Festival Du Nouveau Cinema (Days 2 & 3)

Not that I should complain much but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's latest film is a real downer I tell you. Oh is it ever. Then again, his first 3 films (Amorres Perros, 21 Grams & Babel) wouldn't qualify either as feel good cinema. His latest is called Biutiful and it has an incredible lead performance from Javier Bardem. In fact, I'd shocked, just shocked I tell ya if he didn't get a Best Actor nomination. He plays Uxball, a man that has to take care of his two children because his ex-wife has lost custody since well, she's an alcoholic. To make matters worst, Uxball is dying of cancer and there are quite a few scenes in the film that umm show his symptoms in quite a direct, in your face manner (blood with urine). The man also makes a living with numerous jobs, most of them illegal such as helping out illegal Chinese and Senegali immigrants. Oh and he can see things too, by seeing things I mean he can actually SEE things, dead people and such- he gets payed by desperate families at funeral homes to try to relay messages from their loved lost ones.

All in all, it's an exhausting experience that definitely is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. What makes it worth seeing is Bardem, who's Uxball is slowly but surely losing his mind and disintegrating on screen, his weight lowering, his eyes getting sleepier and his lip moving less and less. Bardem never loses sight of his characters' fight to leave his children with a better life once the cancer has taken him down. The film's flaws are marked and noticed but Bardem fights them all at once with his knockout performance. Now I just wish Inarritu, a talented filmmaker, can make a fresher movie next time around, one that does not involve the predictable disintegration of a lead character ala 21 Grams or Babel. His pleasure in making films about suffering and death is starting to get to me. Then again it might just be like telling Peckinpah to stop making violent movies or Lynch to stop dreaming about dreams.

Another film that came into the fest with some heavy buzz is Claire Denis' White Material which recently screened at the New York Film Festival. Denis comes back to Africa with this one and casts Isabelle Huppert as a woman that resides in Africa with a Coffee Bean business at her disposal. Of course, Coffee has nothing to do with the picture. In fact, African Civil War is the layout of this excitingly tense and violent picture. Huppert's family is dysfunctional to say the least, her husband (played by Christopher Lambert) tries to negotiate a deal with the mayor, her father in law just wanders around the house like a lazy bum and her son, well let's just say her son goes crazy and wanders off in thin air, disappearing into the African night.

Compared to Denis' other films, this is conventional stuff. Then again, it is nevertheless an interesting piece of cinema done by one of the great filmmakers around. The violence that Denis shows us is brutal, as child soldiers roam on the streets, not scared to attack or kill a civilian. The setting is pitch perfect and brings back Denis to a childhood she clearly remembers in colonial Africa. There are scenes that are unforgettable here, yet the mystery that lingers in almost all her other films is missing. Instead she decides to tell her story in a conventionally paced manner and doesn't feel the need to bring a little more of her trademark nasty darkened mystery. This is a well recommended picture but clearly not one of her best.

Another picture I saw was Carl Bessai's Fathers And Sons and it is one of those movies that you see every once in a while at a film fest. I'm talking about the kind of movie that makes you wonder why it was picked to be in the damn program. Its interwoven story lines all have to do with, well guess Mr. rocket scientist, fathers and sons. There's an Indian family, a Jewish family, an Irish family and a black family. All this and maybe I should have just chugged that glass of wine to make the pain go away a bit. uggh next time.