Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cannes 2014 Day 1

Nicole Kidman

Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi

British director Mike Leigh (left) and actor Timothy Spall

French actress Audrey Tautou

French actress Frederique Bel

Russian actress Elena Lenina

Brigitte Bardot at Cannes in 1955

The 67th Cannes Film festival opened in controversy, premiering Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman and Timothy Roth, which was perceived as a dud, but there is legal wrangling behind the scenes because American distributor Harvey Weinstein rejected a cut submitted last summer by the director and instead edited his own version with a different tone and feel, even pulling off the rare move of negotiating for the right to release his cut of the movie in the U.S.  The French version awkwardly premiered at Cannes without the presence of Weinstein and received a tepid response.  As he’s already invested $4 million dollars into the movie for the U.S. rights, should his legal attempts fail, Weinstein would be placed in the difficult position of promoting a film he initially rejected, so stay tuned.  Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, however, his first biopic in fifteen years, starring Timothy Spall as the Romantic landscape artist JMW Turner, received immediate acclaim with some sizzling reviews in the English papers.     

Cannes fashion looks from The Telegraph:

Cannes photos from The Independent:

A French site that lists daily galleries of red carpet photos, by date, offering regular or giant sized photos: 


Jury members from left, Willem Dafoe, Jeon Do-yeon, Jia Zhangke, Gael Garcia Bernal, Leila Hatami, jury president Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Nicolas Winding Refn and Carole Bouquet

Jane Campion: 'the film industry is inherently sexist'  Hannah Furness from The Telegraph, May 14, 2014

The film industry is "inherently sexist", the head of the Cannes Film Festival jury has said, arguing that women directors miss out "time and time again".

Jane Campion, who remains the first and only woman to win the prestigious Palme d'Or in the 67-year history of Cannes, said she now believed the film industry is "undemocratic".

Speaking at the opening press conference at Cannes, at which she was introduced alongside her eight-strong jury, she argued that cinemagoers did not see enough work from women.

When asked whether the lack of female Palme d'Or winners was down to a lack of good directors or deeper problems, she said: "I'd have to say there is inherent sexism in the industry."

Revealing that only seven per cent of the 1,800 films submitted to the festival were by women, Campion said the proportion of female directors represented in Cannes was a significant 20 per cent.

"Nevertheless, it does feel undemocratic," she said. "Time and time again, we don't get our share of representation. Sorry gentleman, but you do eat more of the cake."

"It's not that I resent the male filmmakers - I love all of them - but there's something that women are doing that we don't get to know enough about.

"It's always a surprise when a woman filmmaker does come out and we get a feminine vision."

Campion will serve as president of the jury, alongside Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe, Gael Garcia Bernal, Carole Bouquet, Leila Hatami, Do-Yeon Jeon, Zhanjke Jia, and Nicolas Winding Refn.

When asked what she was looking for in a winning film this year, Campion revealed her instructions to the jury were to feel "unencumbered" by preconceptions and to vote with their "hearts and conscience".

She added her experience as a filmmaker had taught her that all awards can be difficult, being necessarily subjective.

"As a filmmaker, I think awards are always problematic," she said. "Some films that you love get them, some films that you love don't get them. They make distinctions that don't exist. At the same time, the bring attention to cinema, so you accept it."

Campion, from New Zealand, won the Palme d’or at Cannes in 1993 for The Piano, and became the second of only four women ever to be nominated as best director at the Oscars.

When she was announced as president of this year's jury, she said the "worldwide inclusiveness and passion for film at the heart of the festival" made the importance of Cannes "indisputable".

"It is a mythical and exciting festival where amazing things can happen, actors are discovered, films are financed, careers are made," she added, "I know this because that is what happened to me."

Cannes 2014: new blood in short supply as film festival begins  Xan Brooks from The Guardian, May 13, 2014

Round up the usual suspects. The 67th Cannes film festival opens on Wednesday beneath azure skies, with hundreds of movies in the market, thousands of delegates on the prom and a rollcall of luminaries gracing the red carpet, from Mike Leigh to Jean-Luc Godard, David Cronenberg to the Dardenne brothers. Of the 19 directors competing for the crowning Palme d'Or award, no fewer than 13 have been nominated before. New blood runs thin at the front end of Cannes.
For festival director Thierry Frémaux, the issue of selection largely takes care of itself. "Great directors make great films," he says, "and they will always have a place in Cannes."

Yet critics claim that the world's most prestigious movie showcase increasingly runs the risk of becoming too cosy, too predictable, and too reliant on its rotating supergroup of international auteurs.

Hollywood columnist Jeffrey Wells likens the 2014 lineup to the membership of an "Elks lodge", a rigid list of the same old names. US critic Anne Thompson adds: "Once you're in that club, you stay there." Maybe the organisers need to start updating the files.

Nick James, editor of Sight and Sound, says the lineup looks strong – at least on paper. But that's not the problem. "What I'm concerned about is the development of new people to replace the established names," he says. "The film-makers that Cannes typically rely on are all of a similar age; they are all knocking on. In a bad year they might very well all leave us, and then who are they left with? There's also a sense that the world is changing underneath Cannes. What new generations of film fans find interesting are not necessarily what [the organisers] find interesting. They are not putting enough faith in emerging auteurs. I'd like to see Thierry Frémaux take a few more risks."

This year's event, however, looks likely to be dominated by the Cannes elite and the repeat offenders. The Dardenne brothers are two-time winners making their sixth appearance in competition with Two Days, One Night, starring Marion Cotillard as a desperate employee on a mission to save her job. Godard, the 83-year-old mainstay of French new wave, hopes to make it seventh time lucky with his 3D abstraction, Goodbye to Language. All, however, are way behind Britain's Ken Loach; Jimmy's Hall, a period drama set in Ireland, has earned its director his 12th nomination for the Palme d'Or. Might the organisers be guilty of an excess of loyalty – of basing decisions on the names in the credits as opposed to the film in the can?

"The Cannes selection is never entirely about the quality of the films," says James. It is a "political process and it follows a pattern. Those names the organisers regard as part of the academy will always find themselves in the official selection".

Writer Agnès Poirier, who helps pre-select films for inclusion, disagrees. "Critics festival say that it's always the same clientele on the red carpet," she says. "But that's not always the case. I think as much consideration is given to the film as to the director." Poirier points out that competition favourite François Ozon was recently bounced to the Un Certain Regard sidebar, while two-time champion Francis Ford Coppola played further up the Croisette, in the boisterous atmosphere of the directors' fortnight section.

"Some film-makers are not going to accept being relegated," she admits. "But if they don't, they can always pretend that their film wasn't ready in time. There are so many conversations that take place behind closed doors."

Nor does Poirier think the main competition would benefit from an injection of fresh blood. "Fresh blood? That's what the sidebars are for. All the people we see in competition started off in critics' week, or the directors' fortnight."

Awarding the Palme d'Or to an untried director, she suggests, would be like giving the Nobel prize for literature to a first-time novelist. Mark Cousins, a critic and film-maker, feels the festival, by and large, gets the balance right. "If there was no Cannes, we'd be desperate for one," he says. "We'd crave its bulwark against the uber-materialism of the Anglo-Saxon film world, where 'you're only as good as your last picture'." Cannes, he adds, is a very Catholic affair. "It anoints, it beatifies, it sends up its white smoke after a conclave. To be sure, it's decision-making is obscure and its choices often questionable. But its belief in cinema sainthood is exciting and fun."

Five to watch out for

Mr Turner
Mike Leigh's labour of love charts the life and times of the 19th-century painter JMW Turner. Timothy Spall headlines as the great man, scowling at the sea from his bolthole down in Margate.

The Homesman
Oscar-winning Hilary Swank stars in the western as the God-fearing spinster, Mary Bee Cuddy, charged with transporting what the festival programme describes as a wagonload of "madwomen" back from the frontier. Tommy Lee Jones co-stars and directs.

Winter Sleep
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan comes tipped for major prizes with Winter Sleep, a tale of family torments that casts a small, snowed-in hotel as both refuge and prison.

The Search
Michel Hazanavicius's last film, The Artist, used Cannes as a springboard to eventual Oscar glory. The French film-maker now returns with a marked change of pace, updating an old Montgomery Clift Holocaust drama to the 1999 Chechen war.

Clouds of Sils Maria
The Oscar-winning Juliette Binoche plays a regal, ageing actor thrown into crisis by the arrival of a younger model. French director Olivier Assayas's English-language drama co-stars Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz.

The 10 Films That Might Surprise or Shock Us at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival  Eric John and Nigel Smith from indieWIRE, May 12, 2014

The 2014 Cannes Film Festival launches on Wednesday, and with it comes a slew of films sure to shock, surprise and provoke, just as last year's Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" did when it world premiered at the event. Here are 10 films that could potentially follow suit.

"The Captive," dir. Atom Egoyan

Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan has been a fixture on La Croisette since his 1994 breakout feature "Exotica," which took the FIPRESCI prize. "The Sweet Hereafter" won that same award in addition to the Grand Prix honor in 1997. The filmmaker’s career has by no means taken a nosedive since, but to many, he hasn’t lived up to the promise set by his earlier efforts (save for "Felicia’s Journey," which featured a great performance by the late Bob Hoskins). "Where the Truth Lies," "Adoration" and "Chloe" were all met with mixed reviews, while his latest, the West Memphis Three drama "Devil’s Knot," was his worst reviewed effort to date. His last two films ("Chloe" and "Devil’s Knot") weren’t given a Cannes berth, so early signs point to "The Captive" being a surprise comeback for Egoyan (the film's trailer is very promising). And it could also mark a comeback for star Ryan Reynolds. After misfiring in blockbuster territory with "The Green Lantern" and "R.I.P.D.," Reynolds has retreated to indie fare, surprising in the Sundance oddity "The Voices," and hopefully, in this too as a family man whose young daughter goes missing. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Catch Me Daddy," dir. Daniel Wolfe

Daniel Wolfe’s feature-length debut "Catch Me Daddy" premieres at Directors' Fortnight with the expectations of something frantic and moody: the U.K. production is described by the British Film Council as the story of a teenager who skips town with her boyfriend after he abandons the army; with a pair of bounty hunters on their tail, the young woman continually faces the advances of her menacing father until she finally manages to confront him. Setting aside the enticing description, Wolfe has a track record that automatically makes his feature-length debut worth checking out: He directed the extended 2012 music video for "Time to Dance," by French rock band The Shoes, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a ruthless killer. Aside from ranking among the actor's fiercest roles without asking him to utter a word, "Time to Dance" exhibits a kind of frantic energy that suggests early Danny Boyle, even as it evokes similarly unnerving portraits ranging from Brian De Palma's "Scarface" to Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void." Using that stylistic showcase as a barometer for Wolfe's skill, there's no doubting his ability to inject the relatively straightforward plot of "Catch Me Daddy" with a sense of unsettling possibilities. Whether or not that's enough to carry the entire movie is unclear -- but the bizarre nature of its plot -- protective family measures with a deadly twist -- and the supposed momentum it develops as it barrels ahead is sure to provide some added excitement to the Croisette. [Eric Kohn]

"Clouds of Sils Maria," dir. Olivier Assayas
Olivier Assayas isn’t adverse to star casting, having worked with Juliette Binoche, Chloe Sevigny and Gina Gershon, but his latest, "Clouds of Sils Maria," is his first to flirt with the young Hollywood A-list. Binoche, in her second film with Assayas following the 2008 family drama "Summer Hours," headlines the film as Maria Enders, an actress who's forced to look deep within when a younger actress (Chloë Grace Moretz) steps into the role that made her famous 20 years ago. Kristen Stewart, returning to Cannes after turning heads in "On the Road," co-stars as Maria’s loyal assistant. Binoche, who won Best Actress at Cannes for "Certified Copy," has nothing to prove. Both Stewart and Moretz have indie credentials, but with "Clouds of Sils Maria," they’re both making their first foray into European arthouse fare, and therefore, have the potential to surprise. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Foxcatcher," dir. Bennett Miller
Bennett Miller ("Capote," "Moneyball") has yet to make a bad film, and all signs point to his third effort, "Foxcatcher" being a success. For starters: producer Megan Ellison (whose got a great track record herself with "Her" and "American Hustle") backed the film. And Miller is once again working off a screenplay by Dan Futterman ("Capote"). So what could surprise about the project? The performances. Back when the film was initially scheduled to open last Christmas (Sony Pictures Classics has since moved it to Fall), a trailer debuted online showing first glimpses at Steve Carell's transformative turn as real-life multimillionaire John du Pont, who murdered an Olympic champion. Boasting a prosthetic nose, Carell doesn't look like himself in the part, nor does he sound it with an eery drawl sure to give you the creeps. His co-star Channing Tatum seems to have matched him in the transformation department playing a wrestling champ du Pont takes a serious liking to. Tatum's said the role was his "hardest acting challenge to date." Look for "Foxcatcher" to make audiences and critics see the two actors in a whole new light. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Goodbye to Language," dir. Jean Luc-Godard

One of the most important filmmakers of all time, Godard's work is never ready-made for commercial expectations, even as he began his career by riffing on Hollywood. But that's exactly what makes each new Godard movie such a fascinating challenge: Growing ever more experimental in the later stages of his career, his recent movies — perhaps most notably with 2010's "Film Socialism" — are consumed by a commitment to confounding expectations and pushing the boundaries of the medium's communicative possibilities. Nearly 55 years after "Breathless," we're finally getting a 3-D Godard feature, a freewheeling portrait of marital infidelity that continually transforms into something else (but no matter how strange its narrative, at 70 minutes, it's one of the shortest entries in competition). "Goodbye to the Language" will be weird (word on the street is that it includes a talking dog), possibly impenetrable and guaranteed to be divisive — which is exactly what makes a great movie at Cannes. [Eric Kohn]
"It Follows," dir. David Robert Mitchell
Mitchell's first feature "The Myth of the American Sleepover" was the rare U.S. teen drama to take that giddy stage of maturation seriously -- and it played to great acclaim at Cannes as a result. His followup returns to that same period under the guise of a genre film, focusing on the eerie experiences of a young woman haunted by supernatural forces after a sexual encounter. So far, early buzz suggests a genuinely gripping achievement from the promising young director, who has been working overtime to finish the movie in time for its premiere at Cannes' Critics Week section. But even as "It Follows" may draw in some viewers with the ingredients of a horror story, those who have managed an early look suggest that the familiar ingredients are merely the starting point for a much deeper allegorical experience that defies easy categorization. [Eric Kohn]

"Jauja," dir. Lisandro Alonso

Argentinean director Alonso's "Jauja" stars Viggo Mortensen and focuses on a Danish father-daughter pair who moves to a desolate region of South America . Alonso's slow-burn work typically borders on the avant garde as it explores alienation through a steady accumulation of images and poetic encounters, but the bigger production may allow broader audiences to notice his alluring approach — even if it doesn't whip buyers into a frenzy. Alonso's "Liverpool," a nearly wordless account of a man journeying to see his mother, mainly received acclaim on the festival circuit among audiences hip to its slow, patient style. But "Jauja" suggests a more dynamic experience involving the mysterious nature of the universe, with secrets buried in its plot that defy any basic description and images that may truly defy words. [Eric Kohn]
"Leviathan," dir. Andrey Zvyagintstev
A decade ago, Zvyagintstev won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his acclaimed debut "The Return," the tense drama of two boys coping with their father's sudden reappearance after an extended absence. With his followups "Banishment" and "Elena" — both of which premiered at Cannes — Zvyagintstev deepened his penchant for bleak, patiently developed stories about the outliers of contemporary Russian society, melding a cerebral approach with nerve-wracking genre ingredients. Zvyagintstev's latest feature is supposedly inspired by the Book of Job, which means more downbeat occurrences with profound undertones, and its large ensemble cast suggest it contains the greatest scope of his filmography to date. The director's movies tend to creep up on you -- in "Elena," for instance, the cold drama of an older woman caring for her ailing husband takes a sudden, bleak twist into thriller territory during its closing minutes. It's hard to say if "Leviathan" can compete with that -- but Zvyagintstev is exactly the director to keep the surprises coming. Anyone intrigued by sophisticated narrative filmmaking should eagerly anticipate this sure-to-be-challenging selection. [Eric Kohn]

"Lost River," dir. Ryan Gosling
If there’s one big question mark at this festival, it’s Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut "Lost River," screening in the Un Certain Regard section. Shrouded in mystery until last week when Gosling released an intriguing director’s statement and batch of trippy stills, the film has the makings of something truly bizarre (it centers on the discovery of an underwater town...). Though how bonkers can it really be given that Warner Bros. is distributing it to the masses Stateside? In his statement, Gosling likens his directing style to "somewhere in-between" the sensibilities of Derek Cianfrance and Nicolas Winding Refn. The filmmakers work in such different extremes that a unity of the two is an enticing and ballsy prospect. [Nigel M. Smith]

"Maps to the Stars," dir. David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg returns to Cannes with "Maps to the Stars," his fifth film to premiere in competition, and, surprisingly, his first set in Hollywood. Despite the new setting, the film’s trailers hint at a return to the shocking provocations of his 1996 art-house smash "Crash" (his only film to ever win at Cannes), with Julianne Moore stealing the show as a manic actress who engages in backseat sex with a limo driver (Robert Pattinson). In fact Moore is so alluring in the promo, the rest of the cast (which includes John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, and Olivia Williams) barely register. Sporting blonde hair, plumped up lips, and a frenzied disposition, Moore’s work here seems unlike anything the actress has attempted before, recalling Nicole Kidman’s similarly go-for-broke turn in Lee Daniel’s "The Paperboy," which also screened at Cannes and shocked critics. It looks like Moore's set to have the same effect. [Nigel M. Smith]

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running:  

While Les Etoiles de la critiques is up and running as well:

While Neil Young from Jigsaw Lounge maintains the odds for winners: 

to win the Palme d’Or
11/4 Winter Sleep (N.B.Ceylan)
5/1 Leviathan (A.Zvyagintsev)
5/1 Timbuktu (A.Sissako)
7/1 Maps to the Stars (D.Cronenberg)
8/1 Mr Turner (M.Leigh)
9/1 The Wonders (A.Rohrwacher)
- – -
11/1 Goodbye to Language (J-L.Godard)
12/1 Two Days, One Night (Dardenne & Dardenne)
12/1 Still the Water (N.Kawase)
- – -
18/1 The Homesman (T.L.Jones)
18/1 Clouds of Sils Maria (O.Assayas)
22/1 Foxcatcher (B.Miller)
25/1 The Search (M.Hazanavicius)
- – -
33/1 Wild Tales (D.Szifrón)
35/1 Mommy (X.Dolan)
40/1 The Captive (A.Egoyan)
40/1 Jimmy’s Hall (K.Loach)
40/1 Saint Laurent (B.Bonello)
- – - -
titles in bold have been screened at the festival
6/4 Two Days One Night – Marion Cotillard
9/2 The Wonders – Maria Alexandra Lungu
9/1 Maps to the Stars – Julianne Moore (solo or with Mia Wasikowska)
10/1 Still the Water – Makiko Watanabe
10/1 Timbuktu – Toulou Kiki
16/1 Leviathan – Elena Lyadova
16/1 Clouds of Sils Maria – Juliette Binoche (/ K.Stewart and/or C.G.Moretz)
16/1 Mommy – Anne Dorval (/Suzanne Clement)
20/1 Winter Sleep – Demet Akbag
22/1 The Homesman – Hillary Swank
22/1 The Search – Bérénice Bejo
25/1 Mr Turner – Dorothy Atkinson

11/4 Mr Turner – Timothy Spall
5/1 Leviathan – Alexey Serebryakov (/ Vladimir Vdovichenkov)
6/1 Timbuktu – Ibrahim Ahmed
7/1 Saint Laurent – Gaspard Ulliel (/Jérémie Renier)
10/1 Foxcatcher – Steve Carell (/ C.Tatum and/or M.Ruffalo)
12/1 Wild Tales – Ricardo Darín (/ L.Sbaraglia and/or D.Grandinetti)
12/1 The Search – Maksim Emelyanov
14/1 Winter Sleep – Haluk Bilginer
14/1 Jimmy’s Hall – Barry Ward (/ Jim Norton)
16/1 Mommy – Antoine-Olivier Pilon (/Patrick Huard)
20/1 Two Days One Night – Fabrizio Rongione
22/1 Maps to the Stars – Robert Pattinson (/John Cusack and/or Evan Bird)
25/1 Still the Water – Hideo Sakaki
28/1 The Wonders – Sam Louwyck
28/1 The Homesman – Tommy Lee Jones
33/1 The Captive – Ryan Reynolds

The round-up of various links covering Cannes:

Screendaily still has paywalls, but if you click on the reviews, they are open to the public:, also: 
The Hollywood Reporter at Cannes:
David Hudson does all the links for each review at Fandor:

The Film Center's Barbara Scharres and Michał Oleszczyk from the Roger Ebert blog: 

Kevin Jagernauth, Oliver Lyttelton, and Jessica Kiang the indieWIRE Playlist: 
Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix: 

a round-up of indieWIRE reviews:, with everything consolidated here:

Andrew O'Hehir from Salon: 
Daniel Kasman, Adam Cook, and likely others at Mubi:

Mike D'Angelo at The Onion AV Club: 

Cannes Diary from Film Comment: 

Keith Uhlich offering rival reviews from Time Out New York (Mike D'Angelo's former employer): 
Cannes Fest at Time Out London: 

The Guardian collection of reviews:

The Guardian Cannes commentary:  

David Jenkins from Little White Lies: 
Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ion Cinema:

Richard Porton and others from The Daily Beast:

Various writers at Twitch: 

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph: 

Julie Miller at Vanity Fair: 

And, of course, George is back at Cannes this year, where he finds off the beaten track film fare:  

There may not be any films strictly devoted to the bicycle this year at Cannes among the more than 1,500 films on the schedule, after a record five in 2013, but there are two films that will at least partially feature it.  One is an Austrian documentary on three extreme athletes--a wing-suit flyer, a free-diver and a zealous cyclist.. The other film that will have more than a dollop of bicycling is a French feature about a father and his son, who has cerebral palsy, who compete together in the Nice Ironman, with a leg of more than one hundred miles of cycling.

It is one of two films about cerebral palsy, the other Polish.  There could be an entire sidebar of films about disease and disabilities.  There are four films about the blind and four about deaf/mutes.  There are also films about cystic fibrosis, ADHD, Down's syndrome, amnesia, post-traumatic stress syndrome, retardation and dementia, all films that I will try to avoid  With nearly fifty theaters screening films all day, that should be no problem.

There is no shortage of films that have a corollary link to the bicycle or bicycling.  There are three running films, that could have a bicycling mentality and two films on doping in sports that could just as well be cycling.  Four films feature a taxi driver, who might be substituted for a bicycle messenger.  As far as sports films go, this is the year of soccer with the World Cup less than a month away.  There are at least ten films on the sport including a horror film "Goal of the Dead."  Gerald Depardieu plays one of the founders of FIFA, the sports' governing body, in "United Passions."  He also plays the IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Abel Ferrara's "Welcome to New York."  It has three straight market screenings at the Star theater on Friday, a rare presentation of a film here.

I had the distinction today of being the first one in line for the first market screening of the festival, proving myself to be the most eager of the more than 50,000 film professionals attending the festival.  I arrived at the forty-seat Palais G theater just after nine for the ten a.m. screening of "God's Pocket."  This American feature starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles had already played at Sundance and Berlin so there was no scrum of buyers trying to get in.  They were still given priority, but only just half-filled the theater.  Anyone with a mere market badge who showed up after 9:30 did not get in.  The movie took its name from a rough, white, crime-ridden neighborhood novel of Philadelphia and was based on a novel of the same name. Hoffman had a butcher shop that dealt in stolen meat.  One of his fellow thieves is John Turturro.  Richard Jenkins played a popular alcoholic columnist who wrote about the neighborhood.  Fine performances from all three more than carried the movie.

Jenkins also played an alcoholic in another of the movies I saw today, "4 Minute Mile."  He was a retired coach who comes to the rescue of a very talented high school runner who quits the school team in a tiff with his coach.  The boy is short-tempered, dominated by his drug-dealing older brother.  They lost their father to a drug overdose years before.  Kim Basinger is their not very present mother. She is one of countless single mothers in movies on the schedule.

There is a considerable amount of running in the movie including long jaunts to pick up drugs.  Any movie with as much cycling would have made my day.  Coach and athlete have a rocky relationship, but running does prevail in saving the boy's life.  

The lead character in "Jamie Marks Is Dead" was described in the program as a star cross-country runner, enticing me to see it rather than a Gena Rowlands/Frank Langella post-apocalypse movie in the meager final screening slot of the day.  I made the wrong choice, as the only running is a brief glimpse at the start before it turns into a creepy horror movie with the dead haunting two of the alive.  It was the only dud of my day's six movies.

The three others were all based on true stories, and were all worthwhile.  Two were French and had a Jewish theme--"24 Days" about a young Jewish man who was kidnapped in 2006 and held for 24 days and "Once in a Lifetime" about a high school class that enters a national competition doing a project on children who were victims of the Nazi system.  The high school class was full of semi-delinquent kids who are tamed and brought together by their project, especially after having an Auschwitz survivor come to their class and tell them about the experience.  There are as many films in the festival about teachers as there are on single mothers.  This film portrays what a difficult job it is to be a teacher, but also how satisfying it can be.

The mother of the kidnapping victim has been divorced for years and is a virtual single-mother.  Both husband and wife are forced to deal with the kidnappers.  The movie is an indictment of the ineptitude of the French police in dealing with the kidnappers, a rag-tag bunch of Arabs and blacks who are coordinated by a thug in the Ivory Coast.  The gang targets Jews because they think they have money.  This family doesn't.  The father is a small shop owner and the mother a secretary.  The movie has already opened in France.

When a guy is given a blood test in the Finnish film "A Patriotic Man," it is discovered he had extremely rich blood and as typo O it is compatible with all other blood types.  A doctor at the hospital where he has given the test works with the Finnish ski team.  It is the 1980s and blood doping is an integral part of the team's program.  The doctor recruits him to donate blood to the ski team as an act of patriotism and to take a full-time position with the team as a factotum so he can be at their training camps and accompany them to competitions.

The athletes at first aren't sure if they want to accept the blood of this pudgy, middle-aged man who doesn't even ski.  They say they've been willing to accept pills and injections and their own blood, but this may be going too far.  Eventually they are won over and even begin to compete for his blood.  When the team's blood bags are confiscated by custom's officials before one completion, the athletes argue over who gets to have his blood, one woman saying she has the beat chance for a medal so she should be the one.  He develops a closeness with a younger female skier and wishes to give her priority.  When they lie side-by-side with blood flowing from one to the other they sometimes hold hands.

The guy keeps the blood-doping a secret from his wife, who works as a mid-wife.  He, rather than the athletes, begins to have a moral dilemma.  The athletes don't seem to have any issues with the doping.  They are willing to do anything to win, especially since they know their competitors are as well.  The movie was described as a comedy in the program, and it does have comic overtones since the blood donor is somewhat of a buffoon, prone to getting drunk and passing out, but it does not take the subject matter lightly.  It is a serious study of a serious subject.  It was the best of a very good first day of cinema before the heavy-weight Competition films start screening on Day Two.

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