scenes of gushing blood. But its energy and inventiveness kept it alive.

Its been three years since prolific South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk, master of audacious cinema, has made a film. Turns out he has been a recluse all this time living in a tent inside a rundown shack without running water or a toilet, overcome by the near death of an actress on his last film and also by the betrayal of two of his assistant directors. He finally finds the courage to make another film, the only thing that brings him happiness. The film, "Arirang," is a documentary, though he calls it a drama, of how he has been living and also a confession and a lament and a howl over his break down and his many grievances with others and life in general.

Much of the film is a monologue with him pouring his heart out, breaking into tears on occasion. He enlists an alter ego at times to fire questions at him and even his shadow, who asks, "What is life about." He concludes that life is sadism, self-torture and masochism, just like his films. His shack has posters of his previous 15 films and also many of the awards that he has won from festivals all over the world and from South Korean for bringing honor to the country. Seeing his first film that brought him international attention, "The Isle," at the Toronto Film Festival in 2000 is one of my all-time favorite film festival moments and one of the reasons I keep attending film festivals, to make such discoveries. This is another remarkably original film just like all of his others that will please his many fans.

A ten year old aboriginal boy living in an aboriginal community where the norm is alcohol and drug abuse seems doomed to the life himself in "Toomelah." He's already dropped out of school and is smoking. His grandmother is mostly upset that he is smoking, as he will be just another who will try to steal her cigarettes. He has no positive role models. His parents life apart. His father is a drunk and tries to get him on the right track so he doesn't end up like him, but he has no respect for his father and refuses to live with him. His mother isn't much better. Much of the cast is non-professional. Not much happens in this all too realistic portrayal.

"Bonsai" was a made-to-order film for Cannes, according to its young Chilean director, taking on the challenge of Cannes Thierry Fremaux who promised him he would program a Chilean film if he would make one. He had the formula down--a polished, arty film, with convincing performances about some young struggling writers. The film flashes forward and back between their student days and their young adult hood. The film looked nice, and was a palatable film-going experience, but didn't amount to much.

"Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times" was my documentary for the day. The film maker seemed to have begrudging access to the editors of The Times, who had a lot more on their minds trying to run a newspaper and remain alive in these turbulent times, than catering to a camera being in their faces. A key story during the filming was the first Wikileaks leak of the video of American soldiers on the attack. The editors have to decide if Wikileaks is a credible source or if it is a competitor in these transitional times for newspaper with the internet taking away their readers and advertisers. Comparison is drawn to The Times releasing the Pentagon Papers. If the Internet had been around then, Ellsberg could have released them all on a website of his own choosing. The film raised worthwhile points, but didn't fully know where it was going.

I was all set to end the day with "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" at the Debussy when I ran into my friend Ralph from Telluride, attending Cannes for the first time. I have been mentoring him on the ins and outs of the festival. He's got it pretty well figured out, while making discoveries of his own. One was that there was a press screening of the Competition film "The Kid With A Bike" by the Dardenne brothers, a film we were both very eager to see, starting momentarily next door that he thought we might be able to get into. He was right.

The "bike" in the title was not just an incidental mention. The kid in the movie rides his bike a lot and is very desperate to get his bike back at the outset of the movie. He has been living in a foster home after his father abandoned him. The kid knows his bike is still at the apartment building where they lived. He manages to escape the foster home to try to get his bike and also to find his dad. The authorities at the foster home know enough where he is headed. When the frantic chase continues into a doctor's office, the young boy latches on to a young woman in the waiting room. It takes all their efforts to pry him off. The young woman is so moved by the incident, she tracks down his bike and takes it to the boy at the foster home. He pleads with her to let him come stay with her on weekends. She agrees.

She helps him track down his father, who wants nothing to do with the boy, who is a somewhat out-of-control delinquent. The young woman, a hair-dresser, discovers she has more on her hands than she realizes, but she is too golden-hearted to give up. He gets into deep trouble and is almost as belligerent and disobedient as the young boy in Lynn Ramsey's "We Need To Talk About Kevin" as well as the aboriginal boy in "Toomelah" an emerging theme of the festival.The Dardennes specialize in social realism. This doesn't match their two Palm d'Or efforts, but it is another significant contribution to the world of cinema.

Later, George

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