It was a day of concentrating on Competition films I had missed. I saw three, all at the Olympia complex of eight screens separate from the Palais complex. It had the antiseptic feel of a multiplex back home, and so did the flavor of two of the films I saw, semi-commercial American entries that only marginally seemed like festival fare--Steven Soderbergh's Liberace bio pic "Behind the Candelabra" starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" starring Bruce Dern.
Both films were solid efforts, but nothing transcendent deserving of awards, at least among this field of films. Maybe come Oscar or Golden Globe time, as "Candelabra" is an HBO film soon to be released, if either of these films strikes a chord with main stream America any of the actors could be acknowledged with a nomination. Douglas in particular nails Liberace, though his baby-talk manner of speech took a while to get used to after being initially rather tiresome.
Dern, too, delivers a career-reviving performance as a crotchety, illl-tempered, delusional old man who thinks he has won a million dollars from a magazine company and sets out on foot from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect it. He is almost as nasty a character as Llewyn Davis. His wife continual harangues him and makes desperation phone calls to her two sons to come to her aid. Dern can't be talked out of thinking that he has truly won the million bucks, so one of the sons calls in sick to the electronics store where he works to drive him to Nebraska. There is some frivolity to this movie, unlike the Coen brothers', but it is still mostly concentrates on the darker side of human nature.
Dern and his son stop off in the town where Dern grew up and where his older brother still lives, who he hasn't seen in years. He's even more out of it than Dern, sitting comatosely in front of a tv all day. The word spreads that Dern is back in town and that he has won a million dollars. The local paper wants to do a story on him and many of his friends demand money that they say he owes them from decades ago. They end up stranded in the town for several days, so his wife and other son, a television reporter in Billings, join him. They have much more backbone than Dern and his other son and take on the townspeople, verbally and physically. If nothing else, this movie makes a strong case for a punch in the face as the only proper response at a certain point.
Matt Damon plays one of Liberace's lovers in the final ten years of his life before he died of AIDS. They meet backstage in Las Vegas in 1977 when Liberace is 58 and Damon's character Scott Thorson is 18. There are a few touching scenes, but much of it is creepy, especially when Liberace starts getting plastic surgery and has Thorson undergo the knife as well to make him look like Liberace and be the son he never had. Liberace eventually tires of Thorson and has him evicted from the house he gave him. Thorson sues him for millions and goes to the tabloids with his story.
Paulo Sorrentino's "The Great Beauty" was genuinely worthy of being in the Competition field, something bold and profound with actors and the film-maker at the top of their game, and will be hard for the jury not to award. Juror Lynn Ramsey most notably will argue strongly for this film full of dazzlingly compositions in this mesmerizing meander about Rome by a suave, articulate, always nattily-attired 65-year old journalist played by Toni Servillo, who gave a similarly commanding performance in Sorrentino's "Consequences of Love" ten years ago that Tarantino's jury somehow managed to overlook. As Servillo wanders from one party or social gathering or encounter with a friend to another he dispenses philosophical observations on all and sundry as did Sean Penn in Sorrentino's last film "This is the Place," often giving truths that people don't wish to hear. It may have been unnecessarily long at 140 minutes, but Sorrentino remains a film-maker with much on his mind.
The remainder of my day was a hodge-lodge of three films that I could have done without. Two were documentaries and the third a sci-fi thriller that took place on Mars. Mars and its space station were quite well-represented in "The Last Days of Mars," but it was an all too typical pseudo-horror story of the astronauts being under attack by a unknown force.
I've avoided the many retrospectives of classics and revived lost or overlooked films until today when I had no other choice than to see a documentary from 1972 of Roman Polanski following Jackie Stewart around at the 1971 Monaco Grand Prix with an added fifteen minutes of the two of them revisiting the film. The best part of the movie was Stewart's detailed description of the race course as he drove it in 1971 and then again in 2012, as it was the same route of the 2009 Tour de France prologue that I knew well myself.
Ten years of home movies by a Frenchwoman comprised "O Happy Days." This was absolute drivel with not a single meaningful character or incident.