Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cannes Day Seven

I made my first dabble in to the Critic's Weekly and Director's Fortnight sidebars today in repeat screenings, one recommended and the other because I was shut out of the Debussy at the end of the day and had no other choice.  I didn't realize "Augustine" was a Critic's Weekly selection otherwise I would have waited to see it on awards night, as it could well be its winner.

But seeing it now adds another film to the emerging festival theme of inappropriate, or, at least, ill-advised, sex.  Augustine is a young French servant girl  in the 1800s who has unexplained epileptic fits. She is being studied by a doctor.  He puts her on display for colleagues, inducing her fits by hypnotizing her.  He wishes to disprove the theory that such fits are evidence of being a witch.  The two of them give into their animalistic urges and fall into each other's arms and go all the way, leaving the doctor very disturbed.

If I had the time for a think piece I could write about all the other instances of such behaviour in the close to 50 films I have now seen--a priest and a social work in the Argentinian film "White Elephant", an undercover cop getting a blow job from a prostitute he is investigating in "Code "37" and his superior, a woman, having sex with a witness to a crime she is investigating, all the flabby 50-year old women in "Paradise" having sex with young Africans...

Sex got the illustrator Tomi Ungerer in trouble when this prominent children's book writer started also doing erotic drawing, resulting in all his books being banned from libraries in the 1970s.  He made for an extraordinary subject in the documentary "The Tomi Ungerer Story--Far Out Isn't Far Enough."  He was most articulate and has had an extraordinary life.  He grew up on the France/Germany border during World War Two before coming to America in 1956 with just 60 bucks in his pocket, making the most of the Land of Opportunity.  I was glad that Gary of Telluride recommended this. "Far out isn't far enough" was just one of his mottoes along with "don't hope, cope" and "expect the unexpected."

That was the first of four documentaries for the day.  I saw "The Last Projectionist" not by recommendation, but at the request of projectionist Kirk from Chicago. This UK production interviews a handful of long-time projectionists, five of them gathered around a table, and several others interviewed in their theaters, talking about their love of their dying profession.  They weren't as passionate or as interesting as Tomi Ungerer.  More than half the film is about the present state of movie theaters in the UK, focusing on a couple of small renovated theaters with deluxe seating.

I also saw a pair of documentaries on trash, one that had played earlier in the festival in an Out of Competition slot, shot by the German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, who won a best script award from the festival a few years ago.  "Polluting Paradise" didn't receive the best of reviews, but I had an interest in it not only for its subject but also its location, a small Turkish tea-growing town overlooking the Black Sea.  Akin spent five years following the story of a town converting an abandoned copper mine into a dump.  It faced opposition from the very beginning.  It put a stench in the air that revolted all the residents and even the fishermen at sea.

"Trashed" had even more star power behind it (Jeremy Irons) and was also granted a prized Out of Competition slot.  Irons not only narrated the film but also served as a roving reporter going to dump sites all over the world--one just outside of Beirut along the Mediterranean, Iceland, the huge swirl of garbage in the middle of the Pacific, Indonesia, San Francisco and elsewhere.  Irons was there to introduce the film, looking as suave as ever.

The star of the day though was Brad Pitt, on the red carpet for "Killing Them Softly."  I was there for its nine am press screening in the 60th Anniversary.  Pitt plays an enforcer who is summoned to New Orleans to find the people behind the robbery of a super high-stakes poker game.  Like "Lawless" earlier in Competition this is a very polished and sharply written genre piece with loads of stylized violence and entertaining low lives.  There was one tension-filled scene after another.

My seventh and final film of the day was the Director's Fortnight "3" from Uruguay.  It was at the Arcades, which meant no English subtitles.  I have one such experience each festival.  I could cope well with this film, picking out a few words of the Spanish dialogue and much of the French subtitles.  The dialogue wasn't too complicated in this story of a teen aged girl who is just awakening to her sexuality, giving hand jobs to her boy friend and flirting with somewhat dangerous guys a little older than her.  The lead gave a superbly convincing performance.

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