CANNES FESTIVAL – DAY SEVEN
Brangelina ! Sighted.
Cannes, France – So I’m muddling through the mobs in front of the Palais last night, wondering “what’s playing that’s drawing this sort of mob to the front of the Palais.” People were running towards the Palais, until they ran into a wall of people and stopped. They can’t all be here for Gus Van Sant. Looked up and saw who was going up the stairs and said to myself, “I need an alternate route.“
This was the Angelina Jolie film A Mighty Heart, with Jolie as Marianne Pearl, the widow of journalist Daniel Pearl, though, of course, she’s not his widow when the picture starts. An’Nahar’s Joumane Chahine, a frequent contributor to Now’s Festival previews, observed that A Mighty Heart and The Road To Guantanamo function as director Michael Winterbottom’s version of Clint Eastwood’s war diptych, Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. There’s a nice photo of Brangelina on the red carpet here.
Imagine If He Didn’t Like It – I don’t often quote reviews at length, but I had to laugh at Peter Brunette’s review of Carlos Reygada’s Stellet Licht in today’s Screen International. Remember, he calls the film “sheer visual and aural poetry”, so he’s in favour, mostly.
“Only by reading a press kit before attending a screening would a viewer understand where the film was taking place and why the characters speak a German dialect. And the running time of nearly two hours 30 minutes is long for a film that is composed nearly completely of static shots in which, classically, nothing happens.”
“The situation attains a simplicity of Biblical proportions, as Reygadas avoids tainting his story with frivolous sub-plots or action.”
Yeah, you wouldn’t want to see a movie tainted by action.
On The Other Hand – A little austerity would be in order for Julian Schnabel’s film, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, the story of French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of Elle, who at the age of 43 suffered a stroke which left him wholly conscious and paralyzed except for his left eye. Schnabel’s film is based on Bauby’s book about the experience, which he dictated by blinking. (There’s a lot of this in the movie.)
Schnabel is best known as an artist, but he’s made two other films, likewise biographical works, Basquiat and Before Night Falls.
The unfortunate thing about Schnabel is that he’s not really a director. He has very little sense of structure and the scenes in his films often feel shapeless and unfinished – there’s ideas, and there’s cinematography, but there’s not a lot of actual direction. Watching this film reminded me of Jaques Rivette’s comment on All About Eve and Letter To Three Wives – “If you’ve ever wondered what mise-en-scene is, it’s what’s not in the films of Joseph Mankiewicz."
In The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, we spend the first 40 to 50 minutes locked into Bauby’s point of view, which is often out of focus, blinking, and moving around the room. It’s a POV stunt and, like most POV stunts, it faces diminishing returns after about 10 minutes or so.
We get it. We’re locked in his head. The camera is his eye, and he’s going to let his Academy Award winning cinematographer (Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan) play with lenses until he figures out just how much of a fish-eye lens we’re going to have to endure for most of the rest of the film.
He has a great actor to play Bauby, Matthieu Amalric, a classic trick of taking an actor who’s a ball of nervous energy and make him stay still. North American audiences will remember Amalric as Louis, the French information salesman in Munich. Those who like French films will recognize him from the films of Arnaud Desplechin, notably Comment je me suis dispute (Ma vie sexuelle) and Kings And Queen.
Furiously spinning – Up front, I’ll admit that I didn’t go to see the new, longer version of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. I didn’t like it short, and I don’t think another 20 minutes or so will solve its fundamental problems.
What’s been interesting to watch is the retool of the spin as the film flopped in North America and the Weinstein’s decided to, in essence, ditch the double bill concept for the European release, which will happen sometime after Cannes, with Death Proof opening first and Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror opening after. (Unless, of course, European audiences turn out to be no more receptive to Grindhouse than North American audiences were. Norm Wilner did an excellent analysis of that failure on his blog – noting with accuracy that it’s an awfully expensive production for an audience with such a narrow demographic.
I’d just note that “film geeks with fond memories of bad exploitation movies in dumpy theatres 30 years” ago is a really small demographic. And I’m in it. I am the core audience for Grindhouse, and I didn’t care for it.
What’s really fun to watch in the wreckage of Grindhouse is Tarantino’s studied efforts to respin Death Proof as the “real” movie, while Grindhouse was a fun diversion, but not the real deal. It started in May in The Guardian. I particularly like this paragraph:
“it turned out that the American public weren't used to getting so much of a good time. The double-bill format confused them, as did the fake trailers for non-existent films and the missing reels and scratchy celluloid.” (See Wilner, above. )
Ironically, after the Guardian interview appeared, the June issue of Sight And Sound – obviously prepared when the European release of Grindhouse was still a live event – arrived on British newsstands, offering a rather different take on it. Unfortunately, this content is not available online. Go down to wherever you buy magazines and read it on the stand. It’ll take about 20 minutes. At which point, someone will yell “hey, this ain’t a library. Buy something.”
I think I have as much Tarantino fan cred as anyone – I’ve interviewed the guy three times, and have put at least three of his films in end of the year top ten lists. One of my proudest possessions is a signed Reservoir Dogs poster. But maybe he should just accept that everyone nods occasionally, and Death Proof ain’t Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown or even Kill Bill 1. Move on.
I’ve not seen the reviews yet – we’ll soon see, I’m sure, if the Europeans start to hail it as a misunderstood masterpiece.