a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

PFF: Day 3

Please -- *stretch* -- give me -- *crack* -- a mere -- *deafening sigh* -- second. Okay. Spent the previous three days doing very little but watching celluloid projected on a white screen, and if that doesn't sound tiring, you're not taking into consideration a) cramped seating positions and/or b) how rabid attention spans exhaust over the long haul. (Plus, walking. Plus, subsisting on hot dogs and Milky Ways.) I have a couple minutes before rushing off to The World, but here's a summary.

Skipped the first two official days, as Opening Night was Opening Night, and Day 1 was a Friday and, thus, didn't start till 5ish. (Did make it to Sin City, for those counting, rather than sit through the predictably allegedly dreadful House of D.) So far, things are mostly going well: projection problems largely ceased after Day 3 and the crowds have gotten used to packing into sold out showings. Only quibble: can audience members, like, calm down when a director who Doesn't Speak Our Native Tongue has to be filtered through a medium? Or, failing that, not ask questions on the level of the one posed to L'Amant director Ryuichi Hiroki, namely "I can't figure out why the Japanese schoolgirl would agree to be the fuckslave to three older men for a year, which by the way is the elusive thing the whole movie hews on. So, why does she do that?"

Breaking it down, quick-style, now:

McDull, prince de la bun (Toe Yuen, Hong Kong)
Part retread, part expansion, Yuen's sequel to My Life as McDull works many of the same back alleys, the most notable being that bizarro tone, which mixes suffocating tweeness with a dark undercurrent of melancholy. Once again, McDull the Piglet is a dim but imaginative lad awash in a culture of similarly dim (but not imaginative) people, and Yuen traces this back to the history of his father, whom Yuen pointedly has McDull playing in a fanciful series of lax misadventures. Hong Kong kid humor can be a touch too regional -- the first twenty minutes went straight over my head -- but once it finds a pace, it's hard to resist things like a Sancho Panza with a pizza for a head. Sadder than the first, too, and also less depressing. Grade: B

Somersault (Cate Shortland)
I notice some of my colleagues walked out on this tale of a wayward Aussie teen bonking her way into an independent lifestyle, but rest assured: it does settle down. Comparisons to Morvern Callar are mostly accurate -- Abbie Cornish is a barely formed human, with no grasp on her actions; Shortland uses long-lenses and hand-held to create a sensory feast -- but it's a Callar with a happy ending, even if it demonstrates a nifty way of setting us up for bleak-o-rama then cutting it short at the last second. (You expect the friend's dad to rape her when he drives her home, but he just wants her to stay away from her daughter.) Cornish will undoubtedly become the exported star, but it was Sam Worthington who really impressed, mixing subtle menace with melancholy: you keep waiting for him to explode, even if you know that won't happen. Grade: B-

5 X 2 (François Ozon, France)
(Impossible to discuss without spoilers, so skiddaddle if you have to.) I'm still not sold on Ozon, but his gimmicky structure is at least subtle. You expect the film -- which, yes, shows five key scenes from a marriage, in backwards order -- to fall neatly into place by the end, which, as per the meandering final installment, it doesn't. My interpretation? Ozon wants us to think it will be about a woman accepting her husband's emotional incompetence, then goes off the tracks at the end, as if to chide us for thinking you could boil a relationship down so patly. Penultimate segment is obviously about how Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (magnificent) is as much to blame as Stéphane Freiss: he falls asleep during the honeymoon, she has needs she can't quite control. But the final segment goes off the track, showing instead how incompatible they are.

Survive Style 5+ (Gen Sekiguchi, Japan)
The first of many crazy Japanese movies, and this is just in the first three days. An impromptu decision, former commercial director Sekiguchi's debut is appropriately a lark -- a series of blackout scenes that suggest the director was simply trying to get rid of old notebooks. The structure -- essentially setting us up with five jokey stories, then hitting infinite replay -- can be understandably exhausting, but every ten minutes Sekiguchi comes up with something absolutely leftfield (and, more often than not, absolutely inspired) that reins you back in. Best moment: school teacher offers casual dismissals of her single digit students' drawings of their fathers. ("Oh, I see what you were going for here. Yeah, I don't like it.") Vinnie Jones gets old fast, but his interpreter steals the show anyway. Besides, I'll always cherish it for making me realize who Tadanobu Asano is -- i.e., the brooding guy from Bright Future, Zatoichi, Last Life in the Universe and Café Luminere.

More on the way when I have more time.


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