By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
CANNES, FRANCEIf East Asian pop (and pop art) permeated every section of Cannes, the festival was also characterized by a strong sub-current of Latin American features. Unrecognized by the jury, Lucrecia Martel's La Niña Santa (The Holy Girl) was the best-directed feature in the competition and, along with Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's blatantly avant-garde Tropical Malady, the one most interested in developing a new film language.
Working against the grain of her potentially lurid story, Martel uses an accumulation of small scenes, moments, and interactions to map the religious obsession that a wonderfully sullen 14-year-old girl develops when a middle-aged doctor takes advantage of a street performance to rub himself against her. As with Martel's talented first feature, La Ciénaga, the narrative is deduced through a densely textured welter of details, complicated family relations, and convoluted connections only gradually resolved.
A second film by the team of Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, the deadpan Uruguayan comedy Whiskya deftly orchestrated joke about two Jewish clothing manufacturers, set largely in an off-season resortwon second prize in Un Certain Regard. Duck Season, a first film by Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke, is a broader but equally well-acted comedy of hanging out that treats two bored 14-year-old boys to a mota-fueled Cat in the Hatafternoon. A lot less fun, Los Muertos, by Argentine filmmaker Lisandro Alonso, was nearly as uncompromising as Tropical Malady in using a crude documentary style as the vehicle for fantasyin this case, projecting something like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer into a primordial jungle.
The most elaborate Latin American movie was entered in competition as a U.S. entryalthough played in Spanish and directed by a Brazilian. Walter Salles's adaptation of Ché Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries, with Gael García Bernal as the young Ché, might have been called El Niño Santo. In my naïveté, I imagined that this middlebrow crowd-pleaser would represent the third way for the Cannes jury between Michael Moore's agitprop and Park Chan-wook's gorefest. I was wrongand I'm glad.
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