Cannes Diary 2007 | 5.19.07

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I've long thought that Moore is a great filmmaker but a questionable political thinker, but that doesn't keep me from looking forward to his films (I didn't care for Fahrenheit 9/11, but have thoroughly enjoyed all of his other films so far). Sicko is a very good and very important film, easily of the caliber of Bowling for Columbine, but I think that it will lose a lot of its intended effect having come from Moore and not someone else; he just has too much baggage these days.

May 19, 2007
11:00 a.m.

nocountry

If you couldn't tell by the abrupt ending and lack of proofreading in the last festival diary entry, I decided that it was worth a shot to try to get into the 7:15 of No Country For Old Men at Salle Debussy. I mean, it seemed pretty unlikely (any English- or French-language film that hasn't already opened in its native country at the time of the screening is hard to get into in the 7 p.m. slot at Debussy), but still, it worked out in years past for films like Last Days and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, so I figured I might as well try. What else was I going to do, anyway? It's not late enough in the festival for me to be out-of-my-mind tired yet, so it seemed lame to go take a nap. So anyway, I stood in line for about 70 minutes, and did not get in, as expected. It was still worth the shot, I guess.

No matter how crazy the 7 p.m. Debussy screening of a competition film might be, I've never had a problem getting into the 10 p.m. rescreening of the same film that night at Bazin (that's generally how they schedule the competition films' press screenings-either one screening at 8:30 a.m. in Lumiere, or one each at 7 p.m. in Debussy and 10 p.m. in Bazin). They're often very close to full, but still, I've never been too scared about getting in. I was scared last night, though, and rightfully so-it did fill up, and a lot of people waited in line and did not get in. Fortunately, I was not one of those people (which is nice, because between the two screenings I waited in line for about 145 minutes to see the film-compare this to its 122 minute running time), perhaps only because the security guards let the blue tags and yellow tags in at the same time, when they almost always let all of the blues in before the yellows (I'm a yellow, if you hadn't already concluded this).

coensI'm a huge fan of the Coens, or at least Blood Simple, Fargo, Raising Arizona, and The Big Lebowski, but I have not liked their four most recent films much at all (those being 2000's O Brother, Where Art Thou?, 2001's The Man Who Wasn't There, 2003's Intolerable Cruelty, and 2004's The Ladykillers). I'm happy to report that No Country For Old Men makes it an even five Coen brothers films that I really like. It's a neo-Western based on the second-to-most-recent Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, which plays like a lot bloodier version of Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan. The villain of the film, a killer/drug runner named Chigurh, is played by Javier Bardem, who looks alarmingly like Brad Garrett in a creepy wig. Which leads me to wonder, why hasn't Brad Garrett ever been cast as a psychopath? Maybe he has; I try to avoid anything Everyone Loves Raymond related. Still, he'd probably be good at it. But anyway, yeah, the plot: cocky Llewellyn (Josh Brolin) finds $2,000,000 in cash and a bunch of drugs amongst a ton of dead bodies while hunting. He takes the money, and it turns out that it belongs to the aforementioned nut Chigurh, who comes after him. Tommy Lee Jones plays the about-to-retire cop on Chigurh's trail. But really, that description makes it sound like a million other movies. This is the Coens firing on all cylinders, and anyone who knows them knows that when they are, it is like no other movie.

After No Country For Old Men let out I went back to my room and slept for four hours before going off to see the new Michael Moore documentary, Sicko, this morning at Lumiere (it is playing out of competition). I've long thought thatmoore Moore is a great filmmaker but a questionable political thinker, but that doesn't keep me from looking forward to his films (I didn't care for Fahrenheit 9/11, but have thoroughly enjoyed all of his other films so far). Sicko is a very good and very important film, easily of the caliber of Bowling for Columbine, but I think that it will lose a lot of its intended effect having come from Moore and not someone else; he just has too much baggage these days. For example, there's an extended sequence in which he totally panders to the French system of free medical care, and while I agree that it, as far as I can tell, at least (and no, I'm not basing all of my information just on what I saw in the film), deserves it, but coming from Moore, his detractors will have an easy way to disregard it, under the typical Moore-hates-America-but-loves-the-Frenchies umbrella that they've been using for years (that and it is premiering here in France, of course). There's another section where, at least for a little while, he makes a hero of Hillary Clinton, which again can be easily disregarded coming from Moore. He's also gone a little too far in the Bob Greenwald method of being manipulative (which is subtly different but exponentially crappier than his usual, which is being satirical) with sappy music and montages of kids crying. Still, there's a lot to be learned and thought about here, such as the British pharmacist who says, "I haven't been trained that many years to be selling detergent," (why has Walgreens turned into Wal-Mart, anyway?), or his exploration of how captured and detained members of Al-Qaeda who were involved with the 9/11 attacks received faster, better, and cheaper medical attention than the volunteers who went to sort the mess out.

It looks like I'm going to catch back up with The Banishment, the in competition Russian film that I skipped in favor of Control the other night, at 1:30 p.m. today; I need to double check that it will be projected with English subtitles, but aside from that, it's a go. This is a relief, as this is my fourth year here, and I've only ever missed seeing one competition film (that being The Holy Girl back in 2004), which still weighs on me. After The Banishment lets out, I have to run off to Lumiere to go to the world premiere of the new Kim Ki-duk film, Breath, which they are letting journalists into on account of it being an in competition film that is only getting one press screening total, in the very dinky Bazin. I've seen something like five of Ki-duk's films, and generally am indifferent towards them (as I was to The Isle and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring) or outright hostile to them (like the heinous The Bow, which I saw here a few years ago), but I loved 3-Iron, so I know he has it in him to make a great film. Breath stars Chang Chen and the glossies from the film that came with the press kit are beautiful, so I'm hoping that this one is good. The fact that it was selected for competition is a good sign, too. After that I need to go to Debussy to get in line for Tehilim, which I know nothing about at this point, aside from the fact that it is in competition (not being in English or French, though, I can safely assume I'll get into that screening, which will allow me to maybe get eight hours of sleep tonight, which is about what I've gotten the last two nights total).│Pete Timmermann

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