There were less than ten buyers waiting in line when I arrived fifteen minutes before the six pm screening. The representative of the film said I could count on getting in. It attracted a mere thirty or so buyers and an equal number of non-buyers, not even filling a quarter of the seats. The movie is narrated by its protagonist, Raoul Taburin, telling his life’s story of growing up in a small French village wishing to follow in the footsteps of his father, a bicycling postman. Raoul is unable to fulfill his wish as he never learns how to keep his balance on the bike, a dark secret that haunts him all the days of his life. Growing up it ostracizes him from his friends, who all go bicycling. He lines up for the town’s annual bike race, but remains at the starting line claiming his chain fell. He forces himself to start out with his classmates on a sanctioned all-day bike ride and has a spectacular crash complete with a couple of aerial flips I nto the lake after a steep descent that makes him a legend in the town. Despite his inability to ride a bike he has a great love for bicycles, taking them apart and putting them together, and becomes an apprentice in the local bike shop. He eventually takes it over.
The parents of the woman he marries died in a tandem accident, so he vows to her he’ll never ride a bike again and keeps that vow until a famous photographer moves to their village and would like to take a photo of him riding his bike. This leads to a grand denouement. Though the movie is centered around the bicycle, what bicycling there is remains very simplistic, mirroring the story. Even the passing of The Tour de France through the village is rendered as a bare sketch with only a local rider shown. He wins the stage when there is a monumental crash wiping out the peloton, the remnants of which are shown in the far distance with the local riding past a long row of cyclists laying on the road. The winner of the stage returns to live in the village. He steals Raoul’s girl friend and remains his nemesis for decades. Whenever he appears in the movie, even into his fifties, he is still clad in his uniform and his cycling gloves. Never once though is he shown with shaved legs. Realism takes a holiday in this semi-sweet family movie.
I ended my day with a similarly sanitized and romanticized version of the short career of a legendary Argentinian boy thief who remains in jail 45 years after his crime spree, the longest-serving prisoner in the history of Argentina. Many of his eleven murders and countless thefts, large and small, are recounted in this Un Certain Regard entry entitled “El Angel,” alluding to what the angelic-looking, blond curly-haired thief was dubbed by the press—“The Angel of Death.” He seems born to be a thief and goes about his calling breaking into homes and jewelry stores and gun shops with a fearless, casual, almost naive, effortlessness, seemingly thinking he could never be caught. This very polished film will no doubt be as big of a smash in Argentina as “Bonnie and Clyde” was in the US.
The day began with the much-anticipated Polish film “Cold War” by Pawel Pawlikowski, winner of a best foreign picture Oscar for “Ida.” As with that, it is shot in luscious black-and-white giving the rather ho-hum love story more gravitas than the script does. The film spans several decades beginning in 1946 tracing the love affair of a musician-director of a choral group with a younger beautiful blond singer in the troupe. He proposes they escape to the West when they go to perform in Berlin. She fails to meet up with him, deciding not to go through with it without telling him. They end up meeting over the years for quick, passionate flings in Paris where he ends up and other places her travels take her with the possibility that fate might bring them together for good. Neither seems overly committed to their relationship failing to bring the movie to any kind of boil. It agreed with some though, as it was the first of the five films screened in Competition to receive any four-star reviews from Screen’s panel with three of the ten critics giving it their highest rating, earning it an aggregate of 2.9, the highest so far.
As this was just another so-so love affair, the day’s other Competition film, “Sorry Angl” from France, was just another movie about a gay love affair that is derailed by AIDS. The performances and script made it a perfectly enjoyable film, but it’s not a subject that hasn't been told countless times before. It was laced with many of those signature elements of a French film that added to my enjoyment—frank talk between lovers evaluating their sex including a woman who is concerned her boy friend is more gay than heterosexual, a boy whose name is Louis who doesn’t like his nickname Lou-Lou, a visit to Truffaut’s grave and a ten-year old who quotes Rimbaud.
My day also included a pair of documentarues—a standard Bergman doc with a series of talking heads and lots of clips from his oeuvre and a wacky Australian doc on fans of boy bands. With this the 100th anniversary of Bergman’s birth, there are two documentaries on the master. This was “Searching for Ingmar Bergman” by Margareth Von Trotta, who knew him well. She opens her film with extended clips from “The Seventh Seal” from 1957 which she saw in Paris in the early ‘60s, making her a lover of cinema and that Trauffaut wrote about in Cahiers du Cinema anointing him as a new talent who would elevate cinema.. She interviews many of his actresses and several of his children. One of his daughters once complained to him that he’d saythat he missed the actors he worked with, but never his children. He said that was because he didn’t miss them. A son who went on to become a filmmaker and worked with him also spoke of his father’s obsession with his art above all else. One of Von Trotta’s themes is that Bergman’s skill as a writer isn’t fully appreciated, and that if he had been a writer rather than a filmmaker he might have won the Nobel Prize for literature.
“I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story” is among the contenders for the most eye-catching title of the festival. Though the film is by an Australian and several of her subjects are Australian, she ranged to the US to find more. She traces the phenomen of young girls obsessed with boy bands to the Beatles. The most interesting of her subjects is a red-haired single mother of two who was one of those originals and is still fully devoted to her teenaged obsession. She used to,practice signing her name as Mrs. Paul McCartney. The rest of her subjects are all young women who have dropped all to the exclusion of more contempary bands such as the Bsckstreet Boys.. One went on a cruise with Take That that was 99 per cent women. She admitted it was a bit creepy being among others who all dreamed of being the girl friend or wife of one of the members of the band. Another quality that most of them shared was being significantly overweight. One is proud enough to have the vanity license plate Boybands that strangers frequently photograph.
I was able to slip in one other film—“Lives on Track,” a slight French film that turned out to be a small delight. It is a series of conversations between seat mates on a train showing nothing more than the two conversationalists in their high-backed seats, most of them including a retired dancer of some note. Most of those who sit beside her recognize her and know the significant performances of her career. As we get to know her torments and prickly personality the film becomes more and more engaging. This was a testament to giving anything on the schedule a chance. Only six others cared to duck in to the twenty-five seat screening room in the Grey hotel.