2006 Cannes Film Festival | Day 6

Pete Timmermann reports live from the 2006 Cannes Film Festival: Southland Tales has yet to acquire a U.S. distributor; hopefully the same thing won’t happen here. I think the issue is more that the audience for Kelly’s films are more undergrad types than 60-year-old, jaded-ass film critic types.


22 May 2006, 5:30 PM

Since writing my entry yesterday I’ve had something of a discouraging time here. Don’t get me wrong—if the entire festival was like my last day I’d still love it; it’s just that things haven’t been going as smoothly and the movies haven’t been as good as I have been spoiled on in the past week. First of all, the Norwegian police thriller URO that I was headed off to see yesterday after clocking in here was boring. It wasn’t outright bad, I guess, but I just never got into it or the characters. After that I went to the Aki Kaurismaki film Lights in the Dusk. I had never seen a Kaurismaki film before but had always meant to, because he’s been recommended to me by a lot of people whose opinions I trust. I underestimated what a draw Kaurismaki would be, and when I got in line an hour before the film started (as I usually do) there were a pile of people in line already. As I haven’t seen happen since the very first film I ever saw at a Cannes Film Festival, Bad Education, the security guards let more people in than there were seats, and I wound up having to sit on the floor squished in with about 50 other people in the very back of the balcony for the duration of the movie. This was made better by the fact that A) Lights in the Dusk is only 80 minutes long, whereas almost everything else I’ve seen here has been two hours or more, and B) because Kaurismaki is as good as I’ve heard. I’ll have to track down more of his movies when I get back home. Also, let’s be honest—the reality of sitting on the floor, barely able to see the screen, and amongst way too many other people is crappy in practice, but in hindsight it is kind of exciting.

I got home early enough to get eight hours of sleep last night, but wound up getting in a lengthy argument of politeness with the old lady who lets me stay in her spare room; she thinks I’m not eating enough and wanted to make me dinner, which would have been welcome except that I had just eaten and wanted to go to bed. It was one of those weird things that you wind up madder about later because such an insignificant subject turned into such a long, irritating debacle.

This morning I saw The Caiman, a film by Nanni Moretti, an Italian film director whom I’m not familiar with. It blew. It was really loud and stupid and unfunny and undramatic and generally irritating. Hopefully it will wind up being my least favorite competition film of the festival, because I don’t want to have to deal with a film that is worse. Also, it committed one of my biggest cinematic pet peeves, the use of a song that was used memorably in another film, but when the new film isn’t referencing the old film in any way. It this case the song was Damien Rice’s “The Blower’s Daughter,” known for being used in the opening and closing scenes of Closer. (I don’t even like that song, but it still bugs me.)

After The Caiman mercifully let out I just turned right back around and got in line for the next feature in the Lumiere, X-Men: The Last Stand. I liked the first two X-Men films well enough but didn’t expect to like this one, because the director switched from Bryan Singer, who is talented and directed the first two films (as well as The Usual Suspects) to Brett Ratner who is untalented and annoying and directed the Rush Hour movies. I had read advance reviews in the trades that this film was bad and that it was Ratner’s fault and I wasn’t surprised, and while Ratner did his usual, idiotic job of directing the film, the real problem was the script, which was appallingly stupid and filled with every cliché and predictable moment you can manage. Also, it was stuffed with bunches of awful one liners (“Class dismissed” is a prime example of the stupid crap the characters were saying here), a trope of action movies that I’m pretty sure everybody hates. The cast is made up of talented people, but apparently they are talented people with no artistic integrity, because if they had any they would have never worked on this film. It is an utter disaster.

Speaking of utter disasters, Southland Tales has been getting absolutely crucified by the press here. I didn’t love it by any stretch but I did think it was pretty good and will probably watch it again at some point in my life, but man, the daily trades here are making it sound as if the film is as bad as the end of the world that it depicts. What’s curious, though, is that out of five or ten daily trades distributed during Cannes, only Variety has pointed out that the exact same thing happened with Donnie Darko: everybody was anticipating it before its Sundance premiere, but when it came out everyone was vastly underwhelmed, the film got a shitty release, and its audience was only allowed to find it after it was out on DVD. Southland Tales has yet to acquire a U.S. distributor; hopefully the same thing won’t happen here. I think the issue is more that the audience for Kelly’s films are more undergrad types than 60-year-old, jaded-ass film critic types.

The last film I saw before coming here was The Host, a schlocky Korean horror film from the director of the international hit Memories of Murder a few years back. (Memories of Murder didn’t get as much of a release in the U.S. as it did in the rest of the world, but it can be found on DVD pretty easily from Palm.) To be honest, while there were certainly things that I admired about it, I wasn’t much of a fan of Memories of Murder, but I did rather like The Host. When, within the first reel a big, not very realistic looking monster comes out of a river and starts eating people, I feared that the director intended it to be taken seriously, where it was actually goofy and kind of comical. It becomes readily apparent over the rest of the film that he did not, in fact, intend to be taken seriously. Last night was The Host’s world premiere (it’s showing in the Director’s Fortnight), so I hope it winds up being as successful as Memories of Murder was.

Now I’m headed off to get in line for the new Bruno Dumont movie (he’s the guy who made L’humanite and Twentynine Palms), which I think will be difficult to get into because he’s French, well known, and his film is short (90 +/- minutes). That’ll be the last film I see tonight, and I haven’t worked out tomorrow’s schedule yet, so that’s all I have to report for now.

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