Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cannes Day Seven

An organization every year gives out an award for the best performance by a dog in a film here.  Barbara Scharres of Chicago's Film Center gives out a similar award for cats.  If there were an award for the best slap, a frequent cinema device, there would be two strong contenders from the seven films I saw today.  Both were female on female.

The lead character in "Montparnes Bienvenue," a thirty-year old woman who is havimg a tusnami of a break-down, wanders the streets of Paris looking for a place to crash each night after breaking up with her boyfriend.  Friends and strangers who take her in send her packing almost as soon as she arrives.  A woman on a train recognizes her from their student days and invites her to stay with her.  After several days she realizes she isn't the person she thought she was and is angry with her for pretending she was.  The imposter tells her she can slap her if she wants, and she surprises her by immediately giving her a wallop and she returns it in kind making for a rare double-barreled pow coming out of nowhere, as the best of slaps do.  The woman's woes aren't as gut-wrenching as they might have been with even her mother telling her she never wants to see her again, as she has a vibrant personality and a survivor's spirit.  Laetitia Dosch makes herself the front-runner for the best actress award from the Un Certain Regard jury with her swashbuckling performance.

The wife of the publisher of a small book company in Seoul unleashes a barrage of slaps upon a young woman she takes to be her husband's mistress in Sangsoo Hong's Competition entry "The Day After." Its her first day on the job and she hasn't become his mistress yet, though their intimate, scholarly conversations sure seem to be leading in that direction.  Shot in black-and-white, this was a refreshingly intelligent film of prolonged conversations.  The wife was right that her husband was a philanderer, and he admits it to her there in his office in the presence of his new hire, but assures her it has ended.  The slap victim isn't sure if she wants to work for this guy, but he is impressed by her intelligence and convinces her not to give it out, at least until the plot takes another turn.

I had earlier in the day caught up with the lone Competition film I had missed, the Russian "Loveless" that played on Day Two and continues to have the highest score from Screen's panel, the only film with better than a 2.7.   It too deals with infidelity.  A couple with a twelve-year old son can no longer stand each other.  They are in the process of divorce.  Both have lovers they are ready to move in with.  Before that happens their son disappears.  The husband isn't concerned, figuring he will return in a day or two, but the wife is in a panic.  She calls the police.  The officer knows that in the majority of such cases the runaway shortly returns, so can't mount a search, but he recommends a voluntary organization that can help.  It amounts to a highly competent and concerned army of volunteers as committed to the task as the ACT UP group was to the cause of gay rights in the earlier Competition film "BPM (Beats Per Minute)."  They leave no stone unturned, and are highly professional in all their encounters from walking through fields and checking out abandoned buildings and hospitals and the morgue.  The film doesn't  have the transcendence of a Palm d'Or winner, but it was at once a gripping tale and an insightful commentary on present day Russia.

Similar to "The Day After," the day's first Competition film, "Radiance" by Competiton regular Namomi Kawase of Japan, was a restrained film appealing to the cerebral.  A noteworthy photographer is losing his sight.  It is nearly gone.  He meets a young woman who writes film descriptions for the visually impaired as he battles his continuing loss of sight that hasn't quite relegated him to a walking stick. Having to give up his camera is like losing his heart, he laments.  They develop a friendship without any of the sexual tensions of "The Day After."  This does not depart from Kawase's oeuvre that has little chance of attracting an audience  beyond the smaller art house circuit.

My three-Competition films for the day has me all caught up, something I have never accomplished until the last day of the festival in my fourteen years of attending the festival.  It will be exciting to be able to see my favorite films on the last day rather than trying to see ones I  missed.  I'm not doing so well with the Un Certain Regard films, but I did manage two today.  The second was an Italian film, "After the War," that largely takes place in France where an Italian left-wing activist has been in exile for years.  After the execution of a university professor in Italy, he is blamed for ordering it and Italy wants him back.  He takes refuge in a cabin in a forest with his not-all-that-willing teenaged daughter.  The tension doesn't build as much as it might have, making this merely a competent, not exemplary, film.

My day was rounded out by two by-the-numbers documentaries that will please those interested in the subject matter but won't be a must-see to others.  "Becoming Cary Grant" had a special screening in the Bunuel with twenty or more of those involved with it either on stage or in the audience.  It book forever to introduce them all.  After a clip of Frank Sinatra giving him an honorary Oscar and a session with his shrink, It iturns into a fairly chronological bio pic from his birth in Bristol, England.  Later comes a period in his life when he had a weekly five-hour session with a psychiatrist who administered him LSD as he tried to figure himself out.  Among the traumas he had to overcome was his mother walking out on her husband and children.  Even at the height of his acclaim, Grant felt as if he would like to  be the Grant figure that everyone admired. 

"Written By Mrs. Bach: Broken Silence" makes the case that Bach's second, much younger, wife wrote some of his music.  A line-up of forensic and hand-writing experts, including a woman who investigated Kurt Cobsin's suicide note, all conclude that she can be credited with being a composer of work with Bach's name on it.  An assortment of women musicians agree and comment on how women often don't get their due.  A ten-year old prodigy from Tel Aviv, who has been composing operas since she was six and has been a virtuoso on the violin and piano since she was four, is offered as proof that women are capable of composing.

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