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Arrived in Cannes yesterday afternoon. Rose asked if I had posted anything to Festworks yet, and considering all I had seen to that point was Dublin Airport, I explained that I wrote something to the effect of: Cannes has started, and to check back for daily updates. “That sounds lame” was her reply.  I suppose it is. In my defense, ALL I HAD SEEN TO THAT POINT WAS THE DUBLIN AIRPORT!!

Wanting to get an early start on my first full-day, was up and out of the hotel at 7:30am to get in line for 9:00am screening of Yorgos Lanthimos’s THE LOBSTER. (That’s 90 minutes early for you non-math majors.) It appeared, at first glance, that I was the first badge-holder to arrive, unsurprisingly (again, 90 minutes early!) But was quickly disabused of that notion by an austere Frenchman who pointed to a line of people fifty yards away. I positioned myself at the end of it and proceeded to watch helplessly as rows of fellow early-risers – from other long lines separate from mine – marched through The Lumiere and into the Salle du Soixantieme.  No lobster for me.  An inauspicious start to my festival.

At 11:00am, I see Radu Muntean’s (TUESDAY, AFTER CHRISTMAS – Cannes 2010) slow-burn Romanian thriller ONE FLOOR BELOW. Descending the stairs from his apartment, Patrascu, the film’s protag, overhears an unsettlingly heated lover’s quarrel through the door of his neighbor’s titular apartment.  He stops long enough to consider “Do I really want to get involved with this?” before, as I suspect many of us would, going on his way.  When he returns to the building hours later, he’s told that there’s been an “accident” and his neighbor is dead. It’s a solid set-up for a traditional thriller, the likes of which, it turns out, Muntean has zero interest in making. Patrascu knows the identity of the angry lover (he’s seen him coming out of the apartment in the past) but when questioned by a policeman who suspects foul play, says nothing. Whether his silence is motivated by fear, shame, callousness, or simply the maddening return of his reluctance to get “involved,” is a mystery to us, and to the murderer. To its credit, Teodor Corban’s performance does not provide easy answers, nor does the film itself. AND YET… “underwhelming” is the word I keep returning to. Perhaps it was the earliness of the hour combined with jetlagged-ness, but as the minutes ticked by, I found myself increasingly unengaged with its narrative and inevitable resolution. The early reviews have been largely positive, although not enthusiastically so. Jordan Hoffman, writing for the Guardian, says “There’s slow burn, and then there’s wondering if this thing is even lit” (a good line I wish I had come up with.) I have zero inside information here, but wouldn’t be shocked to see ONE FLOOR BELOW again this fall as part of a major film festival that shall remain nameless just in case I am wrong.

At 1:00pm, I’m standing in line for Matteo Garrone’s Competition entry, TALE OF TALES, that’s set to screen at 2:00pm. The line is long, really long, and while I’m confident I’ll get in, I’m less confident I can make the 4:30pm of Hirokazu Koreeada’s OUR LITTLE SISTER if ToT doesn’t let out until four. And so: arrivederci, Garrone; konnichiwa, Koreeada (and – thankfully – a quick nap prior to!) I get to the theater at 3:00pm, ninety minutes before the scheduled start time, and badge-wearers have already begun to assemble. I will spend more time standing in line today than I will inside of theatres.

ACQUISITION NEWS: The North American rights to the Koreada film were bought by Sony Pictures Classics. His last three U.S. releases were handled by IFC, Magnolia, and IFC respectively. Kino Lorber picked up U.S. rights to documentary SEMBENE! Alchemy has acquired N. American rights to THE SURVIVALIST and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Gaspar Noe’s LOVE.