Friday, May 26, 2017

Cannes Day Eleven

As Ralph and I nervously sweated out getting in to see Claire Denis' film "Let the Sunshine In" that was one of the Director's Fortnight winners, we continued our discussion that we had been engaged in twice already today in other lines of why Lynn Ramsey's film "You Were Never Really Here" didn't quit work for us. We both appreciated Joaquim Phoenix as a disheveled, dispirited private detective, even more morose than Casey Affleck in "Manchester by the Sea," and Ramsey's usual directorial flair,  but all the flashbacks to his time in the military and the FBI and to his childhood trying to explain why he was such a broken man seemed to muddle the movie rather than set it straight.  The mayhem that ensues when he rescues the teen-aged daughter of a politician from the sex-trade further fractures the movie. Phoenix actually calls the man who gives him assignments at one point and asks, "What the fuck is going on?"  There are so many strands to his nightmare, they never coalesce.  

We had both found the time to check the early reviews.  They were generally favorable, but rather sympathetic, acknowledging that Ramsey had been editing the film up to the last minute, so that it might not have been exactly what she wanted.  They all had hopes that she might be able to improve it and make it more palatable.  It was unfortunately not the bold master work worthy of the Palm d'Or, as Ralph and I had been hoping.  So that leaves the competition wide open.  Ralph thinks it could be one of the two Russian films or the Greek horror movie.  I think it could be the Swedish black comedy or the French gay rights movie.  For the first time other than my first festival fourteen years ago when "Fahrenheit 911" won the Palm d'Or, there has not been an exceptional film or two that entered the awards ceremony as a favorite.

The Un Certain Regard jury surprised all giving its top prize to the Iraninan film "A Man of Integrity."  Five films received awards, but the leading contender, the German film "Western," received nothing.  It was no surprise that the five-person jury, headed by Uma Thurman, would give the American thriller "Wind River" an award, produced as it was by Harvey Weinstein.  He accepted the best director award for Taylor Sheridan and read his acceptance speech.  When it came to thanking Weinstein, he said, "I'll adlib here and add, 'who is incredible,'" drawing laughs. The other winners were the Mexican film "April's Daughter," best actor to Jasmine Trinca the Italian film "Fortuna'" and the opening night French film "Barbara."  I had been hoping the French film "Workshop" would win the top prize as I had been turned away from seeing it and would then have the opportunity now, since the winner was screened after the ceremony.  

Since I had seen "A Man of Integrity," it gave me the opportunity to see the Claire Denis film starring Juliette Binoche as an artist in Paris.  She is divorced and has a string of short-lived affairs, antagonizing two of her lovers by complaining about their behavior in bed.  This dialogue-heavy film concludes with a surprise appearance of Gerard Depardieu.  It's not an official Cannes for me without seeing him in at least one film.  Ralph and I scanned the theater looking for Barry Jenkins, who cites Denis as one of his influences.  He included her "Beau Travail" in his program at the Walter Reade in New York this past January as one of his favorite films. He is at the festival serving on the short film jury, but we had failed to catch a glimpse of him.

"Let the Sunshine In" shared the best French film award with Philippe Garrel's "Lover for a Day," another movie set in Paris about people sleeping around and talking a lot.  A college student breaks up with her boyfriend and shows up at her father's small apartment asking if she can stay with him for awhile.  He has no reservations about letting her sleep on his couch even though his girl friend has recently moved in.  He is a college professor of philosophy and his girl friend is one of his students, the same age as his daughter.  He has an agreement with his girl friend that they can have affairs on the side, but when she does, he's not happy about it at all.  Filmed in black-and-white added more merit to the film than it probably deserved.

As tedious as all the self-indulgent ruminating in both of these French films, it was a welcome break from all the portrayals of devious, lying, stealing, violent-prone miscreants that had come to dominate the festival.  "A Ciambra," which won best European film in the Director's Fortnight, focused the deviance upon a 14-year old gypsy boy in Italy who is well on his way to a life of crime and a stint in prison, such as his older brother has just served.  He steals luggage off trains and breaks into homes and teams up with an older African.  The film is dizzying at times, it is so fast-paced.  The poor boy is faced by an extreme moral dilemma at the end that will define his life to come.  

Even more repugnant than the grypsy boy was a very suave woman who ghost writes autophiograohies of celebrities in Roman Polanski's "Based on a True Story." She's another of those "not-who-they-seem-to-be" characters who've populated many of this year's films.  She befriends a best-selling novelist played by Emaneulle Seigner, who seems to be her alter-ego.  They become such pals they begin living together.  Seigner gives her the password to her computer.  She answers her emails and sends out a mass email to all her friends to leave her alone so she can write.  For some unexplained reason she wishes to destroy the novelist.  It is so obvious one wonders when the novelist is going to order her out of her life.  This was another "get-this-over-with-movie" begging all bounds of credibility as it wallows in titilation.  The festival did Polanski a favor by giving this a Special Screening in the Lumiere.  At least it was saved until the end of the festival, just as last year's disaster by Sean Penn that has been fully suppressed. This was no disaster, just an insult.  It will find an audience, just as did "Elle."

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