At 11 a.m. I give myself a little gift: watching Jean-Pierre Melville’s implacable “Army of Shadows,” about the French resistance during WW II, on the main Festival screen. Any guilt I might feel at seeing a movie again is instantly erased when it begins: I remembered it as being black-and-white! So now I can (hopefully) remember it in color.
It’s a masterpiece – I would say it is Melville’s masterpiece, except in truth I think it’s only one among many. Critic Rui Noguiera, long-time Melville associate and author of the essential “Melville on Melville,” who introduces the film, says that it’s become a part of history – not just film history, but history in general.
I’m going to a new venue, the Cas cinema right across the river from the main theaters in the Thermal, so I get there early and find that it has its own little café attached, with a pleasant terrace, from which you can see the L’Oreal makeup truck offering free makeovers, a variety of buskers, and marketers handing out freebies ranging from whiskey shots to balloons. (This is the most festive festival I’ve ever attended.) I myself lust after the small stuffed animal which looks like a bright-orange Pink Panther, mascot of the main Festival sponsor, the electricity company. The Pink Panther clone shows up, life-sized, in a series of mercifully brief and actually witty short films that play before every Festival screening, spoofing film genres including horror, romance, and crime. I look for the toy in the Festival shop, without success: it seems you just have to stumble across somebody giving them out. I also wish that the gorgeous Art Deco Crystal Globe award given for Lifetime Achievement in the Festival would be duplicated and sold – as keyrings, or bedside lamps! I’m there.
I sit on the terrace, but I can’t quite figure out exactly where the cinema entrance is, so I ask a guy sitting next to be wearing a Festival lanyard and badge. It turns out that he is a Belgian filmmaker, just arrived, who not only has no idea that the café he’s sitting in is part of a cinema, but that, entirely coincidentally, it’s the location where his film, “Hors les murs,” is going to be shown the next day, as I point out. I tell him, truthfully, that it’s on my short list (“I like romantic triangles,” I tell him), but in the event I don’t manage to see it.
I spend about 3/4s of an hour in line, chatting with an obsessed French cinephile whose hobby is attending film festivals – though he doesn’t see as many movies in Paris, where he lives in the suburbs – to much trouble to drive in! When I mention the Lumiere Festival in Lyon, which somehow he hasn’t heard of, he brightens; his daughter lives there, so he can sleep for free.
At 3:30, I see “For dig naken,” aka “For You Naked,” a Swedish documentary made with a hand-held digital camera by a young girl, whose family friend is a famous Swedish artist who’s looking for love after the break-up of a tempestuous 12-year relationship. He meets a younger Brazilian guy online, and she chronicles three years of their up-and-down relationship. I’m utterly charmed by it, and amazed at how honest and introspective the subjects are. It’s the kind of small gem you stumble across at film festivals: highly unlikely to get a massive release, or to be picked up by a specialty house, or even eventually turn up on U.S. television.