By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Although October, in the wake of its purchase by Universal, often inspires comparisons with its old rival Miramax, the company continued to prove its singular commercial savvy by arriving at Cannes with Happiness (a sure MPAA freak-out) and the new Lars von Trier film, The Idiots. (The company's future was much speculated on after news hit that Universal had snapped up PolyGram, a merger that could have deleterious repercussions on October and on PolyGram's own Gramercy Films, as well as anyone with an interest in independent cinema.) Like Celebration, The Idiots was shot within the guidelines set forth by a Danish film group called DOGMA 95, composed of von Trier, Vinterberg, and two other directors, Kristian Levring and So/ren Kragh Jacobsen. The DOGMA 95 statement of purpose is outrageous, provocative, borderline silly: "The new wave proved to be a ripple that washed ashore and turned to muck." Given the absurdity of the group's decree and its rules ("shooting must be done on location," "the film must be in color"), it's difficult to gauge just how seriously it takes its own call to aesthetic arms. Breaking the Waveswas a DOGMA 95 production, though von Trier, breaking the rules, put his name on the film. For The Idiots, about a collective of healthy young Danes who spend their time pretending to be mentally retarded (in order to get in touch with their inner idiots), the director opted to leave his name off. It was a gesture that did little to appease critics, quite a few of whom felt that with this film von Trier had definitely succeeded in reaching his own inner idiot. Me, I thought it was pretty funny.
One afternoon, while searching for a seat in the darkened Lumiere, I paused and was promptly hit hard on the head. Stunned, I turned to find a broadly smiling woman gesturing for me to move out of the way; I had, apparently, blocked her view of the French subtitles. It was a small violence, but entirely appropriate to a festival that at every turn bludgeons you with its importance and enormity even as it reminds you of your own irrelevance.
On a personal level, that irrelevance was made conspicuous each time I slipped my press pass around my neck, broadcasting my status with the color of my badge. I wore pink - shamefully, at first - which placed me above blue but beneath pink with a yellow pastille, and the coveted white. After a sulk, I recovered. Pride had something to do with it, but mostly it was the movies - movies, such as Shoei Imamura's new, wonderful Kanzo sensei, that would prove their importance by remaining absolutely, irredeemably irrelevant.
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