Sunday, November 11, 2007

Film festival summary: day 4

Following is the film society's synopsis (in italics) and my personal thoughts (not in italics) about the 2 films I saw on Sat:

The Witnesses
Paris, 1984. In a cruisey city park, Adrien, a sophisticated, middle-aged doctor, meets Manu, a buoyant 18-year-old. Manu turns down Adrien’s proposition—then asks him to hold his jacket while he joins an orgy in the bushes. Not the best way to start a relationship, yet Adrien takes Manu under his wing. Manu needs guidance, and Adrien comes alive as he tromps around Paris with this energetic newcomer. Adrien’s friend Sarah worries that he’s being taken advantage of, but Adrien disagrees: “You can ask anything of your friends.” The possibilities of friendship are at the heart of this elegant new film from André Téchiné, whose 1994 Wild Reeds is already a classic. Once again, the French auteur demonstrates the complexity of desire—plus his knack for casting sexy, intense young French actors. In lesser hands, the May/December dynamic would slip into heartbreak and stop there, but Téchiné raises the stakes as The Witnesses becomes a story of relationships tested by the onslaught of AIDS. Like a cinematic string quartet, the film intertwines four fascinating lives. Carefree Manu turns dangerous under pressure. Adrien, a doormat in love, becomes a medical warrior fighting the deadly new virus. Sarah struggles to balance motherhood with artistry, while her macho Algerian husband falls into his first gay affair. The Witnesses takes us through a tumultuous year asking us to bear witness to the lives it portrays.

I enjoyed this film because it showed something I don't recall having seen in any films recently: the love Adrien continues to have for Manu even though he knows they will never be more than friends. Rather than being a doormat for love as the synopsis says, I think Adrien simply lives his life knowing he has a special love for Manu that will remain whether or not he falls in love with someone else. Meanwhile Adrien's friend Sarah finds herself unable to love her newborn baby, leading to lots of tension between her and her husband, who has an affair with Manu. This film was longer than it needed to be and could have benefited from a good editor. 4 stars.

In the Land of Merry Misfits
For any who have ever felt that they don’t quite fit in (or who have a hankering for the strange and off-kilter), this campy romp is a perfect fit. Narrated by, and obviously influenced by John Waters, this madcap film tells the story of a young college graduate who takes a wrong turn on the way to win back his girlfriend, and finds himself stuck when his car breaks down in the wacky, woodsy town of Bethany (not Delaware). Confronted with a colorful realm inhabited by jester-esque junkies, kitschy cross-dressers, would-be knights and other “misfits,” our button downed hero can think of nothing but getting out of this freak-show town. Unfortunately for him, the mechanic has been unable to fix a car for years. With no way out, our hero gets sucked into the misfits’ medieval role play, and in a twisted take on an Arthurian legend, is quickly declared their Chosen One. In refusing to conform to the town’s conservative standards, the misfits have long been tormented and belittled by the White Demons (the cool jocks). With the arrival of the Chosen One, however, the misfits boldly embark on a quest to capture “The Grail of Popularity,” engaging in a battle to defend the unpopular and secure the right to live their lives as they see fit. Writer-director Keven Undergaro creates a world that may seem far off and strange, but the issues within are strangely familiar.

With a description like this, it seems like a sure thing, right? WRONG! This is the worst film I have ever seen in my life. I have never walked out of a theatre while the film was still going on until I saw this. I stayed for 30 minutes, longer than many others who left after 10 or 15 minutes, but I just couldn't possibly imagine enduring this horrible tragedy for another hour. I felt badly leaving while the film was still running since the writer/director was present in the audience! Honestly, it escapes me how this film even got into this festival. Everything I've ever seen at this festival had at least some merit, except this. 0 stars.

Drag Queen name of the day: Della Catesson

1 comment:

Michael said...

Wow, people were walking out. I guess it didn't win any awards!