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Cannes Day 3: Catching up

Posted by Ty Burr  May 16, 2008 06:24 AM

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almaric.jpg

I wanted to post yesterday, but that pesky real-world newspaper I write for demanded I file some copy, so that's what I did when I wasn't watching movies or staring agog at how much PR money the "Kung Fu Panda" people were willing to spend (big party last night and full-on fireworks display that could probably be seen in Biarritz).

To the movies, and maybe I should work my way backwards from this morning's treat: a two-and-a-half-hour home-for-the-holidays dramatic comedy called "A Christmas Tale" ("Un Conte de Noel"), from Arnaud Desplechin ("Kings and Queen") -- very French, very engrossing, often very funny, like a good, long novel you can't put down. Catherine Deneuve plays the matriarch, diagnosed with leukemia and looking to her family for a bone marrow donor. Will it be the family black sheep (Mathieu Amalric , above, of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")? Her schizophrenic grandson (Emile Berling)? Yes, I said it's a comedy, of a very French sort (someone's wife sleeps with another man and no one seems too bothered by it, including her kids). One of the jokes is watching Almaric and his "Diving Bell" co-star Anne Consigny as a brother and sister who detest each other; one of its joys is watching Deneuve play opposite her daughter Chiara Mastroianni -- playing a daughter-in-law Denueve's character doesn't much like. Mastroianni is looking more and more like her late father, and her performance is one of the many gems in this rambunctious, imperfect joy of a movie. Luckily U.S. moviegoers will get to see "A Christmas Tale," since IFC just snapped it up for American distribution.

"Tokyo!" is one of those omnibus city movies like "Paris Je T'Aime," except this one features only three chapters and is set, duh, in Tokyo. I liked the Michel Gondry entry more than Manohla Dargis does in today's Times -- Ayako Fujitani stole my heart as a bohemian newcomer to the city who loses her nerve and turns into a chair (yes, that's right). The Leos Carax installment, starring Denis Lavant as a kind of evil Id that crawls from the sewers and stalks the city, is fun for a while, but Bong Joon-Ho's final chapter, about a recluse who discovers he's not alone -- in so many ways -- bears real emotional/metaphorical fruit. Interesting that the two most pointed pieces in this movie about a crowded megalopolis are about loneliness.

"Three Monkeys" ("Uc Maymun"), from Turkish art-house darling Nuri Bilge Ceylan ("Climates") -- eh, left me cold. It's a familial melodrama of imfidelity and incrimination that James M. Cain could have made hay with but that gets slowed down to a portentuous Antonioni crawl by the director. I did like Hatice Aslan very much as a working-class wife emotionally freed (and ultimately ruined) by an affair with her husband's sleazy politician boss, and I imagine that some may like the movie better than I did. If only it had the punch of its final image: A man on a roof, waiting for the thunderstorm to come in.

"Hunger," by contrast, was exceptionally strong: a grueling drama by the British artist Steve McQueen (no relation) about IRA soldier Bobby Sands' death by hunger strike in 1981. The film takes a while to settle down, pingponging between other prisoner and guards in the notorious Maze prison, but when it lands on Sands, played in an astounding physical performance by Michael Fassbender, "Hunger" takes hold. I was especially impressed by the long, long two-shot of Sands arguing with his priest over the morality of what he's about to do -- the film makes a provocative case for his suicide without making a martyr of the man. That's finesse.

Okay, I'm off to more movies (Palestinian, Romanian, Woody Allenian), but before I split, here's some video I grabbed yesterday of Jack Black greeting the hordes. What a relief to find someone in Cannes who speaks less French than I do.


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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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