Sunday, April 09, 2006

Locked Out & Heading South

From the crazy antics of actor/director Albert Dupontel to male prostitution in Port aux Princes, the last night of the festival offered quite a contrasted showcase of the various facets of French cinema.

On a side note, if you attended the festival, you might have noticed how the shorts introducing the films had been finely handpicked, perfectly matching the tones or themes of the main features. St├ęphane Le Lay’s The Kiss, adequately opening for the weirdest entry of this 10th edition of COLCOA, proved to be the most imaginative short and my favorite here.

It’s not a secret that I’ve always been a fan of Albert Dupontel — whether as an acerbic stand-up comic, an actor or director — and I was pretty amused to hear that what he had told the program director was exactly what he had told me a few years ago when I met him in Hollywood, that “he felt closer to Hollywood than to the French New Wave” (actually, his exact words were a little more “colorful” at that time).

What’s interesting in Dupontel’s work is his propensity to push the boundaries and that’s exactly what he did in Locked Out, creating a sort of live-action-cartoon — think mean spirited Tex Avery — filled with Buster Keaton-like stunts. Pretty trashy and outrageous, his latest film is certainly not a spectacle with mainstream appeal — some uptight “expats” left during the screening — but I personally find it pretty amusing and more refreshing than any — good or bad — formulaic French comedy I’ve seen here. It’s hard to judge comedies, as humor is more emotional than cerebral, and while Locked Out is not a great movie — by critical standards — this is a unique and original work that is undoubtedly worth seeing. Will you enjoy it? I’m not sure but this one of my two picks at COLCOA this year.

Heading South, a film about middle-aged women going to Port aux Princes to have a good time with the young natives, remains more problematic for me as I still haven’t been able to decide if I liked it or not. Is it a good film? Probably, but I wasn’t able to identify with the point of view of these women — though admittedly it’s pretty hard for a 30-something punk to get into the head of a middle-aged woman and figure out if this film is an accurate portrait or not.

One thing I noticed though — and before entering the screening I had forgotten what the film was about — was the great number of solo middle-aged women who came for this showing. I don’t know if I was still under the influence of the heavy pastis I had just before — I know you’re going to think that I spend most of my time at festivals drinking — but it seemed that the old Hollywood-type woman next to me kept looking at me and tried to make conversation — maybe I could have had the chance to make a few bucks!!

A Q&A with Laurent Cantet followed and it was a treat to see an unpretentious French director who spoke good English and wasn’t afraid to give candid answers to any questions he got (he actually pissed off a woman in the audience). Cantet honestly said that his film aimed at showing the point of view of women but was made from a man’s perspective — his, his fellow screenwriter and the author of the novels that inspired this film — which confirms that a woman, rather than a man, would be a better a fit to fully assess Heading South.