2006 Cannes Film Festival | Day 8

Pete Timmermann reports from the Cannes Film Festival in France: Something tells me that this diary entry will be less coherent than the others, whose coherence is questionable enough as it is.


24 May 2006, 3:00 PM

If I recall correctly, while I have seen six films in the theatre in one day on maybe five or six occasions in the past, only one time has that occurred at Cannes, where schedule changes, late starts, and screenings that fill up without me in them are always an issue. However, yesterday it worked out (which explains the lack of diary entry, to any of you who were curious about my absence). What’s more, every time in the past I’ve seen six movies in a day the movies were all 80-90 minutes in length, or maybe five of them would be 80-90 minutes and one would be two hours. However, yesterday one film was 140 minutes, three were 120 minutes, and two were 105 minutes. By the end of the sixth film, I was pretty sure that my back would never uncrumple.

After leaving you day before yesterday I caught up with the new Bruno Dumont film Flanders. I’m in the minority in the critical community in that I’ve only seen one Dumont film, Twentynine Palms, and liked it, whereas most other people have instead seen The Life of Jesus or L’humanite if they’ve only seen one film of his, and regardless of their knowledge of his work, hated Twentynine Palms. Flanders is Dumont’s take on the war genre. Although I didn’t hate it, I wasn’t really impressed, either.

Something tells me that this diary entry will be less coherent than the others, whose coherence is questionable enough as it is. I don’t have as much time to write as usual today, have more to write about since I missed yesterday, and my brain has that awful glazed feeling you get when you haven’t slept a good amount and have been constantly mentally stimulated for over a week without a break.

The 140-minute film yesterday was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Babel, which stars Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, and Gael Garcia Bernal, among a cast of many. Inarritu is known for his Amores Perros and 21 Grams, which were both written (as is Babel) by Guillermo Arriaga. While Babel is good, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Innaritu is really stuck in a rut with Arriaga, whose scripts always are structured around interwoven storylines (Pulp Fiction-style), an obsession with death, and accidents that involve motor vehicles. It has divided the press here—a lot feel like it is the first real Palme d’Or contender (uh, did everyone forget Volver?), and others really felt like it was ridiculous and stupid, as a lot of it centers on coincidence, as do all of Inarritu’s films. I was happy enough with it, but hope that the next time Inarritu directs a feature it is not from an Arriaga script, or at least that Arriaga writes a different kind of script next time (Babel is said to be the final film in a trilogy that began with Amores Perros and includes 21 Grams, so maybe I’ll get my wish; still, the three films just feel like rehashes of one another rather than parts of a whole).

Before I forget (sometimes I’m way too linear about rambling about what I’ve seen), I wanted to mention something funny I read in the trades today. Apparently John Cameron Mitchell has organized Cannes’ first official queer party, and the invitations contained the following quote: “Meet other queers and those who love them. Find out: if that cute guy you’ve seen around the festival is gay or just French, if that hot chick is a dyke or just German, if that trannie is a bitch or just American.” I laughed and laughed when I read that, in the trades, of all places.

Speaking of crap I read in the trades, it looks like Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Rachel Weisz have joined the cast of My Blueberry Nights. I am appropriately excited.

After Babel let out I ran up to the Bunuel to see the festival’s short film program, which features shorts from such well-known people as Jane Campion, Gaspar Noe, Francois Ozon, and a couple of others. I hated Campion’s, as well as the shorts directed by the directors whom I didn’t mention above, but Noe’s was all right (though not quite what you’d expect from him; it was just a long, filmed monologue with no graphic sex or violence) and Ozon’s was pretty good.

After the short films I saw The Way I Spent the End of the World, a Romanian drama about a girl coming of age and getting interested in sex and politics. Although it isn’t great, it could have really been awful if not for the performance from the film’s likeable, young main actress, whose name I don’t remember. I should write more stuff down. (You should see my notes lately; the only thing I wrote about URO was “Poop,” as compared to the more than a page devoted to films earlier in the festival, such as Shortbus.)

When The Way I Spent the End of the World ended I u-turned and got back in line at the Debussy to see the next long-titled film, To Get To Heaven First You Have to Die. It’s about a kid who can’t get an erection, and spends the rest of the film either trying to get one or making vague apologetic actions because he can’t get one. It’s not as interesting as it sounds. In fact, it was pretty boring. (The only thing I wrote about TGTHFYHTD: “This is better than URO, but still pretty poopy.”)

The evening Debussy screening of a competition film was of the French heist thriller, The Right of the Weakest. I love a good French heist movie, but this one is boring an predictable, and none of the characters are remotely likeable (they have to be funny or cool or sauve or something; these guys are fat and old and mean).

When one sees six films in a day they tend to be in a weird mental state by the time they watch the sixth one. Normally this is bad and counterproductive, but yesterday my sixth film was the legendary midnight movie El Topo, which screened here in the Cannes Classics program, a film that requires a weird mental state. I assumed that Cannes had scored a film print of the borderline impossible to see film, but as it turns out, even Cannes can’t pry one from Abcko’s hands; it was projected digitally from a restored version, so at least it looked nice. Despite the lack of film print, it will surely be one of my greatest life achievements that I saw El Topo with a large audience, and Alejandro Jodorowsky and his two sons were with him, no less.

The only thing that might be able to top the untouchable coolness of seeing El Topo with Jodorowsky himself is seeing The Holy Mountain while sitting on the beach watching a screen that floats in the ocean in the French Riviera in May with Jodorowsky himself, which I’m doing tonight. But not until after I hopefully see Suburban Mayhem, a film I’ve been kicking around the idea of skipping to take a nap, and A Friend of the Family, the new film from Paolo Sorrentino, whose The Consequences of Love impressed me here two years ago.

So far this morning I’ve seen Sway, a slow Japanese courtroom drama that was pretty good but would have probably been better if I wasn’t so fried, and the new Sofia Coppola film, Marie Antoinette, which stars Kirsten Dunst. I think that the international press was expecting two things from Marie Antoinette: a scene where she utters “Let them eat cake” and a sweet beheading scene. Also, it has been reported on the internet for months now that Dunst was going to have a nude scene in the film, and the French trailer, which was leaked about a month ago, shows her ass. Well, the opening scene has Antoinette actually eating cake, and she does eventually say her famous line, although it is more of a throwaway scene than a key moment in the film. Sorry to disappoint you, but there is no scene where Dunst gets her head chopped off. And as for Dunst’s nudity, it’s questionable; there isn’t anything here that you can’t see in the French trailer. I’m guessing that as a direct result of the lack of factors two and three, the film got much booing when it was over. Again, like Southland Tales and some degree Babel, I liked Marie Antoinette fairly well; I guess my peers are expecting masterpieces, and are disappointed with what are merely good films. Coppola is still among the best of modern directors in her use of music (who else would use multiple Bow Wow Wow songs in a period piece?), and the color palette of muted pastels that she uses here are very pretty. The film looks at Antoinette relatively sympathetically; she appears to be a kid that got thrown into leadership way too early rather than an inept and dangerous leader, which may or may not be a reason why French people didn’t like the film. Granted, it is no where near as good as Lost in Translation, but I think that it is probably better than her also good The Virgin Suicides.

Well, I need to shut up now and decide if I’m going to see that one movie or go home and sleep for an hour or two.

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