Film festival attendance is always a very mixed bag--and I can't remember a more eclectic mix than I saw today. I began the day with "Extraterrestrial" (2.5) from Spain. Brother, what a mess. It begins with alien spaceships landing in Madrid--but that event ends up being only the catalyst for a sit-com-worthy romantic quadrangle. The film seems to be aiming for comedy, but ends up being a misfire because nobody's motivations make sense and the characters' overreactions to events never seem believable even within the world the movie has constructed. No need to put this one on your festival list or in your Netflix queue.
Nor need you add "Clown: The Movie" (5) to the list, unless you are impossible to offend and really like raunchy humor. This Danish film reminded me of "The Hangover," though I wasn't a fan of that film--this one is funnier, but so dirty that it will never get a U.S. release unless they cut maybe a third of the film. Based on a popular Danish television comedy, it follows the inexcusable exploits of two idiots who plan a canoe trip which one of them dubs "Tour de Pussy" because of his plans to bed prostitutes and any sexy teenagers who happen along. Problem is, the other idiot, desperate to prove to his newly pregnant girlfriend that he has potential as a father, drags along her 11-year-old nephew at the last minute. What follows is basically unprintable and would never make it past U.S. censors, though both of these guys manage to get it past their longsuffering, beautiful, and by all accounts intelligent girlfriends. In short, it's a male fantasy film, though I'm guessing not all males have these particular fantasies. The film is funny, I'll grant, and this film festival will likely be your only chance to see it. Or not.
The best of the day was "Breathing" (7.5), an Austrian film that was honored at the Cannes Film Festival. It follows 19-year-old Roman,who has spent several years in a juvenile detention facility for killing another youth. It turns out that Roman has spent most of his life in institutions, having been abandoned by his mother when he was an infant, and seems to be feared by the other juveniles. With the help of a parole officer who seems genuinely committed to helping him earn his release, Roman gets a job working for the city morgue. His small tastes of freedom are interspersed with scenes of the many indignities he endures living in confinement and what his experiences have taught him to expect from life. The film takes its time to lay the groundwork for crucial revelations at the end, especially those involving the mother who abandoned him. You can still catch it at the festival on February 12 and 14.
I ended the day with "The Fairy" (7), a charming French comedy set inthe industrial coastal city of Le Havre in Normandy. The French do have a gift for whimsy; this film reminded me of "The Triplets of Belleville" and "The Illusionist," French animated films featuring quirky characters who do inventive things with their bodies. Like those films, this one features a host of odd characters, particularly Dom, a stringy man with a hangdog face who works the night desk in a humble hotel, and Fiona, the lithe and homely woman who enters his world announcing that she is a fairy and granting him three wishes. More likely she has escaped from a mental institution--but to him and to herself, she does seem to have magical powers, and they quickly fall in love. The film follows their exploits, which include several inventive dance numbers, a fanciful backrub, a comical depiction of childbirth, and acrobatic feats on a scooter. You can still catch it on February 11 and 14.
Tomorrow, I plan to tour films from Chile, Germany, Israel, and Brazil. More reports to come!