There were about fifty people in the Last Minute Line when I arrived at 8:15 positioned on the outside of the second row of barriers this year instead of inside them. And, as last year, we weren't allowed to start filtering in until the very last minute at nearly 8:30. Surprisingly, there was so little interest among the press for this screening that there was space in the Palais on the first floor rather than in the balcony for all of us. More often than not we're turned away from the Palais and funneled to the Soixante Theater for a 9:00 a.m. screening of the film. Getting into the early screening meant I could watch fifty rather than twenty minutes of the action before slipping out. It was instant crashes and explosions and furious fightering and loud noise. It wss unrelenting for thirty minutes. Where there was a brief lull, the audience responded with applause, either in appreciation of all the mayhem or in thanks for relief from it.
When I switched theaters It was a dramatic shift from the grand Palais to a fifty-seat screening room and an equally dramatic shift from the desert to the jungle and from fantasy to reality for the true story of "Pure Life," recounting the expedition of a young Frenchman in 1949 in the Amazon seeking an isolated tribe. The director wishfully pitched his movie as a cross between a Herzogian epic and "Into the Wild." The young Frenchman was ill-equipped for his adventure and lost nearly all his funds playing poker with an ex-con just before he ventures into the jungle. He had to trade a watch for a canoe at one point. He disappears never to be found, only his journal. His father spent twelve years futilely searching for him. The first time director wasn't much better prepared to do justice to the story than the Frenchman was in undertaking his adventure.
"Twice Upon a Time in the West" gave promise of being the wackiest film of the festival--a Bulgarian feature paying homage to Sergio Leone's masterpiece with Claudia Cardinale playing herself. Cardinale no longer wishes to live in Paris and decides to retreat from the world and go live in anonymity in Spain where "Once Upon a Time in the West" was filmed. Not too many others thought this would make for an interesting movie, as there were only three of us attracted to this screening. Not even the star power of Cardinale, who gave a Master Class here a couple years ago and was a recent tributee at Telluride, could fill the thirty-two seat Gray 4. Cardinale was a delight counting stories from her long career though she talks more about Fellini than Leone. She felt lucky to have lived 140 lives, one for each movie she appeared in. This movie may have had a top-notch premise, but unfortunately it didn't have a director who could execute it.
During the three years I have known Janina she has cultivated in me an interest in ballet, one of her passions. Thanks to her I was drawn to "Ulyana Lopatakine," a French documentary on the renowned Russian ballerina. It was equal parts rehearsals, performances, interviews with her and interviews with those who know her raving about her brilliance. She made for an excellent subject and a most captivating documentary. She was positively radiant and a rare, rare talent.
"Fou d'Amour" was my second French movie of the day that was a true story about a young French man with hubris who dies young. This one was a philandering priest. The movie opens with him being led to the guillotine. His head is lopped off and left in a basket to narrate his story. It is 1959 and he has been assigned to a small rural church. He is very charismatic and warm. All the women, young and old, fall in love with him and offer themselves to him. He ranges about his parish on a bicycle for his assignations until a wealthy woman buys him a scooter. That allows him greate freedom. If he had stuck to the bike, he might not have gotten so deep into trouble. If Gaspar Noe had made this movie, it might have been worthy of being in one of the Competitive categories, but instead it was in the Market looking for attention.
I ended the day with a pair of "Un Certain Regard" entries by accomplished directors who'd had films invited to the festival over the years and I at last had the pleasure of genuine cinema by masters of the art. The honor of the opening film for this category went to the Japanese film "An" by Naomi Kawase, a fomer winner in the Competiton field. This story of a gruff man with a past who runs a small food stand and the kindly 75-year old woman who befriends him was just a bit too slight to be worthy of being in Competiton, though it had to be a tough decision for Thierry Fremaux. The film opens during the cherry blossom season, allowing Kawase to include many of her signature nature and cloud shots, and had her usual social sensitivity.
Just as "An" was a characteristic Japanese film, "One Floor Below" by Radu Munteau was a chararacteistic Romanian film of gritty every-day realism. A murder takes place in a small apartment building. A tenant who could assist the police chooses to withhold information that could help them solve the case. As with "An" this film had a simple profundity that displayed the power of cinema to give us insight into the human condition. I had a fine midnight ride back to the apartment on a hill uplifted by two fine films knowing many more awaited me.