Our eighth choice turned out to be one of the festival highlights for us. Along with "Ryuzo and his Seven Henchmen", "The Brand New Testament" ties for our fest-fave. In fact I can't wait to see this Belgian movie again...
Several factors influenced its choice, although we nearly gave it a miss since it was showing at the Cine Lumiere of the Institut-Francais, a bit of a drag to get to. However the attractions of the cast -- the dour Benoit Poelvoorde, the very quirky Yolande Moreau, and the ever-lovely Catherine Deneuve -- combined with the individualistic visions of its director, Jaco Van Dormael, convinced us to attend -- and I'm thankful that we did. The basic premise assumes that God is a mean-hearted slob living in seedy Brussels flat, who spends his time dreaming up new ways of torturing humanity. For example, the buttered toast will always land on the floor jam-side-down! Having already sacrificed his son J.C., he keeps his wife (Moreau) and daughter Ea imprisoned in the apartment. Finally with J.C.'s help young Ea manages to escape (through a washing machine!) after advising all humanity of the dates of their deaths, determined to write her own gospel and to acquire six new disciples. Her motley crew includes a woman with one arm, a serial killer, a lonely-hearts case, and spoiled housewife Deneuve who has fallen in love with a gorilla.
I think you get the message; fans of droll, surreal humour will be in their own heaven. One of Van Dormael's earlier movies "Toto the Hero" (1991) set the pace for his series of visionary comedies. Perhaps they are not to everyone's taste -- as a number of negative comments on IMDb attest -- but the film was a right rib-tickler for me. The conceit of Poelvoorde pursuing Ea into the real world where no one believes that this ID-less slob is God will stick with me, as he helplessly looks into every washing machine for a way back to his sanctuary. Meanwhile wifey Moreau has her own plans for a brighter, happier world.
To take things out of sequence, I mentioned last time that I had hoped to include "The Lobster" in our festival choices. Since it is now on general release, we did go to see it -- and boy was I disappointed. The first English-language movie from the Greek writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos who gave us the strange and strangely-likeable film "Dogtooth", I was expecting something rather special after all the hype this movie is attracting. The basis is clever enough -- all singletons must find a suitable partner within forty-five days or they will be turned into an animal of their choice. This potentially unusual and surreal premise was undermined by the lack of a sufficiently light-handed touch. Colin Farrell does a surprisingly restrained turn as the newly dumped hero who must find a new mate or turn into the lobster of the title, but I found Rachel Weisz (again) as his potential love interest shrill and unappealing. In addition the scenario was dark, confusing, and ultimately very nasty. Once again I seem to be at odds with IMDb critics who found the film hilarious. I have no idea what they found funny in this dreary mess.
And now back to our final Festival choice "Old Czech Legends" a newly digital restoration of animator Jiri Trnka's 1952 stop-motion puppet film. I have always been interested in oddities of this sort, and the Czechs have given us such treats as the films of Jiri Barta and Jan Svankmajer. While I am less familiar with Trnka's output (an omission that I intend to remedy), I must confess that I got a little bored watching this movie -- its 84 minutes felt much longer -- as his puppets recreated the legends of Czech history and the founding of the nation. It was much a case of so-and-so begat so-and-so and so on. The effects were lovely and the music memorable, but once again I missed what I would call a playful perspective to make this history lesson a more entertaining one.
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There will be no blog next week as I am off to New York -- the first time in a while. On my return, however, you can look forward to my latest instalment on the wonders or otherwise of in-flight movies. Incidentally I read somewhere this week that airlines are considering abandoning the back-of-seat screens to stream flicks onto the passengers' own hand-held devices. As if there was not enough dependence on these already!!!