Friends: Sean Penn knows cinema well enough to recognize that "Fair Game" is so good that it didn't need his presence here to insure its success. If he were an adulation-craving star he would have swum the Atlantic to be here to bask in the accolades for his performance and the greatness of this movie. Instead, he's in Washington attending hearings on Haiti, just as would Joe Wilson, the fiercely idealistic, morally upright and fearlessly committed former diplomat who Penn portrays.
Doug Limon brilliantly directs this true story of the outing of Wilson's CIA agent wife Valerie Perrin by the Bush administration in retaliation for Wilson disputing in a New York Times op ed piece Bush's claim that an African country supplied Iraq with uranium, his justification for invading Iraq. Limon has come a long way as a director since his first film "Swingers" in 1996.
Naomi Watts is also sensational as Perrin. It is meticulously detailed enough to be a documentary, and does include quite a few clips of Bush and Rove and Chaney and Rice. Rush Limbaugh and the conservative right will do their best to suppress and condemn this. This film could sweep the Oscars. Whether it will win the Palm d'Or here is another matter, even though it is by far the most powerful film of those in Competition so far. It might be too commercial. One never knows with juries. One of the nine jurors, English actress Kate Beckinsale, confessed that with an eleven-year old she hardly gets to see many movies.
"The Robber" was also a very authentic portrayal of the true story of an Austrian bank robber/marathoner. The robber in this German film is as obsessed about robbing banks as I am of seeing movies when I'm at a film festival. And as I put my bike to use to get to a distant theater, he puts his legs to use after a robbery running for miles and miles.
He is so obsessed about robbing banks he's back at it the next day even after a 100,000 euro haul. Once when he is thwarted at one bank when all the money falls out of the bag the teller has put it in when she passes it to him over her window, he knows he can't linger and scoop it all up, so he just runs a few blocks and robs another bank just as the cop cars are rushing to the first bank.
He is a champion runner. His parole officer knows to show up at a marathon to have a talk with him after he hasn't seen him in two months. The robber fears the law is closing in on him, so he clobbers him with his trophy and runs off. That sets off a massive police hunt, the largest in Austrian history. There is lots more running to come.
Just as a bicycling scene in a movie gives me a warm glow of delight, so too do driving scenes down rural roads filmed through the windshield. It is the same view I'm so accustomed to seeing as I'm perched upon my bicycle seat. It sets off pangs of longing to be on my bike, but also stirs a rush of fond memories. I was in a state of near ecstasy watching the Russian Competition entry "My Joy," as it follows a truck driver through forests and small towns. It hardly mattered that it didn't have the most coherent of plots.
I made my first appearance at the distant Director's Fortnight theater for "The Joy," a Brazilian fairy tale about teens who can walk through walls made by a couple of young directors. With the festival winding down there aren't so many films to choose from. I was sorry I had to see this film, though I did learn that jackfruit can be found in Brazil. I discovered it for the first time earlier this year in Uganda. I wished I'd known about this sweet, juicy, delicious fruit when I biked through Brazil back in 1989, though the eating there was pretty good otherwise.
Just before Thierry Fremaux scampered up the steps to the stage in the Debussy Theater to introduce American Lodge Kerrigan and his cast of "Rebecca H (Return to the Dogs)," Scott Fondras and a European critic slipped into the seats beside me. Fondras was telling his friend that he was flying back to New York after the festival and then had to return to Romania.
Kerrigan wore the most ill-fitting tux of the festival. It looked like it might have been used by David Bryne in "Stop Making Sense." Kerrigan said, "I don't make many films (this was his fourth) so its nice to be back at Cannes. I'd say enjoy the film, but if you know my work, that's not the right word to us." He also got laughs when he said this film was a musical, then repeated, "No, it is."
Kerrigan has a hard time scraping up money to make his films. This was a French production staring two French actors mostly speaking French. One of the story threads is Kerrigan shooting a Grace Slick bio pic, allowing him to make several appearances in the film. He gently induces his leads to reshoot a scene all too many times. His two actors don't seem to mind, but it was a bit much for the audience. It happened early enough that people hadn't started walking out on it at that point.
About twenty minutes into the film Foundas started taking notes on a large notepad that he held up near his face. Fortunately he wasn't using an illuminated pen. This 75-minute film had a bare bones script with minimal dialogue. There are a couple of extended swimming scenes, one in a pool and another in a lake, and a long walk. When the film concluded, Foundas turned to his companion and said, "auteur masturbation."