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Saturday, May 15, 2010
Cannes Day 3: Movies are pointless
Movies are pointless, aren't they?
The circus of Cannes seems to confirm that sentiment when news from home is shrouded in the smoke of burning tires and the distant sound of gunshots. The only consolation, as my dearest friend rightly believes, is that to watch movies on the big screen, as they're intended to be, is the reason movies are made in the first place, and at Cannes, that reason is celebrated with a conviction. Cinema -- real, ruthless cinema -- is not truth, but in our heart of hearts we hope that it'll lead us on the path to find truth. And perhaps more. Please bear with me.
Two fine films on the slot today, both outside the Competition section: From Romania, in the Un Certain Regard showcase, the methodology and psychological claustophobia of murder is detailed in the three-hour-long Aurora, the new film by Cristi Puiu who debutted here five years ago with the stunning The Death of Mr Lazarescu. In Aurora, we watch a man going about his business, trivial yet purposeful activities, and gradually we realise that he's planning something terrible, something that he undergoes with the careful deliberation of a dancer on the edge of an abyss. The film is about murder deconstructed, then reconstructed, for a bureaucratic purpose, for this is Romania, a place not so unlike Thailand, where the authority exists for the sake of its own existence. Though Aurora is not a sizzling triumph as his first film, Puiu's langorous, sure-fotted vision confirms that Romania remains one of the most fertile grounds for personal filmmaking.
Over to the Directors' Fortnight, a sidebar attached to Cannes Film Festival, the film La Mirada Invisible (The Invisible Eye) uses high-school drama to simulate the authoritarian regime of Argentina in 1982. At the centre is a female teacher's assistan, joyless, sexually repressed, and increasingly obsessed with one of the boys in her watch. She hides in a toilet, her underwear at her ankles, and watches the boys pee. She's not crazy, just someone living too long under submission and unbending rules. As gunshots are heard from street protests as the military rule is falling, the woman's personal trauma and subsequent release become a symbol of the demise of a dictatorial rule. No, maybe movies are not that pointless after all.
In the queue to enter a theatre today, a European friend asked me about the situation in Bangkok. Actually, a lot of people have asked me that since I got here four days ago. I usually told them that things look worse on TV than they actually are. Now I'm not so sure.
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