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Thursday, May 21, 2009
Cannes Day 9: Karaoke and sunrise party
I confess that my batteries are running low. After 9 days of heavy movie-consumption, little sleep, and minimum human contact (when you subject yourself to the tyranny of moving images, reality fades away), I edge closer to the state of wakeful delirium. It’s delicious, but also exhausting. Not to mention that I slept only three hours the previous night after being dragged – OK, I let them drag me – to restaurant L’Alhambra at 1AM by the Thai crew after the official screening of the Thai film “Nang Mai”, Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s lithe, hypnotic new movie about a three-way love story between a man, a woman, and a tree. It will be a difficult sale in Thailand, given the film’s slow pacing, but the movie works as a quiet mystery and a tale of guilt and failed marriage, with a surprisingly natural, engaging performance by pop-singer Vanida “Gibsy” Termthanaporn. You’ll see the film in July.
Talking about late-night revelry, there is actually a "Sunrise Party" in Cannes (luckily I've never been invited) where international participants drink and dance all night and, hoping they still stay sane and alive by that hour, watch sunrise over the Mediterranean together. Do they really consider it an achievement when they pull that off? I'm proud to be part of the human civilisation.
Back to the film: “Karaoke”, a Malaysian film by Chris Chong, was screend this aftenoon to a packed, enthusiastic audience at the Directors’ Fortnight section. I saw the film once in Bangkok last month, where it was edited and mixed, but liked it more at the second viewing. Chris treats his film, about a young man who returns to his mother’s karaoke joint at a rural palm plantation, with a calm, controlled temperature that may remind some viewers of Tsai Ming-liang. The quiet poetry of the visual doesn’t seem forced, though, and the director benefits a lot from the forlorn, sensuous setting of the plantation.
Then in the evening, for the Competition screening, we saw Elia Suleiman’s “The Time That Remains”, a sad, tender, and sometimes very funny chronicle of the director’s family in Palestine during the past 50 years. Suleiman’s brand of deadpan humour, his Chaplin-esque comic timing, acquires an added dimension when he chooses a potentially pungent story about the displacement of Palestinians after the creation of Israel.
Is it a contender for the Palme d’Or? Of course. Only two more days left before the awards are announced, and the race is pretty tight, with the French film “The Prophet”, by Jacques Audiard, coming ahead as the favourite, followed by Jane Campion’s “Bright Star”, Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”, Michael Hanake’s “The White Ribbon” and – to me – another solid French film “In the Beginning” and Suleiman’s “The Time That Remains”. These are pointless speculations; only the jury will decide who will receive the honour. All we do is watch, write, gasp, and sigh…
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