2006 Cannes Film Festival | Day 11

Pete Timmermann reporting live from the 2006 Cannes Film Festival in France. This is Pete’s last entry in the series. Look for a wrapup in the July issue of PLAYBACK:stl.

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27 May 2006, 3:00 PM

Whenever I’m at big film festivals like this one, there are always a few days in the festival that go really badly, where all the films I see suck, and I get shut out of screenings, and things start late, and stuff like that, and then there are some days that go really well when a lot of interesting stuff happens, I see good movies, I do things I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do, etc. Yesterday was one of the good days.

After I wrote my diary entry I went to see the public screening of Two Thirty 7 at Debussy. The film itself is watchable but not very good (it’s a high school-set drama that very, very blatantly rips off the style of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, which won the Palme d’Or here in 2003), but there’s a scene in the end of the film where one of the characters slits their wrist with a pair of scissors. The film seems to have been made on a low budget and everything about it is pretty sub par, but let me tell you, that wrist slitting scene is tremendously effective. (Something tells me that this is one of those things where now, if you see the film after having read me talking about that scene, you will be underwhelmed—you’d’ve need to have seen it without knowing anything about it for the scene to effect you as much as it did me and the rest of the audience I saw it with.) If you’re curious, when I say the scene is “effective” I mean that it is shocking and realistic; after fudging around for a while trying to work up the nerve, the character eventually kind of stabs themselves in their wrist (the hand is real, as it move around and reacts, and the wrist doesn’t look lumpy or prosthetic in any way), and blood spurts out kind of at an interval with when the person’s pulse would be. But anyway, I’m not sure exactly what happened, so don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure that someone near the back passed out as a result of that scene, because immediately after it someone was shouting something about needing help in the back in French, most of which I couldn’t understand. It was all very exciting.

Next up was the night’s competition film, Buenos Aires 1977. It wasn’t irritating or anything, just kind of boring and straightforward and easily forgettable.

After that I killed a few hours eating and catching up on internet stuff, and then I went to the world premiere of Clerks II. I wish I could show 15-year old Pete the cool stuff that 25-year old Pete gets to do—you know, spending an hour in a room with Sarah Michelle Gellar, sitting a few rows behind Kevin Smith and the cast of Clerks at the world premiere of their new movie, spending two weeks every year in the south of France seeing the world’s best movies before anyone else gets to, etc. I would’ve dirtied my pants and fainted if I had known I’d get to do all of this stuff.

But anyway, yeah, Clerks II. As I implied above, the original Clerks was a favorite of mine around the time I was figuring out that film was something that I wanted to pursue, and I’m still very fond of that film to this day. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the sequel, because Kevin Smith seems to be losing relevance with every film he’s released since Chasing Amy, and also it just doesn’t seem like the best idea to make a sequel to Clerks in the first place. And now that I’ve seen it, I’m still not sure what to make of it, which is how I think this film is going to work—if you expect to love it, you’ll love it; if you expect to hate it, you’ll hate it; if you expect to be indifferent to it, you’ll be indifferent to it. There are some inspired jokes and memorable scenes and great dialogue, but there is also way too much slapstick, too many jokes that just fall flat on their face (it was awkward being in a room with almost 2000 people in it and not one of them would laugh at what was obviously supposed to be a joke), and it is very tonally inconsistent. There’s also a seriously creepy scene where Kevin Smith’s real life wife, who plays Dante’s fiancée in the film (which is creepy enough, as he cast his wife as the girl who makes out with someone other than him the whole movie), completely extraneously shows her breasts in a sheer bra. This all wouldn’t be so bad, but you can make a valid argument that she’s not even an actress; she doesn’t seem to pursue roles aside from those that Kevin writes for her, and then he writes stuff like this. It was pretty awkward to watch. But then all is forgiven when Jason Mewes does a spot-on impression of Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs. The casting of the new roles in the film (Kevin’s wife aside) is uniformly good, with Rosario Dawson especially standing out in a difficult to sell role as the manager of the Mooby’s where Dante and Randall have taken employment. I think Smith (who attended the premiere in a tuxedo top, cummerbund, and blue jean shorts and sneakers) still has some good films left in him, but God knows when they’ll come out.

After two hours and 45 minutes sleep (roughly the running time of Southland Tales), I got back up and caught Pan’s Labyrinth, the new film from Guillermo del Toro. It looked like a dark horse of the competition, as it is the last film to screen in competition, and it doesn’t come from a director people expect as much from as, say, Sofia Coppola, and the screenshots and clips and stuff I’d seen from the film all looked great. Looks like my instinct was right, as the film is as good as it seemed like it might be, and everyone has been talking since its screening this morning about how it is their new favorite film in competition (it’s still edged out by Summer Palace in my book, but Pan certainly gives Palace a run for its money). Pan’s Labyrinth is like a kid’s movie for adults; the story is basically a fairy tale and it takes place in a fantastic-looking universe (the visual style of the film seems somewhere between the David Bowie-starring Labyrinth of the 80s, last year’s Mirrormask, and Jan Svankmajer’s films), but it contains fairly strong scenes of violence and there’s some language and stuff that couldn’t easily be cut to give the film a kid-friendly rating. What’s great is that it works, and the viewer gets the same feeling of wonderment that you remember getting as a kid watching Fantasia or something. Somehow I doubt that Pan will win the Palme d’Or, but a jury prize or directing award for del Toro seems relatively likely.

My screening schedule this morning was pretty tight, so after Pan let out I had to get directly in line for the out of competition closing night film, Transylvania, which stars Asia Argento and was directed by Tony Gatlif, who won the best director award here two years ago for Exiles. I barely got in (I was second- or third-to-last to get in, and had to sit way in the front), and the movie blew. Gatlif has a very recognizable style and I’m sure there are people who really like him, but I’m not one of them, nor have I ever met anyone like that.

And finally, I saw the new Johnnie To film, Election 2, a sequel to the competition film here last year. I’m not a fan of To’s, and Election 2 is no exception. It’s two slowly paced and unoriginal for me.

Since lately these diary entries have been short due to lots of films seen and no time to write (and also being to out of it to make much sense), I realize that some of my reactions to the films I’ve seen have been sort of flip. I have a little time today, so I thought it would be fun to apply star ratings to all of the films I’ve seen so far, so as to give you a point of reference. It looks like I’ll only be seeing one more film this festival, the Pang brothers’ Recycle tonight (they aren’t rescreening Paris, Je T’aime, which really bums me out), so I’ll have to forget about it (this will be the last entry). Sorry.

Anyway, here we go, in alphabetical order (also, note that the ratings are on a scale of zero to four, that I’m not rating films that didn’t premiere here, and that the ratings are relative to the festival itself and would likely change should I just write a review of the films upon their general release):

Babel: ***1/2

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