Editor's Note: Most moviegoers don't get to attend many film festivals, but festivals are important nonetheless. What happens at a festival can influence how, when, and even whether a film will get out to audiences.

Two of our regular critics are at the Virginia Film Festival this weekend, and will be sending us daily updates, capsule reviews, and reflections on what they see. (Here's Ken Morefield's report on day one.)

Le Joli Mai (directed by Chris Marker)
A Touch of Sin (directed by Jia Zhangke)

At first glance, it's a strange double feature for my second day at the Virginia Film Festival: Chris Marker's Le Joli Mai ("The Lovely Month of May") and Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin. One is a 1963 documentary—reedited and restored in 2009—which provides a portrait of Parisians in 1962, after the Algerian War. The other is a fictionalized portrait of modern-day China that weaves together four stylistically violent, ripped-from-the-headlines stories which intimate the brutality of unrestrained capitalism.

I'm finding that one of the more interesting qualities of the film festival experience is that drawing connections between films that seem disparate is almost unavoidable.

In Marker's documentary, May 1962 is the aftermath of a ceasefire with Algeria—and the first peacetime in France in 23 years. Yet, as Marker takes us through the streets and into the neighborhoods of Paris, he proposes a question that seems to haunt the people he puts on camera: what now will make them happy?

The reactions vary, but the interviewees—the tailor, poet, student, housewife, stockbroker, competitive dancer, and a range of other citizens—all struggle to make sense ...

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