Friday, May 17, 2013

Day Two

I began the day with the bicycling film, "May I Kill U," sacrificing the day's two Competition films, which overlapped its morning screening. I did make an attempt on the 8:30 Competition screening of Ozon's "Young and Beautiful," since it would let out at ten, just as the bicycling film started, but no one in the line for those without Invitations was let in. They were all funneled over to the 60th Anniversary Theater for the nine a.m. screening, which was too late for me. It will have to wait to Day Three or the end of the festival.

The bicyclist in "May I Kill U" is a vigilante London bicycle cop fed up with criminal behavior. He becomes a serial killer executing repeat offenders who incur his wrath. His first victim is a thief who earlier knocked him off his bike and caused him injury. He seeks him out, catching him with an armload of stolen goods. The criminal says he would rather die than go back to prison. So the cop asks him, "May I kill you." When the guy says "yes," he bashes him over the head with the big screen television that was among his stolen goods. His next victim is a domestic abuser, who he warned never to do it again. When he happens upon him accompanied by his wife with another black eye, he takes him off and forces him into a dumpster and strangles him.

He ranges about on his bicycle, sometimes with a woman cop. She invites him to accompany her on a bike tour to Africa. He refuses at first, but then thinks he might do it. That's before he takes in a Bulgarian prostitute he rescues after killing her two pimps and releasing half a dozen other women they are holding to sell in prostitution, all confined to the back of a van. Not all his victims are hard criminals. He tells an elderly woman, who he catches shop-lifting chocolate, that he must execute her because he knows she has been a life-long shop-lifter with several convictions. His vigilantism becomes head-line news. His partner begins to suspect him, leading to a dramatic conclusion.

This wasn't my only satirical comedy on the times for the day. The other was a mockumentary, "The Conspiracy," an American film. Two young film-makers start making a documentary about a semi-crazed conspiracy theorist who takes to the streets with a bull-horn spouting his theories. As with the bicycle cop, he spends a lot of time on the Internet doing research. When he disappears without a trace a month after the film-makers began filming him, they fear he's gotten too close to the truth with his research and has been killed.  They continue their project and fear they are being stalked by a guy on a cool racing bike, the same guy the conspiracy theorist thought was stalking him.  Though this was no more far-fetched than the vigilante movie, it was more farcical than credible.

A legitimate documentary on Pussy Riot, "Pussy Riot--A Punk Prayer," was another commentary on the times. This well-polished effort had remarkable footage of the handful of performances the assorted women involved with Pussy Riot gave, as well as remarkable courtroom footage and interviews with the three women who end up being sentenced to two years in prison for their thirty-second outburst in a Moscow cathedral. Pussy Riot is more a feminist movement than an actual punk band. They only had five performances, all unannounced in some public space that they had someone video to put on the Internet. One was in a beauty parlor, another on the roof of a building near a prison. There were actually five women with colorful baklavas over their heads, the movement's trademark, who participated in the cathedral performance, but the authorities were only able to track down three of them. At other performances there were as many as eight of these women all hiding their identity. As much as wishing to empower women, Pussy Riot aimed to reveal the repressive nature of the Russian state. Their trial and the public reaction of outrage shows how extreme it is. The three women are repeatedly put on display in a cage for photographers. They smile and smirk at all the attention they have brought to their cause.

"Exposed" also focused on people who thrive on attention. This documentary on a handful of men and women who like to get naked on stage could have been called "Exhibitionists." The director Beth B certainly had no trouble getting them to agree to be filmed and to talk about themselves. That is their life. They considered their craft burlesque, not strip tease. A more interesting documentary might have been made about people who are drawn to watch such performances. This was less titilating than perplexing.

"Tale of a Forest," a Finnish documentary, was a necessary, soothing antidote to all these films on outrageous behavior. At last an opportunity to sit back and relax and be transported to the natural world, complete with gurgling streams, chirping birds, foraging bears, wandering elk and insects of all sorts. The film was complemented with relaxing music and an even-voiced English narration extolling the virtues of the forest.

Along with all the day's fringe cinema, five films worth, my day was highlighted by a pair of high-quality films that would please any cinephile--David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche," which played in Competition at Berlin this past January, and "Fruitville Station," a Sundance award-winner also this January.

Green's character-driven drama starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch painting yellow lines down the middle of a road in isolated rural Texas was the lone movie of the day with a pregnancy issue, down from yesterday's three such movies. Hirsch returns from his weekend in a sour mood. Rudd finally gets him to confess that it is because he just learned that a 46-year old woman he had slept with just a couple times told him she was pregnant with his baby. That is just one of many plot strands in this most engaging of films.

"Fruitville Station" is also rich in realistic characters and dialogue. It is the true story of the accidental killing of a young black man by a police officer on New Year's Eve on a Bart Station platform in the Bay Area in 2008. The victim had served time for dealing drugs but was trying to straighten out his life. He is portrayed way more sympathetically than necessary, but that the young director Ryan Coogler, who introduced the film to the Un Certain Regard audience, grew up in the area and intimately knew his material. The Weinstein Company will make sure this film gets seen by many, as it deserves to.

Getting in line an hour ahead of time wasn't early enough to see Sophia Coopola's Opening Night film for Un Certain Regard. The complaints that it should have been in Competition by those who hadn't even seen it seem unjustified by its the tepid response it received from the critics.

Once again I biked back to the campground in a misty drizzle, after biking in to start the day in an even harder rain. I wore shorts on the way in and changed into long pants. Lucky I wasn't wearing the long pants as I might have torn them when I took a spill when I turned to go up on the sidewalks as I neared the Palais and was caught by traffic. I didn't realize there was a bit of a curb hidden by a puddle of water. It was my first fall in quite some time. Fortunately no damage.

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