Cannes Diary 2007 | 5.25.07

cannes2007This turned out to be a great idea, as I’d never heard Breillat speak before, and she was just as fiery as I wanted her to be. For example, when one reporter asked her what her limits are in terms of content and the unpleasant subject matter she favors, she shot back (in French, the following quote is the translation offered by the onsite interpreter), “There are no limits. Only society has limits.” She also says that she instructed Asia to not read the book that the film is based on, because it is too long.

oldmistress

 

May 25, 2007
5:45 p.m.
 

The screening of We Own the Night last night in Bazin wasn’t quite as crazy as I expected it to be, and I got in without much trouble and even got a relatively decent seat. It’d be a stretch to say that I got a relatively decent movie, though—WOTN is a perfectly watchable but also very formulaic and dumb movies about a cop family (Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall) going after drug dealers. Everyone’s been talking about how sweet a car chase in it is, and it is nice, but that’s about all it has going for it. What I really don’t understand is how it wound up in competition here (as did director James Gray’s previous feature, The Yards); it’s a very run-of-the-mill film.

This morning I woke up early to see An Old Mistress, the new Catherine Breillat film. Breillat is, from my experience, pretty widely disliked by almost everyone, but I pretty much love her—if you imagine a female, French John Waters, you’re getting close. She’s made a name for herself by making very sexually explicit, often depraved, violent, and/or wholly unpleasant films, such as Anatomy of Hell and Romance. Her Fat Girl is one of my ten or so favorite films of the past decade. An Old Mistress stars Asia Argento, which seems like a perfect match, as they both are toughbrellirat women with out-there sensibilities, and while Mistress isn’t as good as I might have hoped, it is still pretty good. To be honest, despite my card-carrying fandom of Breillat’s, I wasn’t necessarily expecting to like this film, because it has been labeled by the press as a departure for her—it’s a 19th century period piece and was made on her biggest budget yet ($10 million). And while it starts a little slow, things start feeling like old Breillat again when Asia, who plays the sexual predator Vellini, pushes the caregiver out of the way to lick her boyfriend Ryno’s (Fuad Ait Aattou) fresh bullet wound, and it hardly lets up from there. Also, a little later in the film we are introduced to Breillat regular Roxane Mesquida’s Hermangarde, and she’s a welcome addition to any film.

An Old Mistress let out at 10:30 and the first press screening of three of the closing night film, Denys Arcand’s The Age of Ignorance, was in Bazin at 11, but I figured I wouldn’t even try, since it was screening twice more and I had the opportunity to go to the press conference for An Old Mistress instead. This turned out to be a great idea, as I’d never heard Breillat speak before, and she was just as fiery as I wanted her to be. For example, when one reporter asked her what her limits are in terms of content and the unpleasant subject matter she favors, she shot back (in French, the following quote is the translation offered by the onsite interpreter), “There are no limits. Only society has limits.” She also says that she instructed Asia to not read the book that the film is based on, because it is too long.

Since the opportunity presented itself, after the press conference I briefly went to the official Cannes Film Festival gift shop thing, but they didn’t have anything good (I didn’t expect them to), and then went back to my room for a four hour nap. Now I’m going to run off to Debussy to catch the 7 p.m. screening of a Japanese film called The Haunted Forest, and then tomorrow morning is the last in competition screening, which is the new Emir Kusturica, Promise Me This. Cannes has a weird tendency to program the best in competition films first (not counting the opening night film, if it is in competition) and last, and Kusturica is one of the directors that made me love international cinema in the first place, so I bet I’ll like it. But, to give you an example of Cannes’ best films first and last thing, in 2004 the first film was Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Nobody Knows (which is available on DVD and is wonderful, if you haven’t seen it) and last was 2046 (that might have been second-to-last, actually, but if it was, I don’t remember what the last one was), and in 2006 the first film was Summer Palace, which wound up being my favorite in competition film last year, and last was Pan’s Labyrinth, which I’m sure you already know about. In 2005 the last film was Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times, and I don’t remember what the first film was. The trend so far this year has continued, as the first film was the great Romanian film Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days, which most critics are currently favoring to win the Palme d’Or.│Pete Timmermann

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