2006 Cannes Film Festival | Day 5

Stinky feet and Southland as Pete Timmermann reports back to you from the 2006 Cannes Film Festival in France.


So, while I was watching Southland Tales today, about half an hour into the film a really vile smell drifted over to me. It smelled more like someone who stinks in general rather than someone having farted, which would be the most logical explanation, since it smelled very bad and occurred very abruptly. Still, since we were a couple of reels into the film, and it was packed, and no one was moving, it didn’t make sense that someone would suddenly start stinking. It wasn’t hot in there. And yet, the smell persisted, and after about an hour of sitting there smelling it, I was starting to feel physically sick. I was sitting on an aisle seat on the balcony, and the seats are staggered in a way so that one is not directly in front of the other, but the whole “head being in the way” issue isn’t a factor because the balcony is seated stadium style. I had my notes on the film on a step beside me, and at one point, here about an hour after the smell first appeared, I reached for them to jot something down. As I turn to grab them, I am surprised by an enormous, calloused, bare foot about six inches from my head, belonging to the guy sitting behind me. I guess he took his shoes off and crossed his legs, which provided the repugnant odor in my area. This theory proved to be true when, about 15 minutes later, the man behind me left the screening, and the smell went with him.

But enough about stinky feet. The film last night that I didn’t know anything about, Iklimler, is actually a Turkish film from the same dude who made Distant, which was a hit here a few years back (although I wasn’t personally too impressed with it). The English translation of “Iklimler” is Climates; I guess the director has an affinity for films with vague, one word titles. Films like Climates are often unpleasant to sit through at the end of the day in the middle of the festival, because it is very slow, and by then you’ll just want to go home and go to sleep. Still, it was well received, including by me. I feel like I’ve said this about almost every film in the festival so far, but there’s this really weird, great sex scene in the film, and it was at that point, about half way through the movie, that I realized that I had been enjoying the film. It doesn’t hurt that it is the sort of film that is shot so well and in such beautiful locations that you feel like the world looks prettier on film on the big screen than it does in real life.

I kind of hesitated in doing so, but I went ahead and saw the 10:00 p.m. premiere of The Exterminating Angels in the Director’s Fortnight, sleep be damned. Again, it was another film about sex (not to imply that Climates was about sex—it wasn’t in the least—but almost every film I’ve seen here so far this year has either been about sex or had a great sex scene or both); this time the film centers on a filmmaker who is making a film about breaking taboos in average, non-exhibitionist girls. The film itself is not great when looked at objectively, but it is very successful in being a sexy film; the last time the overriding tone of a film was this successfully sexy was Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, and the last time before that I don’t remember.

This morning was the much anticipated and aforementioned screening of Southland Tales, the new film from Richard Kelly, the guy who directed Donnie Darko. I was both looking forward to it and dreading it; although I wasn’t a big fan upon first viewing, I have eventually come to like Donnie Darko, and Southland Tales looked interesting, and yet, it has a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes and started at 8:30 a.m., on a morning after which I only got about five hours of sleep. So, I loaded up on caffeine and went to work.

All of Kelly’s Donnie Darko hang-ups are firmly in place here in Southland Tales—the film has many elements of time travel and the apocalypse within (indeed, the first line of the movie is the narrator, Justin Timberlake, repeating “This is the way the world ends,” three times). Also, he has successfully maintained his knack for casting unlikely actors well—I first thought it odd that the announced cast of Southland Tales included such people as The Rock, Seann William Scott, Kevin Smith (as someone other than Silent Bob; in fact, he looks like an old member of ZZ Top in the film), and Sarah Michelle Gellar (who plays a porn star). I was talking about this with my sister a few weeks back, and she pointed out that Donnie Darko had a similarly bad-sounding cast, but worked just fine—Patrick Swayze? Drew Barrymore as a teacher? etc. But really, aside from all of his casting choices working just fine (I can’t think of anyone better for his roles than the people that he cast), you have to respect a man who gives Wallace Shawn a role that is a cross between his classic Vizzini and Dean Stockwell in Blue Velvet, as he does here. I can’t quite say that I absolutely loved the film, but it certainly was intriguing and I was never bored or risking falling asleep. After all, it took me a few viewings to warm up to Donnie Darko, so I think in the long run, I will like Southland Tales, as will Darko’s legion of fans.

There was not much in the way of films that I really wanted to see today—Southland Tales and the other competition feature, Aki Kaurismaki’s new film (whose name escapes me) were the only things that I had to see. I filled out the rest of my schedule with Over the Hedge, which I didn’t really want to see at all, and a Un Certain Regard film from Norway called URO. There are also a few market screenings that I could try to get into—the one I failed to get into yesterday, Everything’s Gone Green, as well as the documentary about the f-word called Fuck, and an indie that popped on my radar somehow called Side Effects—but they play opposite the Kaurismaki and I fear I wouldn’t get into them anyway. At the very last minute, I decided to not go see Over the Hedge, and instead try my luck getting into the press conference for Southland Tales, which seemed very unlikely. Much to my surprise, I got in pretty easily. In 2004 I went to one press conference (2046), last year I went to one press conference (Star Wars Episode III), and so far this year I’ve been to three. I would say that they have been much easier to get into this year than they were last (well, I also neglected to mention that I tried to get into the press conference for Match Point last year but was unsuccessful), but really, I went to the most in-demand press conferences each year, so my frame of reference is a little skewed. Also, it has been much easier to get a computer in the press room this year; last year I used to have to wait 30-60 minutes for one, whereas this year almost every time I’ve needed one there has been one available, no waiting. But wait; I’m rambling.

The press conference for Southland Tales was sort of odd. It was only attended by Richard Kelly, Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock, and Sean McKittrick, one of the film’s producers. There were two pretty Bulgarian girls sitting in front of me who were obviously fans of The Rock; they addressed two questions to him and would talk among themselves if a non-Rock person was talking, which was really frustrating. Not much said in the press conference was particularly revelatory; the key moments were Kelly saying that he intentionally goes after actors he feels have been pigeonholed in some way, and also McKittrick clearing up the confusion that you may have heard about regarding Kelly getting stopped when trying to come to Cannes, under the mistaken impression by U.S. security that he might be a terrorist. The deal here is that U.S. newspapers have written that he was stopped because he had the same name as a non-U.S. citizen who is a suspected terrorist, which is true, but the real reason why he had such a holdup was because he is a perpetual loser of passports, and the only passport he had with him when he was trying to come here to Cannes was an expired one. So, expired passport + same name as suspected terrorist = long holdup at the airport. Makes sense.

I need to stop talking nonsense here and take off and see the press screening of URO, and after that hit the Kaurismaki over in Debussy. There’s also an 11:30 p.m. premiere of Host, the new film from the Korean director who made Memories of Murder, over in the Director’s Fortnight, but there’s a more palatable screening of that tomorrow afternoon, so once I make tomorrow’s schedule and see if that one is opposite anything more important, I’ll decide if I should go to that one tonight.

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