Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cannes Day Nine

I'm Today was the first of two days of repeat screenings of all the Competition, Un Certain Regard and Special Screenings that have already played.  I was only one behind on the Competition films, but had missed six of the seventeen Un Certain Regard films.  I was able to catch up with two of them, including the Opening Night film "Barbara" by Mathie Amalric, who stars in the film as a movie director making a film about a singer by the name of Barbara.  As is the tendency at Cannes, it wasn't given the Opening Night honor based on the quality of the film, but rather the festival's respect and loyalty to its maker.  Barbara is the typical singer with a flawed character.  At least there was a sufficient amount of music to somewhat please those watching it.

"Fortunata" was my day's other catch-up film, also taking its title from the lead character, a flamboyant thirty-year old woman in a custody battle with her thuggish husband, a security guard.  These Italians go at each other as venomously as the Russian couple in "Loveless." She is a hair dresser with aspirations of opening her own shop.  Presently she simply makes house calls.   Neither of them are a particularly capable parent and their rebellious daughter, who is prone to spitting, is resistant to the shrink who has to issue an opinion on which parent is more capable.  There was no challenge following the story of this fairly standard commercial fare.

"The Desert Bride," premiering today in Un Centrain Regard, was a heart-warming love story with just a  strand of unpleasantness.  It is the first film by two women directors from Argentina about an older woman who has lost her job as a live-in maid and finds herself passing through a small town.  A guy her age, who is a traveling salesman, takes a shine to her and is able to attempt to win her affections when she inadvertently leaves her bag in his camper.  It goes missing and they go on a mission to find it.  She's initially resistant to his charms, but when she realize he is a genuinely caring guy, she starts preening like the women in "The Beguiled."  This came in at a tidy 78 minutes.

The Russian film "A Gentle Creature" in Competiton was nearly twice as long and felt like it.  It was as if the director wanted to make the audience feel trapped in the same Kafkaesque nightmare as the woman the story follows taking a long journey to visit her husband in prison.  When she arrives at the town where he's incarcerated she is subjected to one nightmarish run-around after another.  She has brought him a package of goods with such things as condensed milk that becomes a huge bone of contention.  This was an agonizing commentary on people unwilling or incapable of helping or caring about anyone but themselves.  In the present political climate of demonizing Russians, this will only add to their disfavor.

Frantic, conniving Americans were featured in "Good Time," by the Safdie brothers, the day's other Competition film.  This is their fifth film, but a great break through and discovery by the festival. Two brothers in the film, one played by one of the directors, botch a bank robbery.  The severely mentally handicapped brother played by the director is caught by the police.  His fast-talking, fast-thinking brother tries to bail him out, but then has to resort to other means to rescue him when he is sent to a hospital after an altercation in the prison over the television.  The manic-paced film is laced with one brilliant twist after another that would have Tarantino drooling.  This is another I'll be happy to see again this Sunday when we are given one last chance to see all the Competitin films spread out over the day before the awards ceremony with nothing else to see.  There are quite a few that fit in this category.  None that really really stand out as my pick for the Palm d'Or.  Hopefully that will be the Lynn Ramsey film Saturday, given the last time slot as Ramsey was still putting the final touches on it.

My day also took me to Afghanistan with the documentary "The Prince of Nothingwood" about a zesty Afghani director who has made over one hundred films and is a much beloved figure in his country.  Besides Hollywood and Bollywood he inhabits his own film industry of Nothingwood.  The French director of this documentary follows him all over the country filming movies and also showing his films to locals in small halls.  Crowds gather to watch him film.  He is ever the maestro.  Even when he's not on camera the director catches him in the distance entertaining the locals with his gargantuan personality.  


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