Friday, May 19, 2017

Cannes Day Three

The festival has made it easier to see the day's two Competition unveilings with an extra screening of each at the end of the day in the 314-seat Olympia theater.  If one misses their morning screenings, one can be assured of seeing it later in the day depending on how early one cares to get in line. I showed up forty-five minutes early for the 10:30 p.m. screening of "Jupiter's Moon."  There were only twenty people more eager than me.  That either meant the buzz wasn't very good for this Hungarian film, or people aren't clued in to this new slot.  Whichever, it was good news.

I was joined by Robbie, a recent graduate of Vanderbilt who I met at Chicago's film festival five years ago before he first attended Cannes.  He's become a Cannes regular, this being his fifth.  As always, he was full of enthusiasm for what he'd seen and what he looked forward to seeing.  He was concerned about staying awake for this two-hour movie so grabbed an espresso.  He needn't have bothered, as this energy-charged rampage of a disgraced doctor harboring a Syrian refugee who has the power to levitate defused any urge to fade out.  The fast-paced action combined with the surreal plot had us fully engaged.  Kornel Mundruczo's previous film "White God," which won best picture in Un Certain Regard three years ago, about dogs running with abandon throughout a city was equally remarkable. This was a movie we'll both gladly see again on Repeat Sunday at the end of the festival, not only to enjoy its cinematic flair, but to try to figure it out.  

The day's other Competiton film, "Okja" by Korean Bong Joon Ho, was a silly, if not ridiculous, tale of a giant food company that has developed a gargantuan pig for consumption.  They are initially experimentally raised all over the world.  One of the sites is on an isolated farm in the mountains of South Korea.  A young girl has fallen in love with the pig.  She is devastated when it is flown to New York be butchered at the company's base.  She follows the pig to New York to save it.  The film opens with an almost equally heavy-handed absurd speech by Tilda Swinton, impersonating a bad witch as the company's new CEO, inheriting the position from her father and sister, who she condemns as being hardened business people, claiming she is more sensitive and that this new food will save the planet.  Maybe children will find this film to their liking.  It wasn't worth my time.

I prefer the gritty realism such as presented in the Iranian "A Man of Integrity" by Mohammad Rasoulof. A gold fish farmer in rural Iran suffers one calamity after another as he battles a large company that wants his land and an evil neighbor who has it in for him.  The feuds lead to his arrest.  He is falsely accused of breaking his neighbor's arm.  He is told that only bribery will get him out of his troubles.  He needs to take out large loans and is on the verge of losing everything.  He tries to stand firm and not resort to any chicanery.  His wife, a school administrator, operates on her own to solve their troubles.  She tells the young daughter of their chief nemesis that pride often gets in the way of men, leaving it to the intelligence of women to solve their problems, eliciting a cheering laugh from all the women around me.  But her efforts of blackmail only deepen their troubles.  This was a gripping and disconcerting allegory of good battling evil.

My lone film relating to France today was "Madame" starring Harvey Keitel and Toni Collette as an American couple living in a Parisian villa. The film opens spectacularly with the two of them riding the ubiquitous rental bikes of Paris.  Keitel is struggling, complaining they weigh as much as a cow, not like the bikes in The Tour de France.  He collapses and Collette speeds on her way.  She is busily putting the final touches on a dinner party for that evening.  It has been thrown into disarray when Ketiel's son from a previous marriage has been added, making it thirteen at the table, an unlucky number that Collette can't countenance.  In desperation she forces her Spanish maid to be the fourteenth. She's not happy at all about having to masquerade as a guest.  One of the guests is smitten by her.  He thinks she's a countess of some sort and pursues her relentlessly after the party, much to her delight but the horror of Collette.  Unfortunately, none of their dates include a bike ride, nor does the Eiffel Tower sneak into the background at any time, unlike three other movies so far, but this was still a pleasant ditty of a movie.

"The Clapper" was another commercial-leaning comedy from the US that was my backup from a French film that filled before I even arrived for it, my only turn-away in thee days. It profiles a dorky guy who earns a living by being an audience member at infomercials filmed in Hollywood, standing to ask questions and clapping and laughing on cue.  A late-night talk show host picks him out as a regular audience member in different disguises and starts a campaigns, complete with billboards around LA, to discover who he is.  The clapper is horrified that he has lost his anonymity and with it probably his job.  People start recognizing him on the street and posting encounters with him on YouTube.  About the only person unaware of his celebrity is the pretty blond at the service station he patronizes that is the object of his affections, as she doesn't have a television.  Like "Madame" this was a harmless ninety minutes of cinema.

My day was rounded out by a pair of competent documentaries, one from Italy on Julian Schnabel and 
the other from Australia on kangaroos.  Schnabel is a willing subject in this chronological persuade of his career as a painter and filmmaker.  His children and two wives do more to explain him than he does.  Al Pacino and other friends, including galleria owners, are a,on the many interview subjects.  There was no mention of his being the poster artist for the Telliride Film Festival one year.  One of his sons says he most bonded with his father in the waves, as Schnabel became a passionate surfer when his family moved from New York to Brownsville, Texas when he was a teen, where they were virtually the lone Jewish family.

"Kangaroo" was an indictment of those involved in the mass slaughter of Australia's national emblem.  Many consider the animal a pest and a plague and allow night-time spot-light hunters on their property to gun them down.  It is a huge business with their meat and leather sent all over the world.  At one time Russia was the biggest market for the meat until they learned how tainted it was with bacteria.  It is nearly impossible for the hunters to get the meat properly refrigerorated after it has been harvested.  Animal rightists are also intervening in the killing as many kangaroos are wounded and suffer terribly before they die.  Baby kangaroos, joeys, are also miserable victims, left to die in the pouches of their crippled mothers.

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