Left: Cam Archer, Shit Year, 2010, black-and-white film in 35 mm, 95 minutes. Right: Woody Allen, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, 2010, color film in 35 mm.


PREMIERING AT THE DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT, Shit Year, Cam Archer’s second feature (after 2006’s mildly experimental gay coming-of-age tale Wild Tigers I Have Known), is more satisfying to say than to watch. Ellen Barkin stars as Colleen West, a just-retired actress still recovering from her breakup with Harvey (Luke Grimes), a perfectly sculpted ephebe who costarred with her in a play. Archer’s film, mistaking willful incomprehensibility for artfulness, unfolds as a series of disjointed, dead-end vignettes (some involving Colleen’s experiments with “simulations” to bring Harvey back, others including craft projects with apples supervised by an irritatingly buoyant neighbor) that Barkin, ever game, can enliven only so much.

Shit Year would also be an apt title for Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, an assiduously researched documentary on the global economic meltdown of 2008, presented as a Special Screening at Cannes before its official theatrical release later in 2010. Ferguson, a political scientist, follows the same methodology he employed in his first doc, 2007’s No End in Sight, about the American occupation of Iraq, assembling a vast array of talking heads to explicate the pathology of unregulated markets. (Sometimes quite literally: one interviewee is a psychotherapist whose clients were Wall Streeters.)

Though the world is still reeling from financial calamity and the euro continues to slide, the hordes of ticket hopefuls outside the Palais fretted not over international crises but about getting inside the Lumière theater to see the latest by Woody Allen, a Cannes perennial. Several waved handwritten signs pleading “Une invitation: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger s.v.p.” or simply shouted their request, their vocals, in a moment of supreme auditory and cognitive dissonance, mixing with those of the man hawking copies of Libération.

Melissa Anderson