Wedlock (Fra/Irl) - A short film to start things off. A bride and groom head up to their apartment flat, their futures ahead of them. But something in the way they are behaving suggests that things aren't quite right. 7.5/10
Paradise (US) (interview)
A film with absolutely no plot. That's a bad line to start with when trying to get people through the doors. Throw in the dreaded words 'experimental documentary' and I bet some of you have already skipped to the next film. What can I say, it was not to be.
Director Michael Almereyda has condensed the last ten years of camcorder footage into a 'best of' compilation; the little moments in his life he happened to experience through his camera lens that grabbed his attention and stuck in his mind. The film is just a succession of short pieces (presumably in chronological order) where something often quite ordinary happens, that shows the beauty in the world often ignored because of its subtlety. His little girl feeding pigeons. A trek across snowy fields and roads to photograph a buffalo. A Louisiana carnival. His young son playing peek-a-boo behind the chair. That same son philosophising about Napoleon with his friends at university many years later. A funeral for a loved one. A hundred little snatches of a person's life as it mixes with the lives he comes into contact with.
Better than Toto, but perhaps falling short of 45365, Paradise is a film ideally suited for someone in the mood for daydreaming. Sit in front of it and let the archived memories of the director trigger your own, and smile. 7/10
The Blacks (Cro) (trailer)
The Blacks are an army unit operating during the Balkan conflict. The surrounding townscape is in ruins, and the stench of death is in every darkened room. For some initially unknown reason, the unit drives through the night; perpetually on edge and not fully sure where they need to go. They head to the outskirts of town through the night, and by daybreak are pretty much lost in a forest peppered with mines. It's clear their comrades have perished here some time before.
The film plays the second half first, similar in style to Memento, and then the events leading up to it playing second. It plays around with the viewer for some time, building up the brooding, looming conclusion, and then skipping backwards for a while just as you are asking 'what on earth made them do that?'. What indeed is not made fully clear, instead mostly hinted at through conversations between people who know about certain events the viewer doesn't. Though obfuscated in this way, it's clear the situation they find themselves in would put anyone on edge and do strange things.
It did suffer from 'abrupt ending' syndrome; just as you were expecting some resolution to appear it ended, much in the same way some short films do, leaving you to search your memories for events in the film that could be considered conclusive. For this reason, my initial disappointment as the credits rolled was tempered a little after I'd thought about it, but not by much. 5.5/10
Micmacs (Fra) (wiki/english microsite)
I was going to head home after The Blacks, but it had not satisfied my film requirements for the day. Then I looked at the showing times, and saw that Jean-Pierre Jeunet's latest film was about to start. Though it is not an official festival film, I had to take the opportunity and see it. My pillow could wait.
The film's main character - Bazil - is down on his luck. His father was killed by a land mine when he was young, and having just been shot in the head in a freak accident, he is pretty much as low as can be. Especially as he's just about dead.
Based on a coin toss, the surgeons tasked with saving his life decide to leave the bullet lodged in his temple, giving Bazil a slightly unreliable brain; every now and again it goes a bit screwy and he has to concentrate on old thoughts and memories to get back in control. Out of a job and scratching round for food, he is picked up by Placard, one of a group of oddball salvagers who live womble-like in a home made of junk. With a roof over his head, he heads out and discovers - coincidentally just opposite each other - the huge corporate buildings emblazoned with the logo's he recognises from the bullet in his head and the land-mine that killed his father. Filled with rage, he plots to get his revenge on both of them, but going up against global arms dealers won't be easy on his own. Fortunately his resourceful new-found friends like to stick their noses in.
Anyone who has seen Jeunets' previous beautifully crafted films (Delicatessen, Amelie and A Very Long Engagement) should definitely go see this one too. It is much more Amelie than Engagement, being as it is an intricate comical fantasy of the take down of an admittedly easy target. It bears the instantly recognisable hallmarks present in his films (not to mention a good few familiar actors); the burned-orange tint filters the view like we are in a perpetual summers evening, showing us a world much like our own but with elements of magic and fantasy mixed in. There are ridiculous but joyful coincidences and fateful encounters, and of course, hundreds of little incidental touches that may only uncover themselves after several viewings (Bazil's mind control exercises all have their individual little animations which are charming examples of the thorough attention paid to even the littlest things). The production values are superb, and there is plenty of wit and cleverness and beauty, just when you thought that his previous films must have surely stolen all of Jeunets' ideas. Julie Ferrier almost steals the show as fellow womble and possible love interest Caoutchouc, whose contortionist tricks both amaze and disturb in equal measure.
I would recommend anyone to go along and see this film. It is the very definition of fun. If on it's suggestion your other half says 'sod off, I'm not watching no subtitled French crap', slap them around the head and tell them to stop being such a prat. It might just be the best film they see this year. 9/10