Monday, May 20, 2013

Cannes 2013 Day 5

Jessica Biel poses for photographers as she arrives for the screening of Inside Llewyn Davis 

Jury member of the 66th Cannes Film Festival actress Vidya Balan arrives on stage during the opening ceremony

Aishwarya Rai


Aishwarya Rai poses as she arrives for the screening Inside Llewyn Davis

How about a gallery of Aishwarya Rai appearances on the red carpet at Cannes? from IB Times: 

red carpet photos from The Guardian: 

more red carpet photos for the screening Inside Llewyn Davis, from The Hollywood Reporter: 

Fan Bingbing

Fan Bingbing can always be found when the cameras are around, from The Hollywood Reporter: 

still more of Fan Bingbing in past glimpses on the Cannes red carpet, from The Hollywood Reporter: 

And in a bit of overkill, an accompanying article as well, from The Hollywood Reporter: 

How about a 2nd high-profile burglary at Cannes, by Clarence Tsui and Patrick Brzeski from The Hollywood Reporter: 

China Film Group vice president Zhang Qiang had all of his luggage stolen from his rented Cote d'Azur apartment, leading the senior exec to tweet: “This film festival is not worth mentioning!”

China Film Group vice president Zhang Qiang canceled plans to preside over a press conference on Monday with Keanu Reeves for the actor’s directorial debut Man of Tai Chi after all of his possessions were stolen from his rented apartment at Pierre & Vacances Cannes Beach Residence. 

Zhang said the staff at the hotel brushed off his pleas for assistance and said they could change the locks but he would have to contact the police himself. “Security in France is so bad, and the [people] are so arrogant,” he wrote.

The episode seems to have spoiled Zhang’s Cannes experience. “This film festival is not worth mentioning!” he added.

As second in command at the China Film Group, the dominant State-owned film conglomerate, Zhang is likely the most influential Chinese industry player in town this week.

He was slated to appear with Reeves and producer Lemore Syvan at the Majestic Hotel Monday morning to promote Man of Tai Chi, which China Film Group co-produced with Wanda Media, Village Road Show Pictures, Universal Pictures and Company Films.

Earlier this week, an estimated $1 million in Chopard jewelry was stolen from a safe in an employee's room at the Suite Novotel Cannes Centre.

Zhang’s post was widely retweeted by Chinese film fans, with many weighing in to respond with their own travel horror stories and experiences with “impolite” French people in the past. He later tweeted a post about having to travel to Marseille to apply for a new travel documents, and wrote again on Saturday saying the municipal authorities, the Cannes film festival and the hotel had all reached out to him to apologize.

“We can see how China’s Weibo service now has influence outside the country,” he added. “I’d like to remind compatriots to take note of how to protect their own rights when travelling abroad for business and leisure.”

The Cannes Film Festival declined to comment on the incident. Local police had no comment.

And who knew, but somewhere underneath all the stars, Sofia Coppola hit a nerve with a film about a teen gang robbing the homes of Hollywood stars, by Tom Lamont, who reminds us of wonderful writing from The Observer: 

Nicole Kidman is here in Cannes, so is Ang Lee, and Audrey Tautou, and a second-generation Jagger, and Justin Timberlake, and Cindy Crawford, and Cheryl Cole, and Pelé, and all of them have been rained on, stubbornly, for days. Rain at Cannes used to be rare, regulars say. Russell Crowe has an anecdote about sitting in a screening wearing sodden zip-ups back in 1991, and Bruce Willis got splashed by a freak wave in 2006 – but for a couple of decades straight, at least, this festival was a dry deal, screenings and parties staged outdoors, everyone "cooked to a turn" (as F Scott Fitzgerald described the local way of sunbathing). Then last year the roof of the Soixantième theatre blew off. Storms halted yacht parties, and the trade papers were left calculating the value of deals not done, with every producer and distributor hiding indoors instead of agreeing contracts on sunny terraces.

At this year's festival, the 66th, those attending are more seasoned and sanguine. Opening-night fireworks went ahead regardless, the rockets fired into low, dark clouds. "I can handle a rain shower," said Kidman, joined on a swampy, bubbling red carpet by Carey Mulligan; the British actor was struck by someone's umbrella and was happy to laugh it off. Baz Luhrmann promised any watery streaks on his face were weather-related – "not tears". He'd brought his film The Great Gatsby to Cannes and the critics, for the most part, had been unkind.

It was fitting that Gatsby kicked off festival fortnight, given that this is Fitzgerald country, the stretch of coast around Cannes memorably caught in the writer's next-most-famous novel, Tender is the Night. But by Wednesday Luhrmann's brash adaptation was already out in the US, and had previewed in the UK , and everyone I met seemed to have seen it already. Talk in queues and foyers was of a silly, thin movie that drowned its stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, in swampy computer effects – a 143-minute music video. "It reminded me of the films you see in the queue at theme parks," one critic said on the Croisette. About the nicest thing I heard said was that this was "the Good Gatsby", hardly great. I'd adjust that to the Perfectly Reasonable Gatsby or the Look, It Was Fine Gatsby.

It wasn't in competition for Cannes's main award, the Palme d'Or – shortlisted films for that began to be screened on Thursday, after the celebrity judging panel had introduced themselves and laid out their goals. "I'm looking for honesty," said director Cristian Mungiu. Actor Christoph Waltz expected "a discussion on the highest level" with his peers, while jury president Steven Spielberg, dressed in a drab grey suit (all his sparkle within), gave a wicked smile and said: "Everyone judges us. So – it's our turn."

François Ozon's new film, Jeune et Jolie (Young and Beautiful), was tipped as a potential winner. We squelched into the Palais des Festivals to see it one morning, just in sight of two workmen in an elevated crane trying to get rid of an enormous globule of rainwater that had collected in a plastic roof panel. While they punched the water out, the Ozon got under way – set, cruelly, somewhere on the sun-drenched French coast. Isabelle (Marine Vacth) is on holiday with her family, and the 17-year-old has started a fling with an older boy. "Dumb," Isabelle tells her mother, Sylvie (Géraldine Pailhas), but he'll do, she says to her brother Victor (Fantin Ravat) to whom she's confessed a plan to lose her virginity. When it happens, Isabelle seems to have an out-of-body experience. Afterwards, Victor wants details and Isabelle won't share them. Sex, now done, has lost any imagined romance.

Next, at an uncertain point in the future, wearing a business suit and thick lipstick, Isabelle arrives in a hotel room to meet an older man. Folded €100 notes are handed over. This pampered, middle-class girl, now using her grandmother's name as a pseudonym, has become a prostitute. Ozon cunningly delays a surprise: she's still 17, only weeks or months having elapsed since the summer holiday. How has such a transformation taken place?

Ozon explores his subject without making any obvious judgment, even with a breezy French permissiveness. Sylvie, sensing that Isabelle is sexually active, leaves out condoms one night. Later, knowing much, much more, she frets about her daughter being a prostitute and is told by her partner: "No point being dramatic!" The humour is subtle and unsettling, generally relying on Isabelle's precocious and inflated understanding of what by-the-hour services – babysitting, therapy – should cost. Only when a police officer lays the blame on internet porn ("Kids get ideas") does Ozon's finger seem to wag. "I didn't want to underscore too many points," the director said at a post-film conference. Outside, the photography corps waited to get at Marine Vacth, actually 23 and a former model, the breakout star of Cannes's first week (see Trash interview). 

Young and Beautiful concludes with the sense that things may turn out all right for Isabelle. There's no such sense of second chances in Amat Escalante's Heli, a Mexican film also in competition. Again we're introduced to a teen romance and, again, this means about 15 minutes of introductory sweetness (ice cream and kisses) before things get ugly. Estella (Andrea Vergara) has fallen for an army cadet, Beto (Juan Eduardo Palacios), who gives her a puppy called Cookie as a symbol of his love, and as a sop to get her to go to bed with him. A sister-in-law offers counsel while Estella's brother, Heli (Armando Espitia), forbids the relationship.

There's no time for a family tug-of-war. Beto has stolen some coke and foolishly stashed it at Estella's house, where crooks showed up, wanting revenge. Heli, Beto and Estella are taken off at gunpoint. "You're fucked now," they are told – and the walk-outs, in my screening, began soon after that. Scenes of torture are protracted and inventive. "Bloody Heli" might have been a better title, and the theatre became noisy with gasps and the commotion of mid-film flight.

I wondered what Steven Spielberg would make of the beatings, hangings, a two-minute genital bonfire and poor Cookie abruptly halved. Perhaps he'd snuck into a non-competition screening of Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, though, and had other things on his mind. For instance, did he definitely, definitely lock the pool doors back home?

In Coppola's measured, cynical drama, a group of spoilt teens ransack the homes of Hollywood celebrities who might have assumed their splendid and remote addresses (rather than, say, alarms, triple-locks and moats) would keep them secure against burglaries. Not in the Google age. Joints are cased by Rebecca (Katie Chang) and Marc (Israel Broussard) using Street View. They decide which stars to strike and when by browsing, easily learning who's out of town at a party, a launch or – who knows? – a French film festival.

After a test-invasion of Paris Hilton's palatial home – dare they pinch her dog? – Marc and Rebecca's posse expands to include Nicki (Emma Watson, whose American accent, I'm afraid, would sink a school play). They walk into the homes of Orlando Bloom, Megan Fox and Lindsay Lohan, and walk out with millions in clothes, shoes and sunglasses. Hilton's place, brilliantly, is so poorly guarded it becomes a sort of lair for the gang. They frequently make use of a pole-dancing suite.

But these are artless thieves, sprawling on a kerb outside a looted home, for instance, surrounded by stolen goods and waiting like exhausted shoppers for a lift. Money from the spoils is spent on nightclub booths and jeroboams of vodka, better to prettify their Facebook updates. Everyone poses endlessly for self-taken photographs, fanning cash and wearing pinched luxuries. They are 17 and 18 and even criminality must be documented through social media. When the police catch up with them, it is Coppola's gentle suggestion that the switching of Facebook accounts from "public" to "private" is as sad and mighty a fall as prison time.

Coppola's film, my favourite of the festival so far, benefited from a little documentary zing: these events actually happened, the real-life bling ring active in Los Angeles about five years ago. (And curiously, in the early hours after Coppola's premiere, £650,000 of jewels were stolen from a Cannes hotel room: had the Ring reformed, and gone international?) Back in 2008 Paris Hilton really was blithe enough not to notice that thieves were wandering in and helping themselves, over and over.

Lindsay Lohan, at least, may have learned something from her experiences. Elsewhere in the Palais des Festivals, I tried to get into a showing of her new film, The Canyons, a troubled project directed by Paul Schrader, which was quietly screened for distributors in a faraway room. I made it as far as the door. An American security man had been posted there, instructed to keep undesirables out.


From right: French director Claude Lanzmann, assistant director Laura Koeppel and producer David Frenkel arrive for the screening of their film The Last of the Unjust presented out of competition in Cannes

Claude Lanzmann was welcomed back to the stage at Cannes, described by Barbara Scharres from the Ebert site, while also describing how all the patrons at Cannes are vulnerable to petty thievery, describing her own experience: 

On a day when the sun is finally shining and it doesn’t even look like rain, Cannes doesn’t automatically inspire dark thoughts of criminal masterminds and evil-doers prowling the streets and owning the night. But, just as film people from every nation on earth are gathered here for two weeks, so are the pickpockets, the cat burglars, the jewel thieves and the con artists, beggars, and grifters of every stripe.

Just yesterday, the trade papers carried the story that more than a million dollars in Chopard jewels that had been brought to Cannes to loan to stars for their gala appearances had been stolen from a hotel safe. This is only the big stuff. Every year, those of us who come here regularly trade our latest stories of purse-snatchings, holdups, child pickpockets, and those brazen nocturnal thieves who climb neon signs, awnings, and gutter-pipes to reach open hotel windows to snatch any valuables left within reach. It once happened to me, so I know, and never slept with an open window again.

Eighty-seven-year-old director Claude Lanzmann of “Shoah” fame was welcomed to the stage of the Salle Debussy tonight by Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux, to a standing ovation. Lanzmann profusely thanked his crew and all who helped make his new film “The Last of the Unjust” possible, and the two joked about previous discussions regarding whether the film was to be presented in or out of competition, before the genial director planted a huge kiss on Frémaux’s cheek.

Lanzmann’s place in film history is assured by his landmark “Shoah,” and "The Last of the Unjust” grew out of the hours of unused interview footage that he shot of Benjamin Murmelstein, the last president of the Jewish Council of Elders in the Theresienstadt ghetto in what was then Czechoslovakia. In the lengthy rolling text that begins the film, Lanzmann makes it clear that his film will exonerate Murmelstein, who has long been a controversial figure whom some had accused of collaboration with the Nazis.

In characteristic fashion, Lanzmann is meticulous and thorough in establishing the time, the places, and the progression of events in Murmelstein’s seven-year relationship, from 1938 to 1944, with Adolf Eichmann, who in every way his overlord and the arbiter of the fate of the community that the Jewish Council administered. The film intercuts lengthy sequences of the interviews with Murmelstein, which were conducted in Rome in 1975, with Lanzmann’s present day visits to relevant locations in Vienna and the Czech Republic.

Although at Eichmann’s war crimes trial it was claimed that his participation in Kristallnacht could not be established, Murmelstein provides his direct eye-witness account of Eichmann personally smashing sacred objects with a crowbar as he directed SS men in the ravaging of a Vienna synagogue. Murmelstein refutes Hannah Arendt’s famous statement about the banality of evil, saying in reference to the trial, “The corrupt Eichmann was never shown.”

I felt no aura of the day’s specters of evil in the streets of Cannes as I walked back to my hotel. A new bistro has opened along the narrow pedestrian passageway I take up to the rue d’Antibes from the Palais, and revelers with drinks in their hands were mixing with the people who just gotten ice cream from the gelato shop a few steps away. A rock band was playing on a temporary stage in front of the nearby church, Notre Dame de Bon Voyage. It’s Sunday night and it’s not raining.

Jia Zhangke takes up arms, Koreeda Hirokazu turns class tables and Clio Barnard scraps and scrapes on the outskirts of Bradford.

Some of the busiest people on the Croisette these last few sodden days have been the abundant African immigrants selling umbrellas, their presence cheek-by-jowl with the customary spectacle of conspicuous Cannes excess a reminder of parlous economic realities outside the festival bubble.

The symptoms of the current neoliberal malaise have of course been intermittently reflected and dissected onscreen, in by and large the best films of an admittedly average-to-poor bunch I’ve seen so far here. By some distance the most arresting and an early contender for the Palme d’Or is Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, which finds the greatest Chinese director of his generation in more angry, viscerally confrontational mode than he’s ever been. The film gathers together four separate stories based on horrific real-life incidents of murder and suicide in China; in the first, for example, a miner, furious at corrupt local officials, takes up his gun and sets off on a murderous rampage.

It’s a bit of a shock at first to see a Jia film open with a series of bloody murders, as he sets about grafting something altogether more pulpy and Kitano-esque onto his more customary naturalist aesthetic. But for me it worked, mainly for its ability – as always – to intuit and convey some sense of the larger processes shaping these violent individual responses to a hostile, alienating economic climate. It’s hard to think of another director better than Jia at framing his characters in their environments: geography is destiny, you might say. Jia has clearly decided that harsh times call for a harsh response, but you can’t help wondering how a film so bluntly critical will play with the authorities in China, or how it even got made.

Also in competition is Koreeda Hirozaku’s Like Father Like Son, which turns on the conceit that two families of very different economic standing must swap what they thought were their own young sons after the belated discovery of a hospital botch-up at birth. The affluent family has only the one child, neglected by a loving but often absent father dedicated to his high-flying, round-the-clock architect’s job. The flaws in their comfortable, carefully regulated lifestyle are gradually exposed through contact with the larger family’s more chaotic, financially precarious but apparently happier existence.

Koreeda milks and finesses the situation with some aplomb, drawing pitch-perfect performances from his cast (including the children) and steering the narrative into the carefully grounded philosophical terrain signalled by the film’s title, deftly exploring questions of heredity and nature versus nurture. Like Father Like Son plays out as a gentle, cautionary morality tale for our times, which might be its weakness. It can feel at times a shade too knowing, a bit too schematic in its narrative patternings, with a sense of couching some improving advice on how to live better. I could have done without the sentimental ending and tinkly, saccharine music prompts, too.

Fathers are also an underlying problem in Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, either absent or completely useless, with mothers inevitably left to fill the breach as best they can. Screening in Directors’ Fortnight, the film, loosely based on an Oscar Wilde story, is set in the same lower-class Bradford milieu as Barnard’s fine debut The Arbor, but opts this time for a more straightforward storytelling approach that feels right for the material.

Two truanting schoolboys’s friendship is tested when they are gradually drawn into the world of scrap-metal dealing, attracted by its downbeat adult glamour and the opportunities it offers to make fast, easy money and bond with the local scrap-dealer’s horse.

Two elements stood out for me: the film’s vivid evocation of edge-lands, the scrubby, generally disregarded hinterland areas on the outskirts of British cities, and its depiction of the actual physical circulation of money, its corrupting effects given a tangible feel and presence. There’s even a trap-racing action sequence, heavily betted on, like Ben Hur in Bradford.

If nothing else, Barnard’s film will claim the world record for what we might call the expleted imperative: characters telling each other to “Fuck off you daft [cunt / twat / wanker / etc].” Therein lay a problem, it seemed to me, a slight reductiveness and lack of credibility in its portrayal of working-class lives, overcome to some extent by the energy of the young performances, particularly Connor Chapman, a real find who’s uncannily akin to the boy in the Dardennes’ The Kid with a Bike. Of the films I’ve seen here so far, this was by some distance the most rapturously received by its audience.

The Cannes Criterion Forum is up and running:

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

also Ioncinema's Critics' Panel 2013: 

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

to win the 2013 Palme d’Or
films which have been shown to press in Cannes are in bold

9/2  Kore-eda, Hirokazu – Like Father, Like Son
5/1  Farhadi, Asghar – The Past
6/1  Coen & Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis

13/2  Haroun, Mahamet Saleh — Grigris
13/2  Gray, James – The Immigrant
8/1  Payne, Alexander – Nebraska
- – -
10/1  Jia, Zhangke – A Touch of Sin
12/1  Soderbergh, Steven – Behind the Candelabra
16/1  Kechiche, Abdellatif – Blue is the Warmest Colour
16/1  Sorrentino, Paolo – The Great Beauty
- – -
20/1  Ozon, Francois – Young and Beautiful
20/1  Winding Refn, Nicolas – Only God Forgives
25/1  des Pallières, Arnaud – Michael Kohlhaas
25/1  Van Warmerdam, Alex – Borgman
25/1  Desplechin, Arnaud – Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
33/1  Escalante, Amat – Heli
33/1  Bruni-Tedeschi, Valeria – A Castle in Italy
40/1  Polanski, Roman — Venus In Fur
50/1  Jarmusch, Jim – Only Lovers Left Alive
100/1  Miike, Takashi – Shield of Straw

Best Actor
7-2 Inside Llewyn Davis: Oscar Isaac
5-1 Grigris: Souleymane Démé
6-1 Nebraska: Bruce Dern
….. (solo, or with Will Forte and/or Stacy Keach)
7-1 Like Father, Like Son: Masaharu Fukuyama
9-1 Borgman: Jan Bijvoet

9-1 The Great Beauty: Toni Servillo (solo, or with others)
- – -
11-1 Behind the Candelabra: Matt Damon and/or Michael Douglas
11-1 The Past: Ali Mosaffa and/or Tahar Rahim
12-1 The Immigrant: Joaquin Phoenix (solo, or with Jeremy Renner)
12-1 Mathieu Amalric and/or Benicio Del Toro*
- – -
20-1 Michael Kohlhaas: Mads Mikkelsen
25-1 Only God Forgives: Ryan Gosling and/or Vithaya Pansringarm
33-1 A Touch of Sin: male ensemble
35-1 Only Lovers Left Alive: Tom Hiddleston
40-1 Heli: Armando Espitia
50-1 Blue is the Warmest Colour:
….. Jérémie Lahuerte and/or Aurélien Recoing
50-1 A Castle in Italy: Louis Garrel
50-1 Shield of Straw: Takao Osawa and/or Tatsuya Fujiwara
* any combination of Amalric and/or Del Toro in Jimmy P. and/or Amalric in Venus In Fur 

Best Actress
2-1 The Past: Bérénice Bejo

9-2 The Immigrant: Marion Cotillard
5-1 Only God Forgives: Kristin Scott Thomas
- – -
10-1 Young and Beautiful: Marina Vacth 
11-1 Venus In Fur: Emmanuelle Seigner
14-1 Blue is the Warmest Colour:
….. Adèle Exarchopoulos and/or Léa Seydoux
18-1 Only Lovers Left Alive: Tilda Swinton and/or Mia Wasikowska
20-1 The Great Beauty: Sabrina Ferilli
20-1 Borgman: Hadewych Minis
22-1 A Castle in Italy:  Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
25-1 A Touch of Sin: female ensemble
- – -
33-1 Grigris: Anaïs Monory
40-1 Like Father, Like Son: Machiko Ono (and/or others) 40-1 Heli: Andrea Vergara

The round-up of various links covering Cannes, several have been dropped:

Screendaily still has paywalls, but if you click on the Cannes reviews, they are open to the public: 

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:

Cannes Diary from Film Comment:

Kevin Jagernauth and Jessica Kiang the indieWIRE Playlist:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge & others from HitFix:

a round-up of indieWIRE reviews:

Daniel Kasman, Adam Cook, and likely others at Mubi:

The House Next Door at Cannes:

Mike D'Angelo at The Onion AV Club:

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

Cannes Fest at Time Out London:

The Guardian Cannes commentary:

David Jenkins from Little White Lies:

Eric Lavallee and Nicholas Bell from Ion Cinema:

Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa:

Various writers at Twitch:

Sukhdev Sandhu and Robbie Collins from The Daily Telegraph:

Richard Corliss from Time Magazine:

Julie Miller at Vanity Fair:

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

Today was my much anticipated day with a pair of bicycling films, the last of the five in the program. The Belgian film with the alluring title "Allez Eddie!" was all I could hope for. The other, the German, "Girl on a Bicycle," proved Hollywood doesn't have exclusivity on making insultingly mindless romantic comedies that are painful to sit through.
"Allez Eddie!" takes place in 1975 during The Tour de France as Eddie Merckx is trying to become the first rider to win The Tour six times. An 11-year old boy by the name of Freddie imagines himself the next Merckx. He trains on a bike that hangs from the rafters in the attic of his house while listening to The Tour on the radio. He wears a Molteni cycling cap of Merckx's team with World Champion stripes. His bedroom is adorned with Merckx posters and other cycling memorabilia. His father too is an ardent cycling fan. His butcher shop has a painting of a cyclist. He goes to the local bar packed with other fans to watch The Race and wildly cheer on Merckx.
The butcher shop though is threatened by a supermarket that has just opened in town, an early-day Wal-Mart. A group of young men march around in uniform protesting it, as they fear it will drive all the small grocers out of business accusing people who patronize it of being collaborators. To gain local favor the supermarket sponsors a bicycle race for the youth of the town. The winner gets to go to Roubaix to meet Merckx. The son of the butcher enters the race, but under a different name, as his father and the vigilante group do not wish to support the race.
The Bicycle in Cinema Certification Board should immediately demand that the word "bicycle" be stripped from the title of "Girl on a Bicycle." Bicyclists need to be saved from being lured into this abomination. Though there is some random cycling in the movie, including a couple of trips on the legendary rental bikes of Paris, this is not by any means a cycling movie.
A young attractive woman is seen on a bicycle several times, catching the eye of a tour bus driver who has just proposed to his girl friend of four years. He sees her three different times, all at the same place near Notre-Dame. The third time, when he finally has a chance to ask her for her phone number, she refuses to give it. He chases after her in his double-decker tour bus, terrorizing everyone on board, who all flee the bus when he finally stops after running her down. He takes her to the hospital and then starts caring for her and her two small children who start selling him "Papa," sneaking off from his girl friend. It was all very stupid and silly, though slickly filmed. The Eiffel Tower is liberally sprinkled in and other tourist sites. Still there's no reason to go anywhere near this.
Once again I sacrificed the morning's two Competition screenings for a bicycle movie. At least it was "Allez Eddie!," well worth the sacrifice. I'm falling behind in my Competition viewing, having only seen three of the eight screened so far, but I can now concentrate on catching up. I did see the Mexican entry "Heli" today that was the second of the Competition films screened back on Thursday. It was part of my day's set of four gritty realistic films, the polar opposite of the lame-brained fantasy world of "Girl on a Bicycle."
"Heli" portrayed contemporary Mexico, while the others took me to Scotland, Morocco and India, all of which I am on familiar terms with thanks to my bicycle and tent. It's been a while since I biked Mexico, before drug lords have become such a brazen and dominant part of many communities such as that in "Heli." Heli is a young man with a young wife and baby who lives with his father and thirteen-year old sister. His sister is dating a seventeen-year old who is in the army and wants to marry her. She thinks she's in love too, though she's not sure and asks her brother's wife how she knew she was in love. She refuses to have sex with him, but they may soon run off to marry. Her boy friend steals several kilos of cocaine that the army had confiscated and was burning. He hides it in the water tank on top of his girl friend's house. Heli discovers it and tosses it into a pond.
The drug lords find out about the stolen cocaine and want it back. They show up at Heli's house with the soldier who stole it already bloody and beaten in the back of their military-style van. They take Heli and his sister and drive them to a home where three young boys who had been playing video games watch and then participate in the torture of the two guys that includes setting the testicles of one on fire as he hangs. A woman, who looks like she could be the mother of the boys, is occasionally seen in the background. The thirteen-year old is not around as someone else drives her off. The brazenness and casualness of the young drug thugs is astounding. This was the lone pregnancy movie of this day. When the thirteen-year shows up days later, unwilling to talk about her experience, a doctor discovers she is pregnant and that she will have to go elsewhere for an abortion.
"For Those in Peril" from Scotland in the Critic's Weekly was a similarly well-conceived and truthful film. It focused on the torment of a young man who was on the lone fishing boat of five that survived a storm. His brother was one of those killed. He wanders his village hoping that his brother will suddenly turn up. No one in the town wants to commiserate with him or give him work.
The Moroccan film "They Are the Dogs" shows a camera crew from a television station following a political prisoner around Casablanca just after he has been released after serving thirty years in prison as he visits friends and family who all thought that he was dead. He is let out in the midst of the Arab Spring. He knows nothing of his son. His last memory is giving him a bicycle. He had yet to learn to ride it when he disappeared. So buys a "stabilizer" (training wheel) for the bike. He is told that his son has become a famous bicycle racer. Such is the tone of this semi-cinema verité, half-serious, half-comical look at present-day Morocco.
There was no singing or dancing in the Indian thriller "Ugly," but plenty of violence and gritty realism. A young woman is kidnapped and a lot of people are involved trying to recover her in this Director's Fortnight film.
I also managed two quite good documentaries. The world of fashion continues to provide exemplary material for film. "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's" gave a most captivating history of the legendary Manhattan department store. It has launched the fashion careers of many designers. One of the latest is the young designer who has supplied Michele Obama with her inauguration dresses. The film maker had no shortage of interesting characters to interview, some of whom have appeared in other recent fashion-related docs including "Billy Cunningham New York."
Legendary extreme-skier and ski-Base jumper Shane McConkey also made an excellent subject for a documentary. It was a natural that Red Bull produced the film simply titled "McConkey." Watching all his death-defying stunts, it was inevitable that he would one day die. It is a wonder he lasted as long as he did up to 2009.
This was my first eight-film day this year thanks to an early 8:30 screening before the Belgian bicycle movie at eight and then a movie every two hours for the rest of the day. The iPad also made it possible, not having to seek out a computer for an hour but able to compose my report in the few minutes between each movie.

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