I think I found my surprise of the festival yesterday in Stella Days. I went to it because it best fit my schedule, although I was a bit apprehensive about its Rome vs. Hollywood theme. It turned out to be a well done film with Martin Sheen as a scholarly priest who has been exiled to a small parish in Ireland. It is set in the middle of last century as electrification is happening house by house in this rural area. In hope of raising money to build a new church (the bishop’s dream) and to give himself a chance to experience a bit of culture Father Barry hopes to build a movie theater. It touches on themes of culture and morality, on what it means to be called, and on the ways of illumination. Sheen, by the way, plays a priest as well as Barry Fitzgerald ever did. (And I mean that as a compliment.)
Another film showing at the festival yesterday (and opening in theaters Friday) was The Perfect Family. When a woman is nominated for her parish’s Woman of the Year, she just needs to impress the bishop during a family visit. However, there are lots of problems with this family. There are problems with the film, too. It is broad comedy that fails to show any understanding of church life.
The Academy Award nominated animated film A Cat in Paris played yesterday as well. It is the story of a cat and its double life. It lives with a little girl and her mother (a police detective) but goes out at night with a local cat burglar. Obviously these two worlds will collide, but not as you may think. There are lots of dual relationships that we start seeing in the film: mother/police, nanny/villain, thief/rescuer. Chase scenes across the rooftops of Paris are quite enjoyable, even in animation.
From Sweden comes the film The Ice Dragon, a story of a boy who is dislodged from his home and family. Sent to go live with his aunt while his father is in rehab and brother is in jail, eleven year old Mik is a bit adrift in a strange rural world. He makes friends with a small group of wannabe gangstas (who run a catnapping scam) and falls in love with the exotic girl who leads it. The film makes use of extended metaphors of whales and whale songs to talk about belonging and what makes a home.