Thessaloniki, part 4
As it turned out we did have
Thanksgiving dinner in Thessaloniki.
The festival organizers were thoughtful enough to throw one for the Americans
in town, and so I was fortunate enough to have Turkey
in an Italian restaurant in Greece
with Danny Glover, John Sayles (John Malkovich had already left), numerous
American critics. No cranberry sauce, though.
Speaking of turkeys, there
were a few screened here, but some outstanding films as well. The awards won’t
be announced for a couple of days and since I wasn’t on any jury this time
around I thought I’d present some prizes of my own:
If by “worst” I was referring to
mere competence the detective in “Jar
City” would win hands
down. But I’m thinking more along the lines of “Bad Lieutenant,” in which case
the Icelandic film would still be in the running as it also features, Sgt.
Runar, a local yokel corrupt police chief renowned for corruption, rape, murder
and extortion and who resembles the “Dick Tracy” character B.O. Plenty.
Also a strong candidate is the
southern sheriff played by Stacy Keach of TV’s “Mike Hammer” fame in John Sayles's new film “Honeydripper.”
He’s a genial tyrant in a 1950s Alabama
backwater who picks up passing African Americans and puts them to work picking
cotton in a “Dukes of Hazard” rendition of postbellum slavery.
But the winner has to be the
incredibly creepy and malevolent police inspector Zhurov in Alexey Balabanov’s
“Cargo 200.” He looks like a cross between Putin and Gollum and has a genius
for macabre sadism that beats anything you’ll see in “Hostel” or “Saw” or even
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Based, you’ll be relieved to know, on a true story.
That would have to included almost
every character in “Cargo 200," especially Zhurov’s charming mother.
The anesthesiologist in Alexei
Popgrebsky’s “Simple Things” also deserves consideration, his choice of
anesthetic being the 100 proof half
liters served up in the neighborhood
dive “The Lower Depths” (which explains why the Russian health system wasn’t
showcased as an alternative to US HMOs in Michael Moore’s “Sicko”).
But the winner is a toss-up
between two characters in Estonian first-time director Veiko Õunpuu’s “Autumn
Ball.” Should it be the estranged alcoholic husband who hides in the woods to chase
his ex-wife on the way home from work? Or the would-be writer whose outrageous
excesses and embarassing folly include one of the worst pick-up attempts in
film history? I’d have to say the jury’s still out on that one.
Again, a highly competitive
category this year. From Romania comes the kooky aspiring actress in Nae
Caranfil’s “The Rest is Silence” whom we first meet as she poses in an artist
studio and begs the film’s protagonist to throw a glass of cold water on her
beautifully lit bare breasts. From Warsaw
is the kooky 20-something in Polish director Grzegorz Pacek’s “Wednesday,
Thursday Morning” who breaks the ice with the protagonist by taking a kooky pee
during a parade commerating the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. But the prizewinner comes from the USA, the home of kooky movie women. If you're in the mood for kooky pee scenes, none can beat that of
the irrepressible title character in Jason Reitman’s “Juno;” the opening
pregnancy test sequence excels in its tweeness, labored hipness and, of course,
Most abused female:
Sadly, there are no end to
candidates in this category, a kind of complement to the one above. Let’s eliminate self-abused women, such as the
depressive heroine of Mexican director Pedro Aguilera’s “The Influence” whose
relentless downward spiral is depressing to stay the least. Instead, let’s
focus on victims directly abused by loutish men, such as the estranged wife and
hapless pick-up victim described above in “Autumn Ball.” Or perhaps the woman
burnt alive on stage in “The Rest Is Silence.” But my vote goes to Zhurov’s
“bride” in “Cargo 200” who ends up…But I won’t abuse my role as critic by
giving away the most grotesque black comic scene in this film festival.