Cannes 2010: Side tracks

Geoff Andrew hunkers down with 100 goats in a Calabrian village.

Geoff Andrew
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One in a hundred: Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le quatro volte

One in a hundred: Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le quatro volte

Though the main competition has certainly brightened up a little in the last few days – notable examples being Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men and My Joy, by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa – it remains the case that many of the festival’s most interesting films are in the other strands and sidebars.

Out-of-competition screenings have ranged from Stephen Frears’ gentle guying of rural middle-class England in Tamara Drewe to Olivier Assayas’ epic made-for-TV study of terrorism in Carlos, while the Un Certain Regard section offered Pablo Trapero’s tough but tender Carancho. Focused on the fraught relationship between a doctor and an ambulance-chasing lawyer trying to go straight, Trapero’s movie manages to make both characters sympathetic (thanks in no small part to excellent performances by Martina Gusman and Ricardo Darin) even as it offers up images of an incredibly intense and often brutal physicality.

Over in the Directors’ Fortnight, meanwhile, Michelangelo Frammartino delighted many with Le quattro volte, undoubtedly one of the more genuinely offbeat films of the Festival. Like his excellent debut The Gift (2003), this second feature boasts the slightest of ‘storylines’, no dialogue, meticulous compositions, and a lyrical but often comic vision of a rather old-fashioned, ritualistic way of life in a Calabrian village that involves goatherds and charcoal-burners.

It also resembles its predecessor in its concern with timeless cycles of life and death, but what most people will likely remember about this small gem is the unforgettably expressive performances of the non-human members of the cast; not so much the ants and snails, perhaps, but a very resourceful dog and a good hundred or so goats.

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