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I think I’m starting to hit a rhythm of sitting up each morning from the AirBnb sofa I’m sleeping on to finish writing the report I barely started a just a few hours ago the night (but technically actually this morning) before I passed out, and then heading out for the next day’s screening, I think my Cannes hamster wheel system is totally working. However, I miscalculated on my 5-hour energy drink supply. Got to replenish that today. Anyway, the first two films..

THE DANCER

Stephanie Di Giusto’s THE DANCER tells the true-life story of Loïe Fuller, who, in the late 1800s, rose from being the daughter of a gold prospector, to become the toast of France and the Folie Bergeres via her legendary “Serpentine Dance” and innovative staging. Along the way to becoming an icon of the times, was a dalliance with the young Isadora Duncan that threatened to derail not just her relationships with her benefactor/love and her devoted assistant, but her reputation in the eyes of France and the world as well.

THE DANCER is a fascinating and more often than not – engrossing telling of Fuller’s rise, inspiration, and artistic genius that is not the most common of knowledge (at least it wasn’t to me). The film hits all the proper period piece benchmarks as far as production design, etc. are concerned and finds enough conflict within her story to build a sufficient dramatic arc without straining to “up” the melodrama. Soko is compelling in the lead and Lily-Rose Depp provides the kind charisma that justifies the attention paid to Duncan. While the story may not be familiar enough to appeal to a wide audience, those that are inspired to discover the woman that inspired the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec and the Lumière Brothers will be glad they did.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS

Colm McCarthy’s THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS represents another attempt to do something fresh within the zombie/infected movie genre. This time, we’re in the near future where society is dealing with flesh eating “hungries” that have been created by a mutated fungal disease. However, there is actually a second generation that have the disease yet still have cognitive functions to go with their desire for flesh and blood. So, while the ruthless Dr. Caldwell (played by Glenn Close) experiments on the children in order to find a cure, Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) compassionately takes them through their lesson plans. However, one particular student, Melanie, proves to be an exceptionally quick learner and quite possibly either the hope for a cure and way out of the crisis, or equally as possible – the downfall for all of human society.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS does a very admirable job of reimagining the zombie/infected genre and utilizing that new approach or angle to delve into different issues than the usual fare routinely offers up. To frequent viewers and fans of the genre, the style and look of the film will likely hit a midway point between a studio’s big budget approach and a B-movie’s economically thrifty approach. And, frankly – the key interest point will be Glenn Close’s participation in the film. Admittedly, it is more than a little disconcerting to see Close repeatedly bashing in the head of an attacking infected person, but she is also clearly enjoying her bad guy role with one key gruesome monologue in particular that’s worth the price of admission itself. So, while detractors could have some ammunition to dismiss the film as a “Son of the Zombie” or “Daughter of the Zombie” conceit, it reality the film is quite a solid, if modest, addition to the genre.

The search for the French version of the quickie energy drinks proved fruitless, so I settled for a couple tubes of those workout boost gel things. I’ve never used/tried them before, but shy of being featured in my own version of Jessie’s “I’m so scared” special episode of “Saved by the Bell”, this looked like my only option apart from simply accepting the sweet, sweet sleep the next 3-plus-hour Cannes film might bring on. THE BFG was going to be the big test and as it turned out, the gel was effective in helping keep me awake, solely based on the fact that it was so heinously disgusting that it kept me wide awake based solely on how completely gross it was. Back to the drawing board.

THE BFG

Steven Spielberg’s THE BFG is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s story about an orphan girl, Sophie, who is befriended by The BFG, or Big Friendly Giant. She travels with him to Giant Country where she is under threat from the other giants that seek to eat her. However, the BFG protects her and teaches her all about the magic of dreams. Unfortunately, the other giants who routinely bully the BFG, are stealing other kids as well, so Sophie and her new giant friend come up with a plan to rid England of the giant pests once and for all.

THE BFG is a generally charming and entertaining, if not entirely exceptional children’s film. As with most filmed adaptations of Dahl’s works, there is always the question of balance between whimsy and flights of fancy and darkness and threat. In this case, (and as expected with Spielberg at the helm), the threat is severely downplayed in favor of the building of the magical relationship between Sophie and the BFG (played by Mark Rylance). Also, coming in at nearly 2 hours, the film might have some issues with the short attention span set. However, the film excels at transporting its target audience to another world rife with pure imagination and knows enough that when in doubt – go to the time-honored no-fail tool in entertaining kids: the fart joke. It actually warms the heart to know that even at this stage in his legendary career, Spielberg can still break new ground.

Following the film, I met Rose Kuo, DSquared’s David Dinerstein, and actress Yanillys Pérez (CARLOS), Chinese film festival programmer Xie Meng, and Unifrance’s Isabelle Glachant for dinner. In between Dinerstein and I professing our mutual love for the original Willie Wonka and shared belief that to this day, it may be the only truly completely successful film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s works, we discussed Pérez’s upcoming debut as a documentary director with a project that included filming in South America, the US, and the Dominican Republic, and also – not surprisingly considering the guests at the dinner, received a master class over pasta regarding the realities of film distribution in China. The conclusion to another solid day at Cannes.