Just before I left Chicago two weeks ago I saw a trailer at the Landmark for "God Bless America," the latest provocation from Bobcat Goldwait. It looked like a must see. I was disappointed I would miss it. So I was quite happy to see that it would have a market screening here on Day One, its only one, though in the small 45-seat Grey screening room. There was a good gathering waiting to be seated fifteen minutes before it was to start when I showed up. After a couple of minutes buyers were allowed entrance. Fortunately there were only five or six and then the ushers allowed the rest of us in. It was the only full house of my seven movies for the day, and justifiably so.
A divorced 40-year old misanthrope with a ten-year old daughter who doesn't want to see him has just been fired from his job for making unwanted advances on the company's receptionist. He is fed up with all and sundry and sets off on a killing spree with a teen-aged girl who witnesses his first killing, a pompous rich classmate of hers who is upset her parents gave her the wrong luxury car. She is thrilled at his audacity and asks if he takes requests. They are selective in whom they kill; though they have grievances against such a wide variety of people they could kill just about anyone. Their list includes reality show contestants and people who watch reality shows, Nascar fans, Mormons, punks, hippies, people who high-five, people who talk or text during movies, people who use the phrase "The Man," though fortunately not bicyclists, though they probably would have found reason to be upset with them as well.
The guy is an American version of the butcher in Gaspar Noe's masterpiece "I Stand Alone" who goes amok and spews forth one screed after another about the ills of contemporary society. It was most appropriate to be watching the movie in France, as the guy says the two of them ought to move to France or some other country that hates Americans, just as they do. She takes offense when he playfully refers to her as Juno, as she hated the cutesy dialogue from that movie and says they ought to add its screenwriter Diablo Cody to their hit list.
I was continually chuckling at the audacity and authenticity of the dialogue, about the only one of the mostly 20-something audience finding humor in it as it too much lampooned their values. About the only time I was joined in laughter was when he ended another of his diatribes saying, "I really hate this country. That's why we're moving to France. And you won't have to shower there."
If this movie had only opened a couple weeks earlier back home, rather than this past weekend, it would have brought to five the number of movies being screened here that I'd already seen, and all at the Landmark--"Thin Ice,"
"Darling Companion," "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" and "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie," all playing in the market.
And it would have allowed me a four sports movie day, as I had to sacrifice a South Korea golf movie "Mr. Perfect" to see it. Of my three sports movies there was still one from South Korea, "As One." I thought it was going to be a documentary about the 1991 table tennis world championships where the two Koreas combined as one team and won the woman's competition over the Chinese, but it was actually a feature film--130-minutes long trying to do full justice to this great event in Korean history. The recreation of the matches were sensationally staged in a huge stadium, the women whacking the ball back and forth with maniacal energy and sweat flying from their faces and giving each other intense glares before each serve. Though there were some melodramatic touches added to the story, it was still a most powerful and engaging story that will no doubt be a big hit in Korea.
I also thought the Australian surfing movie "Drift" might be a documentary, as it too was a true story, this one about the rise of a surf merchandising company in the 1970s by a couple of world class surfing brothers. The surfing was as sensational as the table tennis in "As One." The melodrama was more authentic in this movie--a love story between one of the brothers and a young Hawaiian woman on a surfing safari and her boy friend smuggling heroin into Australia inside surf boards from Indonesian unbeknownst to the brothers. They get mixed up with drug-dealing Hell's Angels types who make their life difficult and have difficulty getting loans from the local bank because they have long hair.
My third sports movie of the day, "Fondi '91," had virtually none of the sport I was hoping to see--soccer-- and what there was hardly had any veracity. This American independent was said to be inspired by real events--a New Jersey high school soccer team that went to Italy in 1991. The boys are more interested in women than soccer. Their boorish behaviour gets them in trouble with the boy friends of the Italian women they try to seduce. This had all the earmarks of a personal film by a director who had never made a movie before and thought he had a good story to tell.
The same could be said of "High Road," another American independent. I gave it a try because it seemed to be the most interesting of the five films in its time slot and its description included mention of "rude hookers." This movie was such a dud that even the full page ad in the daily Variety did not make it look interesting. Usually the photo promoting every movie makes it seem like something I'd like to see, but not this one. There was a fun little scene with a single rude hooker who badgers the young drug-dealer who is on the run from the cops for being a fag for not being interested in her. But that far from redeemed this movie.
I should have known better from my experience over the years to avoid American films in the market that have no star power. At least if a foreign film in the market is a dud, I have the pleasure of experiencing life in a foreign land. Such was the case with my final film of the night--"Ken and Mary: The Asian Truck Express"--a Japanese film about a salaryman who goes to Malaysia to prevent his daughter from marrying a Malaysian he doesn't approve of. The movie is a road trip getting to the wedding through the beautiful Malaysian countryside that had me wishing I were riding my bicycle through it. It was largely a slap stick comedy, but had a certain amount of social relevance.
I also gave "My Angel" a half hour look to start the day. I was the 18th person of the 27 eager to see the first film of the festival to walk out. This UK feature included Brenda Blythen in its cast, but she had only one brief appearance in the first half hour. It was a Christmas themed movie talking place in London with high production values but very low credibility. A woman is hit by a car and knocked unconscious and her teen-aged son receives a visit from her in his dreams telling him she won't recover unless he finds an angel's halo. He asks his brother if he can borrow his bike in his search for a halo because his has been nicked, but his brother won't lend it to him.
The first day of the festival before the invited films start showing is always a crap shoot. I did well to see three movies that I really liked and a fourth that held my attention. Not a bad start at all.