They failed to find any charismatic or particularly interesting subjects. The early arrivals were all elderly in camper vans. The filmmakers didn’t draw out their fanaticism—how long they had been Tour followers and what drew them to The Tour and memories of their first Tour as children and subsequent Tours. They mostly just let them reminisce about their personal past, the men going back to WWII. When a couple of British guys in their 30s wearing Sky jerseys stop for water and say they are from London, the French guys react with “boom-boom. You had a lot of bombing.” The Brits were totally befuddled.
Only a dozen showed up for this first of the film’s two screenings and half walked out in the first half hour. I couldn’t do that. I was still enthralled by this mini-immersion into a world I have been a part of the past fourteen years. It was nice to be taken inside the various campers and witness their denizens react as they watched each day’s stage on television before it reached them, particularly excited by the exploits of the French riders Bardet and Barguil. They didn’t take kindly to fans who joined them who they could identify as being from Paris by their license plates and by their demeanor. As I well know, Parisians are less liked than Americans by the rural French. One commented, “They look like dogs and act like hogs.”
The filmmakers counted down day by day until J Jour (D Day) arrived when the masses finally converged and barriors were put into place and all the other accouterments. They were able to include a few shots of The Devil gladly allowing anyone to take their photo with him, though they didn’t catch his antics when the riders trickled past where the filmmakers had stationed themselves three kilometers from the summit. They capture the frenzy of the caravan dispensing it’s goodies. I didn’t have to look for myself as I was out in the Atlantic on the Queen Mary with Janina, having abandoned last year’s Tour after the tenth stage. I only recognized one group of fans, though I could fully recognize the flavor of the experience. I have one more bicycling film to look forward to—a French feature about a bike shop owner in a small town who has a secret that he never learned to ride a bike without training wheels.
I had high expectations too for the day’s other documentary—“The Eyes of Orson Welles” by Mark Cousins, film scholar without peer. Not a one of Cousins’ many film esssys has been a disappointment, and I knew he couldn’t fail on this as he is such a Welles fanatic that two years ago when Janina and I talked with him at the Traverse City Film Featival, where he serves on the board of directors, he showed us a Welles tattoo he had gotten the day before after watching “Citizen Kane” on the big screen for the umpteenth time. I barely recognized him here in a tight-fitting tuxedo introducing his latest film. He said it was his 21st time at Cannes and that he had many fond moments sitting in the first row of this theater, the Bunuel, that specializes in showing classics.
In his introduction he said so many films have been done on Welles we were probably wondering if there was a need for another. Cousins had been given access to the hundreds of sketches that Welles had composed during his whole life, going back to his early teens when he was a student at Chicago’s Art Institute. The film takes the form of a biography, as Cousins visits the many places he lived, beginning with Kenosha, and places where he shot film. As with all of Cousins’ films, it is so rich in material, it will merit viewing again and again.
When I noticed a Mapplethorpe film playing in the Market I assumed it had to be a documentary, but instead the American production company called You’re Outta Control Pictures attempted to make a feature of his life giving it the simple title of “Mapplethorpe.”. The actor playing Mapplethorpe was well cast capturing his energy and the ever present gleam in his eye, but this low budget film fails to give more than a by-the-numbers review of his life. Patti Smith disappears to Detroit early on and isn't heard from or seen until the end on his death bed.
Two other of the day’s features could have been documentaries as well—“Aga,” a Bulgarian film about two eskimos in the arctic and “Rafiki,” a Kenyan film about two lesbians. “Aga” played at Berlin and was seeking distribution in the Market here. It was full of remarkably intimate footage of the daily efforts of a husband and wife struggling to survive in their inhospitable environment.
“Rafiki” is a story of survival too, as two young women defy their parents and the norms of their society and become lovers. They are beaten and hounded. This was the first Kenyan film to be invited to play at Cannes, playing in Un Certain Regard. Julie from Telluride is one of three woman on the five person jury. They will be very much predisposed to award this very fine film. The woman director said her film couldn’t be shown in Kenya, though she said she was proud to be Kenyan,, bringing applause from the many Kenyans in the audience.
I began the day with another invited film, the Opening Night film “Everybody Knows” by the frequent award-winner Iranian Ashgar Farhardi known for his intricately plotted films. It’s not until half an hour in that this film taking place in Spain starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem answered the question of where it was headed after a wedding. Then the question loomed, as it often does in Farhardi’s films, is it going to work or is he going to be too cute and convoluted for his own good. It was too much for me and also for four of Screen magazine’s panel of ten critics who gave it a mere one star. Janina reported that Milos mocked it mercilessly on his WBEZ review. Ralph condoned the film and whenever we crossed paths later in the day he wanted to further discuss it. I didn’t care to give any more mental energy to justify or explain its many wrinkles than I had.
My screening was somewhat undermined by having to check my mini iPad. It hadn’t appeared on the list of banned items. That was a tragedy as while I await films I compose these jottings, so I lost a valuable twenty minutes of writing time and then another few minutes after the screening to retrieve my bag. It was absurd that I was denied my device when all around me people were pecking away on iPhones not much bigger than my iPad. Those lost minutes left me twenty people short of getting into the next screening in the Debussy, the Un Certain Regard Opening Night film “Donbass.” So I dashed over to the Arcades for “Raising Colors,” a French film about a 23-year old woman who enlists in the army to the chagrin of her mother. “Why can’t you just join the Green Party,” she asks, “if you want to help the country.” She is put in the position of being a secretarial assistant to a career guy. She is somewhat attracted to him and is frustrated he makes no pass at her. The secretary of the CEO in yesterday’s French wheel chair movie was similarly frustrated, even complaining to him that not once in fifteen years had he complimented her scarf or sweater. Such characters might now be written out of movies in this Metoo environment.