Friday, May 21, 2004

Cannes #9

Friends: I was interviewed yesterday by Patrick McGavin for a feature he's writing for Chicago's "Reader", and it had nothing to do with the several movie websites, including, that have been picking up my comments and quoting me as "George the Cyclist". Patrick has been attending this festival, and many others around the world, for years, and has noticed that Cannes, more than any other festival, seems to attract people of an obsessive nature. He thinks that bicycling 800 miles to watch movies all day for two weeks puts me in that category, along with all the maniacal wheelers-and-dealers that pervade this place trying to buy and sell and distribute and get movies made. I've luckily been sheltered from such ilk by sticking to the safe and serene world of the big dark rooms with the dancing images. Movies may not be the true nature of what's going on here, but I don't mind my ignorant bliss. As with Godard's offering to this year's festival, "Our Music," which is divided into Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, the Heaven segment of his movie and the Heaven part of the Film Festival, its movies, is just the tip and the smallest part of it.

The market screening of "Our Music" at the Star Theater wasn't even a quarter full. It was less
obtuse than the usual Godard fare, but just as pedantic. It opened with his version of Hell, one
clip after another of battle scenes from the world of cinema. Purgatory was original footage of his own, which included himself and an assortment of characters including a couple of Native Americans haranguing an old guy stooped over a desk. Another character asks, "Why haven't revolutions been started by the most humane people." "Because they start libraries." Heaven was some nature footage that ended after barely five minutes.

Then it was another film about teen-aged girls, or at least a couple of 20-year olds that were
teen-agers at heart, in "Venus and Fleur" by Emmanuel Mouret of France. Venus is a flighty, free-spirited, quite attractive Russian girl and Fleur a repressed, dour, but intelligent, French girl. They both have unfulfilled longings, though they are not so desperately depressed as all the other teen-aged girls who have had their traumas portrayed here. They are boy crazy and can't seem to attract any despite flinging themselves at boys on the beach, contrary to expectations and reality. Despite begging reality, this was entertaining and not without a message.

Then it was another French movie, "Lightweight," by Jean-Pierre Ameris, about an amateur boxer who works at a funeral home and has an unlikely Asian girl friend, who he acknowledges is too good for him. He drinks too much and is always fucking up and then flees from the carnage. I was looking forward to a movie of athletic endeavor, as I'm looking forward to getting back to it myself, but there was little of that and what there was wasn't inspiring in the least. This movie just muddled along and is thoroughly sabotaged by a disastrously incongruous ending, though even altering that couldn't save it.

The festival is clearly winding down with less than 100 screenings to choose from on this Friday and the laptops removed from the "Variety" media center. Jesse and I had virtually no other choice than to start the day off with "Oh, Uomo" by Angela Ricci Lucchi of Italy. This was a documentary entirely of footage of casualties from World War I. It was the most gruesome movie that either Jesse or I have ever seen. There was one sequence of guys whose faces had
been deformed by injuries that I couldn't look at for more than a moment or two. But the worst was a couple minute operation on an eyeball that had people wincing and groaning throughout the theater. It made the legendary Dali-Bunuel avant-guard collaboration look like a cartoon. I was regretting I'd had any breakfast. Still, this was a seminal film we were both happy to have seen.

After "Clean", the latest from France's Olivier Assayas, I have seen nine of the 18 films in
Competition, or actually ten of the 19, as the wine documentary was belatedly added to the Competition category for some curious reason. "The Edukators" remains my favorite, and "Clean" ranks second. Maggie Cheung and Nick Nolte are both superlative with performances that could warrant tributes at Telluride this year. Cheung is battling heroin addiction and is
trying to win back the son she lost after her rock star husband died of a heroin overdose that she was implicated in. She serves a six-month prison sentence for possession. Nolte is her wise father-in-law who has custody of her son. Both are very reasonable and rational in contrast to the usual assortment of unstable, neurotics that are film fodder. We can all only hope age brings each of us the understanding and compassion that Nolte exhibits. Cheung is equally admirable.

The much anticipated and slightly delayed "2046" played last night, but only for those with formal attire or press passes. I hope to see it and the rest of the Competition films I passed on in the next two days when there is little else to choose from. The awards will be announced Saturday. Sunday, the final day of the fest, will feature a screening of "Kill Bill," Volumes One and Two back-to-back at 10:45 a.m. to be introduced by Tarantino. There will be an intermission, but the end credits to One and the opening credits to Two will be expunged.

Later, George

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