Please excuse the abbreviated nature of this post, as I saw five films today and I'm filing this report after midnight (while watching U.S. Open Tennis). Here are some notes:
The Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey)
Our regulars might remember that we screened Akin's two most recent films–Head-On and Crossing the Bridge–relatively recently. Edge is in the vein of films like Babel and Crash in that its narrative is structured around the intersecting lives of the main characters. The comparisons end there, however. Edgeis much more compelling: the characters are fully developed, and Akin doesn't have to rely on the narrative gimmick to draw in the viewer. Like Akin's previous work, Edge examines the intersection between Turkish and German culture. The story is difficult to condense but it follows the relationship between an elderly Turkish father and his university professor son living in Germany and the connection they form with a prostitute and her daughter, a political revolutionary. The performances by the actors playing the adult children are especially noteworthy (I saw the lead actress Nurgul Yesilcay in a hotel lobbyâ€¦stunning).
The Man from London (Bela Tarr, Hungary)
I hate to say it, but one of my most-anticipated films of the festival was disappointing. The film features the stunning black-and-white cinematography one would expect from a Tarr film, and there are moments of brilliant deadpan humor, but I had a hard time getting into the story and the characters. That is not to say it's not more interesting than the vast majority of the new films I'll see this year, but I was hoping for more. We screened Tarr's Santantango last year and Werchmeister Harmonies a couple of years before that.
Love Songs (Christophe Honore, France)
Obviously inspired by Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Love Songs features sexy young stars Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, and Chiara Mastroianni. They are the figures in a love triangle set in Paris, and (as in Umbrellas), they sing their feelings to one anotherâ€¦until tragedy strikes and leads them into the arms of others. I found it very enjoyable. French friends sitting on either side of me found it very sweet and poignant (and it was the second viewing for one of them).
Don't Touch the Axe (Jacques Rivette, France)
My favorite film of the day. Adapted from a story by Balzac (one of Rivette's major influences), Axe is a period film that follows the increasingly frustrating flirtation, and the evolving power dynamic, between a bored, married aristocratic woman and a dashing soldier. It will be released in the U.S. as Te Duchess of Langeais (snore). Believe it or not, but Rivette is just one of three new wave directors (Chabrol and Rohmer are the others) with a new film in this year's festival. Assistant Curator Chris Stults organized a partial retrospective of Rivette's work last April, and we screened his recent The History of Marie and Julien a couple of summers ago.
The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona, Spain/Mexico)
A wonderfully creepy ghost story and the first feature by director Bayona. A couple and their adopted son live in the former orphanage where the wife grew up. The son often talks about imaginary friends that only he can see and that often tell him which games to play. The family plans to invite a group of special needs kids to live with them, but at the welcome party a number of strange things begin to happen including the disappearance of the son. A really solid horror film though one scene at the end drew laughs from the audience (at some point it's just time to move out of the house). Exec produced by Guillermo del Toro.
Here's what's on tomorrow (or later today, technically): the premiere of Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg and Cannes award winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks, And 2 Days. Time for bed! – Dave Filipi, Film/Video Curator