MirrorMask, directed by Dave McKean, UK and USA, 2004(produced with Jim Henson Studios)
In Brighton, England, the daughter of parents who own a traveling circus, rebels about being part of it. When her mother gets sick and is hospitalized, her father must confront his growing financial difficulties and that the circus crew is about to leave him. The girl, about 16 years old, has a long dream initiated by guilt for not apologizing to her mother for her rudeness and rebellion. It,s about how to sort out sorrow.
This is a surreal, creative, artsy film mixing reality and high concept animation. It is possible to follow the story although the mix of Lewis Carroll and Georges Melies motifs (mirrors and the sun) other dark fantasy elements, and what one-eyed spiders mean, rendered it rather boring for me. Also, the girl.s personality or response to her situation is inconsistent. This impressionist film looks like it must have cost a fortune to produce. I think this would only have a select audience. MirrorMask reminded me of low budget fantasy THE DUST FACTORY, which did not do very well in general release in the US.
20 Centimeters (20 Centimetros)
Spain, directed by Ramon Salazar, 2005
This is the story of a transvestite prostitute who is saving money for a sex-change operation. She shares her home with a dwarf who wants to make money scalping opera tickets and she often takes care of a child of another prositute who lives upstairs. In fact, all her neighbors in the complex are transvestites and prostitutes. She is also a narcoleptic who falls asleep in the middle of everything she does. In between sequences of her daily life are mostly corny song and dance numbers reminiscent of Gene Kelley and Cyd Charisee, Fred and Ginger. Things get complicated when a young man is attracted to her and does not care that she is a young man, too. I will let you guess what the 20 centimeters refers to.
Although this film has a kind heart, it reflects so much promiscuity that it distracts from any real meaning or sympathy for people searching for their sexual identity that the film might evoke. The characters have no respect for their own dignity, and I wonder if the director had any real regard or respect for his subject. Priscilla Queen of the Desert told this same story so much better, with genuine pathos and dignity.
Directed by Anne Villaceque, France, 2005
A mature, attractive woman (played by a famous French actress Miou-Miou) works as a housekeeper in a luxury hotel on the French Riviera. Her beautiful daughter is an exotic dancer. The mother sees a business man who looks like he would be a good date for her daughter and slips an advertisement for the club under the man,s hotel room door. Meanwhile, the mother sits at home trying to seduce the pizza delivery man while watching exotic dancers on TV. The man, who seems shy, goes to the club and manages to get a date with the daughter, though the daughter nor the man know about her mother,s machinations. However, he turns out to seem shy but in reality has serious issues. When the daughter refuses his advances, he becomes violent. When the mother sees what he has done to the daughter, she gets revenge.
At first this very long and ultimately boring film seems to be about a woman who is desperate to have sex, I think it is about power issues between men and women and how women seem to win through dark means. However, even if this is true, nothing can save this film from itself. Roger Ebert said once that some films ought never to be made. This is one, and there were several others here at the festival that I have the same opinion about.
Directed by Samir, Swiss and Austrian, 2005
Nico, the daughter of divorced rich parents, parties, models, and goes clubbing and does coke with no particular life goals. Her mother, who lives next door, has no room in her head for her daughter or anyone but herself. Her father only pays attention to Nico when she spends too much money. Nico,s friend, Wanda, has wonderful parents, but Wanda is a call girl with ,sponsors,. Paco is a rapper who sings with a group. He realizes that life has to have more meaning that singing to a bunch of spoiled kids. When he meets Nico, both their lives change. Nico is attracted by Paco,s idealism and lies about her rich parents. When he finds out, he leaves her. This happens a few times until Wanda dies while working. When Nico is caught with drugs on her way to Paco in Paris, she despairs and shoots herself. She is saved, but must relearn language after being in a coma. The ending... This is Snow White remember.
So many of the films shown at the festival include the rave party scene that it got to be a cliche after a while. However, it works for Snow White because it becomes the symbol for lives without meaning for people who do not even bother searching. The director wanted to imagine what a modern snow white fable would look like, and he managed it pretty well. This is a gritty film, but it has kindness and a prince who is almost too good. It was briefly on my short list. The film was shown to a sell-out crowd, after all, the director is Swiss (though not born here he is considered so.)