Cannes Day Three: Part One
Posted on Friday May 15, 2009, 11:04 by Damon Wise
Sorry! Sorry! I have made a terrible mistake! The screening of Fish Tank was at 11.30, not 11am as I presumed, which means I would have had to have left before the end to make my 1pm stage interview at the UK Pavilion with actor Matt Smith. Any by all means the film is great (“Borderline five stars,” said one normally unexcitable critic), so I'll try to catch up with it next Sunday at the repetitions. And beyond that, it's in Edinburgh anyway, plus it's out in the UK quite soon, I think. But the annoying thing is that I missed Humpday. Grrr. But that, too, is in Edinburgh. Hooray!
In the meantime, here are my thoughts on a couple of films I saw last night. Huacho is a Chilean film that follows a rural family in the day to day life. First their power goes, because they haven't paid their electricity bill. Then granny makes cheese and flogs it. The mum goes to work as a cleaner. Then the son goes to school. Then grandad puts up a fence. Er, and that's it. Beautifully filmed, and incredibly effortless, to the extent that it feels more like an immersive documentary, Huacho offers some extraordinary low-key moments, but there's not enough in the narrative to make it anything other than worthy. Strangely, it was on a double bill with a British short called Together, starring Matt Smith – the new Dr Who – as a young man, grieving for his brother, who goes to extraordinary lengths to get through to his emotionally distant father. It's an odd film but compelling, and Smith has a lot of screen presence; his trademark style seems to be an angular, unconventional combo of enigmatic and charming, which bodes well for his Who career.
Afterwards, I caught up with new Park Chan-Wook film Thirst, which had been getting not-so-rave reviews from an earlier screening. I liked it, but it's not the film I was expecting. It's barely even a genre movie; like Claire Denis's Trouble Every Day, it uses vampirism as a metaphor for destructive relationships, in this case between disillusioned priest Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) and his childhood sweetheart Tae-ju. Sang-hyun volunteers to be part of a Catholic medical test, and is given a virus that kills him. However, thanks to an infusion of blood from a never-revealed source, Sang-hyun begins to crave human blood, suffers painful burns in daylight and realises he has incredible strength. This vampire blood also causes him to act on his previously suppressed sexual desires, and he and Tae-ju embark on an affair that turns Sang-hyun into a reluctant killer and Tae-ji into a monster.
I was a little disappointed when the film first started, thinking that Thirst was going to be dealing with vampirism on a pandemic level, but once I realised what the film actually was, I was able to get into it. It helped that Song Kang-ho is a fantastic leading man (he was the pudgy one in The Good The Bad And The Weird), but Park Chan-Wook is an amazing visual stylist: I think there are several shots in this movie that, alone, would tell you who directed it, like the one at the beginning in which a cocky doctor ambles into the emergency ward to save a dying patient. Like a lot of the films this year, it was too long, but Thirst is a film that stays in the memory. It's a film about trust, betrayal and the dangers of acting on impulse, which makes it rather conservative in that it appears to be a keep-it-in-your-pants movie. But it's also a very good black comedy, with echoes of Park's section of the Three Extremes movie, and I seem to like it more each time I think about it.