Sunday, May 23, 2004

Cannes #11

Friends: The films are done, and I'm sorry to report I was denied seeing "Fahrenheit 911" for lack of formal attire. Since it won the Palm d'Or, its final screening was at prime time today, rescheduled from its original five p.m. slot, and as eager as I was to see it, I wasn't so desperate as to go scrambling for a penguin suit. All the men parading around at night as if they are headed to a state dinner is quite hilarious. May I never be one of them.

Moore has clearly been the star of this festival receiving hearty applause at his every appearance. He was the only dignitary to receive applause as he walked up the red carpet to the Awards Ceremony from the audience in the theater I was seated in watching the proceedings on a big screen. It was actually more applause than he received when he won the Palm d'Or, as it was such a surprise and not considered worthy of the Palm d'Or. Everyone is delighted to laud him for his anti-Bush politics, but few are willing to acknowledge his polemic as a film for the ages or to anoint him as an auteur. There was quite a huddle of us afterward trying to figure out how it could have happened. The jury had quite a time defending itself in today`s press conference.

Rumors had been rampant that Tarantino loved the Korean film "Old Boy", which won second prize, that also had few enthusiastic supporters. Tarantino would have loved to have given it the top prize, but his jury stood up to him on that one. Since they could get no consensus on anything else, they just copped out and decided to thumb their nose at Bush. The headline in Sunday's newspaper agreed--"Cannes: la Palme d'Or qui defie Bush." There were no great quarrels with any of the other awards except for the special mention that the Thai film "Tropical Malady" received. It was the only award that the audience booed. In the jury press conference Tarantino admitted there wasn't consensus on the jury for it, but that there had been a couple of people on the jury who had great passion for it, and the rest of the jury decided that if anyone could so enthusiastically embrace such a film, especially when it is the jury president, they'd go along with it. Then Tarantino looked around at his fellow jurists and asked, "Isn't that so." It was several moments before anyone else would speak and acknowledge himself to be the other consenting member of this unpopular choice.

Even though I maxed out at 60 films, the most I've ever managed to see at a film festival, this is one of the rare festivals I've attended where there hasn't been at least one film that I'm going home wildly enthusiast about, that I will be telling everyone they must see. I saw plenty of good films that I'm very happy to have seen and can highly recommend, but unfortunately, for your sake as well as my own, I do not have an ultimate film to exalt over. The closest I came to such exaltation was the American "Tarnation". "The Edukators" started out as such a film, but it lapsed into just a very good film, rather than a great film. Close behind were "Clean"
and "Moolaade." "Whisky" and "In Casablanca the Angels Don't Fly" were a cut below. The best of the young-women-in-distress movies were "Brodeuses" and "Or". And then a pair of French movies by established directors--"Look at Me" and "Right Now." I'll also fondly recall the French thriller "Hook" and the Mexican "Duck Season".

It was a surprise not to have seen something truly great, but an even bigger surprise to discover how easy it was to navigate this mammoth festival that dwarfs all others. I feared it would be something to endure like Sundance, battling the hoards desperate to get into the next "must see." But there was none of that frenzy and mania here. The film-goers were very orderly and professional. I had been warned that cell phones would be constantly going off in screenings and that I'd be distracted by people leaving prematurely. There was a minimum of phone ringing and those walking out generally were justified. Even before the festival was half over I began looking forward to returning, knowing that I'd learned many tricks and short cuts to make it even more enjoyable the next time. I nodded off in fewer films here than in any week or longer festival I have attended, further testimony to the quality of films and the minimum of hassle I had to endure.

And now I am thrilled to have the open road ahead of me so I can return to my true passion--that of the bike.

Later, George

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