First up was WOMEN WITH COWS, a funny, sad, touching, strange documentary from Sweden. It's the story of two sisters who grew up on a farm. Inger is the younger sister. She has moved to the town where she has a husband and kids and her own life. Britt has stayed on the farm, tending to the cows as best as she can, despite being completely doubled over from spinal injuries. She looks like she would be miserable--it can't be comfortable, she's constantly covered in flies and cow dung, and she really needs help to take care of the cows (and there's really no reason to, nobody buys fresh milk anymore, even they buy 2% milk from the store.) But she insists she's happy and would never leave the farm. Inger, meanwhile, is happy to leave the farm and never wants to go back--but constantly does, even though it seems every time she insists it will be her last. It's the epitome of the "truth is stranger than fiction" adage, and a touching story of the death of the family farm system and the inseparable bond between sisters.
Next up was the film that has been burning up box office records in France and all over Europe (and which the Weinstein company is bringing to America) THE INTOUCHABLES. Based on a true story, it centers on the friendship between Philippe (François Cluzet) and Driss (Omar Sy, who won the César for his performance.) Philippe is a millionaire who is paralyzed from the neck down (and Cluzet does a great job acting with only his head and face mobile.) Driss is a Senegalese immigrant who applies for a job as Philippe's assistant/caregiver. He doesn't really expect the job, but he needs a signature to prove he applied so he can get his government benefits. But Philippe sees something in him, and gives him a one month trial period. There's plenty of fish out of water comedy and TRADING PLACES style hijinks. And Driss is such a charming character and Sy such a charming actor that he rather quickly wins over everyone. The movie is funny all the way through, which is pretty remarkable for a foreign film, especially one that plays so clearly on France's race/class tension. As a fan of humor about racism (or perhaps racist humor, the line is pretty blurry) I was pretty delighted with this film.
Next up was the on stage interview/clip show David O'Reilly Says Something. I didn't know who David O'Reilly was, although I had seen and loved THE EXTERNAL WORLD before (at last year's SFIFF, in fact.) He's best described as a low-tech computer animator. His works are often explicitly pixelated (or MS Paint, in the case of OCTOCAT), and they seem to always trick, befuddle, and (in my case) delight the audience. He also uses cats a lot, although he revealed he's never owned one. Oh yeah, and the interview and Q&A session were really interesting, talking about how little he actually knows about computer animation (he's decided to finally learn how to program) and how often he's surprised when something he makes takes off. Oh, and how awful his 71 minute feature film THE AGENCY (made with Xtranormal) really is. For what it's worth, I loved the two brief snippets they showed, but he insists that watching it all the way through gets tedious in under ten minutes.
And finally, I ended the night with a long short and a short feature. First, the long (35 minute) short, THE SHADY SAILOR. Shot in black and white (and it struck me that this might be the first B&W film I've seen this year at the festival, odd since I loved the B&W films at Cinequest.) To girls narrate the story of a road trip, of meeting the titular sailor, of love (or lust), and missed chances. Very charming.
And finally, the short (59 minutes) feature, PALACES OF PITY. We open with some pretty striking shots. Two girls practicing and stretching for soccer. Perhaps the way they're shot stretching each other is supposed to make me think they're lovers, or maybe it's just my pervy mind, because actually they're sisters. In the next shot we see an old woman, watching them while framed by rows of empty concrete bleachers. She's their grandmother, who sets up the whole movie with the line, "The country [Portugal] has changed, but we are the same." And then things get weird. There are knights, a mansion, two other girls, nightclubs, and a conflagration. And maybe I was just too tired to pay attention (I know I halfway nodded off at one point,) but fuck if I know what was going on. Many, many shots were absolutely beautiful, but I confess I was lost. Oh, well.
Total Running Time: 379 minutes
My Total Minutes: 280,464