Monday, May 17, 2004

Cannes #5

Friends: The red-carpeted steps up the Palais for yesterday afternoon's screening of the Argentinian film "The Holy Girl" by Lucretia Martel were lined with the Swiss Army Guard of this festival, a purely ornamental security force as that at the Vatican, but adding to the pageantry of this event for the head-craning, camera-toting throngs all us lucky "invitation" holders had to wade through. There were no stars in the cast of this movie, but there are enough on the premises, that the masses are always hoping they might catch a glimpse of one merely going to a movie.

It was a balmy Sunday afternoon and celebrity-spotting was in full force. And since the
3,000 or so of us who would fill the theater all had to promenade up the red carpet, the blue-blazored official security force we all had to funnel past were taking their job very seriously this day, enforcing the stated policy of: "The use of an invitation implies a correct form of dress and behavior while climbing the steps and when inside the Palais. It also means you agree to maybe being photographed and/or filmed." Cannes is the festival with a dress code, though we aren't obligated to sign anything saying we'll comply with it, nor is it very well-defined nor very strictly enforced. Jesse, for the first time, was denied entrance for wearing a t-shirt, jeans and green tennis shoes. The guards cited each item of apparel as a violation, though all around him people were entering with not very dissimilar items of dress. As for the t-shirt, the gestapo added it wasn't clean. Not even Jesse's fluent French could get him past the pair of guards who objected to his attire, the same attire he has been wearing the entire festival. He's accustomed to being treated as a second-class citizen in Philadelphia by security guards where he works as a bicycle messenger, but never with such disrespect as here, he said. He did try another entrance and was let in.

I wouldn't have minded to have been denied entrance myself to Martel's awkward tale of a love triangle between a mother, her teen-aged daughter and a well-respected local doctor. The mother, of course, doesn't know its a love triangle and the doctor knows he's blundered and needs to end his relations with the girl. There was no applause whatsoever from the balcony after this Competition film, a rarity. There was just mere polite, perfunctory applause down below from those surrounding the seats of the director and cast.

From there it was a mad dash to the 7:30 screening of "The Woodsman", an American feature by first-time director Nicole Kassel that many were turned away from at its first screening this morning over at the Director's Fortnight. This film premiered at Sundance and already has a U.S. distributor, Newmarket, those brave folks who brought us "Donnie Darko" and Mel Gibson's lash-fest, so I could have held off on it knowing it would have a States-side opening, but it starred Kevin Bacon, who also starred in the lone film that Hollywood has granted us on bicycle messengers--"Quicksilver" from 1986--so I'm always partial to anything he is in. And I don't hold "Quicksilver" against him, just its makers. If it had only been half as good as "Breaking Away," it could have inspired a whole new genre of films. There's not a western that couldn't be remade as a bicycle messenger film. Here it is, nearly two decades after that lamebrain fiasco, and Hollywood has yet to recover from its first hapless portrayal of the world of bicycle messengering. We're well overdue for another.

Bacon was on stage to introduce "The Woodsman," along with the director and producers and co-star Benjamin Bratt and his wife Kyra Sedgwick, who is his love interest in this story of a pedophile recently released from prison after serving twelve years for fondling young girls. It was a sensitive, honest portrayal of a conflicted soul. Bacon, who also produced the film, does not disappoint. Too bad he didn't have a bike to commute to his job in the sawmill, rather than having to take the bus, or relying on occasional rides from Kyra.

My final and fifth film for the day was back at the large Debussy theater. The photographers,
official and unofficial, were out in force, as this Italian film, "Don't Move," starred Penelope Cruz and director Sergio Castellitto, latest Italian heart-throb. I'd be a big fan of Castellitto if I'd
had the opportunity of seeing his portrayal of Fausto Coppi, the legendary Italian cyclist, in his biopic that came out three or four years ago. Word was that the cycling sequences weren't very authentic. Unfortunately, the film never played much beyond the Italian frontier. Even if I had seen "Grande Fausto, II," I doubt I would have had much tolerance for this movie, the second Italian film in two days dwelling upon a well-to-do Italian and his young, working class mistress. Cruz plays his gawky love-interest. I absolutely didn't need to see this movie. I stuck it out until past midnight to see how much applause it would reap--beaucoup actually, as spot lights shined on Cruz and Castellitto in their seats just a couple rows from me. Almodovar was there along side them in their reserved row, about eight rows back from the screen. And the photographers were still there outside the theater awaiting their departure.

Sheryl Crowe is scheduled to sing at a closing night party. I may be tempted to stake that out myself in hopes that Lance may be accompanying her. According to he spent Wednesday and Thursday about 150 miles from here training on L'Alpe d'Huez, the most crucial stage of this year's Tour de France.

I began today with an 8:30 a.m. competition screening of the Austrian film "The Edukators" by Hans Weingartner. It opens with a well-to-do family of four returning to their mansion to discover it ransacked. The teen-aged boy is disappointed to find the stereo missing and the mother crestfallen that her porcelain soldiers are gone. The stereo, however, turns up in the refrigerator and the soldiers in the toilet. Then they discover a note --"Your days of plenty are numbered"--signed, "The Edukators." The "Edukators" are a pair of idealistic young men.
Sometimes the message they leave is "You have too much money." Where this movie was headed I knew not, but I was looking forward to the ride. Once again, I'll resist plot details, though I'm sure your average reviewer will spill all too many. At one point I feared the movie was going to lapse into mere rhetoric, but the action resumes and does not disappoint in the least. It would easily be my choice for the Palm d'Dor, but since it has none of the cinematic originality that juries here prefer to acknowledge, as in last year's "Elephant," or "Humanite" from a few years ago, it has little chance of winning top honors.

The last movie I have to report on before returning to the fray is "Woman Is the Future of Man" by Hong Sangsoo from South Korea, also in Competition. This was another movie about the lusting male. It ranged from light to not so light encounters. It was ho-hum, not very significant fare, especially compared to "The Edukators," a truly heartening film commenting on the times. I'd love to see it along side Michael Moore, who'd be heartily cheering the young men and their determination to stand up to the "capitalistic dictatorship." I'd especially like to see his reaction when one character says, "My father told me, if you're not a liberal when you're under 30 you don't have a heart, but if you're still a liberal after 30, you don't have a brain."

Later, George

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