La Neuvaine (The Novena)
Directed by Bernard Emond, Canada, 2005
A middle-aged woman doctor lost a son when he was a child. She was unable to save him. When a young woman comes into the emergency room with her child, it is obvious the woman has been beaten up. The doctor encourages her to leave her husband, and gives the woman a card with her phone number on it. The young mother calls later and the doctor takes her and the baby to a shelter. The husband follows the doctor to the shelter a few days later and kills his wife and child, then himself. The doctor has a breakdown. When she finally comes home, she decides to drive along the St. Lawrence River and drown herself
At the same time, a young man who works as a shop assistant near the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec, learns that his dear grandmother who raised him, is dying. He decides to make a novena to St. Anne. After that first visit to the Shrine, he drives to a remote place near the river and sees the women sitting all alone. He goes and sits near her. After a while, he gives her is coat because she has none. He drives her back to her motel, where she has nothing with her, and goes for food. He asks if she believes in God. She says no. He promises to come back the next day. He asks his grandmother if non-believers can be saved.
Over the space of the novena, the young man with simple faith and the middle-aged woman develop a companionship that results in a gentle climax that is human and filled with hope.
La Neuvaine is a remarkable film by a director who, though not a believer, believes in the need for faith in life and culture. What was so amazing about this film was the response of the audience. You must know that for many of the other films, people left continually, and for some the audience just plain hemorrhaged. But hardly anyone left this film, and the applause at the end went on and on. After the credits finished, the clapping started up asll over again. Not one other film at the festival generated this kind of a response. The next day, religious and regular critics alike, praised the film as the best of the festival so far. The purpose of the film was not to convert anyone, but to show the place of faith in the world – and perhaps Canadian society. This one shot to the top of my short list and stayed there – not because it was religious and took place at a Catholic shrine, but because it was so authentic and respectful of faith.
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
The Quay Brothers, UK, Germany, France, 2005 (Timothy and Stephen
Forget the story. I couldn,t tell it if I wanted to. Think of the earthquake of 1755 in Lisbon, Portugal, that meets the mold that grows in the Jurassic Park Museum in Culver City, CA. Think of Terry Gilliam and forget just about anything you ever liked about him (he is the executive producer who paid for this thing). Think obscure, dark, a fantasy art piece that belongs in a museum (said Peter Malone) and a narrative that makes no sense. And throw in The Phantom of the Opera for good measure. I developed narcolepsy by the end. Art for arts sake…. maybe. I cannot imagine the audience for such a film. If anyone ever sees it, and you apprecaite it, please feel free to share your insights. (PS the Youth Jury gave this film a special mention and described it as a film about madness; I could go with that.)
3 Degrees Colder (3 Grad Laekter)
Directed by Florian Hoffmeister, Germany, 2005
A young man disappears and his fiance, along with a couple of friends, go to search for him. They never find him and the fiance eventually marries one of his friends. But she still longs for him, and writes him letters at night. Five years later, he suddenly reappears because the husband found one of the letters and sent it to him. He is scruffy but attractive and has nothing to show for his time away. When he approaches his former fiance, she is at first distant but when former feelings are rekindled, she is ambivalent. Her husband is hurt and they grow apart. In fact, the young man,s reappearance upsets the whole order of things between his family and his former group of friends.
This does not sound like much of a premise, but actually, this was a pretty good movie. The German gentleman on our jury didn,t like it because he said it was typical German existential angst, the legacy of Nietzche but I thought it asked if loyalty and love are still valid in today,s world. This was no fairy tale but real life. I think this film could travel. It was on my short list ofr a while
A Perfect Couple (Un Couple Parfait)
Directed by Nobuhiro Suwa, Japan, France, 2005
A couple drives from Lisbon to Paris for a wedding. They rent a hotel room and order in a roll away bed then argue about who will sleep in it. They go to dinner with friends and announce that they have decided to divorce. They return to the hotel room and argue about their decision not to tell anyone and doing it anyway. They go to the wedding and that,s pretty lame, too. The next day she goes to a museum and looks at Rodin statues and listens to Rilke’s commentary on his friend’s work. The husband goes to a cafe and listens to the philosophy of an older man who is lonely and drinks too much. The husband and wife talk through closed doors and finally the wife takes herown room after accidentally meeting an old school friend at the museum. Later the husband and wife decide to go and eat anything as long as it is not Portugese (they have been living in Lisbon for 10 years.)
This is the longest two hour film I have ever seen. I think it could have been a short story or a stage play, though one of our jury members took extreme exception to this view. He believes this film to be the most contemporary of cinema, though he agrees there might not be an audience for it. The film was dark, and we never saw the faces of the protagonists up close for very long, though the woman more than the man, whom we only got a good look at once. So there was no way for the audience to engage or care about the characters. Lots of people walked out of this film. If anything, this was a literary style film, but if this is the sign of films to come, I will do something desperate, like watch more TV or something.
More to come….