Sunday, May 15, 2016

Day Five

Wild, exuberant, unpredictable, volatile youth highlighted my day's two winning films, one taking place in Russia and the other in the US.  A small tribe of them galvanate across the US in a van selling magazine subscriptions and partying in "American Honey" by the fifty-year old Brit Andrea Arnold, who understands their mentality as if she is one of them.  The latest recruit to the bunch is Star, a rambunctious young woman who claims to be eighteen, but may be younger.  The film opens with her scavenging food from a dumpster with two children she is looking after for a friend.  Her daredevil spirit is attracted by a van of lively characters who moon her as she is trying to hitchhike and then pull into the Walmart across the street.  She tracks them down and is then invited to join them.  

She is taken under the wing of a fast-talking guy who is the best salesman of the bunch and the lover of the woman who orchestrates their movements, finding motels for them to stay at and locations for them to take their act to.  Star tries to remain herself and not make up the stories the others resort to saying their father died in Afghanistan or they are raising money for their college.  It loses her some sales but wins her others.  The energy of this three-hour film does not flag.  The acting is remarkable as well as the camerawork.  This may stray into the fancible, but it is a film to admire.  It is a film Harmony  Korine or Gus Van Sant could have made, except with a feminine sensibility.  It would a daring, but worthy choice, to award Sasha Lane Best Actress honors.  The festival appreciated her performance to such a degree that it put her on the cover of the program.

The Russian Bible-spouting student in "The Student" would be appalled by the antics and the attire of what he would consider the heathens of "American Honey."  He knows the Bible backwards and forwards and like some Shakespearean character is continually spouting lines from the book that are annotated on the screen as they appear.  He rails against the bikinis and skimpy attire that the students wear in swim class as fostering lust.  He takes great affront to the sex education class demonstrating the use of condoms on carrots, and strips naked in protest.  The Bible preaches to go forth and multiply, not to use condoms he says.  The Bible quotations flow so naturally off his tongue, one might not recognize them as coming from the Bible if it were not for the quotation marks around them in the subtitles.   He is wild and rambunctious enough to be one of the Americans selling magazine subscriptions, but he is a rebel of an entirely different stripe.  His performance is as powerful and entrancing as that of Star and he is equally committed  to his ideals.  They are rare original cinematic characters.

The always brilliant Marion Cottilard, in the first of the two Competition films she appears in, carries "From the Land of the Moon." She is a slightly mad young woman living a century ago who hasn't found a husband and who her parents make wed a bricklayer they hardly know.  He is a good man and accepts she does not love him and is willing to visit prostitites for his needs.  When she learns what he is paying them she says to leave that amount on her dresser and join her in bed.  He keeps hoping he'll win her over.  He sends her to a sanatorium in Switzerland, where she falls in love with a fellow patient.  He doesn't answer her letters when they are both released.  The movie goes on for decades more before it reaches a not surprise denouement. Ho-hum.

The rest of my day was three average documentaries whose running times and theaters they were playing in fit my schedule.  The first was the Danish "Bugs," asking the question of whether bugs could answer the planet's dietary needs.  It doesn't reach a conclusion and is more interested in following a couple of young proponents of insects as food to Australia and Africa and Mexico where they dig for ants and tempted and other insects and give them a taste.

"Uncle Howard" was a polished enough effort to have been selected to play at Berlin and Sundance, though it was in the Market here. Howard is the filmmaker Howard Brookner who died at the age of 35 in 1989 after making an acclaimed documentary on William Burroughs and was in the process of making his first feature starring Madonna when he died of AIDS.  He inspired his nephew Aaron Brookmer to become a filmmaker and this is is ode to him, beginning with the discovery of reels of his films in Burrougs' bunker.  Jim Jarmsuch knew Howard.  He produced the film and joins the young filmmaker when he is finally given access to the treasure trove.  This is no "Finding Vivian Meier," as the producers might have hoped.

"Shadow World"  indicts the weapons industry for having its way with government leaders around the world.  It's chock full of clips of Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, Obama and many Saudi princes.  Even though it begins with the pronouncement that WWI created 21,000 millionaires thanks to all the weapons sold, it doesn't purse this or identify them other than a few of the corporations.  This film needed Michael Moore to give it some impact.

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