Thursday, May 19, 2005

Thursday morning, between screenings.

One of the more pathetic phenomenon that I've noticed here in Cannes is the begging. They don't sell tickets here, they give people "cinephile" cards that permit them to beg for extra tickets and then get into the theaters. For this privilage, you have to write an essay. Trading tickets can get a bit dicey, as I mentioned yesterday when someone tried to grab my ticket to a certain screening.

We also had the shorts program where the master's theses of a number of student filmmakers were on display. Some of them were actually quite good.

Starting today the market begins to wind down, and it ends tomarrow. The day after the screenings will end and all that is left is the ceremony, which I won't be attending asI don't own a tux and I've got a doctor's appointment in New York on monday. In the meantime, I've got two and a half more days of this are three more reviews:

Peindre Or Faire L'Amour (France)

Written and Directed by Arnaud
and Jean-Marie Larrieu

To translate to the English: To Paint or Make Love? Ah that's a question. Of course the choice is a false one, as the painting we're talking about is a picture on a canvas and not with a roller and latex. This doesn't matter as you're not going to get a chance to see it anyway.

The reason is that it stinks, and stinky French cinema almost never goes over to the left side of the Atlantic. Be grateful about that when munching on your freedom fries.

Madeleine (Sabine Azema) is a retired real estate agent living somewhere in rural France with her equally retired husband William (Daniel Auteuil). She's outside painting a pasture when all of a sudden Adam (Sergi Lopez) shows up. Now this guy is a blind philosopher, as well as the town's mayor, and he worms his way into Madeline's good graces, and she invites him to dinner, so he and his wife
Eva(Amira Casar) come over, the foursome hit it off, and then the two guests return the favor. So far it's cute.

Then Adam and Eva's house burns down and so does the whole movie. Madeleine and William are soon jealous that their guests don't really want to spend all their time with them. A&E realize this and soon they do some wife swapping and then everyone's even more bummed out as the guests decide on the spur of the moment to flee to the South Pacific.

There's a happy ending, but this is sooooooo bloody dumb that even fans of French cinema will wretch. How this got into the Cannes Competition is a mystery. I guess that something had to come in last and they wanted to be nice to the other competitors.

La Petite Jerusalem (France)

Written and Directed
by Karin Albou

Laura(Fanny Valette) is a college student in France and she's studying philosophy. Her hero seems to be Immanuel Kant, and she strives to master herself. Her family are ultraorthodox Jews and don't really like anything as secular as that. What her mother(Sonia Tahar) really wants is for her to drop out and marry a nice Jewish doctor. Some things are universal, but Laura's mom is a bit on the witchy side, casting spells and putting talismans under Laura's bed.

Our heroine also lives with her older sister Mathilde(Elsa Zylberstein) and brother in law Ariel( Bruno Todeschini) and their many children. Even after being very fertile, she doesn't know much about sex, and this drives Ariel to have an affair with an unseen blonde. This drives Laura further away from religion, a move that finally leads her to have a fling with Djamel(H├ędi Tillette de Clermont Tonnerre), an Algerian writer who's there illegally and is also Muslim.

What's interesting here is the disdain for Jewish tradition on the part of auteur Albou, and the scenes of synagogues getting burned to the ground and Ariel getting beaten up because of his yalmika.

It's also interesting that when we get to meet Djamel's family, they're even more backward and prejudiced than Laura's! I guess the fact that it's “evenhanded” in this way got it into one of the major sidebars here at Cannes.

Not worth it at all.

The President's Last Bang (South Korea)

Written and Directed
by Im Sang-soo

If you're going to overthrow the government you've got to have a plan, especially if you're one of the top people in the government. It just won't do if you blow away the president and then hand it over to a nonplussed and ignorant VP. You have to get control after the actual act, because if you don't, you'll get sent to jail for life or worse, executed.

The year is 1979, and Park Chung-He(Song Jae-ho) has been President since he over threw the nation's founder in 1961. At this point he's a corrupt old coot, who's minions are a bunch of violent thugs who don't really care how the nation feels about anything as long as they get their money and women.

This night the President has invited a few of his top aides to dinner and the Korean CIA safe-house including the KCIA director Kim (Baik Yoon-shik) and the bafoonish security chief Cha (Jeong Won-joong), who treats Kim and his top aide Ju-gwajang(Han Seokgyu) like dirt. Some time during the early part of the dinner, Kim gets fed up with everything and tells Ju, on the spur of the moment, that he's going to kill the president and Cha and bring democracy to South Korea.

Just there like that. Ju and Kim quickly get a few aides who just happened to be there, and within a few minutes everything is in place. President Park and his aides are listening to a popular singer(Kim Yoon-ah) and her ditzy best friend(Cho Eun-ji) who'd been dragooned into the gig when all of a sudden…BANG!!!!

What happens after the assassination is actually more interesting than the events leading up to it. This was an important bit of South Korean history and it was one of those stories that had to be told.

Needless to say, when this film came out in South Korea early this year, it had the same impact as Oliver Stone's “JFK,” and the version shown here is unexpurgiated. That said, everything except the title is very, very good. The performances are wonderful Biak is mesmerizing as the conflicted patriot who despite years of being an oppressor decides to go for it. Han is even better showing a really nuanced performance, and the rest of the cast, most of whom I can't find the names of anywhere, show a range from slapstick to tragedy.

It would be nice to see this here in the States….


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