Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day One

Registration in the market is up ten per cent this year. That may have contributed to my having to settle for my second and third choices of movies I wished to see in my first two time slots of Cannes 2013. There were more than a hundred of us hoping to get into the 73-seat Palais screening room for Paul Schrader's "The Canyons" with Lindsay Logan and Gus Van Sant. It was easily the movie to see in the opening ten a.m. time slot with only two other choices, one a horror movie and the other an animated feature about Africa. Tomorrow there will be nearly fifty choices per time slot, but not on this first day while people are still gathering.

Arriving fifteen minutes early wasn't early enough, so I was among those turned away. I was slowed down by the new ultra strict policy about what one can bring into the huge Palais complex with its twenty screening rooms and hundreds of market booths. My tire irons, which I carry at all times in case I have a flat tire, raised the concerns of the man perusing the contents of my pack. I had to plead my case with two supervisors before I was allowed to bring them in. Water bottles too were not being allowed in, though it was rather arbitrary depending upon on how thorough one's bag was being checked. This guy let mine in, but not the next.

Three times during the day I had to pass through the checkpoint with six lines and six checkers. Another time I was told I couldn't bring in my cheese sandwiches and can of ravioli. I left the ravioli on a water bottle cage on my bike and simply stuffed the sandwiches into the pockets of my vest. The ravioli was still on my bike when I returned to it four hours later. The third time I entered, the checkers had been somewhat restrained and hopefully will remain so. If not, that may have some bearing on my choice of movies.

The highly-sexed lives of Africans was the predominant theme of the well-done animated feature "Aya of Yop City." It was one of three films of the six I saw today with a young woman becoming pregnant, leading to marriage. In this one the woman marries the nerdy bald son of a wealthy beer baron. When the baby looks nothing like the nerdy guy, but rather a suave unemployed guy with a full head of frizzy hair, the giveaway, the beer baron wishes to annul the marriage, which he wasn't all that enthusiastic about to begin with.

I had to settle for my third choice of films at noon, after I was turned away from "Crystal Fairy" about an American traveler in Chile and then denied entry to the Palais complex because of a bottle of chocolate milk in my bag preventing me from seeing the Italian film "About Face" concerning plastic surgery. All that was left was "The Starving Games" a spoof on "The Hunger Games," something I really didn't want to see. But since I felt obliged to see something, if only to monitor the many strands of cinema on offer, I begrudgingly subjected myself to it. The program said I only had 82 minutes of it to endure. It was actually 72 minutes and it was padded by several minutes of out takes that were no better than the film. It was a polished effort that may find an audience, though not on my recommendation. It was one of two films I saw today with an Internet reference--a no-good character in the movie is Mel Gibson's only Facebook friend.

The other Internet reference came in my next film, "The Gilded Cage." A French couple, whose son is going to marry a Portuguese woman he impregnated, goes to Wikipedia to read up on Portugal before going over to their apartment for dinner. The pregnancy is a minor strand in this story of a Portuguese couple who have served as the concierges in a Parisian condo complex for 32 years. They are well liked by everyone. They have just inherited the business of the husband's brother in Portugal that will earn them 200,000 euros a year along with his chateau. They like Paris very much and aren't sure if they want to give up their life there, but if they wish the inheritance, they have to move back to Portugal. They have two weeks to make their decision. They wish to keep the inheritance a secret from all their relatives and friends in Paris, but they all know unbeknownst to them, and all try to keep them in Paris. This was a pleasantly heartfelt portrayal of a very likable couple with a bonus of several nice shots of the Eiffel Tower.

Next up was the film I was most interested in seeing this day, "Michael H.: Profession Director," a documentary on two-time Palm d'Or winner Michael Hanake. I feared a mob for this in the same screening room Schrader's film played in, but there were only about twenty-five of us who cared to see it. More than half the film is clips from just about all of Hanake's films. The notable exception was the remake of "Funny Games." There are quite a few clips, too, of shooting on the set of multiple takes of the same scene. Many of the clips were of slaps, including several attempts of a father trying to slap his son in "The White Ribbon." There is a dissertation to be made on the slaps of Hanake. There are also interviews with many of the actors who have worked with Hanake, all emphasizing what a kind and gentle man he is and an extreme perfection, all of which is evident too in the many interviews with Hanake in the film from throughout his career.

I followed this with another documentary, "Le Pouvir," by a filmmaker who had the full trust of  and accessibility to his subject, this one the current president of France, Fran├žoise Hollande. The film opens just after Hollande's election a year ago as he shows up at the French White House just a couple blocks from the Champs Ellysees where The Tour de France concludes. He is welcomed by the outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy, who then drives off. There is extraordinary footage of Hollande in conference with his staff, mostly at his residence, but also on the Presidential plane and when he goes to New York to attend a conference. He is regularly consulting with his staff on speeches that he must give. When his staff discusses where he ought to appear on Bastille Day, July 14, I had hopes they'd also discuss his appearance at The Tour de France several days later near his home town in Tulle and also show it, but that was not to be. He's shown greeting staffers, shaking hands and kissing women on the cheeks.

I finished the day with an American feature, "Free Samples," playing in the 15-seat Grey 5 hotel screening room, the smallest of venues. I did not hold out much hope for it, but it was just one of two films to be seen in the final eight pm screening slot on this day's abbreviated schedule. From here on out there will be films screening to midnight and beyond. But this film of a feisty Stanford law school drop-out who likes to drink trying to decide what to do with her life had a veracity to it and a delightful cameo by Jesse Eisenberg. If I'd known he was going to be in it I might have made an effort to see "Touchy Feely" earlier in the day with Ellen Page, his "Juno" co-star, playing a masseuse who develops an aversion to touching people. Eisenberg meets the law school drop-out at a bar then meets up with her the following day while she's doing a friend a monumental favor filling in for her operating an ice cream truck giving away free samples for the day. Eisenberg invites her out to dinner that night, which she's not sure she wants to accept, as she's separated from a boy friend she hasn't given up on. When she learns later in the day her boyfriend has taken up with another woman and gotten her pregnant and decides to marry her, she goes to the dinner and we are treated to another fine bit of acting by Eisenberg. The director is able to maintain interest through the whole movie with an array of offbeat characters who come by for the free ice cream.

I was greeted by a misty drizzle when I left the theater. I had a wind-breaker but not a rain coat for my four-mile bike ride back to the campground. Rather than the coastal route, I stayed inland, which wasn't quite as wet. The rain only managed to penetrate my arms, and not through my shirt and vest. It only marginally dampened a good first day of cinema.

Then I had the bonus of a Skype call with Janina from the campground unisex washroom/shower complex. She had the exciting news that she will be treating her urban cinema class to "Medicine for Melancholy," a film by a Telluride friend I had introduced her to. I am sorry I can't sit in on it tomorrow at their final class to see their reaction and if they chuckle at all the right places.

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