Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cannes Day Eight

 I suffered my first day of rejection this year, turned away from two screenings and the Master Class with Oscar-winner Alfonso Cuaron.  The rejections came at the end of the day and left me with no film to see in the 10:30 p.m. time slot.  I allowed myself to be swept up by the buzz for "The Florida Project," a small American indie about a six-year old growing up poor in Orlando with Willem Dafoe, and joined a line for it at the 240-seat Arcades an hour before its scheduled start that I knew was probably more than the capactiy of the theater.  I had turned away from the line and was headed to my original choice, "Rodin," a Competitioin film that had gotten bad reviews and that I was willing to postpone until Sunday, when Ralph called out to me.  He was in line too.  If he was making an attempt on this, I figured I would too, as we hadn't seen many movies together this year since his credentials give him easier access to the Lumiere Palais screenings.  

We both fell more than fifty people short of getting in. I hopped on my bike and sped a mile up to the Miramar for the only other late night screening, but it too was full.  So it was an early night for me.  I got back to our apartment early enough to give Janina a call, who just arrived in London after crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary. She'd spent the day in London engaging I her favorite pursuit, visiting art museums.  We'll be meeting up in a week for a bike ride across the south of France. My biking has been suffering with my movie submersion, but I was able to get in a a couple miles this afternoon when Ralph and I were turned away from the Master Class.  I made a dash to the supermarket to stock up on groceries for the last four days of the festival (bread, milk, cereal, lentils and pâté), my first visit resupply of provisions since the festival began.

At least my day had gotten off to a good start with Sofia Coppola's "Beguiled," the second movie in Competition  starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidmann.  This remake of a Clint Eastwood picture about a wounded Union solider during the Civil War taken in by the women of a small girl's boarding school had enough sizzle to be a threat for Coppola to join Jane Campion as the only woman to win the Palm d'Or.  A little girl collecting mushrooms comes upon Farrell cowering under a tree.  She is startled.  He gently asks her if she is afraid.  She says she is and he says he is too.  But she is very kind-hearted and takes him back to her small school in a mansion in rural isolation.  Kidmann is the head mistress.  There are only five students and one other teacher, Kirsten Dunst.  Not all of them think it's a good idea to harbor the fugitive, but their "Christian" values prevail and they decide to look after him.  The women immediately all begin preening and dressing up to win his attention.  It is initially amusing, but then gets woefully serious.

I jumped from the American south to rural Russia for my next film, "Closeness," by a first-time director, allowing Thierry Fremaux to introduce the jury judging first-time films who were in attendance.  This was almost an ethnographic film featuring a small Jewish community that is trying to raise the funds to gain the release of two of its members who were kidnapped.  Style prevailed over substance.  I was hoping Ralph could tell me more about what we had just seen, but he too found it too muddled to fully decipher. 

The scenery is almost the star of the Argentinian film "The Summit," a ski resort in the Andes of Chile where eleven heads of state of South American countries with oil have gathered.  The story focuses on the president of Argentina.  Rather than concentrating on the intrigue of the leaders each battling for their own interests and banding against the United States, the film is sidetracked by a side story of the unstable daughter of the Argentinian president.  Christian Slater steals the movie in his lone scene as an American oil executive exerting his demands with a huge bribe to the Argentinian president.  It alone merits giving this movie a look.  His performance was a contributing factor to making me want to see "The Florida Project," knowing Willem Dafoe could equally ignite a movie.

Denied the Master Class led me to "El Hombre Que Cuida," a barebones movie from the Domincan Republic that is a shining example why checking out anything on offer here can lead to a gem.  It was the honest, realistic story of a guy who looks after the luxurious beach house of a wealthy Dominican.  His arrogant son, on break from college, shows up with a friend and a girl they have picked up.  The caretaker is intimidated into letting them spend the day. He's not happy about doing it, but feels he has no choice, though it could cost him his job.  Everyone plays their role as if it were real life.

"Last Laugh" likewise rang so true I thought at times I was watching a documentary of a Chinese family trying to decide what to do with an elderly mother who is on th waiting list for a hospice,. One says, "The life she leads is worse than death."   Her medicine is draining what little reserves they have.  The daughter she is presentry staying with pleads with her sister to help.  The family conferences degenerate into furious shouting matches. The grandmother hardly says a word, sitting glumly with head bowed through most of the movie until she is stricken with fits of quiet laughter, thus the title of the movie.

Even though this was just a five-movie day, my fewest since Day One, it was still Another Fine Day of Cinema.  With just four days remaining the pangs of withdrawal are creeping in on me. 

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