Saturday, May 17, 2014

Day Four

With Invitations in hand for the two films debuting in Competition today I knew my day would be a good one.  I had only seen one of the four Competition films that have played so far.  I sacrificed an Invitation for the Ceylan film yesterday, giving it to friend, free-lance reviewer Patrick McGavin from Chicago,  to see the FIFA film, as that was the last time it was on the schedule. Though it couldn't compare to the Competition entry, I was glad to have seen it, as I might not ever again have the chance, even on DVD.  I knew I would have many opportunities for Ceylan's film in the days and years ahead and could exercise some patience, as difficult as it was.

Despite arriving at the Palais before eight for the early morning screening of "Saint Laurent" I had to climb high up into the balcony for a seat.  Though the huge screen was a long ways away, I was filled with privilege and eager anticipation to be at another premier of what could be a seminal film.  Gaspard Ulliel convincingly inhabited his role as Yves Saint Laurent as did Timothy Spall two days earlier with Turner.  This French biopic by Bertrand Bonello covers about a decade of Laurent's life starting in the late '60s when he was establishing himself as the world's premier fashion designer and battling drugs.  Like the Turner movie it was two-and-a-half hours long, but this one felt like it, becoming bogged down half way through, as the story stagnates.  

After it was over I joined the mad dash back outside for the line returning to the Palais for "Wild Tales," a delightful  Spanish dark comedy produced by Pedro Almodovar.  This series of six stories of distressed souls lashing out at the injustices of the world by Damian Szifron was a refreshing antidote to the all too serious and heavy films that dominate the festival.  From the very first outrageous segment on a plane filled with people a vengeful flight attendant arranged to put on the flight who have wronged him over the years, this film manages to sustain originality and unexpected twists from start to finish.  Any of the tales could have made for a full length feature.

When I fell fifteen people short, three of whom had budged in front of me, of getting into Ceylan's film after standing in line for an hour at the Soxiante, it allowed me to see one of the two movies in the market on Somali pirates--one a documentary and the other a feature.  This American production,"Fishing Without Nets," was the feature. The cast of mostly non-professional Somalis, like those in "Captain Philips," are creepy characters prone to unpredictable behavior.  They don't fully know what they are doing, nor do they all trust one another.  This was less convincing and riveting than the Tom Hanks film and largely told from the Somali viewpoint, but offered further insight into the pirating.

Not having my day consumed by the three-hour Ceylan movie also opened up the opportunity for a mountaineering documentary that had interested me since spotting it in the program five days ago--"Cerro Torre--A Snowball's Chance in Hell."  Cerro Torre is a unique sharp pinnacle in Patagonia that hadn't been climbed until 1959.  A couple of Austrian climbers make an attempt on it in 2009.  One of them is a climbing prodigy whose father is a Nepalese Sherpa and mother Austrian.  The scenery is spectacular and the footage of them being the first to free-climb a giant wall topped by ice is palm-sweating.

People were already lined up outside the Star theater two hours before Abel Ferrara's "Welcome to New York" was to screen at nine p.m.  Rather than playing in three consecutive time slots at the Star as originally scheduled, it was reduced to two screenings playing simultaneously in two of the Star's 250-seat theaters.  I had made the long trek to the distant Star on my bike to see "Stations at the Cross" at 7:30 and then maybe "New York" if it wasn't mobbed.  That didn't seem likely.  And "Stations" was so engaging I didn't care to to leave it prematurely.

This German film had won the best screenplay at Berlin in January.  It tells in fourteen segments (the stations of the cross), most of which are shot with a stationary camera, the story of a very devoted and somewhat tormented Catholic girl during her confirmation process.  Her very dominating mother, prone to angry outbursts, shows her no mercy in ordering her about to withstand the temptations of the material world, especially not listening to demonic rock music. As with "Wild Tales," one segment after another is packed with intense veracity--in the confessional booth, in her high school gym, at a doctor's office. This more than rewarded my obsession with filling every time slot during the day with cinema.

Un Certain Regard gives up one slot every year to a film that has already played at Sundance or Toronto.  Last year it was the significant "Fruitvale Station."  This year Thiery Fremaux did Harvey Weinstein a favor by letting it be his "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her," that had played at Sundance.  Weinstein was there on stage with his wife and the two stars of the film, Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, though not Isabelle Hupert or William Hurt, who play Chastain's parents.  This film, which takes place in Manhattan, opens with a silly fleeing a restaurant without paying scene, and then Chastain jumping off a bridge trying to commit suicide.  She is saved and hospitalized.  The script does little to try to explain what led to her suicide, but is rather preoccupied with showcasing some occasional bon mots by the first-time director Ned Benson.  The self-indulgent script does not try to understand its characters, but rather tries to entertain those watching them.  It was a stark contrast to "Party Girl" and "That Lovely Girl," also in Un Certain Regard, that were fully honest and realistic.  This was just someone who had some writing talent wanting to make a movie.

Although I only saw six movies today, after seven the past two days, it was still Another Great Day of Cinema.  I'm getting by on less than six hours of sleep a night, but still going strong, invigorated by the varied worlds and stories I'm able to immerse myself in all day long.  Sharing a place with Ralph less than a mile from the Palais rather than camping is saving me time, but also keeping me up late dissecting the movies. I miss that four-mile bike ride to and from the campground along the Mediterranean, but our conversations are more than adequate compensation.  Without Ralph's keen eye I wouldn't have realized my pass entitled me to Invitations this year, a great bonus.

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