Cannes contenders wrestle with death

27th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 26, 2007 (AFP) - A stirring Japanese film about the necessity of mourning moved audiences Saturday at Cannes, where death, vengeance and redemption have played a starring role.

CANNES, France, May 26, 2007 (AFP) - A stirring Japanese film about the necessity of mourning moved audiences Saturday at Cannes, where death, vengeance and redemption have played a starring role.

As the competition wrapped up at the world's paramount film festival, "The Mourning Forest" (Mogari No Mori) by Naomi Kawase shifted the action into a lower gear with a gentle but powerful look at people haunted by tragic loss.

It tells the story of Shigeki, a mysterious resident at a retirement home in the mountains outside Nara City in western Japan who befriends a caregiver at the facility, Machiko.

Shigeki, portrayed masterfully by Shigeki Uda, is grieving for his wife who died long before and returns in joyful flashbacks that both delight and confuse the elderly man.

Machiko (Machiko Ono), who is filled with her own pain over the death of a child, takes to Shigeki and offers to take him on a drive through the lush countryside stretching out beyond the facility's garden.

When their car careens into a ditch, Shigeki bolts into a dense forest and Machiko, charged with ensuring his safety, runs after him.

After two days of wandering, they come to a quiet clearing where they find Shigeki's wife's tomb, marked by a stake in the ground.

Machiko discovers Shigeki has been writing love letters to his life for three decades. By helping him make the journey to say a final farewell to his wife, the young woman finds a peace of her own in one of the most tender scenes of the festival.

"One tends to look down on people with senile dementia. They're viewed as people who should be pitied and that's all. They do perhaps have problems of awareness but they still have their feelings which have remained intact and their soul is still intact," Kawase told reporters.

"We need to attach great importance to feelings. It is more important to have feelings than perhaps knowledge or self-awareness. I wanted to place the soul in the centre of this human relationship."

This year's line-up in Cannes has been heavy going, with death an overriding theme in films from around the globe.

New York Times critic A.O. Scott noted that three US productions, David Fincher's "Zodiac," Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men," and "Death Proof" by Quentin Tarrantino revolved around a serial killer who operates without sense or a clear motive.

"In contrast with their Asian and European counterparts, American filmmakers in Cannes seem to operate in a Manichean moral universe," he said, referring to the dualist school of religious thought.

"Perhaps our role is to keep the world supplied with bad guys."

Another US entry at Cannes, the blood-soaked "We Own the Night" stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall as a family of Russian extraction ripped apart by the Russian mafia in New York.

Its one-note tale of justice and redemption at the butt-end of countless semi-automatic weapons failed to move international critics.

More successful were films that looked at the ties that bind families and the agony inflicted on those left behind when a loved one dies.

"A Mighty Heart," which screened out of competition, won rave reviews for Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl, the widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl who was beheaded by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

A top pick for prizes was a wrenching Romanian drama called "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," named for the exact age of a foetus extracted in a back-alley abortion while Russia's well-received "The Banishment" tackles revenge and remorse with a story about a wife who dies during an abortion.

Michael Moore's "Sicko" uses the cruel irony of volunteers who worked at Ground Zero after the carnage of September 11 and are now unable to get basic medical care n the United States to make the case for a non-profit public health system.

And South Korea's "Secret Sunshine" packed an emotional punch with the story of a grieving wife and mother wrestling with religious faith.

The festival wraps up Sunday when an all-star jury led by British director Stephen Frears ("The Queen") will award the coveted Palme d'Or top prize to one of the 22 contenders.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Festival de Cannes

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