Monday, May 21, 2012

Cannes Day Five

Making up for my early dearth of docs, Day Five was a day of  five consecutive documentaries sandwiched between two conventional features on very common topics--dying and falling in love.

I hadn't intended to go doc crazy, it was just the way things fell into place.  The weather gets some of the blame, as an early afternoon shower that continued up through my midnight bike ride back to the campground, caused the dubious cancellation of "Beyond the Hills"  at the 60th Anniversary theater as its staff didn't wish to stand in the rain or keep those in line in the rain.  This Romanian Competition film by Palm d'Or winner Cristian Mungiu was one of the three films of the festival, other than the two bicycling films, that I was most looking forward to seeing and even more so after it received the highest score from "Screen" magazine's panel of ten international critics of the seven films that had played so far in Competition.  It received five four star reviews.  The only other film to receive any was "Rust and Bones" with two.

The rain definitely caused havoc.  It was the most significant rain I've experienced in the nine Cannes I've attended.  Luckily I wore my Goretex jacket on my ride in with the threat of rain, even though it caused me to work up quite a sweat biking into a fierce wind, as I was riding hard anyway  in a rush to make sure I got in line before eight am for Hanake's "Amour," one of the more anticipated films of the festival.  That didn't stop me though from detouring to the Grey Hotel for the daily editions of "Screen," "Variety" and "Hollywood Reporter."  For the second time of the festival Milos was there as well for his daily pick-up.  He confirmed that  "Beyond the Hills" was quite good.  After locking my bike I also crossed paths with Charles.  He too was in a beeline, but is always happy to stop for a quick chat.  He reported he missed Dolan's film as he had a meeting to attend and had to leave tomorrow so would miss any chance to see it.

Keller was already in line but Julie, also of Telluride,  hadn't arrived yet.  She was a few minutes late as she had been out late the night before at a party.  We had to sweat it out a bit as the overflow of press from the Palais came charging over at 8:30.  Keller with his ever pessimistic attitude thought we were doomed. He's a man with no good luck.  When he lost the coin flip with Ralph for the room with a view in the condo the are renting of the Mediterranean, he said he had never won a coin flip in his life. He was prepared to return to the apartment he is sharing with Ralph a mile away and load up his motorcycle and be gone if he didn't get in to this.  He was saved.  When we were given entry the theater wasn't even half full, though every seat was taken by screening time.

I kept waiting for something to happen in this meticulous but rather tedious depiction of the wife of an older well-to-do couple dying. Not even the occasional visit of their daughter, played by Isabelle Huppert, much perked it up.  About the only evidence of this being a Hanake film was the firing of a nurse.  She's not happy and says, "Fuck you, you old prick."  He tells her he hopes someone treats her as badly as she has treated his wife when she's in her condition.  I've lived the experience of this film twice looking after a grandmother the final month of her life and spending the final week of long-time girl friend Crissy's life at her hospital bedside.  I could certainly relate to what was going on, but I wasn't touched emotionally or brought to tears like some leaving the theater.

I had 45 minutes for my blog report and then began the docs with "The Convict Patient" about Mexico's John Hinckly, a man who tried to assassinate Mexico's president in 1970 upset with his handling of the student demonstrations in 1968 that prevented him from getting his diploma.   He was placed in a mental institution for 23 years where he was tortured and placed in solitary confinement.  He is now homeless, wandering the streets of Mexico City.  Mexico does have homeless shelters, but he prefers his freedom.

I almost forgot about "Moon Rider" and was going to make an attempt on "Beyond the Hills" at the Star theater.  But I will have a chance to see that the final couple days of the festival when all the Competition films are rescreened.  This bicycle documentary could not be missed.  I thought I was going to have a private screening of the Danish film, but two others slipped into the small Gray theater just before the lights went out.  Rasmus Quaade is a 19-year old Danish cyclist who has tested higher than any other Dane for lung capacity and wattage power before producing lactic acid.  He is one of the best time trialists in the world.  A camera crew followed him for better than a year preceding the World Championships in Australia two years ago and  then Denmark the following year as they knew he had a good chance of winning.  He crashed in Australia, though he would have had a tough time beating American Taylor Phinney, who was competing in the Espoirs category for those under 23 for the last time.  There is plenty of footage of him training and racing and commenting on the extent that he pushes himself, almost to the point of death.  He is shown collapsing several times at the end of races utterly spent.  This was very authentic.

My docs included a pair on American entertainers who came into their prime in the '50s and '60s--Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.  "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" was an official selection.  It was artfully and entertaining put together.  "Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom" was a by-the-numbers chronological story that could have been edited by any film student with a ponderous voice over.  A shot of the Statue of Liberty is shown to establish his birthplace in New York.  The Hollywood sign is shown when he goes to Hollywood.  If he had spent time in Paris there would have been an Eiffel Tower, but there was one anyway in the movie poster of "This Is Paris."  If nothing else, this movie distinguished itself as a rare movie that included the three great landmark icons--the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Hollywood sign.

Curtis did have a noteworthy career.  The film claims he was the first male cinema sex symbol, preceding Brando, Dean and Elvis.  It argues that if he had died young like Dean or Marilyn Monroe, who he had an affair with, he would be a great icon himself.  It took a while though before he had a significant cinema role with the "Defiant Ones" unlike the others.  The film is interspersed with a prolonged interview Curtis gave the film makers before his death in 2010.

The Lewis documentary in contrast is flashily edited and has numerous interviews with Lewis along with great accolades from Seinfeld, Crystal, Harrelson and others.  Spielberg is among them.  He took a class from Lewis at USC on editing.  The lectures from that class were put together in a book that Lewis says Scorsese always has on the set with him.  Before Lewis became a movie star, he and Dean Martin had a ten year career as comics until 1956.  They were as popular as the Beatles he says.  They had a run of performances in New York where they gave their show eights times a day and were given 90 per cent of the receipts.  There is footage of thousands of people mobbing the streets around the theater as if they truly were the Beatles.

Doc five for the day was by the 80-year old director of Cannes Gilles Jacob of footage he shot at the 60th Cannes anniversary five years ago when 35 directors each contributed a three-minute homage to cinema.  Many of those directors were on hand for this tribute to Jacob.  They were introduced individually and filled the stage--Loach, Kiarstami, Crononenberg, Salles, Moretti, the Dardennes, Polanski, Assayas, Lelouch.  It was a spectacular array of talent, all part of the Cannes family, but all male.  There has been a bit of a ruckus this year that there isn't a woman director in Competition, especially after there were four last year.  Only one woman has won the Palm d'Or, Jane Campion.  At least she was part of Jacob's movie.  Clips from most of those 35 shorts were included in the movie.  I remember them well from 2007 and was glad to see them again.

The long rainy day ended at "Confession of a Child of the Century," a French film in English starring Charlotte Gainsbourg as the object of the attentions of a slightly younger man in the early 1800s.  She initially resists him, but then gives in.  This was a typical stylish Un Certain Regard entry short of being anything special. 

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