Celluloid Atrocities | 07.06

Here’s hoping that, if nothing else, the film as I saw it will become available through the omnipresent Chinese bootlegging system.

 

I spent most of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival disappointed that the films weren’t better, but as it turned out, all of the good films (Three Times, Broken Flowers, Princess Raccoon) screened in the last few days of the festival, and all of the bad ones in the first few days. The 2006 festival was the exact opposite, which did a lot of good for my disposition throughout its duration.

For example, the very first competition film that the festival screened for the press was Lou Ye’s Summer Palace, which wound up being my favorite film in the festival’s main competition. Summer Palace is an aggressive love story set in China in the political turmoil of the late ’80s. Palace maintained a lot of press coverage over the course of the festival because Ye (Suzhou River, Purple Butterfly) allowed the fairly graphic sex-filled film to be screened at Cannes without the prior approval of the Chinese government, which could be a major issue not just for China and Ye but for the entirety of the world’s audience for seeing the film, as the lovely version I saw might very well be quashed from further release. Here’s hoping that, if nothing else, the film as I saw it will become available through the omnipresent Chinese bootlegging system.

Keeping up with the trend, my favorite film of the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and what wound up being my favorite film of the 45 I saw at the festival, was the first film I saw from the UCR sidebar, Hungarian director György Pálfi’s Taxidermia, which is a better film than his borderline masterpiece (and SLIFF alumnus) from 2002, Hukkle. Taxidermia is an orgy of demented imagery and innovative filmmaking; it follows three generations of a family, with the first generation being a serial wartime masturbator, the second being a competitive eater (who at one point brags that he had a vomiting technique named after him), and the third being a taxidermist who invents a machine that can kill and stuff whatever he sticks in it. Based on this, you can probably guess what kind of movie we’re dealing with here. Regardless, I absolutely loved it, and since Hukkle saw a respectable release on the film festival circuit and on DVD here in America, I’m hoping that Taxidermia won’t be left to the world of difficult-to-track-down import DVDs.

Although the Director’s Fortnight sidebar this year was extremely strong (some maintained that it was better than the main competition at Cannes), the first film I saw in it, the animated anti-porn epic Princess, despite being one of the more liked and hyped films to emerge from Cannes this year, was my least favorite of the sidebar. However, my opinions were not really on the pulse of the other critics at the festival; for example, I loved William Friedkin’s Ashley Judd–starring Bug, which pretty much everyone else uniformly hated. It is the type of movie that you can expect people to hate, though, as it turns weird and never looks back about halfway through, and in a perfect world it would become a hit on the midnight movie scene (it might just yet). Another Fortnight film that no one but me seemed to like was the French film The Exterminating Angels, which is Eurosleaze of the highest order—impossibly hot French girls breaking “taboos” (lesbian sex, mostly) at the behest of a filmmaker. Imagine the type of film that one would see on Cinemax in the middle of the night in the early ’90s, and then imagine the best possible film like this, and you have The Exterminating Angels. The final Fortnight movie that I adored (and I wasn’t alone on this one; it was one of the most talked about films of the festival) was the Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Hon’s (Memories of Murder) schlocky horror movie The Host, which was garnering comparisons to Alien and Jaws, but is really much more lighthearted and screwy than its predecessors.

About the only film that I saw toward the end of the festival and truly loved was Guillermo del Toro’s (Hellboy, Blade II) Pan’s Labyrinth, which is like a kid’s movie for adults, as strange as that might sound. The film is from an original story by del Toro that plays like a classic fairy tale, and the imagery is of the sort suggested by last year’s Mirrormask or 1986’s Labyrinth. However, there is (necessary) language and (necessary) violence that makes the film unsuitable for children, but perfect for adults who have not yet lost their sense of wonder. Look for it to be a breakout hit; if not in the theaters, then certainly on its eventual release to video.

I could go on here for a while—I’m skipping some important films for lack of space, such as John Cameron Mitchell’s (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) Shortbus or Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver. However, I can’t let this column go without bragging about the fact that, thanks to Cannes and their sway, I had the very rare fortune of not only seeing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and The Holy Mountain on the big screen with an audience, but that Jodorowsky was in attendance at both of them, with The Holy Mountain projected from a film print onto a screen that is in the ocean while the film’s audience sits on the beach of the French Riviera. I will be hard pressed to ever do anything cooler than that in my entire life.

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