Cannes Film Festival Competitors In 2008

By Maddox Penner

Er shi si cheng ji – Change and a city in China. In Chengdu, factory 420 is being pulled down to make way for multi-story buildings with luxury flats. Scenes of factory operations, of the workforce, and of buildings stripped bare and then razed, are inter-cut with workers who were born in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s telling their stories – about the factory, which manufactured military aircraft, and about their work and their lives. A middle-aged man visits his mentor, now elderly; a woman talks of being a 19-year-old beauty there and ending up alone. The film concludes with two young people talking, each the child of workers, each relaying a story of one visit to a factory. Times change.

Gomorra – Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato) is a timid middleman, who distributes money to the families of imprisoned clan members. When making a delivery, he is ambushed by two angry clan members with an obvious grudge against their fellows; there is a feud within the clan. Wanting to save his own skin, he later offers to defect to their side. They explain to him their families were murdered by the clan and want retribution, and that they have no need for a money-carrier. Instead, Ciro leads them to the location where he is given the money for distribution. The pair raid the place, killing everyone but Ciro, and take the money. Ciro quietly walks off to an uncertain future.

Il divo – Although the unabridged subtitle of the Italian version reads “The extraordinary life of Giulio Andreotti”, it doesn’t chronicle all of the famed politician’s life. Instead, it focuses on the most important period concerning his career: from 1978 to the early ’90s. 1978 is, of course, when Aldo Moro, a member of the right-wing party Democrazia Cristiana just like Andreotti (Toni Servillo), was kidnapped and later executed by the Red Brigades. Andreotti shows no sign of emotion when he learns of the event, as usual: he has always been a quiet, secretive man. All that matters to him is the significant amount of power he gains over the years. As he points out when asked why he doesn’t talk to God when he goes to church, “priests vote, God doesn’t”. Nevertheless, he certainly enjoys a little help from above when he is accused of various illegal activities, working with the Mafia and ordering assassinations being the most serious ones (let’s not forget some conspiracy theorists believe he contributed to Moro’s death, a conjecture that is dealt with in the film).

Changeling – On 09 March 1928 in Los Angeles, Christine Collins lives with her beloved son Walter in Lincoln Heights. When she is assigned to work in overtime on Saturday in The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph as supervisor, she promises Walter to return at 4:00 PM to watch the latest movie of Charles Chaplin on the movie theater with him. However, she arrives home late and does not find her son; after seeking the boy out in the neighborhood, she reports the missing child to the police, but the police officer tells that she should wait twenty-four hours to register the complain. Five months later, Captain J.J. Jones communicates Mrs. Collins that her son had been found in DeKalb, Illinois, and is heading back home by train to reunite with her. In the train station, Christine does not recognize the boy as being Walter, but Captain advises her that his appearance has changed in five months. Sooner she confirms that the boy is not her son, but the corrupt LAPD does not accept her arguments. When Mrs. Collins is approached by the St. Paul Presbyterian Church Pastor Gustav Briegleb, who daily broadcasts protests exposing the corruption of the police force, she decides to disclose the evidence she has about the changeling to the press. However, the abusive Captain Jones sends Christine to an asylum to intimidate her. Meanwhile the efficient Detective Lester Ybarra is assigned to arrest and deport an illegal Canadian boy that is hidden in a ranch in Wineville. He captures the boy, who discloses hideous crimes committed by his compatriot Gordon Northcott.

La mujer sin cabeza – The Headless Woman of the title may be Ver(nica), the protagonist, or may be some more nebulous term for an Argentinian social group-in- denial. I see it as a dark play on the fact that the bulk of the film is in mid-close shot, with only enough frame to accommodate parts of the figures swarming around Ver. ‘Headless’ here is in the same sense as ‘faceless’, anonymity in the midst of the crowd. Yet here the roles are reversed and we follow the traumatised Ver (the focused and rather beautiful Mara Onetto), adrift either in shock or preoccupied with guilt after hitting a dog in the road with her car. Yet this fact is open to question. With considerable resolve she tries to talk of the possibility that she might have hit a person. It’s at this point that the social currents around her begin to take on an imperceptible tidal motion, a nebulous – out of frame, always out of frame – blanket of obfuscation and diversion. Cover-up is too strong a term.

Le silence de Lorna – In order to become the owner of a snack bar with her boyfriend, Lorna, a young Albanian woman living in Belgium, becomes an accomplice to a diabolical plan devised by mobster Fabio. Fabio has orchestrated a sham marriage between her and Claudy. The marriage allows her to obtain Belgian citizenship and then marry a Russian Mafioso willing to pay a lot of money to acquire the same quickly. However, for this second marriage to be possible, Fabio has planned to kill Claudy. Will Lorna keep silent?

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