CANNES FILM FESTIVAL through May 25. www.festival-cannes.fr
CANNES - outside, everything at Cannes looks the same as ever. From the Terrasse of the press room you can look left and see the offices of Le Film Français, the daily festival paper, on rue Félix Faure. Across the street is the huge billboard from Studio Canal. You can look right to see the Croisette curving away to the east, and the sharp-eyed might note the monumental Matrix promotion festooning the front of the Carlton.It looks just like it did last year. Auteur films are unspooling in the Competition and Director's Fortnight, and critics are arguing the merits of Hector Babenco's Brazilian prison picture, Carandiru, which to my mind wallows in sentimental prison stereotypes, and Gus Van Sant's Columbine film, Elephant, which resembles an unholy combination of Larry Clark without the grim, unerotic sex and Béla Tarr without the grim, unerotic Hungarians.
Buyers and sellers charge along the Croisette yelling into cellphones. There are homages to legends like Fellini in the Palais, while posters in the Market headquarters provide ample evidence that Rae Dawn Chong, C. Thomas Howell and Tom Berenger are still viewed as viable movie stars by someone.
Hey, it's spring and Lars von Trier has a new three-hour picture! It must be Cannes. Given the hour or so of abuse star Nicole Kidman endured in Dogville and the tendencey of Cannes juries to honour von Trier's actresses, I see another gilded tchotchke in Kidman's future.
Von Trier, for all his Dogme 95 noise, likes to stay at the thousand-euros-a-night Hàtel du Cap - not in the hotel, which he finds too crowded and noisy, but in some cabanas on the beach.
You have to read the screening schedule, but not very closely, to realize what's different this year. On Sunday night the Cannes Film Festival will close with a 77-year-old film.
It's not some suddenly rediscovered rarity. No, the festival is closing with Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. It's the same film it's always been, never especially rare or hard to see, but it's restored!
More importantly, it's coming out this year as part of a two- DVD special edition of the Chaplin classics (see sidebar, this page) by special arrangement between the Chaplin estate, the French company MK2 and Warner Brothers.
On the one hand, Cannes has closed with some abominable films over the last 15 years, and it's nice to know that there's a great one this year instead. Anyone remember Old Gringo? Or Isabelle Adjani's relationship comedy, Toxic Affair? No? You're lucky.
On the other, I wonder if this was part of the price Cannes paid to land the European premiere of The Matrix Reloaded, to charge the batteries of the opening weekend.
If you've ever wonder why opening-weekend critical reports on Cannes are often so disheartened, it's because the festival generally frontloads the glamour and tends to save the best films until the tourists go home. Mike Leigh's Secrets And Lies is the only film I can recall that went on to win the Palme d'Or after screening during the festival's first four days.