I am not surprised when she turns out to be playing a thoroughly deglamorised, harshly-shot depressive in the movie, proprietor of a small shop where people intending to commit suicide off a spectacular nearby cliff stop to purchase a roll and a container of milk as a final ritual act. The film was introduced with an allusion to “The Shop on Main Street” (1965) the famous Oscar-winning Czech film from Jan Kadar, but I find it more like “The Little Shop of Horrors,” in that suicide is not my favorite subject (I note from the program book that it’s a topic that will crop up again in the ensuing days).
The final big screen epic of the day is “Lawless”, a big new American film from protean singer/songwriter/screenwriter Nick Cave and his fellow Australian, director John Hillcoat. I missed their previous collaboration, the well-reviewed 2005 Western “The Proposition” (hey, you can’t see everything!), but I did see Hillcoat’s grim Cormac McCarthy adaptation, the apocalyptical “The Road” (2009).
For almost an hour before the film, waiting in the inevitable rush line, I chatted with an enthusiastic film student from Prague, Jana, a real wild-eyed cinephile, who’s attending Karlovy Vary for the sixth time and tells me she either sleeps in a tent “or in a room with fifty other people,” surviving on a couple of hours’ sleep a night. She tells me that she’s a big fan of Shia LaBeouf. “Lawless,” a violent Prohibition tale set in backwoods Virginia (where somehow Chicago gangsters still turn up with machine guns) looks fabulous on the big screen. The lead actors, especially chunky Tom Hardy, Colin Clarke (an Australian familiar to me from the Irish-American TV series Brotherhood), and to a lesser extent LaBeouf, have made the brave decision, not unlike Benicio del Toro’s performance in “The Usual Suspects,” to talk in accents that are nearly unintelligible. (Hardy gets a number of laughs by merely grunting.) I find myself wishing I could read the Czech subtitles.
Guy Pearce has also decided to invent a (somewhat more intelligible) accent, along with a flamboyant dandyism that would serve him well in any production of Oscar Wilde’s or Noel Coward’s work. It’s a performance I watch with some open-mouthed amazement – calling it “over the top” doesn’t quite do it justice. The women glimpsed along the sidelines, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, both shot so they glow, give more naturalistic performances.
An improbably domestic coda sends me out into the night chuckling. I’ll be back in the same room in just about eight hours to see a Greek black comedy (with some suicide thrown in).