Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Cannes Day Eight

One can always see a strong representation of a film’s nationality at the screenings here.  Italian films draw Italians, Spanish films draw Spaniards and so on.  As I stood waiting in line for Spike Lee’s “Blackkklansman” and after I sat down in the theater I heard more English all about me than I’ve heard since leaving home.  It was at once comforting and annoying.  Hearing French and German and Chinese adds to the aura of being at Cannes, an extra aroma to savor, so all the English, particularly loud, self-serving American English, had a disconnect effect.  

Still, it was interesting to hear the younger folk thrilled to be at Cannes and older professionals talking the biz.  It was another layer to authenticating the Cannes experience.  All are lamenting the lack of stars this year.  A young woman, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, said she felt sorry for all the attention lavished on stars.  She said Madonna's daughter Lola was a class mate of hers at Ann Arbor, and she left after two years, never really fitting in.

Seeing an American film at Cannes, especially those with a Hollywood lineage, amongst all the other nationalities, exposes their lack of subtlety (one could almost say intelligence) and heavy-handedmess, though that may be partially because their milieu is all too familiar.  As engrossing and entertaining as Lee’s film was, its manipulative ways undermined the  power it might have otherwise had. Lee adeptly tells the story of the first black officer in the Colorado Springs police force in 1979 who bored by his rookie desk duty manages to persuade the chief to let him work undercover.  He responds to a Ku Klux Klan recruitment ad, convincingly posing as a white supremicist when he calls the phone number.  When he is invited to come to a meeting he sends a white officer working on his detail, who happens to be Jewish, or so the movie portrays him.  

One fears many elements of the story have been embellished or altered to make it an even better yarn than it actually was, maintaing a high degree of tension.  There is much comedy to the story, especially with David Duke being a prominent character and being duped by the black officer.  But Lee resents the movie being called a comedy, saying he doesn’t do comedy.  Unlike many of the movies here that require a high degree of concentration, one could simply sit back and let Lee take one along with a fair amount of lecture points along the way.

Lars Von Trier was no less subtle than Lee in “The House That Jack Built” starring Matt Dillon as a serial killer.  This two-and-a-half hour movie is told in five parts—each involving a murder.  This venture into the morbid and macabre is nowhere as gruesome as it could have been.  Von Trier gives the audience plenty of laughs as Dillon recounts his career to an unseen Bruno Ganz character, who finally emerges at the end.  Dillon plays a smooth talking architect/engineer who is most adept at banter before he surprises his victims with their death.  He likes to get himself into hairy situations, even with the police, and work his way out of them.  His first victim is Uma Thurmon, who flags him down to help her with a flat tire.  Little does she know when she tells him he looks like a serial killer how perceptive she is.  If this had been in Competition, Dillon would have been a strong candidate for best actor if the film weren’t dismissed as a bunch of hocum.

I couldn’t fully appreciate “Asalo I and II” as I had to watch this Japanese Competition film with French subtitles.  It was a simple enough story of a young woman who falls in love with a guy in her town who disappears and then refalls in love two years later with a guy in Tokyo who is his spitting image, so much so she at first thinks he is playing with her refusing to acknowledge his new identity.  Nothing about this slight film seemed worthy of Competition. 

We were handed 3D glasses for “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” from China.  This was another lackluster love story though more grandly shot than the Japanese film, looking more like a Competition film than Un Certain Regard.  It hardly needed to be in 3D, but evidently that is popular in China, which in the first quarter of this year passed the United States in ticket revenue, thus becoming the biggest market in the world for cinema.  

The day’s other Un Certain Regard film, “Euforia” from Italy, was standard fare—a guy with a terminal disease being looked after by his wealthy gay brother.  There are very standard subplots that didn’t distinguish this film at all.  

I also ducked into the Brunel to see the first hour of Jacques Rivette’s 1965 masterpieces—“La Religieuse.”  The star, Anna Karinina, was on stage for its introduction.  It is nice to know that whenever one needs a jolt of high cinema there is the daily classic.  Tomorrow it is “The Bicycle Thief.” A couple days ago it was “The Apartment.”  One of those young eager American film students attending the festival standing in line for the Spike Lee movie said he had gotten in line four hours ahead of time to make sure he got into “2001,” probably not a bad expenditure of time.


Bill Burns said...

George, you make no mention of either, but both von Trier's “The House That Jack Built” and Lee's film were in the news yesterday, the former for a big walkout of what was reported as like a hundred people after Dillon's character executes two young children, and the Lee film for his...eh, 'pointed' commentary about the Current Occupant and his permission for and use of actual footage of the events at the Charlottesville protests.

Did you see or hear of either? The way they were reported here, you'd have thought it was a big stir at the festival.

Cheers from the Heartland!
Bill in KC

george christensen said...

Bill: Nobody walked out of the Von Trier screening I attended. The Lee comments got some attention here, but they weren’t unexpected. The French know he is a blowhard. He threw a big fit when he wasn’t awarddd the Palm d’Or for Jungle Fever. He actually said that if he saw Wim Wenders,, the jury president, in an alley, he’d attack him with a baseball bat.

Bill Burns said...

LOL. Thanks for that, George. Was Dillon in attendance at your screening? That's the one that reportedly had the big walkout.

Lee is nothing if not a 'blowhard.' ;0)