Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eyguieres, France

As he did last year, Andrew from Sydney has joined me to scout The Tour route and search for graves of Tour luminaries.  It was a spontaneous decision, as he had planned to spend his eight weeks of vacation bicycling around China.  He had so much vacation time, as he had just earned a bonus of three months for ten years of service at his government job, something called "long service leave."   Rather than using it all up at once, he plans to spread it out over a few years.

After eight days bicycling along the Yangtze he had had enough of all the traffic and the honking horns and the deep guttural spitting of the men and the gritty air.  He has bicycled Thailand several times, and kept thinking how he'd much prefer to be biking there than in China.  He gave in to its strong lure when he got to Wuhan, a large enough city that he could get a flight out to Bangkok.  He discovered this wasn't the best time of the year to be bicycling Thailand.  After several days of blistering heat he had had enough.  Remembering the fine time we'd had in France last year, and that I had hoped he would join me again this year, he booked a flight to Paris, and another to Nice, not too far from where I was at the Cannes Film Festival.   It would be our third time biking together, the first in Laos. Unfortunately, he doesn't have enough time to ride any of The Tour with me this year, but will have to settle for a mild taste of this year's route as we visit a handful of the Ville Ètapes and ride as many of their miles as we can in the next three weeks before The Tour starts on June 29 in Corsica.

He had no camping gear in Asia, just staying in hotels, so had to buy a tent, sleeping bag, stove and cooking gear and a sleeping pad when he arrived in France.  He settled on a three-pound tent, but didn't realize what little head room it had, not enough for him to sit up in.  He is 5' 4" tall.  For the first time in his life he is wishing he was even shorter.

Andrew arrived in Cannes the day the festival ended.  We had a joyous reunion outside one of the festival's large theaters beside my locked bike just as we had arranged.  It made it hard for me to fully concentrate on the movie I was watching knowing he was outside awaiting me.  Our first destination was the grave of Henri Desgrange, founder in 1903 of The Tour de France and its director up until his death in 1940.  He was a larger than life, De Gaullian character before there was a DeGaulle, ruling with an iron fist and expressing himself with great grandiosity.  There is a huge monument to him near the summit of the Galibier, one of the highest and most spectacular of The Tour's climbs, and his favorite.  He said that all the other mountains were gnat's piss by comparison, one of his typical hyperbolic statements.

His grave is in the small town of Grimaud, fifty miles from Cannes and just a few miles in land from St. Tropez.  We biked along the Mediterranean for forty miles, Andrew marveling at the different hue of the water, a brighter blue, to what he was accustomed to in Sydney.  The scenery was all too cluttered though with  homes and hotels to be very captivating, and the road was jammed with traffic.  It had been that way all the way from Nice for Andrew, so he was even more eager than I to leave the coast. 

Grimaud is one of those quaint towns on a hill that tourists adore.  We had to struggle with all our might up a  twelve per cent climb to reach the town center.  The cemetery was just a few blocks away.  An older couple tending to a grave were well aware that Desgrange was buried there but they weren't precisely sure where.  After several minutes when Andrew and I had failed to find it, they joined us in our search.  They located it for us off in a far corner.  As with most other graves of those affiliated with cycling that I have paid homage to, there was no bicycle  or wheel on it to attract one's attention. His association with cycling though was acknowledged as an engraving on his grave identified him as the "Creator of The Tour de France."  He is as significant a figure as any of the great riders of The Tour.  Any history of The Tour writes at length of his contributions and his legendary tiffs with riders and the many adaptions he made to The Race over the years. 

We had no memento to leave,  but Andrew did leave the cemetery with a handful of rosemary to season his lamb chops that night.  He wasn't sure though they were lamb chops until he tasted them.  He thought they could be pork chops.  It wasn't the same tasting lamb he was accustomed to in Australia and he couldn't decide which  he liked more, despite knowing the French are most particular about the flavor of their food, meaning this might be the preferred taste. 

Andrew's cooking is one of the many reasons he makes for such a great traveling companion.  I am content with couscous from the deli department of the supermarket along with either ravioli or couselette night after night, but Andrew always cooks up some hunk of meat and vegetables, some times more than he can eat.  He was once a vegetarian, but no more.  He has come to the conclusion that meat is essential to one's health and well-being.  "I have never met a vegetarian who isn't depressed," he says.  "They lack essential proteins."

From Grimaud we headed to Aix-en-Provence, which will host the start of stage six of this year's Tour on July 4.  Though there were no banners or other tributes to The Tour in place yet, the tourist office did have a brochure with events planned for the day and the evening before and also the route the peloton will take through the city.  It would pass right by the tourist office in the heart of the city.  We were able to follow the route  out of the city on D17 to Eguilles.  As always, I could feel a glimmer of all the excitement there would be with the road side packed with fans on that day and what it would be like for me too when I returned.

The stage finishes in Montpellier.  Rather than following The Tour route to a city I've visited several times, Andrew and I are headed to Craig's house fifty miles north of there. He plans to join us for a few days.  The good times Andrew and I are having will only get better.  Andrew and Craig have never met, but share many interests and know much of each other.  I know they will be instant friends.  And once again Andrew is writing of our travels at http://fatseas.com with loads of photos.



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day Twelve--The Awards

For the second year in a row the jury awarded the best director award to a Mexican, both times surprising all the prognosticators. The Carlos Reygados win last year was fully deserved, this year's to Amat Escalade for "Heli" not necessarily so, even though I have been one of the lone champions of this film all along, even writing yesterday that I hoped the jury would acknowledge it in some way. This film of contemporary Mexico and the horrible power of the drug forces was most commendable, though no where as extraordinary as last year's "After the Darkness, Light." There was no mistaking the influence of the true Mexican master, Reygados, with lingering shots, the pacing and so forth, on Escalade. It was most heartening that the jury gave "Heli" an award. One can hardly dispute the choice of this director-heavy jury, five of whose nine members are highly accomplished directors, perhaps the best collection of directors ever on a Cannes jury. Certainly so in the ten years I've been attending the festival.

Although "Blue Is the Warmest Color" had become the favorite to win the Palm d'Or, I wasn't so sure after seeing it earlier in the day after standing in line for ninety minutes to make sure I got in. It was a very exciting ninety minutes though, as my anticipation heightened minute by minute knowing I could be in for a great cinema experience based on all the buzz the film had generated. And I knew I shared that feeling with the thousand people in line with me.

Right away I was grabbed by the genuine dialogue of a cluster of high school girls discussing boys. It was clear the script had been written by someone who truly knew these characters and subject. That continued scene by scene. All the buzz on the film centered around the lesbian love scenes. It's at least half an hour into the film before high school junior Adele realizes that she likes girls rather than boys after a brief fling with a guy that her girl friends somewhat goaded her into. Even before that a blue-haired girl, who is a few years older than Adele, catches her eye in the distance as she walks along with her arm clutching another girl. They manage to connect in a gay bar where they have a brief conversation. Their next meeting is outside Adele's high school, alarming Adele's girl friends. Their relationship is slowly and realistically developed. It eventually leads to wildly passionate sex. It is most explicit, but not exploitative in the least.

Several of the bed room scenes go on and on with a non-stop crescendo of blissful, agonized moaning. Their bodies become entangled in every manner. It was truly remarkable film-making and acting. Half-way through this three-hour movie I felt it was a sure Palm d'Or winner. Half an hour later though it began to fizzle, and I began to fear all its hype was based on the electrifyingly graphic sex scenes. My mind began to wander, more looking forward to meeting my friend Andrew, who had just flown in from Bangkok with his bike to join me for the next few weeks, than the rest of the movie.

This was not a shoe-in for the Palm d'Or as some movies have been over the years. The jury would have some discussion. When I learned the FIBSCRI jury had awarded it its top prize, I thought that might jinx it, as not even half of the time do the two juries agree. But this year they did. In the post-ceremony press conference Spielberg and his fellow jurors emphasized they liked the movie so much because it was just a good love story. It did not matter to them that the lovers were women or that there was explicit sex. Spielberg said, "There was no politics in the room." When another questioner wanted the jury to comment on what statement they were making with awarding this film, juror Christoph Waltz impatiently snapped, speaking for the only time during the press conference, to drop all such talk. It was just a good movie, he reiterated.

It is hard for juries not to have some nationalism influence its choices. Italian films win awards when there is an Italian on the jury. That happened last year with "Reality" and several years before with "Gomorrah" and "Il Divo." There was no Italian on this year's jury, so "The Great Beauty" did not win an award despite predictions all round that it was a contender for the top prize. It being shut out was the biggest surprise of the evening. Nationalism prevailed. The two Hollywood-connected Americans on the jury saw to it that two American films won awards, "Nebraska" with Bruce Dern unexpectedly winning best actor, and "Inside Llewyn Davis" winning the runner-up to the Palm d'Or. Just as last year's jury president Nani Moretti allowed "Reality" to win an award shocking all, Ewen McGregor likewise last year saw to it that fellow Englishman Ken Loach won an award for one of his lesser movies, raising eyebrows all around.

The best actress award was another of this year's surprises, though not necessarily tainted, going to Berenice Bejo for her performance in "The Past." No one was more surprised than herself. Twice in her brief acceptance speech she tearfully commented, "I did not expect this." That is understandable, as she could see the two actresses from "Blue" in the audience and since only winners are called back to the ceremony, she figured it had to be them. She thought she was only there to share in a joint prize for her film, quite possibly the Palm d'Or, but the Spielberg jury pulled a trick and awarded the two actresses a joint Palm d'Or with the film, circumventing the rule that a picture can't get acting awards along with one of the best picture awards. The jury was firm in wanting to award both the film and the actresses, since their uninhibited performances were so extraordinary.

Both "A Touch of Sin" and "Like Father, Like Son" were expected award winners, though not necessarily for what they received, best screenplay for the Chinese film and the Jury prize for the Japanese film. It was a jury that might have only gotten one of the awards right, the top one, though it is all so subjective, there is no saying. There were half a dozen worthy winners of both the acting prizes. Those who won them weren't anticipated, but still, weren't undeserving. I even wrote in my review of "The Past" early in the festival, before many other great performances came along, that both leads could be awarded.

I managed to squeeze in portions of two other Competition films that I hadn't seen and also two that I had seen but liked so much was happy to see again. I began the day with the African film "Gris Gris," having to leave half-way through to get in line for "Blue." A different jury could have given it an award for its heartfelt portrayal of a young man in a small African town who is a spectacular dancer despite a deformed leg that leaves him with a pronounced limp.

I had no difficulty walking out on Jim Jarmusch 's "Only Lovers Left Alive" half-way through to go to the awards ceremony. This vampire story starring Tilda Swinton was astoundingly lifeless and inert without any of the off-kilter dialogue that are the hallmark of a Jarmusch film.

Polanski's "Venus in Fur" was even better the second time, just 24 hours after my first viewing. Spielberg and gang had to have some prejudice against Polanski not to give it an award. I notice there is a backlash against it, probably by the same people who did not like Abbas Kiorastami's "Certified Copy," as it has a similar sense of mystery to it that offends some. I also saw the first hour of Sorrentino's film a second time. It did not seem to flow as seamlessly and effortlessly as it did the first time, but I was watching it after the awards had been given and was perhaps projecting the jury's rejection of it.

I passed on the closing night film "Zulu" so I could watch the jury press conference on a large television outside the room where the press conference was being held. It only went on for 25 minutes and nothing of real substance was said other than that Spielberg let slip that the jury had full consensus on three of the awards, implying that it was good to have any consensus at all. No one followed up on that. Most of the questions were directed to Spielberg, though at one point he said, "Does anybody else want to answer the question, because I don't want to answer all of them."

Someone asked Nicole Kidman what were the best and worst parts of being on the jury. She just said that it was strange to watch movies sometimes at 8:30 in the morning and also at 10 at night. She said it was an entirely different experience seeing a movie so late. Spielberg said he enjoyed all his fellow jurors so much that he would like to take them all home with him. No one asked about the rumors that the jurors were watching movies on his $28 million yacht.







Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day Eleven

The word spreads fast here at Cannes on whether a movie is something exceptional and ought to be seen or just ho-hum. Yesterday's two Competition unveilings were in the ho-hum category, so there was no problem getting into their repeat screenings today with neither "The Immigrant" nor "Michael Kohlhaas" filling up. That could not be said of "Blue Is the Warmest Color," which debuted two days ago. Both of its repeat screenings yesterday were packed with the news that this lesbian love story with sizzling sex is the new favorite for the Palm d'Or. I talked to someone who was turned away from both of them.

He and I will have a final chance to see it on Day Twelve when all twenty Competition films receive one last screening. They are spread out in four theaters ranging in size from 300 seats to 1068. Where they are shown is similar to a seeding process. There is only time for three screenings in the large Debussy, with a seating capacity of the three other theaters being used combined, as that is where the Awards Ceremony will be projected for those of us without Invitations and formal attire to watch it in person in the Palais. The three films slated to be shown in the Debussy, earning the top three seedings are "Blue," the Coen brothers' movie and a bit of a surprise, the Japanese film "Like Father, Like Son." The lowest seeds, seven screenings in the smallest Bunuel Theater, films with the least interest in being seen are Borgman, Heli, Candlelabra, A Chateau in Italy, Nebraska, Only God Forgives and Shield of Straw.

I have four films to see tomorrow, but will only be able to see three of them as two are playing at the same time. One of the time slots has only movies I have seen. If Sorrentino's film were playing in that time slot, I'd gladly give it another look, but unfortunately it is playing later up against the Closing Night film "Zulu," starring Forest Whitaker, who was on stage this evening accepting an award for the Un Certain Regard film "Fruitville Station," as one of its producers. Instead I will strongly be tempted to see Roman Polanski's "Venus in Fur" again, even after just seeing it today.

Polanski had me on the edge of my seat almost from the start wondering what was going to happen next in this depiction of the most incredible theater audition ever. Matthieu Amalric is seen in an empty theater on the phone talking to his girl friend ready to go home after a most frustrating day of auditions for a play he has written and will be directing, when one last woman unexpectedly shows up, Emmanuelle Seigner. She is somewhat ditzy and not so professional. Amalric can immediately see she is not right for the part and tries to send her away. She pleads her case too no avail until she breaks into tears and reveals she spent thirty euros on a period dress from the 1800s for the audition. Amalric relents.

The woman proceeds to blow him away, not only with her acting but with her suggestions on how he could improve the play. She shocks him time after time, initially being in possession of the entire script and then having her part in the two-person play down solid. She even knows how to operate the lights in the theater to get the proper effect and brought along a dinner jacket from the 1870s that perfectly fits Amalric for him to wear as he reads the other part of the play. He asks her more than once, "Who are you?," just as anyone watching will be. She is fully channeling her role as a dominatrix. Seigner becomes a strong contender for best actress and the movie for best screen play. It was dazzling from start to finish.

Marion Cotillard might have been considered for the a award for her performance as a woman forced into prostitution in James Gray's "The immigrant," if it weren't for the magnitude of Seigneur's performance. Joaquin Phoenix is fine too as a scoundrel who connives to force her into prostitution when she arrives at Ellis Island in 1920 from Poland. Cotillard is swallowed up into a world of corruption beyond her imagining but remains strong and steadfast trying to earn the money to gain the release of her sister who is being detained for having a potentially contagious disease.

Mads Mikkelsen, last year's best actor winner, is charismatic and also has an air of nobility as a horse merchant in 16th century France in "Michael Kohlhaas." He stands up for an injustice. Despite the beautiful mountain scenery, my minimal sleep caught up with me during this movie and I kept nodding off.

I remained fully tuned in to "Nothing Bad Can Happen," a German movie based on true events of a German family who take in a Jesus Freak, a young man trying to live by the ideals of Jesus, turning his cheek to violence and remaining celibate and helping others without concern for money. The family is at first very nice, but then turns more ugly than one can imagine.

My final film was preceded by a prolonged standing ovation for French icon Alain Delon, on stage to introduce "Plein Soleil," a film from 1959 in which he played a wealthy playboy. After starting out as a romantic romp with Delon seducing women left and right, first in Rome, then at a seaside resort, it turns into a crime caper. It is clear that the crime will be solved. How it is solved is one of the reasons that this film by Rene Clement is considered a classic.

A couple hours earlier that same Debussy staged was graced by the Un Certain Regard jury, headed by Thomas Vinterberg, giving out its awards. Five of the seventeen films in this category won awards, but not the films by Sofia Coppola or Claire Denis. Top prize went to "The Missing Picture," the innovative documentary by Rithy Panh on his survival of the Khmer Rouge revolution in Cambodia. Runner-up was the superb Palestinian film "Omar." Its best director prize went to "Stranger by the Lake," cast award to"La Jaula de Oro" and a special award to "Frutiville Station."

That jury got it right. If Spielberg's does the same, it's seven awards will be split among "The Past," "The Great Beauty," "Like Father, Like Son," "A Touch of Sin," " Venus in Fur" and probably "Blue is the Warmest Color," though I haven't seen it yet. Michael Douglas could well get a best actor award as well. The lead in "The Past" is more deserving, but he may be disqualified if the movie receives a higher award. I'm hoping juror Christian Mungo, director of gritty, dark realism, has a passionate will, and might champion the Mexican film "Heli." It is a jury of many strong voices, so no one is likely to dominate it.

Day Ten

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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day Nine

I went to great ends to juggle my schedule today to work in the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis," as it could be my last chance to see it before Spielberg and his jury give out the awards Sunday night in the Palais. Since its a leading contender for the top prize, it is a film that I needed to see for the awards ceremony to be fully meaningful.

It was being screened at an awkward time slot that made it difficult to fit in other films I wanted to see both before and after it. I also knew I had to get in line for it at least an hour before its screening time. Seeing it came at the price of one-and-a-half films, meaning I only have five-and-a-half films to report on rather than the usual seven.

Two-and-a-half of them were all very worthwhile Un Certain Regard films. The past two years I counted on Ralph to keep me appraised of what to see in that category, as I somewhat neglect it in favor of the Market. It made for a good day of catching up with all the special repeat screenings of the two top categories of invited films. I'm certain Ralph would have been enthusiastically telling me to see "Omar," a most taunt and tension-packed Palestinian film.

One of the Palestinians regularly climbs over the thirty-foot wall separating Jerusalem from Palestine with a rope to work and visit friends, even though it comes with the risk of being shot at. He is a member of a cadre of freedom-fighters who gun down an Israeli soldier. One of their members is arrested by the Israelis and subjected to more of the extreme torture that has been featured in quite a few of this year's films. He's given the heat-to-the-testicles treatment as seen in "Heli," though not so graphically.

The Israelis think they have made a deal with him and release him to help them catch the leader of their group. He wants to be released more to see his young girl friend than for any other reason, though he doesn't know she is pregnant by one of his friends and is hoping to get an abortion before he finds out. This was more than a dashed-off script. There is wit to go along with all the strong performances and story-line, resorting just once to an all too standard cinema cliche--a character explaining his battered face to having fallen off his bicycle, though we never once see him on a bicycle.

As this gave an insightful portrayal of Palestinians living in Israel, "Grand Central" gave a good portrayal of what it's like to work at a French nuclear reactor. Tamar Rahim, from "A Prophet" and also this year's "The Past," has just been hired to work at one of the nineteen nuclear plants in France in a menial position. He's immediately introduced to the gallows humor of his fellow workers when a beautiful young woman gives him a kiss at a bar gathering of the workers. She tells him that the weak-kneed feeling he'd just experienced was howi he'd feel if he learned that he was over-exposed to radiation, a threat that is their lot. What happens I can't say, as I had to leave half-way through to get in line for "Inside Llewyn Davis," but up to that point I was enjoying another fine cinema experience.

"Bastards" from Claire Denis was the other of my day's Un Certain Regard screenings. When the schedule of films was announced over a month ago there was a minor hubbub over why this film from a significant French director wasn't in the Competition category. I was wondering the same as I watched. It had to be a tough decision for the selection committee, but knowing their expertise I knew they had viable reasons. It wasn't a typical talk-talk-talk French film, but let the brooding of a brother and sister dealing with their assorted troubles, responding to the suicide of their businessman father and their financial difficulties, carry the weight of the movie. Denis doesn't show his suicide leap, just thinking about it, then an ambulance in the distance tending to a body. It's not entirely clear at first what has happened, setting the tone for the movie. Likewise she does not show the daughter of the sister being brutally raped. It is just revealed by her doctor at the psychiatric hospital where she is being treated. There may have been too many dark movies in Competition and a quota of French films. Also there might only have been enough room for one movie with a guy helping a kid put a chain back on his bicycle, and the selectors chose "The Past" over this one.

The decision may well have come down to between this film and "A Castle in Italy," another French film by a woman director, the only one in Competition, Valerie Bruni Tedeschi, a very talky and frothy comedy. It stars not only the director but her former partner up to a year ago, French hunk Louis Garrel. Having the two of them walk the red carpet, as they have done many a time, may have won them a Competition slot over Denis. It also helped that their film was lighter fare, which the Competition field is always in need of.

Tedeschi and Garrel play somewhat lonely and semi-neurotic actors in this film. They work together and are friends despite their age and social status difference. Tedeschi convinces Garrel to father a chlld as a sperm donor through a clinic. He'd rather just have some fun sex, but goes along with her desires despite trying to back out at the last moment as they are driving to the clinic. Among Tedeschi's escapades are trying to get the blessing of some nuns for her fetus. They refuse, claiming it is a mortal sin to have a child out of wedlock despite the unusual circumstances. She barges into their sanctum to sit in a sacred chair anyway causing havoc.

I have been avoiding commenting on "Inside Llewyn Davis" as it was a disappointment and left me feeling empty, forlorn and dejected like most of the characters in the movie. Davis is a struggling folk singer in 1960s Greenwich Village. He is not only frustrated but miserable, with a permanent scowl on his face. He is dependent on crashing on the couches of friends, yet he has not a shrewd of decency lashing out at one and all. He insults everyone, even some musicians who have invited him to a studio session where he can earn some much needed cash. He refuses to sing at dinner one night for academic friends who have come to his rescue once again, creating a most horrible scene. He ridiculously heckles an older woman at one of the folk venues he performs at. He leaves a string of women pregnant, the latest the wife of a friend. At least he knows a doctor who gives abortions. This movie may have meant to be funny, but no one was laughing in my packed theatre. The Coens resort to the cheap gimmick of a cat that continually goes astray. At first it seems as if it will add some comic relief to the heavy moroseness that suffocates any enjoyment to be found in this sad, pathetic portrayal, but it too brings down the movie. And there is all too much mediocre singing, justifying why Davis is not a success. The jury will be very irresponsible to give this any awards.

This movie let out too late for me to make it to the Critic's Weekly award winning film. Instead I had to settle for a trio of 3D experiments by Godard, Peter Greenaway and Edgar Pera. Greenaway and Pera were there to introduce it. Greenaway said he wasn't sure if he would ever attempt another 3D film while Pena called 3D a new frontier and a playground. Both their segments were innovative and somewhat playful, Greenaway in particular making extravagant use of the extra dimension, while Godard only marginally took advantage of it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day Eight

Eight days and fifty-six films and I have yet to discover that jaw-droppingly great movie that awes and astonishes me and affirms the greatness of cinema as an art form. I know it awaits me. Cannes never fails to deliver at least one of those "WOW" experiences. Sometimes it comes on the last day as with "The Class." Sometimes I find it in the Market as with "Man On Wire." Sometimes it turns up in Un Certain Regard" as with "The Death of Mr. Lazarusco," o r the Director's Fortnight as with "Tarnation."

But usually it is a Competition film such as "A Prophet" or "Tree of Life" or "We Need to Talk About Kevin" or "Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days." There is no denying when it happens. It leaves me overwhelmed for days and stays with me to the present. I had a few hints of the sensation this year with "The Past," so far the most powerful film I've seen so far, but it couldn't sustain it. I am lagging behind with the Competition films having seen only eight of the fourteen that have played with six more to be unveiled in the next three days. They are all being repeated three of the next four days, so I will see them all before the festival concludes.

I was hoping for a "wow" experience today with Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives" as I had two years ago with his "Drive," both starring Ryan Gosling. But this Bangkok crime-thriller had none of the adrenalin rush of his previous film that won him best director honors. He seemed to be self-consciously trying to live up to that best director award going overboard with stylish effect not unlike Gaspar Noe with "Enter the Void." Gosling is more of a presence than an actor this time. Kristin Scott Thomas somewhat steals the movie with her commanding performance as his blond-haired monstrous mother.

It is immediately obvious that she is someone not to be trifled with when she is incensed that her room at a Bangkok hotel is not ready for her. She has just flown in to retrieve the body of her oldest son, who was murdered. She's not happy at all that Gosling has yet to revenge the murder, scoffing at his assertion that he may have deserved it for killing and raping a young prostitute. She tells him that he gave signs even when he was in her womb that he would be difficult and that maybe she should have had him aborted.

This was one of my two movies today that served up excessive violence and had a boxing connection. The other was "Diablo," a black-comedy from Argentina. Gosling manages a kick-boxing gym in Bangkok that serves as a cover for the family drug business. Diablo is a former champion boxer who has retired after killing someone in the ring played by Jorge D'Elia with a tour de force performance. He is hiding out at a friend's house. Two thugs manage to tie him up and use him as a punching bag. He manages to extricate himself and then beats them to death. He tortures a couple of guys trying to find out who sent those guys. His torture rivals that of "Heli," with its dousing of someone's testicles with lighter fluid and then setting them on fire.  He forces ice into his victim's mouths, then sticks a funnel in and pours boiling water from a tea kettle down their throats. The violence of this movie was much more gruesome than that of "Only God Forgives" and had people fleeing the small market screening room.

There was excessive violence and brutality as well in "My Sweet Pepper Land" that takes place in the gorgeous mountain scenery of Kurdish Turkey. I can certainly testify that the region is synonymous with violence. It is the cliched story of the local resistance to a young woman who has come to teach in a small isolated village. Not only is she unwelcome as a teacher but as a single woman. Her family sides with the locals not thinking it is appropriate behavior for a woman who ought to be married. Her five brothers come to take her away. The local chieftain spreads rumors that she is having an affair with the new police chief, who he is also trying to intimidate. The plot does not rise above cliche. The only reason it was selected to play in Un Certain Regard is because it looked so good and was very well cast.

"Soldier Jane" and "End of Time" were also unrealized, lesser efforts in the Market. Both featured women alone in the forest for at least a spell. "End of Time" takes place after a comet has hit the earth and wiped out much of the population. A young woman foraging for food stumbles upon a house with some canned goods. A young guy discovers her. They first attack each other but then team up. There was very little credibility to what follows.

"Soldier Jane" from Austria was an absurdist story of a 40-year old woman who is evicted from her luxury apartment after not paying rent for three years. She withdraws all her money then burns the wads of 500 and 100 euro notes in the forest. It was just one of a series of senseless acts that might have had some meaning if this script had had some sort of cohesion.

Two guys pedaling a swan-boat for 160 miles through the narrow waterways of England after an initial foray in the English Channel made for a pleasantly wacky documentary aptly titled "Swandown." Their destination was London and the Olympics. Along the way they are joined by various writers and artists who shared their non-conformist philosophical bent. This was a fun little diversion of a movie.

Ken Loach offered up a deeply serious documentary endorsing socialism as the answer to society's woes. "The Spirit of '45" raises the point that there was full employment during WWII, so there is no reason other the corporate meddling that there isn't full employment now. The film is rich with post WWII celebratory footage and then the struggles of England to recover from the war. He interviews an array of people with personal post-war experience as well as present day authorities on how socialism is the humane approach.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day Seven

Rather than thinning out, the crowds are only thickening, or at least descending upon the higher profile films that are also on my agenda. It was another three-reject day, two Competition films and the Claire Denis film in Un Certain Regard. At no other festival have I had such continuing bad luck. Not getting in is a bummer and a let-down, but that isn't what is so taxing, just the uncertainty of it. If I were willing to show up at a screening more than thirty minutes before its start, I could have gotten into any of them, but since none were bike-related I had no desire to sacrifice that much waiting time, although it allows me to read the various daily trade papers while trying to stay out of the waft of the smokers.

Among the hundred of us turned away from the ten p.m. Denis film was an American who let everyone around know, "I hate this country." He could well have been in the "Last Minute Access" line for people without an Invitation at the Palais earlier that morning for the Soderbergh Competition film. The guardians of the gate left us all hanging and never did tell us that we couldn't get in. A new policy this year gives people in that line priority for the screening at the nearby 60th Anniversary theater that starts thirty minutes after the screening in the Palais. If Ralph, my friend from Telluride who joined me the past two years but is taking this year off to hone his photographic skills at a school in Santa Barbara, were here, this unannounced new policy would have had his blood boiling, as he always made the effort to be among the first in line at the 60th so no one could budge in front of him. Now those people have to stand and wait while a hoard of similar pass holders are allowed to mix with the press who have priority at those screenings. I was quite surprised the first time I saw it happen and it caused a mini-riot. Once I knew about the new policy I just joined that special line at the Palais. Well today it didn't matter and for one of the few times ever (other than for "Inglorious Basterds" and "Melancholia") I did not get into the nine a.m. screening at the 60th Anniversary Theatre.

That was disheartening, but it allowed me to attend the 9:30 screening of "A Touch of Sin," the Chinese Competition film that played three days ago and has the second highest rating from "Screen" magazine's panel of critics. Moments before it was about to start I felt a tap on my should and looked up to see Milos of Facets wishing to slip into the seat beside me. He had walked out of the Soderbergh film after an hour saying it was getting tedious. He had missed the earlier screening of "A Touch of Sin" as it was playing when he had to file one of his reports for WBEZ back in Chicago, though he said he had attended the press conference of the film's director, who acknowledged the film would have to be edited to be able to play in China.

That was very understandable. When I spent a couple of months bicycling around China three years ago, the country made a point of how gunless it was compared to the US. Even the mafia gangs did not have guns, and had to resort to knifes and meat cleavers and crow bars for weapons. This movie puts that generalization to rest. Citizens with guns taking matters into their own hands, defending themselves or seeking revenge or committing a crime, is the dominant theme of the several stories of this film. One disgruntled guy uses a shotgun to kill the accountant and owner of the mine in his town for becoming greedy bastards. He also blasts a guy who is beating his horse. Each of the film's stories show someone unraveling, emphasizing that these are not the best of times in China. Each was powerful and quite well done, but I preferred the single narrative of the Mexican Competition film "Heli," even tho its average score from the critics was a 1.6 compared to the three on a scale of four for this. Any of the episodes of "Sin" could have made a worthy feature.

I would have also given the emotionally-involving "Like Father, Like Son," a Japanese film in Competition, a slightly higher rating than "Sin." A hospital discovers five years after the fact that it switched babies of two sets of parents. There is no easy resolution to the problem, though the hospital officials say that 100 per cent of parents prefer their blood child. It takes several months for the families to come to an agreement. None of the complications seem like the contrivance of a Hollywood scriptwriter as did all the plot twists in "The Past" and "Jimmy P." also vying for the Palm d'Or. One of the fathers is an over-achieving workaholic salaryman while the other is a happy-go-lucky small shop owner who baths with his children, something the workaholic couldn't imagine doing. This riveting story unravels naturally and realistically.

My efforts to see something in every time slot every day also rewarded me with two small but telling films from Mozambique and Tunisia. I was drawn to "Virgin Margarida" as it was about prostitutes in Maputo. My most googled blog entry is "prostitutes of Maputo," my tale of a night in a whorehouse in the capital city of Mozambique when I could find no place cheaper to stay. The prostitutes in this movie have been rounded up by the military in 1975 after Mozambique gains its independence from Portugal and are taken out into the countryside to be reeducated. They are overseen by a tough young woman. None of them had the glamour of the prostitutes of the whorehouse I stayed at adjoining a night club, but that did not detract from the realism of the film.

Women too are the focus of "Hidden Beauties," but in contemporary times as Tunisia is experiencing its Arab Spring upheaval. This could well have been titled "To Veil or Not To Veil," as that is the continual debate throughout the movie. It focuses on two young women who are good friends. One has taken to the veil and the other resists despite the demands of her fanatic brother and the rest of her family. Every argument imaginable for and against the veil is raised in one debate or confrontation after another. There are those who try to get the veiled woman to give hers up as well. This was most disturbing and poignant.

All these movies were realistic enough to have been documentaries of the issues they raised, complementing the three documentaries I did see during my seventh consecutive day-long movie marathon. Russell Crowe narrates "Red Obession." This could have been a companion piece to the Chinese movie, as it describes how the wine of Bordeaux has become maniacally popular in China, driving the price of a bottle to unheard of levels, over 500 dollars a bottle. Wine is a form of investment for people around the world. Since 1982 it has out-performed all other markets including gold.

The homeless of Paris are the subject of the very polished and artful "The Edge of the World." They are all interviewed at night by their makeshift encampments under bridges and in assorted nooks and crannies about the city, often with magnificently shot Parisian landmarks nearby. There were more shots of the Eiffel Tower than any other film in the festival so far, even "Girl on a Bike."

The Director's Fortnight selection "Stop Over" was a grittier film shot in Athens, mostly at an apartment that serves as an underground refuge for immigrants, many from Iran, and elsewhere in Asia, trying to infiltrate Europe. The "refugees" are a most run-down and weary lot with a full catalogue of hard luck stories. It has taken each considerable risk and effort to get this far and none seem too eager to go further. One forty-year old man is brought to tears recounting the hardships of his life.

Day Six

This was a day of second choices. Three times I heard the word "complet" before I had my pass scanned by the usher at a theater's entry. Every time it was for a film by a name director--the Coen brothers, James Toback and James Franco. I'll have ample opportunity to see the Coen brothers' film,  the highest rated of the ten Competition films screened so far. The other two are no necessity. I had back-ups for all three films, so kept to my average of seven a day.

Its a rare year with no Hanake or Von Trier film in Competition. The Dutch film "Borgman" partially fills the void with elements from each--a family of affluence terrorized by a team of wackos and a quick-tempered husband and wife who are regularly at each other's throats. A long-haired homeless guy knocks at the door of the wealthy family asking if he can have a bath. The husband answers and categorically says no. The homeless guy says he knows his wife. A moment later she approaches the door herself. She denies knowing him. He says she once tended to him as a nurse in the hospital. She says she has never worked as a nurse.

The husband shoves the the guy out, knocks him down with a couple of punches and then repeatedly kicks him. His wife is appalled by his uncharacteristic response and later goes out to tend to the homeless guy. She gives him refuge in their small guest house and smuggles him into the house for a bath. The next day she says he ought to leave, but he refuses. She allows him to stay.  The homeless guy eventually brings in several comrades leading to a diluted form of Hanake terror. Despite interesting characters all round, including a Dutch nanny and her military boy friend, the director Alex van Warmerdam hadn't fully digested his material and lacked the firm and precise vision that could have made this more than a small curiosity.

At least there was a shred of veracity to this film, a quality notably lacking in my other Competion film for the day, Takeshi Milke 's "Shield of Straw." A squadron of 350 vehicles are escorting a young man who has committed a couple of heinous rapes and murders of young women that has enraged all of Japan. A businessman whose grand daughter was one of his victims has offered a billion yen to whoever kills him before he is brought to trial. No one is above suspicion wanting the bounty, including the cops escorting him. Even this huge convoy is not enough to protect him as a semi-trailer full of nitroglycerin bashes through them, the first of countless absurdities. But Milke doesn't care about reality. His movies are simply exercises in highly stylized violence that are invariably cinematic enough to be selected for Competition. One has to choke though on the heaps of baloney he serves up.

Ritzy Panh's "The Missing Picture" was nothing but the essential truth, an essay-narrative in the spirit of Chris Marker about the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot's takeover of Cambodia in 1975. Panh was a thirteen-year old at the time. He reconstructs the years of the Khmer Rouge's complete overhaul of the country with archival footage and clay dolls. This was captivating and insightful cinema most worthy of its Un Certain Regard selection.

The Ecuadorian film "Path to the Moon" also won my full attention with its adept portrayal of a father and son on a 600-mile road trip through Costa Rica and Panama to a bowling tournament that the son is competing in. The father and son haven't seen each other in a while and are somewhat reconciling their relationship helped by a young woman hitch-hiker they have picked up. I particularly related to the film as I biked the exact route they took back in 1989.

I was also drawn to the documentary "Out of Africa: Quest for the Northern Lights," as it was described as a drive around Iceland, a route I have also biked. Iceland was simply a hook to draw people to this movie, as it was largely an exercise in propaganda about how the West has plundered Africa over the years, first by its colonizers and then by multi-national corporations and the World Bank. Although there are short snippets of Iceland interspersed in the movie, often with a commercial for the hotel the film-makers stayed in, the film largely showed footage of Africa from over the years and how it has been preyed upon, not only by whites, but by black dictators as well.

An even bigger dud of a movie, as at least the Africa movie was well-financed and competently directed, was the American film "The Activist." This was a bad, inept movie in every respect and I knew it the moment it started. It had a worthwhile subject, the Wounded Knee confrontation in 1973, but the script did it no justice whatsoever. Two activists, one a Native American, are locked up in a small town cell for the duration of the movie. They are beaten by one of their jailers and receive a couple visits from a representative of President Nixon, accompanied by a pair of ditzy female assistants. There is no future whatsoever for this film. I regretted not having gone to see a documentary on climbing in Patagonia instead of this. Of the 42 films I've seen so far, this was easily the worst, but there's always at least one like that.

Being turned away from James Franco's directorial debut in Un Certain Regard of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" allowed me to see the documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune" screening in the Director's Fortnight. The 84-year old Jodorowsky provided a most energetic commentary on his attempt to make "Dune". He'd lined up Salvador Dali and Orson Welles for two significant roles and had a team of artists and technicians working in Paris on all the special effects. Hollywood pulled the money on the project just as he was set to begin building sets in Algeria. All the preparatory work he put into it is argued to have been put to use in "Alien" and "Star Wars" and other seminal films. His "Dune" is considered the greatest movie never made.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day Five

Today was my much anticipated day with a pair of bicycling films, the last of the five in the program. The Belgian film with the alluring title "Allez Eddie!" was all I could hope for. The other, the German, "Girl on a Bicycle," proved Hollywood doesn't have exclusivity on making insultingly mindless romantic comedies that are painful to sit through.

"Allez Eddie!" takes place in 1975 during The Tour de France as Eddie Merckx is trying to become the first rider to win The Tour six times. An 11-year old boy by the name of Freddie imagines himself the next Merckx. He trains on a bike that hangs from the rafters in the attic of his house while listening to The Tour on the radio. He wears a Molteni cycling cap of Merckx's team with World Champion stripes. His bedroom is adorned with Merckx posters and other cycling memorabilia. His father too is an ardent cycling fan. His butcher shop has a painting of a cyclist. He goes to the local bar packed with other fans to watch The Race and wildly cheer on Merckx.

The butcher shop though is threatened by a supermarket that has just opened in town, an early-day Wal-Mart. A group of young men march around in uniform protesting it, as they fear it will drive all the small grocers out of business, accusing people who patronize it of being collaborators. To gain local favor the supermarket sponsors a bicycle race for the youth of the town. The winner gets to go to Roubaix to meet Merckx. The son of the butcher enters the race, but under a different name, as his father and the vigilante group do not wish to support the race.

The Bicycle in Cinema Certification Board should immediately demand that the word "bicycle" be stripped from the title of "Girl on a Bicycle." Bicyclists need to be saved from being lured into this abomination. Though there is some random cycling in the movie, including a couple of trips on the legendary rental bikes of Paris, this is not by any means a cycling movie.

A young attractive woman is seen on a bicycle several times, catching the eye of a tour bus driver who has just proposed to his girl friend of four years. He sees her three different times, all at the same place near Notre-Dame. The third time, when he finally has a chance to ask her for her phone number, she refuses to give it. He chases after her in his double-decker tour bus, terrorizing everyone on board, who all flee the bus when he finally stops after running her down. He takes her to the hospital and then starts caring for her and her two small children who start calling him "Papa," sneaking off from his girl friend. It was all very stupid and silly, though slickly filmed. The Eiffel Tower is liberally sprinkled in and other tourist sites. Still there's no reason to go anywhere near this.

Once again I sacrificed the morning's two Competition screenings for a bicycle movie. At least it was "Allez Eddie!," well worth the sacrifice. I'm falling behind in my Competition viewing, having only seen three of the eight screened so far, but I can now concentrate on catching up. I did see the Mexican entry "Heli" today that was the second of the Competition films screened back on Thursday. It was part of my day's set of four gritty realistic films, the polar opposite of the lame-brained fantasy world of "Girl on a Bicycle."

"Heli" portrayed contemporary Mexico, while the others took me to Scotland, Morocco and India, all of which I am on familiar terms with thanks to my bicycle and tent. It's been a while since I biked Mexico, before drug lords have become such a brazen and dominant part of many communities such as that in "Heli." Heli is a young man with a young wife and baby who lives with his father and thirteen-year old sister. His sister is dating a seventeen-year old who is in the army and wants to marry her. She thinks she's in love too, though she's not sure and asks her brother's wife how she knew she was in love. She refuses to have sex with him, but they may soon run off to marry. Her boy friend steals several kilos of cocaine that the army had confiscated and was burning. He hides it in the water tank on top of his girl friend's house. Heli discovers it and tosses it into a pond.

The drug lords find out about the stolen cocaine and want it back. They show up at Heli's house with the soldier who stole it already bloody and beaten in the back of their military-style van. They take Heli and his sister and drive them to a home where three young boys who had been playing video games watch and then participate in the torture of the two guys that includes setting the testicles of one on fire as he hangs. A woman, who looks like she could be the mother of the boys, is occasionally seen in the background. The thirteen-year old is not around as someone else drives her off. The brazenness and casualness of the young drug thugs is astounding. This was the lone pregnancy movie of this day. When the thirteen-year shows up days later, unwilling to talk about her experience, a doctor discovers she is pregnant and that she will have to go elsewhere for an abortion.

"For Those in Peril" from Scotland in the Critic's Weekly was a similarly well-conceived and truthful film. It focused on the torment of a young man who was on the lone fishing boat of five that survived a storm. His brother was one of those killed. He wanders his village hoping that his brother will suddenly turn up. No one in the town wants to commiserate with him or give him work.

The Moroccan film "They Are the Dogs" shows a camera crew from a television station following a political prisoner around Casablanca just after he has been released after serving thirty years in prison as he visits friends and family who all thought that he was dead. He is let out in the midst of the Arab Spring. He knows nothing of his son. His last memory is giving him a bicycle. He had yet to learn to ride it when he disappeared. He is told that his son has become a famous bicycle racer. Such is the tone of this semi-cinema verité, half-serious, half-comical look at present-day Morocco.

There was no singing or dancing in the Indian thriller "Ugly," but plenty of violence and gritty realism. A young woman is kidnapped and a lot of people are involved trying to recover her in this Director's Fortnight film.

I also managed two quite good documentaries. The world of fashion continues to provide exemplary material for film. "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's" gave a most captivating history of the legendary Manhattan department store. It has launched the fashion careers of many designers. One of the latest is the young designer who has supplied Michele Obama with her inauguration dresses. The film maker had no shortage of interesting characters to interview, some of whom have appeared in other recent fashion-related docs including "Billy Cunningham New York."

Legendary extreme-skier and ski-Base jumper Shane McConkey also made an excellent subject for a documentary. It was a natural that Red Bull produced the film simply titled "McConkey." Watching all his death-defying stunts, it was inevitable that he would one day die. It is a wonder he lasted as long as he did up to 2009.

This was my first eight-film day this year thanks to an early 8:30 screening before the Belgian bicycle movie at ten and then a movie every two hours for the rest of the day. The iPad also made it possible, not having to seek out a computer for an hour but able to compose my report in the few minutes between each movie.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day Four

Today's "bicycle movie" was a false alarm. The program notes for the German film "The Famous Five 2" promised that four kids and a dog would set out on a journey by bike unaccompanied by their parents. That they do, but its just a short bike trip before they set up camp and go hiking. There wasn't much more biking in this children's movie except when the kids have to chase after a guy on a motorcycle carrying a special order pizza to one of their group who has been kidnapped by a couple of thugs, who mistake him for someone else, and who they think holds the key to finding the most valuable jewel in the world.

This was the first film of the festival I left early, half-way through after I finished the can of ravioli that was my lunch for the day. I would have stayed if the kids had spent the whole movie riding their bikes, or if I didn't need a hunk of time to file my report for the day. There wasn't much of a gap between movies for the rest of the day. I might have had to cut back to six for the day rather than the seven I'd been managing.

For the fourth consecutive day an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock was an element of at least one movie. There were three today just as on Day One. It was the centerpiece of Daniel Auteil's "Fanny," a crowd-pleasing, semi-commercial adaption of a Pagnol story getting a screening in the Market. Auteil is in town serving on Spielberg's exceptional jury, but he did not show himself at his movie, other than on screen.

Auteil is the owner of a small bar in a French port city in Provence early last century. His son goes off to sea without telling him for a five-year stint. He left behind a girl friend, who he doesn't know is two months pregnant. An older wealthy sail-maker has been trying to get her to marry him for some time. She decides to finally accept his proposal for the good of her child, but fears the sail-maker would not have her knowing her condition. But he is delighted to raise the child as his own. There is much debate over these issues, but there is a happy resolution every time, even when the father of the baby makes a surprise, early return. Every conflict is settled amicably, if not nobly, even after heated debate. Pagnol portrays a positive side of human nature, that people can actually be good-hearted and caring.

Fathering a child as a 17-year and initialing denying it is one of the issues tormenting Benico Del Toro in the Competition film "Jimmy P." Jimmy is a native American suffering great trauma after WWII. He has severe headaches. His sister takes him to a special hospital for treatment. He seems physically sound despite having suffered a head wound during the war that left a gash on the top of his head. A psychiatric specialist in Native Americans, played by a quirky Mathieu Amalric flaunting his French accent, is called in to help. The two lead actors deliver worthy performances, but the script portraying psychoanalysis at work left a bit to be desired.

It's not clear if the pregnancy in the Un Certain Regard film "Bends" from Hong Kong is planned or not. The pregnant woman is the wife of a chauffeur. It is their second child, and since they live in China, across the border from Hong Kong, where the chauffeur works for the wealthy wife of a banker, they are only allowed one child. There is a heavy fine for having a second. This is the first of all these pregnancy films to bring up the A-word. At one point, as their options seem to be evaporating, the wife says, "Maybe we should have an abortion." They are trying to avoid the fine by having the child in Hong Kong. But the chauffeur must either get permission to bring his wife to Hong Kong for medical reasons or smuggle her in. The chauffeur asks a favor of the head nurse of a hospital to permit it, but she absolutely refuses. The chauffeur's boss has problems of almost equal magnitude herself. Her husband has not been home for days and her credit cards have been canceled. She starts selling off her art work.

My day's choices also included a pair of movies about 30-year olds taking a stand against the consumer materialistic world. One goes off to the Amazon to assist a nun in her work. The other is a videographer in Finland who decides to put his all too-many belongings in a storage locker to prove happiness does not come from having a lot of stuff. He begins a year of having nothing other than an apartment, without even a refrigerator, to prove he can get along without them. He allows himself to recover one item a day for a year. He also takes a vow not to buy anything other than food for the year.

The movie was appropriately called "My Stuff." The first item he retrieves is a coat, which he wraps himself in to stay warm as he is otherwise naked in his empty apartment on the first night of his withdrawal. It is his only possession. He is so happy when he recovers his mattress a while later he hugs and kisses it. He thinks he can be happy with not much, but he seems very happy with many of the things he gets back. On day eleven he recovers his bicycle and on day twelve his helmet. When his bike is later stolen he must borrow a bike from a friend. It is a necessity, as after 200 days he gets a date with a woman for a bike ride. He must also figure out a way to cut the Kryptonite lock from her bike, as the key is stuck in the lock. That takes five hours of several different attempts. The script was reduced to dwelling on such trivialities, as it didn't have much beyond superficial insights to offer.

"There Will Come a Day" wasn't fully realized either, but it was much more genuine and heartfelt. The young Italian woman featured in this film begins a South American sojourn accompanying a nun on a boat going down the Amazon stopping in at small villages promoting Catholicism. The young woman isn't convinced that encouraging them to observe rituals they do not understand, such as confessing, is right. She eventually goes off on her own and tries to help the indigent in a larger city.

"Viva La Liberta," another Italian movie, rounded out my day. This comedy about a politician who disappears while his look-alike brother masquerades as him while he regains his will was just filler. It had a fine performance by the actor playing the two brothers, and some commentary on the moral vacuity of Italy, while being pleasantly diverting entertainment.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day Three

I was turned away from only one film today, the least so far, and it wasn't the Tour de France film that the program stated was for Buyers only. It only took some minor convincing to talk my way into the screening. I told the film's representative that I was an avid fan of The Tour and that I had ridden The Tour route the last few years and planned to do it again this year. I showed her a photograph of me with The Devil at The Tour and told her that this was the film I was most looking forward to seeing in the festival. I'm not sure which won her favor, but she said to wait a few minutes until she was sure the theater didn't fill with buyers and she would let me in. There weren't any non-buyers such as me hanging around and there was no rush of buyers either, so my day, and maybe the festival, was made.

I had a similar experience at the Berlin film festival nearly fifteen years ago with "Phantom Pain," a German film that is one of the best bicycle movies ever, right up there with "Breaking Away" and "Two Seconds." It was buyers only then too, but they didn't pack the theater, so I was allowed in. If this movie, "Tour de Force," (the French title is more appropriately, "La Grande Boucle," the French euphemism for The Tour de France) was in its class, it wouldn't matter how good the films were the next nine days, the festival would be a great success. That was a tall order to fill. Unfortunately, this film was more like "Premium Rush," last summer's hokey bicycle messenger movie, than "Phantom Pain." Like "Premium Rush" it had some authentic bicycling footage and understood the sport, but deflated the movie with a nonsensical plot.

The premise showed promise. A 40-year old guy who works for a large chain of sporting good stores that sponsors a  Tour de France team is offered the dream assignment just before The Race starts of driving one of the team cars during The Tour. At the team presentation he accidentally bumps into the team's star and ruins his lucky necklace. The star is infuriated and demands that he be fired. To compound the guy's misery, his wife is quite angry that he didn't tell her that he had just been given the driver assignment, as they had vacation plans, and once again allows The Tour to take precedence over her. She disappears with their teen-aged son and leaves him a note not to call.

He decides to fulfill his life-long dream of riding The Tour route on his own ahead of the racers. So far this is somewhat plausible other than the star throwing such a fit over his lucky talisman. At the team presentation, he is befriended by a former great team director, someone known as a "cycle-whisperer," a cycling version of "horse-whisperer." It is said that he whispered something into Greg LeMond's ear when he was struggling in the 1986 Tour, and that was how he won The Race. This crusty old character has just served two years in prison, taking the fall for a team owner. He offers to help this guy ride The Tour route. On the first stage the rider is befriended by a Dutch husband and wife and their 20-year old daughter who are following The Tour in an RV with a course marker in their front window as they have done for many years. They are such Tour fanatics that their daughter was conceived as they followed The Tour one year. They feed him and give him massages and their daughter occasionally rides along with him. All good.

After a few stages the former team director arranges a TV crew to do a story on this guy's efforts and also arranges some sponsorship. His exploits become a national story covered on the Tour broadcast every day. It upsets the star and owner of the team who fired him that he is getting more attention than they are. The star challenges him to a personal race as he's being interviewed. The touring cyclist makes no pretense that he is competing with the riders, but on a rest day they square off in a mini-team time trial, something that would be utterly preposterous. Even more so, the touring cyclist enlists the help of Bernard Hinault and Laurent Jalabert, two retired great French riders who are part of The Tour entourage every year, to be his teammates in this showdown.

The movie was filmed during The Tour two years ago. There is much footage taken from that race and others, shown on TVs in the background and also simply as part of the story. Since he is riding a day ahead of the racers, stage starts and finishes that have been set up are included in the movie. It is full of authentic detail. It also captures the superlative French scenery. Like "Phantom Pain" there is a dramatic cresting of the Tourmalet. One of the more grievous faults of the movie though is the pathetic double they used for The Devil, rather than including the real one.

Despite its many faults and the missed opportunity for another great cycling movie, I couldn't help but be pleased to see The Tour being showcased in a big budget movie with the story line of someone fulfilling the dream countless Tour fans of riding The Tour route. The movie is worth seeing if only for its opening, beginning with a toddler getting a bike for Christmas, then tracing his early career as a racer from a young tyke in home video footage up through his teen-aged years. There is even a quick shot of a kid stopping along the road during a race to take a leak just as the professionals do. Another small delight was a French rapper by the name of Arm Strong. He takes the name because Armstrong was a "bad mother-fucker."  The son of the touring cyclist is a big fan of the rapper and runs away from his mother to attend one of his concerts. She calls her husband during the mock time trial worried about their son. He suspects where he has gone, so takes a break from his Tour ride to attend the concert. The rapper is of course an ardent cycling fan and knows all about the touring cyclist following The Tour. That impresses his son and they have a reconciliation. He joins his dad for the rest of his ride to Paris. And there comes the final great great insult to the plausibility of this tale. The touring cyclist infiltrates the peloton, even though there is a squadron of gendarmes trying to catch him, and he is welcomed by the rider he had the rivalry with, who happens to be in the yellow jersey. There is some authentic race footage on the Champs Élysées mixed in with some credible footage of the guy racing along. The rider in yellow allows him to win the stage. His wife is awaiting him with open arms. A great movie could have been made of a touring cyclist following The Tour. It did not need all this brainless hocum.

This wasn't the only movie of the day with a rebelliousness teen-ager who flees her parents, causing them great consternation. The other was in the superb Competition entry "The Past," by Ashgar Farhadi, whose last film "A Separation," won the Oscar for best foreign film. This film has an almost equally intricate plot, though on the surface it just seems to be the simple story of the end of a marriage and the beginning of another. The Iranian husband of an Iranian couple returns to Paris after a four-year absence to finalize their divorce so his wife can remarry. The film is rich in bickering between the three principles. The wife is played by the star of "The Artist," and her boy friend by the star of "A Prophet," both Cannes award winners. The ten-aged girl isn't happy at all about her mother's new boy friend, who has moved in with her. This was another movie with a pregnancy that has a strong bearing on the plot, as the woman is pregnant by her new boy friend, one of the reasons why they wish to marry. At 130 minutes, it may have been a trifle long, but it was a richly engrossing drama that could be worthy of best acting or script or more awards.

My only other feature of the day, along with four very mediocre documentaries, was the Un Certain Regard "Miele." The best part of this movie was the lead character getting around on her bicycle. She is a young woman who assists the terminally ill to commit suicide. The film takes place in Italy but she has to fly to Mexico periodically to get the barbiturates used to kill dogs for her clients. She is greatly upset when she discovers one of her clients isn't terminally ill and is just depressed. She tries to recover the poison she has sold him. Not much of this movie rang true.

When I was turned away from a repeat screening of the Competition film "Young and Beautiful" within eight people of getting in I greatly regretted having stayed to the end of the utterly stupid documentary "Shooting Bigfoot." This English production featuring several idiotic Americans who claim to have seen a Bigfoot and take the director for another citing was a complete waste of time. These Bigfoot fanatics were more moronic than conspiracy theorists, but there is enough interest in Bigfoot that these guys have websites and one has actually made four movies himself on his search. These guys were all so lame-brained not even Werner Herzog or Errol Morris could have made them interesting.

When I couldn't get into "Young and Beautiful" I filled in the time slot with a documentary on a town's recovery from the Japanese tsunami, "The Radio of Hope: After Tsunami 3.11." It had the noblest of attentions, but was very average film-making. It did more to represent the ways of the Japanese and their culture, than it did to shed much light on its subject. The German documentary "Breath of the Gods," also did more to show how it is in India than it did to elaborate on its subject, yoga. This movie would be a contortionist's delight with a considerable amount of archival footage of Indians twisting their bodies into extreme positions.

It is a shame that Spike Lee hadn't directed the documentary "Linsanity," as he would have certainly elevated this remarkable story to the heights it deserved, and gone easy on the religious angle, which was one of the prime thrusts of this effort. The movie seemed to have the full cooperation of Lin and his family. There are interviews with his parents and his brothers and home videos of Lin as a toddler and footage of his playing in youth leagues on through high school and college and of course the pros. It is a conventional by-the-numbers documentary.

His rise to prominence was certainly phenomenal. Before he burst into international fame with the Knicks he had been cut by two teams that year and was about to be cut by the Knicks. He was only given a chance to play because the Knicks in that strike-shortened year were forced to play three games in three nights and were greatly depleted. Lin knew it was his last chance and he gave it his all. The 89 points he scored in his first three starts, including 38 against the Lakers and Kobey Bryant, were the most any NBA player had scored in his first three games in the modern era. As mediocre as this movie was, it was still nice to relive this incredible story that ended up earning Lin a three year 25 million dollar contract with the Houston Rockets.

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.

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, Françoise 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.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Market Preview

Not all the big name directors are only to be found among the one hundred or so invited films to Cannes. There are some heavy-weights with recent films among the more than thousand films in the market as well--John Sayles, David Lynch, Jean-Luc Godard, David Gordon Green, Paul Schraeder and Peter Greenaway. There are also market offerings featuring A-list actors and many actors that are on the downslide. But most exciting for me are five films about bicycling, the most in my ten years of attending Cannes.

The first screens tomorrow first thing in the morning, an English film that was in production during last year's festival and already had posters up promoting it featuring a crazed cyclist and the title "May I Kill U?," and the tag line, "A psychopath on the cycle path."

The next comes two days later, a German film, "The Famous Five." The five are a group of teens who go off on a bicycle tour. It has two screenings, unlike the psychopath film, which only screens once, like two of the other cycling films.

I will only have one chance to see "Allez Eddy!" a day later. This is a Belgian film about an enthusiastic eleven-year old cyclist. It is in the spirit of another Belgian feature from last year that paid homage to cycling deity Eddie Merckx.

Later that day I will have another cycling film, "Girl on a Bicycle," from Germany. It takes place in Paris, by far the most popular city in the films of the festival. I could see two or three a day if I made that my focus. A girl on a bike captures the attention of an Italian bus driver who is engaged to a German.

The best of the five may be "Tour de Force," the story of a forty-year old who dreams of riding in The Tour de France. I'll have to use my most persuasive powers to see it, as the program states it is only available to buyers. Press in particular are excluded. But I will have three chances to try, all in larger market theaters.

A strong theme of films in the market is the search for someone who has gone missing or a biological parent. There are also a few films about soldiers recovering from Afghanistan. There are at least five films about astronauts, the first on Day One with Christian Slater. One of the astronaut films is from Hungary. There are three films about being adrift at sea. "All is Lost" stars Robert Redford and plays out of competition, but not in the market, as are the other two. Patagonia is the subject of a few films, including a mountaineering documentary.

As always there is a wide array of documentaries. There are a couple on Inuits and two on Haiti, one by Haitian Raul Peck called "Fatal Assistance," questioning the aid process. Two recent phenomenoms, Linsanity and Pussy Riot are also the subject of documentaries. One that I have no interest in seeing is "On Tender Hooks," about the practice of piercing the body with meat hooks and suspending one's self.

There are plenty of horror films I will avoid as well, many described as people experiencing the most terrifying night of their life's. "Nothing is what it seems" is a common description of horror and non-horror films alike.

This year's Michael Madsen is Eric Roberts, with four films in the market. It may be the first time since "Reservoir Dogs" that their isn't a film with Madsen. John Cusack is in two quirky films, "Adult World" and "Grand Piano," playing a reclusive writer in one. Gerard Depardieu is also a rare absentee, though his female counterpart Catherine Deneuve turns up a couple times, one in the revival of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

I will certainly have my work cut out for me to see all that I'd like to see. There are no shortage of screenings. There are 76 on day one, a whole festival worth for most festivals, but the least of any day of the festival until it winds down.


The crowds are gathering. Quite a few people already have their ladders and chairs staked out in front of the Palais where the limos drop the celebs off for their walk up the red carpet.