Monday, May 16, 2005

Monday morning

Well, this is officially the halfway point of the festival for me and I just got out of the screening of Manderlay Lars Von Trier hates America with a passion and the film turns out be an allegory about Iraq. Apparently he thinks that the Iraqis wanted to be oppressed by Saddam after to some reviews of other films:

JThe King (USA)

Directed by
James Marsh

I don't know where the name Elvis came from . But I do know that it's one of those names which it's a crime to give to a baby. Sort of like naming a boy Sue or Jessica. There's only one real Elvis and that was the king, which is why they named this picture with the title it's got. That said, this Elvis(Gael Garcia Bernal) isn't exactly a king, he's more like something else.

What he is is the illegitimate son of a Texas preacher named David Sandow(William Hurt) who, as to be expected, has a wife(Laura Harring), and two kids, a son(Paul Dano) and daughter(Pell James).

The first reaction by David is horror. He doesn't want to face the past from the bad old days before he found God. He's more into the future of son Paul, who wants to follow in his father's footsteps and to fight the evils of Darwinism, and the well being of his parishioners.

But Elvis is not to be denied. He first seduces daughter Malerie and soon they're at it thick and fast, no one knowing except Elvis that they're brother and sister. Paul sees that there's something going on and confronts our protagonist, who promptly kills him. Mom and Dad are distraught. Elvis confesses to Malerie, and she's surprisingly okay with it.

Elvis moves in to take Paul's place after weeks being wracked with guilt, invites him in. This is not a pretty picture at all.

What makes this tragedy work so well is the acting. Bernal is angelic as the villain, Ms. James and Mr. Dino have futures ahead of them and William Hurt is always brilliant. That being said, this is one of the creepiest movies of the year so far, and those in the “bible belt” are going to be horrified by it.

The perversity of this film is something to behold.

Caché (France)

Written and Directed
by Michael Haneke

This film is one long tease. There might be a solution, and it's hinted at, but Director Haneke makes the possibilities so ambiguous that one can't be sure as exactly who done what. It's really frustrating.

Geroges(Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Anne( Juliette Binoche) live with their son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) in an expensive neighborhood in Paris. Life is good, with our hero hosting an intellectual TV show while his misses is an editor with a major publisher. You're typical lower-upper class family.

Then they start receiving tapes of the front of the house. They rightly suspect a stalker, but since it's only a person unknown videotaping the house from a public area, the police refuse to investigate. This both ticks them off and starts making them miserable. Who might be doing this? Might it be a deranged fan? A disgruntled author? A jilted lover perhaps?

They try to keep it quiet, but friends Pierre(Daniel Duval) and Mathilde(Nathalie Richard) find out during dinner. Pierrot gets postcards from the person in school. Georges' boss(Bernard Le Coq) gets a videotape too. It's all very disconcerting. The acting is terrific and the one can cut the tension with a knife. So far so good.

The thing begins to go wrong when Haneke decides to posit a possible solution. The stalker sends a tape of Georges' old house. This brings on a visit to his mother, and nightmares of an Algerian boy his parents were planning to adopt but he had underhandedly gotten rid of when he was six. Might the grown-up Majid(Maurice Benichou) be plotting revenge after all these years? Should Georges be held accountable for something he did as a little boy? Should a little boy be held accountable for the Algerian War of the 1950s and '60s? A trip to visit his mother(Annie Giradot) doesn't help anything.

The lead-up to the climax is rather infuriating. Pierre makes a pass at Anne, who is ticked off at her husband for keeping Mejid a secret. Pierrot runs away for a bit. Everybody begins to run raw. Majid and his son proclaim their innocence until the end and beyond. Only the violent climax is jarring. I'm told that this is a typical Michael Haneke film. I'm not going to become a fan.

Election (China)

Directed by
Johnny To

Every other year or so, one of the bigger Hong Kong Triads elects a new godfather. This might make for gripping drama don'cha think?

The two candidates for the top spot are Lok(Simon Yam), an easygoing, fatherly stay-at-home type, and Big D(Tony Leung Ka Fai), a very flamboyant sociopath, just what a good gangster can be. Both badly want the job, and, being gangsters, would kill to get it. This where the fun begins.

At first we see the electioneering Big D shows his macho by beating people up and spreading loads of samolions around while Lok tries gentle persuasion and intelligent discussion. Triad elders Uncle Teng(Wong Tin Lam) and Uncle Cocky(Tam Ping Man) decide that intelligence is better than muscle for the top spot, and go for Lok. The rest of the bunch goes along. Big D isn't very happy about the result, but then there's a twist…

It seems that for the official inauguration ceremony, a sacred scepter, more than a century old [the triads gave up on restoring the Ming dynasty about that time and decided to turn into organized crime families]. Trouble is, the scepter is in China and a certain Big Head(Lam Suet) has it in safe keeping. If Big D can get his hands on the thing he can stage a coup and take over the triad. So the Chase is on!

This is where it gets really violent. The cops arrest everybody and beat some of the gangsters up while using their influence to get the two uncles to talk sense into Big D. This doesn't work very well. Meanwhile, the two groups of henchmen race to find the scepter. There's a really cool martial arts fight between two guys Kun(Lam Ka Tung and Louis Koo) who're on the same side. It's a really funny scene. Then there's the ending, which is a bit of a surprise and extremely violent.

Crime doesn't usually pay, but WOW!

This has my vote for the Palme d'Or. One hell of an interesting film

Where the Truth Lies (Canada)

Written and Directed
by Atom Egoyan

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis famously broke up back in the 1950s and didn't speak to each other for over 20 years. Then they didn't speak for another twelve.
I mention this only because Atom Egoyan's latest film is basically a parody of their relationship all nicely bundled up in a murder mystery. A very high concept idea.

When Karen O'Connor(Alison Lohman) was a little girl, she had polio. This was the favorite charity of bigshot comedians Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins(Colin Firth) who had an annual telethon, which would last during the entire memorial day weekend. It was 1960 when little Karen appeared and would be forever grateful, but it's 1972 and she's now a writer, hired to ghost Vince's memoirs, which just had to include the great mystery surrounding their breakup,.,

Just who was Maureen O'Flaherty(Rachel Blanchard) and why was she found dead in Vince and Lanny's suite's bathtub just days before Karen's brush with fame?
Cutting back and forth between 1972 and 1960, Karen plays Nancy Drew while managing to partake in sex and drugs with the former stars while exposing them for the scumbags they were.

The obvious suspects were of course Vince and Lanny. But it could have been suicide, or it could have been the butler(David Hayman) or the gangster who owned the hotel(Beau Starr) or someone else entirely. It's basically you're standard everyday murder mystery, which would have been rather boring if not for the fantastic performances by Bacon and Firth, who are brilliant here.

This isn't a typical Egoyan flick, and most of them are really depressing tales of death and despair, and there's plenty of that to. But the sex and drugs element is new and so is the humor. Atom has very little of that usually.

It's worth a bargain matinee.

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