Among the classic films playing at the outdoor theater on the beach each night is "Jaws." Its not the only film at the festival with predatory fish. There were two such films today, Jacques Audiard's Competition entry "Rust and Bones" and a last minute market entry "Una Noche."
"Rust and Bones" was the first official Competition entry after last night's "Moonrise Kingdom," a rare Opening Night film that is also part of the twenty film field in Competition. With no tuxedo and no invitation I wasn't able to see "Moonrise" and also passed on its second screening today not wishing to squander an hour's time waiting in line putting it off until the end of the festival despite my eagerness to see any film with Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton. I can say the same thing about an Audiard film. He doesn't make bad films. "Rust and Bones" is no exception. It is another highly pleasing film with all sorts of distinct originality.
The predatory fish in "Rust" are killer whales. One of the whales bites off the legs of a whale-tamer during a performance at a large French aquatic center. The woman was world-weary to begin with and is near suicidal after this, a nurse having to grab a knife from her while she is still in hospital recovering.
Even more hardened and world-weary is a bouncer from a night club she met just before this happened. He is a pugilist with a strong animalistic nature, but has a considerate soul. She gives him a call several months after she loses her legs and they become a couple in a most unconventional relationship. It is a while before they become lovers, but he revives her will to live.
The predatory fish in "Una Noche" are sharks that circle around three young Cubans trying to cross from Cuba to Miami on a make shift raft of two car tires and wood and a motor that one of the Cubans traded his bicycle for. This was another exceptional film portraying the life of desperation that most live in contemporary Cuba with many resorting to the sex trade to survive. I lucked into this film after being turned away from "Phantom," a film starring Ed Harris as a Russian submarine captain. I knew nothing about "Una Noche." It was actually my fifth choice at the noon time slot, but it was proof that one must take chances on what one sees at film festivals.
My two o'clock film was another film by an accomplished French director, Benoit Jacquot, "Farewell My Queen" playing in the market. The queen is Marie Antoinette. The person bidding her farewell is her young servant who reads books to her. The movie opens on the day of the storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789 and follows the activities at Versailles over the next week while the King and Queen and everyone else are deciding whether to flee or not. Marie stays but sends her reader off with her lesbian lover, a duchess who Marie has her reader impersonate as the duchess is on the list of 286 people that the revolutionaries wish to behead. It was a nice little history lesson.
The movie I was most looking forward to this day was the first of the two bicycle movies listed in the program,"One Mile Above." The single line blurb in the program implied it was the documentary of a Taiwanese bicycling 2,000 miles across China to Tibet. It was actually a feature film recreating such an adventure. The bicyclist was inspired to make the trip, as it was something his older brother intended to do but died prematurely. He has minimal bicycling experience but undertakes the trip despite warnings from friends and people along the way that he will die. He almost does in this highly stylized feature that turns the trip into a horror movie with perilous crashes and attacks by ferocious wild dogs and an enraged truck driver and pushing his bike through snow. The scenery is spectacular, but the story is a lot of hokum. The film-makers were so proud of their large scale effort that the credits included shots of their filming the movie in the treacherous terrain.
Ralph and I were turned away from a documentary on Roman Polanski. That allowed us to see a 1954 Indonesian film "After the Curfew" recently restored by Martin Scorsese's organization. In on the restoration was New York critic Kent Jones, who was there to introduce it along with Pierre Rissient and Thierry Fremaux. This was a big enough event to attract jury member and arch cinephile Alexander Payne, who was introduced by Fremaux and given kudos for being there. I was only able to see the start of the film as it overlapped with "One Mile Above." I was sorry to have to walk out on it in front of such a distinguished audience.
I finished off the day with two "Un Certain Regard" films, "Mystery" from China and "Student" from Kathastan. "Mystery" was a superb portrayal of the emerging middle class in China. Such a strata of society did not exist even two years ago. It is a story of adultery with some police corruption thrown in. It was a standard story, but I kept marveling at all the stuff the young family had and how well everyone dressed and how well-fed everyone was in contrast to Chinese movies in the recent past. It took place in Wuhan, a city I lingered in for a few days awaiting a cycling partner a couple of year ago, who ended up having an epileptic seizure there, stranding us an extra day.
"Student" portrayed life in a country not so well off. It was inspired by "Crime and Punishment" and was told in a droll Kaurasmaki style that would not appeal to everyone. I saw Charles for the first time just before the 10:30 pm screening. He had seen it earlier in the day and wasn't so enamored by it. I was plenty happy to have a final ninety minutes of cinema to watch on the huge screen in the thousand seat Debussy theater, finishing off another Great Day of Cinema.