Forget what I said yesterday about seeing four films in a day being exhausting. I mean, yeah, it can be, but I just needed to be broken into that festival routine again.
Sunday welcomed four more films for the day including back-to-back showings of duo Cannes 2019 Jury Prize winners "Les Misérables" and "Bacurau", not to mention the first rainy day of the festival. The great part about films at the Ritz East is patrons can huddle in the covered parking garage attached to the theater so no one waits outside cold and wet as they would at the Ritz Five and the Philadelphia Film Center.
By the first Sunday of the fest one can really gauge the efficiency of theater operations and the volunteers who help at each screening. So far, so good going into day four. There must have been something in that wet, cool air of that gloomy Sunday that threw things into some disarray for Ritz East screenings that day. No festival is perfect, logistically, so something was bound to creep up eventually.
The screening of "Varda by Agnes" started with what was described as a technical difficulty, but the projector ran fine and the audio was synced up with the video. But what started playing on the screen was not "Varda by Agnes", it was a film to be shown in that auditorium the next day, "Litigante." Technical difficulty? Meh, I doubt it. Whoever loaded the DCP probably wasn't paying attention and selected the wrong film to play. Certainly speaks to what being a projectionist is all about nowadays. As Varda pointed out in her documentary, film used to be delivered on reels in canisters to theaters. Maybe if this were the preferred method of playing film the projectionist would have known what was prepared to play in the projector (which, judging from years' past, seemed to be a PlayStation that plays the movies [super sidebar, wait until you read what happens on the eighth day of the festival).
When "Varda by Agnes" did play, it was a lovely autobiographical documentary about the fantastical French director who has been working since the 1950's right up until her death at age 90 in March this year. Filmed at various speaking engagements around the world, Varda breaks down her lengthy career as a filmmaker and visual artist with clips and examples of her work stemming from three words: Inspiration, creation and sharing. That's how she lived her life and audiences see that as she elaborates on what she has done with it.
I haven't seen many Varda films. That didn't make me appreciate her work any less watching "Varda by Agnes". She was a lovely, energetic woman with that joie de vivre that resonated from her and her work. The film does run a bit long. But if that's what Varda wanted to explain herself, that is what she deserves for her last film.
The delay in getting "Varda by Agnes" started pushed back the start of the next two films substantially, at least 20 minutes each. Late start times are the bane of my festival existence. I feel fortunate to say that such delays benefited me since I took to said films and I didn't miss a single frame.
The Cannes-winning "Les Misérables" and "Bacurau" are two very socially-relevant films that ruthlessly peel back the layers of how we function as humans. Festival artistic director Michael Lerman said there are a lot of films about class in this year's festival because that's what has been proliferating the market.
For "Les Mis", a poor, mostly black Parisian suburb is the subject of taunting by a "cowboy" of a white cop and his black partner and their new white cop who comes from a rural community. A circus's lion cub goes missing and the cops are on the hunt for who stole it before a race riot ensues between the circus owners and the residents they accuse. The cops find the culprit and the firing of a rubber bullet gun into the subject's face is caught on video, initiating a racially-fueled fight between the cops and the town.
I was concerned seeing this non-Hugo related "Les Mis" because of the racial tensions that are the core of this movie. There is enough misery seeing these types of stories daily in the news and being confronted over and over about the racial disharmony at the hands of police is emotionally draining. What I saw instead was a ruthless look at everyone paying for the damage they elected to cause. The suspect didn't have to steal the lion cub anymore than the cops had to scare a random group of black apartment tenants for no particular reason.
The insane final act was the ultimate disclosure of the public getting their just desserts for the racially-fueled injustice the police created. Everyone pays for their actions; it's just harder to fathom when we think the people who are paid to keep us safe will not. So what happens to our sworn protectors? As "Les Mis" shows with dramatic panache, war.
Following that was "Bacurau," a wild, WILD ride about people in an off-the-grid Brazilian village being killed. It's hard to pigeonhole this film as any "type" of film. It's an experience more than anything.
No doubt teasing on the influence of global politics, corruption and wealthy decadence, "Bacurau" is a cutthroat kind of western where the innocent townspeople try to defend from outsiders. "Gunsmoke" and "The Rifleman" this is not. How else to describe it? A bloody revenge tale, an indictment on greed, a postcard to small town civility, and a cauldron of mayhem that keeps you guessing what other twists and turns this roller coaster ride will provide. This is really something you have to see to believe.
Finally, was "Wounds," which was a filler scheduling choice that I didn't feel bad walking out of. I don't want to waste too much time on this god awful mess, so avoid this "horror" film where the only scary part is that Dakota Johnson ("Fifty Shades of Grey") can actually act. Everything else is a convoluted tale about myths and rituals and other nonsense that was bound to never make sense or feel scary.
I usually walk out of at least one film per year, so "Wounds" got that distinction this year!
The Whistlers: Very Good
The Lodge: Poor
A Hidden Life: Fair/Good
Deerskin: Very Good
Varda By Agnes: Good
Les Misérables: Excellent