Cannes 2010: Part One

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A few days before the beginning of the festival, a freak storm did some serious damage in the French Riviera, just days after a volcano in Iceland disturbed transatlantic flights. And just two days before the opening ceremony, the Italian minister of culture proposed a boycott of the festival (to which he had not been invited), as a punishment for the selection of the anti-Berlusconi film Draquila. Nevertheless, the festival opened with all its usual glitter to Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, and Draquila got a standing ovation (more about that later).

After a cold reception from critics, the screening I attended of Rizhao Chongqing (Chongqing Blues) was halfway empty (jury president Tim Burton didn’t seem to mind). That reception was, I felt, quite unfair. A man returns from a 6-month job on the sea to find out that his estranged son has died after a hostage situation gone wrong, so he returns to the eponymous city to try to find out more about the case by himself. Understandably, his ex-wife and his son’s friends are not very keen on having any contact with the man,  nor are the police willing to discuss more about the crisis. Little by little, the man pieces together the last moments of his son’s life, finding out not terribly pleasant things, but also starting a necessary healing process. The backdrop is the ever changing Chinese urban landscape, perhaps as an allegory of the new destroying and burying the old.

More popular was the French entry Tournée (On tour), directed by actor Mathieu Amalric, seen lately as the bad guy in a number of Hollywood films, and as a regular in every other French film. Here he plays Joachim, a seedy has-been TV producer who, after pissing everyone in his own country, decides to reinvent himself in the US. Now the promoter for a bizarre American burlesque show, described as “a show for women made by women,” he is on a French tour that is supposed to finish in Paris, where he imagines it will be a sweet homecoming.  Things certainly don’t work as expected. The film is at times almost a documentary about these fun, uninhibited ladies, and at those times, the film is fantastic (they created their costumes and their music routines). A tad less interesting are the producer’s family issues and professional problems, but perhaps that is because the film lasts at least half an hour more than it should, and at times it feels far too self-conscious and overindulgent.

The same goes for Draquia, L’Italia che trema (“Draquila, Italy Trembles”). Comedienne Sabina Guzzanti’s follow up to her documentary on censorship, Viva Zapatero!, follows the aftermath of the earthquake that hit the city of L’Aquila. Guzzanti’s unquestionable thesis is that Silvio Berlusconi and his team took advantage of the tragedy to perpetuate his influence over the media and profit politically of it. This is some powerful material and it barely needed anything to elicit a significant impact. However, following the Michael Moore school of documentary, Guzzanti feels the need to act as clas clown, add quirky graphics and twist a fact or two out of context to underline her thesis (which is, to underline the point, unquestionable).

– Eduardo Lucatero

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