No film, other than something like "Tree of Life," is worth more than an hour of standing in line for me. Ralph, however, was willing to join the fray half an hour earlier than me, but still barely got into the Cronenberg and Wenders films, sweating it out, as those with higher-priority credentials than ours were given preference. He was much pleased with both films.
Neither of us though were overly impressed with the day's opening film, "Two Days, One Night," that has had many gushing that it will make the Dardennes brothers the first three-time winners of the Palm d'Or. This socially-conscious film that is a testament to our times with a woman played by the always good Marion Cotillard beseeching her fellow sixteen workers at a solar-panel plant to forgo their 1,000 euro bonus so she can keep her job is most certainly a fine film, but it did not achieve the poignancy that it could have.
Cotillard visits fourteen of the sixteen workers who initially voted for the bonus rather than for her over a weekend after she convinces the manager of the plant to put it to a revote as he had prejudiced them against her by threatening that one of them had to lose their job. Most of her fellow workers tell her they desperately need the bonus to survive themselves, other than one who says she was counting on it for a patio. But a few with a conscience on second thought say they will vote for her. One tells her that she will have to discuss it with her husband after he returns from his morning bicycle ride. The script could have better debated the morality of the issue, but almost lapsed into predictable cliche, several times with heated violence. It is another of at least three of the higher-profile films here where the script has taken the easy route of having a frazzled woman attempt suicide, which could well have feminists up in arms.
I was similarly let-down by "Whiplash," a Sundance award winner and great crowd-pleaser about a drummer at a prestigious music college battling his overly zealous instructor brilliantly played by J.K. Simmons in a role to die for. His over-the-top performance of a venom-spewing drill sergeant of a teacher, calling his students faggots and cock-suckers and hymie-fucks and retards and worse when they don't measure up to his expectations, driving them to tears and beyond, far exceeded credibility in this age of political-correctness and students standing up to their professors. I well know that from Janina who has had students gang up on her in class for criticizing obesity and anti-depressants, accusing her of being insensitive and insulting them. Janina will be appalled by this highly exaggerated portrayal of a professor, though it is remarkable in many ways and drew a large round of applause from my sold-out Director's Fortnight audience.
Even less credible was the Australian apocalypse movie "These Final Hours," also a Director's Fortnight selection. The world is going to end in twelve hours. Violence has broken out everywhere and also at least one spectacular orgy. A guy's girl friend tells him she's pregnant. He responds, "What difference does it make," as could be said of this movie.
The rest of my day was market fare of films that in some way or another had attracted my attention. The program notes on "Memories of the Desert" from Brazil stated that a writer bikes around the Atacama desert for material. It wasn't clear if it was on a motorcycle or a pedal-bike. Having biked through the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and knowing its beauty, that was enough to make me want to see this movie. There are indeed snippets of him on a mountain bike, riding rather haphazardly though. The film though does full justice to the spectacular desert dotted with snow-covered volcanoes.
There was a rare clutch of people outside the Lerins One for the Thai film "The Last Executioner." One person hoping to get in told the director of the film, "I've heard good things about this." He recognized it as a pandering plea and said, "That's interesting, as this is the first time its ever been screened." This was a biopic of someone who had executed fifty-five people by gun shot before capital punishment was switched to lethal injection in 2003. The Thai method of execution was to shoot the prisoner in the back while he or she was tied to a post. The shots were fired through a hole in a large sheet. As impersonal as it was, the executioner still had to wrestle with his conscience, though this was only superficially portrayed.
My day was rounded out with two documentaries. "Beltracchi, The Art of Forgery," was enlivened by an up-beat sound track and a very willing and personable character. This German film about a German forger presently serving prison time, though only at night, intimately demonstrates his forging technique and reconstructs his fascinating career hoodwinking experts left and right.
"The British Film Industry: Elitist, Dormant or Deluded" was like a typical film festival panel discussion of directors complaining about funding. Ken Loach and Stephen Frears are among the many British film directors rehashing this tired old issue. I was happy to have to leave this early to hop on my bike and dash up to the distant Croisette for "Whiplash."
My thee hours of standing in lines allowed me to read all three trade dailies in their entirety for the first time while trying not to become incensed by the immoral and unscrupulous budging ahead of me. Among the many reviews were a handful on films I will have to try to squeeze in. It's not going to be easy. But at least I have an Invitation for the noon screening of Xavier Dolan's "Mommy" on Thursday, the film I've most wanted to see.