Nicolas Winding Rehn's "The Neon Demon," a commentary on the beauty of young actresses and their rivalry in Hollywood, will have harsh critics as well, but it will at least have some defenders who will applaud its innovative slick style. Dozens of scantily clad young actresses with the "look" parade through this movie competing to be discovered. One newly-arrived, fresh-faced hopeful has that inexplicable special appeal that separates her from the rest, but is she strong enough to survive? The sinister, dark overtones of the movie forbade the worst.
Critics Week was the first competitive category to announce its winners and screen them this evening. I was able to dash up to its distant theater to see the winner "Mimosas" when I was turned away from Jim Jarmush's documentary on Iggy Pop. I had been particularly curious to see the two of them introduce the film at this special screening, but Ralph said neither were in attendance. He reported it was a simple, straightforward documentary with no hint of Jarmsuch trying to do anything out of the ordinary.
The harsh Atlas Moutains in Morocco are the star of "Mimosas" the tale of a caravan transporting the dying body of a sheik to be buried. It was a surprising choice from the jury, as the winner of this category is more often psychological studies of someone in torment. The scenery and the rugged authentic characters with all manner of beards won out over the films that focused on human nature.
The Israeli "One Week and a Day," another Critics Week winner, was wholely occupied with the unraveling of a couple over the death of their twenty-two year old son. They have just finished their week of mourning with neighbors and friends coming by their home with food. A neighbor they have a feud with arrives after the visitation has ended. They throw them out of their home, the first glimpse at how volatile they are. The husband steals a bag of medicinal marijuana from a friend in hospice, leading to a succession of wacky and off-the-wall behavior that would have fit in with "Toni Erdman." It alternates between comedy and deep pathos.
"Divines" from Director's Fortnight offered up more anger and desperation, this time from two young women, one Arabic and the other African, in a Parisian ghetto rife with violence and drugs. The print had no subtitles, except some occssional French when the characters spoke in their native tongues, but the action was self-explanatory enough that my limited French was enough to follow the story. Andrea Arnold might have cast these women had she been making a French version of "American Honey." They bounded with energy fully capturing their characters. They are untamed and uninhibited. One becomes infatuated with a dancer and watches him rehearse from high in the rafters of theater adding an extra element of intrigue to the movie.
As the festival winds down speculation on the award winners heightens. I'll be rooting for the two Romanian films, "Graduation" for the Palm d'Or and "Sieranevada" for the Grand Prix, despite the tendency of juries to distribute awards among different nationalities. Those are the two films I'm most interested in watching again on Sunday when all the Competition films are rescreened and there is nothing else to watch. Andrea Arnold would be a bold choice for best director for her handling of her cast of mostly non-actors traveling around the western US selling magazine subscriptions. "Toni Erdman" will no doubt win something. Arguments can be made for most of the films to be acknowledged in some manner. There is always a surprise, depending on who has a strong voice on the nine-person jury, so there is no predicting. Maybe the final film, by the director of the award-winning "Separation," will be the heads-above-all-others masterpiece that we have been awaiting.