Thursday, June 14, 2007

CineVegas: Days Three and Four

I am saturated by films. Seriously. I'm to the point where I decided I would stay home today so I could let my mind catch up on all the movies I've seen this past week. In fact, I'd say that I'm perfectly content with the amount of films I've seen and, at this point, going to more of them is actually more about quantity than quality. I don't want to "do" this film or that film just for the sake of seeing it.

Know what I mean? Good.

So the past couple of CineVegas days have been great. I've really enjoyed all the films (except for one), and that's a pretty good track record. Tuesday, I saw more shorts, and they were grouped together into a "super icky" collection. I was totally up for that but, alas, most of them weren't stomach-turning, and this tells me that I've watched too many gross films. However, a great deal of the stories had a lot more to them than just "grossness," and I came out content. Same goes for yesterday's "Nevada Shorts" program, which featured creations by local filmmakers.

But what really struck me were the features I attended. One, HAVE LOVE, WILL TRAVEL, has been mentioned frequently in all the festival's "hall talk" (My term for all the people hanging out and chatting about the films). I kept hearing that HLWT was supposed to be "seedy and nasty," so I was absolutely there. Its subject matter concerns "dancers" (or, as some would argue, "hookers who take off their clothes and con their Johns into not getting any more than that"), so I awaited this seediness with bated breath. And did it live up to its reputation? Well, that seedy/nasty thing was there in all its graphic glory, but this movie was so much more. Poignant, heartbreaking, and tragic, and I while I was watching, I actually forgot about its reputation. The acting was natural enough to make a viewer believe that this wasn't so much fiction as a document of what happens nightly in L.A. It explores addiction as well as what it takes for a person to cross the lines they've drawn for themselves. If you ever come across this film, I'd suggest seeing it.

Then there was a more polished film, with an obviously bigger budget: LA VIE EN ROSE, which chronicles the life of Edith Piaf. You've heard her music--warbly, big-lunged, cabaret-dramatic and very, very French. I happen to love her stuff, but I didn't know the first thing about her life and what went into every note she sang. And...whoa. Girl led quite the crapfest. She was a sickly child, separated from her parents and raised in her grandma's brothel by prostitutes. (Not a joke.) In this brothel, she goes blind for a while. (Wait, there's more.) Then she's claimed by her father, who takes her on the road because he's a contortionist in the circus. (Really.) They're eventually reduced to entertaining on the streets for their food, and this is where Edith begins singing. After that, the adult Edith abuses alcohol, drugs, and sex while still singing on the streets. She's "discovered," and the movie goes from there, dipping into all her lows (and, believe me, she goes low) and highs. The thing is, when I walked out of the theater, I was uplifted. This is due in great part to the performance of Marion Cotillard, who is absolutely amazing as Piaf. She goes from spunky street girl to polished star to a near-corpse sitting in a chair as her body wastes away. (Piaf died in her forties, and it's nauseating to see her looking 100 years old when she should've still been blooming.) People often talk about "great" performances in movies, but those don't always live up to the hype. Well, I didn't hear any hype before I went into this film, and Cotillard blew me away. Now I'm hearing the hype, and I have to agree with it. The movie itself is evocative and it movies quickly for its 140 minutes. Highly recommended when it comes to a smaller theater near you.

And that's going to be it for me. I've had my free drinks in the movie lounge and I've filled my well with all these stories. But I'll be back next year, CineVegas babies. See ya then.

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