Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When the Competition's Away…

With only one film screening in the Official Competition on Sunday (thanks largely to "To Each His Own Cinema," a collection of new short films about going to the movies, in celebration of the festival's 60th Anniversary), the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard section got to spend some time in the spotlight.

"My Brother is an Only Child," an uncommonly fresh coming-of-age tale about an Italian boy who supports the dying, post-Mussolini Facism party in Italy in the 1960s while his older brother becomes a communist. Director Daniele Luchetti warmly captures the folly of immature youth with a touch of humor and character that has been lacking from many of the Official Competition entries. We see these siblings grow from teenage boys to young men, and deeply care about how their fragile, shaky lives turn out.

The Chinese film "Mang Shan" ("Blind Mountain") directed by Li Yang, centers around an outstanding performance by its leading actress, Huang Lu. Huang plays a college student who is kidnapped and sold as an imprisoned wife in a poor, backwoods town where no one is willing to help her. The family whose son she has to marry doesn't care if she was kidnapped or not—they paid for her—and her resilient quest for escape only leads to greater pain.

The film plays like a cyclical nightmare, and the ending is a perfectly frank commentary on where this kind of helplessness leads people. Unfortunately, the lousy Chinese government plans to make Li change this ending to make them look better. Stupid government censorship. I guess that's why you've got to see 'em at Cannes.

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