Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Cannes Day 7: Pater

Ah, Pater. My Cannes arch-nemesis.

Pater is directed by Alain Cavalier, pictured above. It was in Competition. I don't know why. It really should have been in Un Certain Regard, if anything.

I want to first highlight the plot synopsis for this film, because it makes the crux of my main critique of Pater that much stronger. Here is the (heavily garbled) summary that was in all of the official Cannes press releases:

Vincent Lindon and Alain Cavalier are pals. Like father and son. They sip port in bars dreaming of a film they might make. Together. 

Then just once in a while, they don suit and tie. Play men of power. See how much trouble they can make. For a laugh. They tell a tall story, that's part really personal, part, well - just plain tall. Only, as ever at the movies, there's that excellent question no one can answer: is it really all make-believe?

As you can probably guess, the plot summary was not written in English. It was likely translated from French, as Cavalier and Lindon are both native speakers. This is much the same with the film in general. In short, it doesn't make sense when translated to English.

Describing the plot of Pater is really a pointless endeavour. There is none. Lindon and Cavalier eat, chat,  make friends with some business types, and they talk about how great it would be if they could run the country. They want to change laws, instate new policies, cut this, add that. It's really all quite lovely, I'm sure. And yes, Pater is just as avant-garde as the summary makes it sound. It's very hand-held and experimental, but it's also really, really boring. I hate to say the "b" word, because it seems so taboo in film criticism. When you're bored by a film, critics of the critics will say that they probably didn't understand the film's intentions, subtleties, or nuances. That's why they graded it so poorly.

I give up: yeah, I definitely didn't understand Pater. However, let me follow that up by saying this: I don't live in France, I don't speak French (very well), and my grasp of France's political systems and social paradigms is extremely limited. To be quite frank, Pater is not intended for anyone outside of la belle pays. Nothing about the film translates across the pond, so English viewers will find Pater to be a very frustrating experience.

As such, Pater makes it very difficult for a Canadian guy like me to properly assess what it is. Reading the subtitles and following along the non-action is easy enough, sure, but Pater is a pretentious, slow, confusing mess of a film. It's quite likely the most irrelevant film you will ever have the misfortune of seeing. The summary is exactly as it sounds — you don't know if Lindon and Cavalier are being serious, or if it's all a joke. If it is a joke, then yeah, I don't get it. But then again, I'm not from France. But maybe that's all make-believe?

I decided not to rate the film. Sure, the Twilight films aren't intended for straight males such as myself, but I would feel comfortable rating those. I'm not rating Pater because I have never felt so alienated by a film in my 21 years of seeing movies. There is nothing for me to enjoy, appreciate, or critique in Pater, because I am not equipped with any of the experiences necessary to do so.

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