There is always a gauntlet of irritating people in front of the Debussy and Palais holding up signs asking for Invitations. I preferred to give mine to someone in the orderly ticketless line. There were at least fifty already by eight am. I tried to give it to the person first in line but he was blocked by barriers and the security guard couldn’t understand what I was trying to do. Others in line did, so I gave it to one of them to try to pass it up to the person who had been waiting the longest. I know it got used, as I didn’t receive an alert that it hadn’t.
There were less than thirty people gathered to see “At War” at the smaller 500-seat Soixante theater when I arrived an hour early for its nine am screening. This French film could have been called “On Strike,” but it was much more than another movie about factory workers going on strike over the threat of their plant, that employed 1,100 workers being shut down. Their protests escalate to genuine battle even overturning the car of the CEO of the company with him and his two security guards confined to it. The well-orchestrated dialogue of the very angry workers in virtual screaming matches with each other and management couldn’t have been more realistic. It comes as fast and furious as it did in “Sextape.” This very French film raised pertinent present-day concerns. The highly unexpected end gave it all the more power.
The day’s other Competition film “Under the Silver Lake” by David Robert Mitchell dealt with a young man in Los Angeles who faces eviction from his apartment. He doesn’t seem to be concerned as he pursues a woman from his apartment complex who unexpectedly moves out during the night just hours after he’s initiated what he expects to be a mating of some sort. The film falls into a Lynchian noir universe of semi-absurdity that made it as irrelevant as “At War” was relevant. Women continually tell him he smells. He blames it on skunks in his neighborhood. Regular flashes of the Hollywood sign on the hill, once in the distance beyond a bust of James Dean, imply this movie was supposed to be some moral tale about Tinsel Town. This interminable 139 minute film didn’t seem like it would ever end.
A most gripping movie about an unwed woman having a child in Morocco could not have been more realistic or powerful. The young woman managed to keep her pregnancy a secret from her well-to-do family and even herself as she was in extreme “pregnancy denial,” as she knew if she were pregnant it would destroy her world. This movie had all the intrigue and twists of an early Farhardi movie. “Sofia” will be a strong candidate for “Un Certain Regard’s” best picture. This movie puts another dent into the patriarchy.
The day’s other Un Certain Regard film, the Portuguese “The Dead and the Others,” dives into the culture of an isolated Brazilian tribe. Rather than having much of a plot, it is an anthropological rendering of their ways with long scenes of older topless women singing and going about other activities. It was hard to lose oneself in their world compared to the two other truly powerful films of the day.
I had hoped to see “Under the Silver Lake” immediately after “At War” in the Soixante, but I fell over 200 people short of getting in, as with the festival winding down there are few Market screenings to diverse the crowd. Also, all the young staffers who had been working in Market booths can now go see movies as their duties wind down. I talked to several who had seen fewer movies than I’ve seen in any one day. Denied the movie I planned to see, I got to see “Big Bang,” a consummate French film of affairs and seductions and sesssions with shrinks as three adult children cope with their aging grandmaother and 60-year father who’s still sleeping with secretaries and is about to become a father again. The plot had strands galore, but it was a most credible effort, and a pleaaant diversion among the day’s heavier fare. It included a suicide attempt by a wealthy entrepreneur who has everything except a satisfying relationship, just as did the Italian commercial film yesterday.
My day ended with a French lesson, relying on the French subtitles for an Argentinian film, “The Snatch Thief.” The film opens with two guys on a motorcycle grabbing the purse of an elderly woman just after she makes an ATM withdrawal. The woman clutches her purse and is dragged along for a block by the thieves. She is hospitalized. One of the thieves goes to the hospital to see how badly she was injured. She has lost her memory. He returns to where he had thrown away the contents of her purse to retrieve her keys and check out her apartment. He decides to move in and pretend to be a friend of the old woman, turning into her caretaker when she is released from the hospital. This original premise may not have been fully credible, but it made for a nice finish to the day and an affirmation that my French vocabulary is more extensive than I realized.