Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Cannes #7

Friends: The Fest is more than half over and with the end in sight, I'm growing ever more obsessive about seeing films. For the second day in a row I squeezed in a sixth film. At six a day I could see all 1,275 films in 213 days rather than 255 at five a day. Th extra film prevented me from making my daily visit to one of the two supermarkets, Champion and Monoprix, that are just a few blocks from the Palais, where I can grab some quick deli fare rather than patronizing the more expensive kiosks dispensing paninis.

There are no rules against eating in the screenings, at least yet, though I seem to be the only one doing it. There are no concession stands in the theaters, not even offering cola or Evian. I try to be as discreet as possible when eating, and even have a favorite secluded nook in the last row of the Palais up in the stratosphere, where I can have a picnic of tabouli and potato salad and cheese roll and quiche without disturbing anyone. Still, I fear the day when signs go up forbidding eating or even bringing food into these theaters. That'd be the end of Ebert at Cannes. I doubt he would countenance being patted down for Raisinettes whenever he wanted to see a movie.

I resumed my movie-going after yesterday afternoon's Internet break with "The Heart is Deceitful...Above All Things" by Asia Argento of the U.S. The title is a quote from the book of Jeremiah. The movie centers on a young boy of the same name whose sexy and sex-obsessed mother is continually abandoning him when she runs off with one deadbeat after another. This ought to have been a very disturbing and heart-rending movie, but the only thing disturbing about it was that it wasn't. His mother gives a very engaging and energetic performance and the kid is good as well along with much of the supporting cast, making it very watchable, but far
from essential viewing, not even for the Peter Fonda cameo as a Bible-thumping fanatic or the kid's rendition of the Sex Pistol's song about the anti-Christ.

The Critic's Week screenings are the only ones here preceded by a short. Usually I can do without them, but the short preceding "Calvaire" allowed me to arrive late and not miss the feature. "Calvaire" was the first film by French director Fabrice du Welz and stars the husband from "With a Friend Like Harry." This was another thriller, though it unintentionally trespassed on sci-fi, as the story is so far-fetched its almost as if we've entered into a twilight zone that makes the world of "Deliverance" seem g-rated. This was the first movie I've attended that was booed, and with good reason.

I had 15 minutes to get from one end of the Festival to the other for the Godard film "Our Music." The mobs outside the Palais hoping to see Tom Hanks and the Coen Brothers promenading into "The Ladykillers" clogged the boulevard, forcing me to walk and delaying me just enough to come within 15 people of getting in. The crowds weren't entirely to blame, however. My entry was also delayed by Godard's crawl up the blue carpet of the Debussy Theater for all the photographs, as no one was allowed entry as that went on. There were still five minutes until the screening was to start, but it was slow going as this was one of the theaters where all bags are searched and bodies scanned, severely slowing the seating process. Screenings always start promptly, and there is no seating once the screening starts, whether there are empty seats or not, which Jesse reported there were plenty of. Jesse was in long before me, as this was the highlight of the festival for him, seeing Godard in person. Godard is, of course, God to Jesse, former film student he is. We'll see if that's still the case when he turns 30.

Without having to endure Godard, I was free to make another choice. There wasn't too much at this eight o'clock hour that would fit before my ten o'clock screening, so I settled on "Trans-American Killer," something I shouldn't admit to. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. I was hoping by some miracle it might be that rare gem as "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer" was, which had similar intentions of appealing to the late-night cable crowd, but greatly transcended them. No miracle here. It wasn't even a road movie. The "trans" in the title referred to trans-sexual and there is no travel. It takes place entirely in Las Vegas and the first flurry of the killer's victims are strippers so there is plenty of T & A. The movie succeeded in being exactly what it wanted to be, and for me it was just another part of this colossal movie circus.

I ended the evening with an Australian film--"Somersault" by first time director Cate
. This was another of the slew of films featuring a teen-aged girl. This one was a 16-year old who understands her sexual power over men. When her mother catches her smooching with the mother's boy friend, the girl runs away to an Australian ski town. It is the end of the ski season and work is hard to come by. She uses her sexuality to find a place to stay her first night, but she doesn't always get what she wants. Her struggles are well-told, and once again it was a pleasure to watch something other than the one-dimensional portrayal of teens that Hollywood inflicts upon us.

Jesse and I stopped off for a post-midnight panini along the beach on our ride home, as he too had neglected his eating during the day in favor of movies. That may have contributed to our late start this morning--not until 8:05 with a 8:30 screening to get to the competition screening of Walter Salles' "The Motorcycle Diaries" about Che. We made it to the Palais in a record twelve minutes, but were once again thwarted by the inspection process. Everyone in line could have easily filed in if we didn't have to be gone over. For the first time I witnessed some testiness from a crowd as we crushed forward. Jesse and I were within 15 people of getting in when "complet" was announced. It was no great loss as this film had already played at Sundance and would be coming to America soon enough.

I zipped over to the Arcade for a market screening of something called "The Last Tunnel." Other than its running time, I knew nothing about it. So when I was told the print hadn't shown up, I had nothing to be disappointed about. Then it was over to festival central with its couple dozen screening rooms where I could surely find something. I was attracted by the title "Out on a Limb." There was a mob at the entrance to the theater, but they were all there for "The Edukators" in the adjoining theater. It was gladdening to see the interest.

The handout for "Out On a Limb" amended the title with "A man for all seasonings." This South African production was a black comedy about a TV chef who has just been fired from his job, but gets caught up in a hostage situation by a couple of bumbling crooks. It becomes big news, giving the chef a chance to revive his career. When the crooks want to call it off, he won't let them until all the attention from the case enables his agent to book him on Oprah. His agent has already gotten him a new and better show and other deals, but he wants more. The film had the bumbling start of typical market fare--just another film by people who haven't mastered the art of film-making--but after the initial simmer, once the plot starts cooking, I was hooked. For the first time in the festival I was laughing audibly, and so were the other 20 or so people in the screening. This film made my day, and the day had only started.

I had plenty of time to reflect back on it as I day-dreamed my way through "Marseille" by Angela Schanel of Germany. All that kept me in the theater was watching the people stream out wondering if I'd be the last one there. Not everyone left, and many of those who stayed may have stayed just so they could boo it, though not very vociferously. No need to recount this drab story of a young German woman who swaps apartments with someone in Marseille to go live there for a spell and then return to Germany to resume her life and then return to Marseille.

So much for my afternoon break. Back to the movies, George

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