Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cannes Day Nine

All seems peaceful and orderly at a rundown housing project controlled by a drug gang that a family of three Sri Lankan refugees are placed in on the outskirts of Paris.  The refugees aren't what they appear to be, nor is the seeming placidity of the housing project in Jacques Audiard's "Dheepan" that was today's opening Competition film.  This was one one of the more anticipated films of the festival, but Ralph and I had no problem getting into it, thanks in part to the first rain of the festival.

The refugees gained entry to France masquerading as a family unit (husband, wife and young daughter) though they hadn't met until the refugee camp in Sri Lanka.  None of them speak much French.  The husband is given the position of caretaker/janitor at the project where they themselves live in a dump of an apartment.  The girl is placed in school against her will and one of the drug overseers of the complex gives the wife the position of cook and cleaning lady for an elderly guy whose apartment has been appropriated by the gang.  She is thrilled to be earning 500 euros a month.

The husband is very diligent and competent and knows how to cope in their circumstances.  The story pleasantly drifts along as they assimilate into their new environment learning its okay to drink the water and the "mother" kissing her "daughter" when she drops her off at school.  Then a turf war breaks out and this turns into an Audiard film.  The skills the caretaker gained as a gueriilla fighter in Sri Lanka burst forth as he appears to morph into another "Prophet" as in Audiard's film that won him best director honors here a few years ago.  It is a fine performance, but doesn't leap off the screen as in most of Audiard's films.  Janina has aspired to give a class on Audiard.  She will be happy to add this to her syllabus, though it is a much more subtle film than the rest of his oeuvre.  I had been hoping this would be Palm d'Or material, but probably not.

Today began two days of repeating all the Competition and Un Certain Regard films that have screened up til now. Unfortunately the two I most wanted to see,"Carol" and "Son of Saul," were in the same time slot as "Dheepan," so they'll have to wait until Sunday when all the Competition films are screened one last time.  The only other Competiton film that fit into my schedule today was Gus Van Sant's "The Sea of Trees" that was so reviled, receiving four zero star reviews from "Screen's" panel of ten critics, two more than have been given out to all the rest of the films that have been screened.  Some called it the worst film ever screened in Competition.  That was hardly the case.  The film actually had some merit and won't be a total box office fiasco.  This was simply a case of critic mob mentality, with a handful expressing disdain and it becoming a contagion.  And perhaps there is an underlying impulse to discourage anyone from seeing a movie on sucide, especially one that somewhat glorifies a forest in Japan that people come to from all over the world for their final act.  

Matthew McConaughey flying off to Japan on an impulse to commit suicide was a stretch, as he could  just as easily have downed a bottle of pills in his bedroom as he attempts in the forest.  The corpses he stumbles upon add to the stretch, as do some of his escapades in the forest.  The flashbacks, though, to his unhappy marriage with Naomi Watts are a fine portrayal of a typical couple savagely bickering over petty grievances.  Watts is upset, among other things, that her husband is content with his $20,000 a year salary as a college professor, forcing her to be the prime breadwinner as a real estate agent.  If I had seen this movie before the critics had  had at it, I too would have scoffed at some of its pretenses, but I would hardly have ridiculed it as has the critical mob.

The bulk of the rest of my day was repeat screenings of three Out of Compeition films that all tackled an interesting subject--the Turkish massacre of the Armenians, German guilt over WWII and sex.  "Don't Tell Me the Boy Was Bad" mercilessly indicts Turkey for its post WWI genocide of over a million Armenians.  It begins with the assassination in Berlin in 1919 of one of the Turks responsible for it.  The Armenian assassin is put on trial in Germany and is actually acquitted by the jury for his justifiable execution of the individual.  The assassin remains an Armemian hero.  His portrait hangs in the homes of many.  He is the inspiration for an assassination many years later of a Turkish ambassador.  An innocent bystander on a bicycle is severely injured in the car bombing and tracks down the assassin in Syria and asks for forgiveness.  The movie is mostly though an Armenian propaganda piece that will never be shown in Turkey, as it is a criminal offense in Turkey to raise the Armenian issue.

An older German woman has lived in isolation on a small Spanish island for forty years in Barbet Schroeder's "Amnesia," another film taking on a political subject of many years standing.  A young musician from Berlin moves into a nearby house.  They bond and he takes a romantic interest in her not realizing she's German.  She has never been happier but doesn't let their relationship go beyond a close friendship.  He is quite enraged when he learns her nationality.  She has never accepted Germany's WWII past.  When his parents come to visit, they reignite the debate, defending their nationality.  The debate flares out of control when the father tells of his experience during the war supervising Jewish girls at a factory.

The lack of sex in "Amnesia" was more than made up in Gaspar Noe's "Love."  The movie is a succession of explicit couplings straight out of a porn movie.  A young American attending film school in Paris seduces an aspiring painter who works at a gallery.  We never see them in class or at work, mostly just in bed.  The only evidence that the guy is an aspiring film director are all the movie posters in his apartment--Noe's favorite "Salo" among them--and the guy telling his girl friend that she has to see "2001" as they take a stroll through the Parisian peak that was once a quarry.  They are both sexually adventurous and go to a sex club that is filmed with dazzling effect.  The guy though can't  bring himself to join his girl friend in sex with a transvestite when his penis is presented to him.  He is all for a threesome with a woman, as is she.  Both would like her to be a blond.  When one moves into their building, she's in their clutches that night.  This was the third prominent movie of the fest with a baby being given a comical name. This time it was Gaspar, which got a laugh out of the audience.  There are laughs too when the American berates the French for not having won a war since 1918 and when a police officer tells him he shouldn't try to have his own way in all things like Americans do.  Its hard to say what audiences this movie will be made available too, but any fan of Noe will be pleased to see it.

Full nudity was also on prominent display in the Un Certain Regard wrap-up for the day--"The Other Side"--an Italian directed documentary that takes place in Hicksville, Louisiana.  A racist drug-addict and his addict girl friend remarkably allow a film crew into their life.  They bare all from their injections to their love-making and their innermost thoughts.  The guy has done time and promises to go back to prison when his dying mother goes, as it is only in prison that he can give up his addictions.  The woman too knows she must come clean, but isn't so eager.  I quickly lost interest in these deadbeats and was happy to nod off.  Ralph had had enough less than half way through and took his leave early, the first film he had walked out on this year.  

Before hitting the hay I took the time to further pursue the handful of suggestions various friends sent to regain my email account after being lost to a hacker three days ago.  The winner came from Andrew of Sydney, who I've toured with in Laos and France and who has done me many a fine turn.  He advised checking to see if the emails being sent to my account were being forwarded to the account of the hacker.  Indeed, they were.  With the expertise of Ralph we disabled that feature.  The process is explained in the comments suggestion from Day Seven.  Right away I began receiving emails for the first time in three days, but none from that period.  Its not likely I'll be able to recover any of those.   Hopefully there weren't any of pressing concern.  Anyway, great thanks to Andrew and all else who expressed concern.

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