Best zaftig postmodern strippers gamely spouting mostly random dialogue? You bet. Mise en scène? No.
A mystery almost as great as “How did Binoche win over Korea’s Yun Jung-hee, who has appeared in 330 movies since 1966 (despite a 16-year hiatus!) and whose performance as a coquettish grandmother battling adversity with flakey serenity in Lee Chang-dong’s Best Screenplay–winning Poetry was flat-out magnificent?” is “Where was everybody when Queen Noor of Jordan, Valerie Plame Wilson, and Norway’s very cool Gro Brundtland, the politician and activist who coined the term ‘sustainable development,’ were among the panelists at the press conference for Lucy Walker’s galvanizing anti-nuclear doc (out July 23 in the US) Countdown to Zero?” There were perhaps two dozen journos on hand and plenty of empty seats.
Maybe my 4000 accredited colleagues were all on the beach practicing how to pronounce “Apichatpong Weerasethakul”?
Walker’s film documents how evildoers would gladly dispatch a Western metropolis with a nuclear weapon, if only they could get their grubby, ideological hands on the key ingredients. Seven years after her CIA cover was blown, Plame, one of the film’s eloquent talking heads, sounded as if there’s still a note of wistful regret in her voice when she confessed to the lucky few attending the press conference, “I loved my job.” Like everybody else in the doc, Plame elucidates why we need to eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.
Planski strikes again
On May 21, during the press conference for Outside the Law — Rachid Bouchareb’s ambitious but turgid account of Algerian freedom fighters meting out violent retribution to their French colonial overlords — talented stand-up comic, actor, and (male) producer Jamel Debbouze lightened the mood with the declaration that “I wanted to let the international press know that I, too, was raped by Roman Polanski when I was 16. For the full details, see my lawyer.”
That retroactive thought is no stranger than the apparently consensual sex between a priapic catfish and a princess in Uncle Boonmee. There’s a challenge for the product-placement and merchandising crowd. (“If you see only one film this year in which a catfish sexually satisfies a princess . . .”)
Javier Bardem shared the Best Actor nod (with Italian Elio Germano) for his role in Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu’s Biutiful. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, Bardem’s Uxbal, a sensitive lowlife father of two young children, develops enough additional problems to mutate anybody’s cells. He’s separated from his wife, who’s sleeping with his brother and perhaps half of Barcelona, but has little to show for it except a slutty wardrobe.
The queasy handheld camerawork tempts one to shout “Get a tripod!” the way you’d exhort a panting couple to “Get a room!”
Under America’s new health-care plan, therapists should be able to prescribe Biutiful to patients who think they have problems. Whatever ails you, you’re probably not a go-between for Chinese criminals, responsible for illegal immigrants from Senegal, and estranged from your bipolar spouse, nor are you saddled with the ability to speak to the souls of the recently deceased . . . and about to keel over and join them. Feel better?