Friends: The producer to the market screening of "The Open Road" was at the door gathering business cards from everyone who entered. He glanced at mine and said, "Sorry, but the North American rights to the film have already been sold."
"That's all right," I said, "I was interested in seeing the movie anyway."
If Joan were here, this would have been the movie she would have wanted to see more than any other in the festival as the cast included two of her all time favorites--Jeff Bridges and Lyle Lovett. Lovett has just one scene as a bar tender at a fancy Memphis hotel and doesn't sing or even hum, though Bridges does get to sing and among his many wise cracks, one refers to humming. Bridges, along with Justin Timberlake, star in this father-son reconciliation/road movie. Bridges is a retired baseball star and Timberlake an aspiring major leaguer. They haven't spoken in nearly four years. Timberlake flies from Texas to Cleveland, where Bridges is attending a baseball convention signing autographs, to convince his dad to come to his ex-wife's hospital bedside before she undergoes major surgery.
They meet in the autograph line. Bridges is a rollicking, fun-loving, out-going raconteur who thrives on inter-acting with his fans. He loves telling stories of his ball-playing days. Timberlake is very reserved and moody. Bridges does agree to return to Texas with his son, but when they get to the airport, he discovers he has lost his wallet and ID, so they won't let him on the plane. Timberlake's girl friend, who came along, suggests they drive. So they hit the open road in a Hummer of all things. Bridges said back in his day a hummer was someone in the church choir who couldn't sing. Bridges, as usual, delivers a solid, convincing performance with seeming ease, and like Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger," very much carries the film. I wouldn't guarantee though that this film will have much of a commercial life.
The same can be said for the "Fish Tank," the first of the 20 films in Competition to be screened, but not because it was a so-so effort, but because its subject matter and cast won't have much appeal beyond the art house and film fest circuits. It will be highly acclaimed in those realms. A single mother just scraping by, living in a cramped, high-rise, low-rent apartment with two rebellious, foul-mouthed young daughters, 15 and 8, brings home a warm-hearted hunk of a guy, charismatically played by Michael Fassbender. All except the eight-year old like to drink and party. The 15-year old is a bit surly at first. Fassbender tells her, "That's a charming personality you've got there." He eventually wins her and her sister's favor. The eight-year old tells him, "I like you. I'll kill you last." The 15-year old is a bit of a saucy tart that Fassbender takes a liking to. The question is how long will Fassbender and her mother remain a couple and how ugly will it get.
The day's second Competition entry,"Spring Fever" from China, will be welcomed at gay film festivals, but not much elsewhere. A young woman is not happy at all when she discovers her husband is having an affair with a man. Lucky for them she isn't there when they have a prolonged intimate shower together, just one of several graphic sex scenes that will probably prevent this movie from being released in its home country.
Documentaries on the environment proliferated the last couple of years at Cannes. This year it seems to be documentaries on man's spiritual state. Along with yesterday's rather lame doc on God, there was a documentary on the meaning of life, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." I missed its lone screening. Today, though, I saw "Revolution 2012," a German production maintaining that the year 2012 has great cosmic significance and could lead to an awakening for the planet's population as predicted by the Mayan calendar, the I Ching, and certain crop circles. Various physicists and philosophers comment on the supernatural and man's spiritual evolution.
The Swiss documentary "Nomad's Land" also tried to offer assurance that there is hope for the future. Last week it won a $20,000 prize from the San Francisco film festival. The film retraces the trek of Swiss writer Nicolas Bouvier from Geneva to India in 1953, based on his book, "The Way of the World." Unlike the director of the God Documentary, this director did not show himself once in the film, just providing a nonstop commentary of his trek through the mostly rugged wide open spaces of the nomadic people of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I slipped in two other features for another seven film day, one from Israel and the other from Chile. "The Debt" from Israel was a thriller about three young Israeli agents who captured a Nazi prison camp surgeon in 1965. It was quite a coup, but before they could return him to Israel for trial he managed to escape. They didn't want to admit it, so claimed that they murdered him in an escape attempt and disposed of the body, knowing that he would disappear into oblivion. They return to Israel as heroes. But 35 years later, the Nazi, who is living in a Russian nursing home, confesses to a reporter for a small town newspaper who he is. Before the story gets out and the three Israeli agents are humiliated, two of the three return to assassinate him. I was rooting for this tale of intrigue, flashing back and forth between the two eras, to be as good as "The Counterfeiters," which played in the market here two years ago after debuting in Berlin and went on to win the Oscar for best foreign picture. That is a high standard that it falls short of.
For my final film of the night I was in line for Francis Ford Coppola's "Tetro," the opening night film in the Director's Fortnight, but the line was so long and it was so late in getting started, potentially keeping me out until past one, I opted to slip over to the Critic's Weekly for the Chilean film "Huacho," another film about a family just scraping by, not always having enough money to pay for their electricity before it is shut off. It is a rural family. This could have almost been a documentary. It is a series of slices of their daily life--the husband building a fence, the wife selling cheese along the road to passing motorists, a kid in school, a mother working in a restaurant. If it weren't so well done, I could have nodded off.
Looking forward to Jane Campion in Competition on Day Three and the heavy weights Tarantino and Von Trier and Hanaeke and Noe in the days to come.