2006 Cannes Film Festival | Day 10

Pete Timmermann brings you news, reviews, and idle chatter from the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.

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26 May 2006, 2:15 PM

The festival is winding down now, which is always such a strange feeling. There is literally nothing in the world that I would rather do than be at the Cannes Film Festival, but it is so exhausting that by the end of it, I’m actually kind of glad that it is ending on its own, because if it went on much longer, I’d probably die. Still, on the final days of the festival when the new programming gets slimmer, it’s hard not to be a little depressed and wonder what you’re going to do with yourself when there aren’t any more movies to watch.

It’s strange that this feeling has set in already, though; I’ve seen, what, 18 films in just over three days, and I have three more films to see today, and probably four tomorrow, so it isn’t slowing down that much. In past years they have had the awards ceremony tonight, the Friday night before the final weekend of the festival, and then just rescreen stuff for the final weekend (so I wind up not seeing many movies the last three days, because I’ve seen them all already), but this year the awards ceremony is on Sunday night, and there are new screenings today and tomorrow. Maybe it’s just an internal clock telling me that it is time for the festival to be over.

The first two films I saw yesterday were bad, as I said in yesterday’s entry, and I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about seeing Retrieval, the next one on my list, so I was all set up to not really like it, either. As it turned out, it’s a very effective Polish drama about a boxer who takes a job as a thug to support his immigrant girlfriend and her child. Like A Friend of the Family, there is nothing new on display here, but it is very well made and will surely be one of the nicer surprises I found at the festival.

After Retrieval let out I got back in line for the night screening of a competition film, which in this case was a Portuguese film called Colossal Youth. I was really kind of dreading seeing it, because it was at the end of the day at the end of the festival, did not sound particularly interesting, its production did not involve anyone I know, and, worst of all, it is 154 minutes long, the second-longest film I’d be seeing here at the festival (behind Southland Tales, at 160 minutes). And now that I’ve seen the film, I can say honestly that it seems almost like a joke that the festival programmers scheduled when they did; it was like they were daring you to walk out or fall asleep. The film is very, very glacially paced, filled with talking, no camera movement, no action, long takes, etc. There is practically no color used in the film except for dense blacks and whites, and things aren’t lit particularly well. I’d reasonably estimate that about half of the audience walked out before it was over, most in the first hour. To be honest, though, I kind of liked it, as did most of the others who stayed for its duration. I’d have to see it again to give much in the way of a reasonable critical assessment, but I found its slow, almost non-existent rhythms to be fascinating, and its dry humor endearing.

You know, when I wrote my Sundance diary this year, I got tons of angry emails from people who called me an idiot and a hack because I didn’t like a film that they saw there and liked. I was and still am suspicious that many of these emails were from people who had actually worked on the films that they were defending (they often displayed knowledge of the film’s production that it seems someone who had merely seen it would not have known), but still, it was disheartening. However, here at Cannes, I’ve gotten a bunch of emails from people commenting on this diary, and all of them have been very nice. They’ve all been recommending movies to me that I haven’t checked out yet or thanking me for not immediately dismissing some of the films that I liked and no one else did (of which there have been many this year), etc. Cannes people are so much cooler than Sundance people.

At 10:45 last night I saw the world premiere of Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, which is animated in the same way that Waking Life was, and stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and some others. Keanu, Downey Jr., and Linklater were all there (sitting three rows behind me, no less), so the room was crazy with starstruck kids. Like his Fast Food Nation that premiered here in competition last week, A Scanner Darkly is disappointing, especially coming from the usually very solid Linklater. Harrelson and Rory Cochrane’s performances are way too over the top, and the visual style, so fitting in Waking Life, doesn’t really add anything here.

A couple of notes on what other people have been saying and writing at the festival lately: For one thing, the French seemed to really like Marie Antoinette; in talking to people and reading reviews and things in international trades, the highest praise has distinctly been coming from the French. This has been reported otherwise fairly widely, including by me. I guess it was the Americans who didn’t like it; who knows. Also, Indigenes, the competition film I saw yesterday morning and didn’t like, has been very popular. Both it and Antoinette seem like real Palme d’Or contenders at this point.

This morning’s competition screening was a light French film called The Singer, which stars French celebrities Gerard Depardieu and Cecile de France. I’m not a fan of either, and I question the film’s place in competition, but the film was watchable enough, and didn’t really bother me much.

The last film I saw before coming here to write this was United 93, which I had failed to catch up with yet in the States. There was nothing screening opposite it that I wanted to see, so I went ahead and saw it here. Normally I wouldn’t bother to write much about it, as it has already been on regular release in the States for about a month, but I think it’s worth saying that it is a better film than anything in competition this year, and will surely be one of my favorite films of the year. It is absolutely riveting, and at times seems much too intense for it to have done as much business in the States as it has. Also, in the middle of one of the most tension-packed moments in the film there is a reel change, which the projector bungled, and the screen went black for a few seconds here at its first screening. That was probably the worst timing for a projection problem that I’ve ever seen in my life.

The rest of my schedule today is to see Two Thirty Seven at Debussy in about two hours, then the competition film at Debussy tonight (I forget what it is), and then the premiere of Clerks 2 at Debussy at 12:30 AM. Considering I’ve been up since 6:30 AM and will have to stay awake until 2:30 AM, and only slept four hours last night and 12 hours total in the past three days, I’d better go and load up on some caffeine.

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