2006 Cannes Film Festival | Day 3

Who sends their Film Editor to Cannes, France? We do…well we didn’t pay his way, but he is at the world’s most glamorous film festival and he is writing to you. See what Pete’s third day is like!


19 May 2006, 2 p.m.

You may recall that when I left the computer day before yesterday, I said I was off to the 8 p.m. screening of Paris, Je T’aime, but then yesterday I had to retract that, because I had the wrong day, but that when I finished that journal entry I was off to see the screening on the correct day. Well, you may also recall that I said the Paris, Je T’aime screening ended at 10 p.m. exactly if it started right on time (which would have been unlikely; most movies here start five to ten minutes late) and then I was to run to the screening of Fast Food Nation (which I could probably get to on time due to the generic late starting times of films; that is, assuming it didn’t fill up before I got there). At Salle Debussy, the room where Paris, Je T’aime was screening, they usually start letting people into the theater half an hour before screening time, and it takes a full half hour just to herd everyone inside. I got in line 75 minutes before the film started, and waited forever and ever. You have to understand that this was my fifth line of the day, and immediately prior I had waited in line for about 75 minutes and had not even gotten to see a movie as a result. 8 p.m. rolled around, and they still hadn’t even let the first person into the theater. Since this was going to impede on my seeing the 10 p.m. Fast Food Nation, which is “more important” because it is in competition, I decided to bail out on the line. I found out later that the film started 40 minutes late, so good thing I didn’t stick around. Now I either won’t see Paris, Je T’aime at all or will see it sans subtitles, which is a bummer because it is in French and my French is minimal.

I attended the London Film Festival in 2003, and it was the single worst film festival I’ve ever been to, by a long shot (I can think of seven different film festivals I’ve been to (not counting my having gone to them multiple years), and I may be forgetting some). However, while there I made acquaintances with a PR guy named Arnaud, who was the festival’s one PR rep who didn’t make a habit of lying, being lazy, or generally being completely stupid. As it happens, Arnaud also represents films at Cannes, and somehow always seems to have the ones that are the hardest to get into (he had The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and Chromophobia last year, and I believe he had 2046 the year before that). Every time he sees me in line for a film he asks the security guards if they will let me in early, despite my lowly yellow badge, and they always tell him that they can’t. I figured that he knew there was no way that they would let me in early, but asked anyway as a means of looking nice (it works). However, last night at the fantastically full Fast Food Nation screening, he asked and it actually worked. I was very happy, as I very well might not have gotten in otherwise.

There have been a few films lately that are fictional, narrative films but whose source material are bestselling nonfiction, non-narrative books. The only good film like this that I can think of is Mean Girls, which Tina Fey adapted from Queen Bees and Wannabees. Then, on the other side of the spectrum, there’re films like the Sundance premiere The Darwin Awards, which was probably the worst film at the festival. I had reservations about Fast Food Nation because of the history of films made in this way, but was still looking forward to it because it was directed by Richard Linklater (Slacker, Dazed & Confused, etc.), who is easily one of the best, most consistent, and most influential filmmakers of the past 20 years. Unfortunately, the film’s no good. It doesn’t really feel anything like a Linklater film (until Ethan Hawke shows up, that is), its points aren’t articulated very well, it is structured like Traffic but none of the characters are given room to develop, and it is generally just a superfluous film to Linklater’s career. The one money shot in the film that might have the same kind of impact that Eric Schlosser’s book had (Schlosser co-wrote the screenplay with Linklater), a shot of actual cows actually being slaughtered on a slaughterhouse’s killing floor, is a direct homage to a film that Linklater acknowledges that he loves, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s In a Year of 13 Moons. Hell, if you watch 13 Moons on DVD, Linklater introduces the film, and talks about the slaughterhouse scene. Oh well. Not that a reference to an obscure German movie will register or affect Fast Food Nation’s impact on the average viewer.

This morning I saw the new Pedro Almodovar film, Volver, which stars Penelope Cruz. The first film I ever saw at the Cannes Film Festival was Bad Education two years ago, which I felt was a misstep when compared to Almodovar’s three prior films (those being Live Flesh, All About My Mother, and Talk to Her). At first, I was similarly unimpressed with Volver, but now that I’m thinking about it and not actually watching it, I think that it was probably more an issue with it just starting slow, as it all came together in the end, and I rather like the film’s central conceit (which I cannot give away, as it is revealed fairly late in the film). I’ll need to see it again to be able to pass final judgment, but I’m pretty sure that I liked it quite a bit.

And then I saw Bug. Bug is screening in the Director’s Fortnight and was directed by William Friedkin, the guy who made The French Connection and The Exorcist, but who had not made a good film in a long time. Friedkin is a master of ratcheting up suspense and momentum, and here he does his best work since The Exorcist. It’s sort of hard to explain what exactly is going on in Bug without giving too much away, but it is basically a thriller starring Ashley Judd in one of her patented damaged woman roles, who is visited by her recently released, crazy ex-husband (Harry Connick Jr.) and meets a new guy who is kind of like James Spader’s character in sex, lies, and videotape. I am happy to report, without giving too much away, that Bug contains the best sex scene this side of Rosemary’s Baby. Also, it is worth noting that since Friedkin directed it and Judd stars, it will probably be released fairly wide in America (Lion’s Gate has it, and they’ve really been making winners of thrillers and horror films lately), but I imagine the vast majority of the mainstream audience will think it is absolutely ridiculous. In other words, it has “cult film” written all over it (too bad I saw it at 11 a.m. instead of at midnight).

Oddly enough, I only have three films scheduled for myself today, and I’ve seen two of them already. The only one left to go is a competition film called Red Road, which I know absolutely nothing about, including which country it is from. So far this festival I’ve seen eight films, three of which I thoroughly enjoyed (Summer Palace, Taxidermia, and Bug), and two others were pretty good, too (The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Volver). Those odds are fantastic; I hope the rest of the festival can keep it up.

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