Friday, May 25, 2012

Cannes Day Nine

Today was highlighted by a pair of first-rate, deeply unsettling films, each featuring a decent individual victimized by a malicious assault on their character that turns an entire community against them in a most vile and reprehensible manner.  One was a 40-year old, somewhat depressed, divorced guy who teaches kindergarten in a small Danish town.  The other was a teen-aged middle-class girl who has just moved to Mexico City from Puerto Vallarta with her father after her mother is killed in an automobile accident.

The Dane is falsely accused of molesting the daughter of his best friend in Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" that screened in Competition several days ago.  The community furor slowly builds, with all but one or two of his friends standing by him, along with his teen-aged son who pays an unexpected visit.  He's driven out of the local supermarket beaten by the burly butcher, one of a gallery of Nordic Viking types with rugged, chiseled features that make up the town's population.  A rock is thrown through his window while he's preparing a meal in his kitchen with his son.  His dog is killed.  He evicts his new girl friend from his house when she expresses her doubts. It gets worse and worse.  The little girl regrets the holy terror she has unleashed and tries to retract her accusation, but no one will let her.  No one would want to be in his predicament, but how can he escape it?

The Mexican girl suffers a similar hell in "After Lucia" when a classmate films the two of them having sex and then posts it on the internet.  Every student in her private school sees it.  Boys and girls make her a pariah.  Two girls wrestle her to the floor and cut off her hair.   A couple of guys follow her into the school bathroom and force their way into her stall with dropped trou and recorders going on their phones.  Unlike the Dane, she has nary a defender.

The other exceptional cinema event of the day was a conversation between 97-year old Norman Lloyd and Todd McCarthy with Pierre Rissient sitting in.  Lloyd is celebrating 80 years in show business after getting his start in the theater in New York in 1932.  His first film role was in Hitchcock's "Sabateur" in 1942.  There were no film clips as usually included in these "Master Classes" as there was no holding Lloyd's stories back of working with Hitchcock and Welles and Elia Kazan and Chaplin and Kubrick and countless other cinema legends.  He was a tennis playing partner of Chaplin's before he recruited him for "Limelight."  Also in the audience at this seminal event were Alexander Payne and Abbas Kiarostami, both introduced by Thierry Fremaux.  McCarthy's fellow critic and Telluride regular Scott Foundras also knew this was an event not to be missed  even though the the 300-seat Bunuel theater was only two-thirds full.

I sacrificed seeing "Beyond the Hills" the Romanian film I'm eager to see for it, putting that off until Sunday.  I did catch up though with two other Competition entries, "The Paperboy," which had its debut today and "In Another Country."  "Paperboy" was the fourth film with Hollywood connections in Competition, the most in a while, all very stylish and full of star-power.  This too oozed with lots of pizz-azz and sterling performances by Nicole Kidman as a gorgeous bimbo who has fallen in love with the creepy John Cusak, imprisoned and facing the death penalty for killing a cop.  Two reporters from the Miami Herald have come to this small  very racist southern town to try to save Cusack.    Every character is given outrageous eccentricities that go way too far, undermining the credibility of the story.

Rather than outrageous, over-the-top behavior, the characters in South Korea's Sangsoo Hong's movie are  always awkward, semi-buffoonish nebbishes.  That was the case once again in "In Another Country."  Even Isabelle Huppert, who is featured in the three separate segments of this film, is forced to behave in such a manner.  There is an occasional laugh and commentary on the human condition, enough to make Hong's films Competition regulars.  Like Kaurasmaki films his are an acquired taste for his small cult of devotees.

I squeezed in "Le Grand Soir" after Gary mentioned that it has a delightful cameo from Gerard DePardieu playing a seer who predicts the future peering into cups of sake.  Its not a Cannes festival without seeing Depardieu,  and I had managed to avoid him in the over 50 films I have seen so far.  He was a delight in this dark comedy of two brothers of polar opposites, one a mattress salesman and the other an unemployed punk with a mohawk haircut who goes around terrorizes innocents begging for money in supermarket parking lots, even hopping into their cars and refusing to leave until they give him some of their food, even a mere container of yogurt.  His brother suffers a breakdown and is fired from his job and joins in his brother's antics.

"Sightseers" was an even darker comedy.  It would make a good companion piece to "God Bless America."  A British guy and his new girl friend go off in a camper and become serial killers.  It was quite humorous until one of their victims is a touring cyclist, though one who was pulling a space age capsule trailer that he sleeps in.

This over-the-top comedy was quite a contrast to the Cannes Classic reprisal of George Launter's French '60s gently spy spoof "The Great Spy Chase."  Launter was wheeled on stage for a lengthy introduction.  It almost went on so long that Ralph and I were among the last handful of people to get into "Sightseers" immediately afterwards over at the Arcades to end another Great Day of Cinema.

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