CANNES FESTIVAL -- DAY NINE
Cannes, France -- It must be a good festival -- I realized this morning, looking at my dwindling supply of clean socks, that there's only four days left, and I've yet to use the phrase "Only X more days and I'm out of here." Though I do want to get home. after almost three weeks out of the country, I miss my neighbourhood and my stuff and the familiarity of The Second Cup.
OCEAN'S THIRTEEN -- Big crowds in the big room -- there's definitely more accredited press than usual this year.
First, a small possible conflict of interest. Ocean's Thirteen was written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, screenwriters of the best poker movie ever, Rounders, and the head writers and executive producers of Tilt, for which I served as onset technical consultant. So this was written by people I know and have worked for.
Anyway, here's something I'm in the midst of a self-debate on. Is Steven Soderbergh making sloppy examples of big star exhibitionism, which is certainly in the spirit of the original film, or is his exceedingly casual, almost oblique approach to narrative an example of a restlessly experimental sensibility using huge amounts of Hollywood money to subvert the whole idea of the Hollywood franchise film. Or am I just coming up with a really baroque rationalization for liking movies that contain a huge amount of cinematically empty calories?
I do think that if you try to parse the narrative action at any particular moment in Ocean's Twelve or Thirteen, it's possible that your head might explode, and the expository material doesn't actually exposit anything, and Soderbergh knows it. I would suggest that Ocean's Thirteen is a more experimental film than, say, Bubble.
A couple of things I like about Soderbergh's Ocean series...
1) Soderbergh's cinematography -- and under the name Peter Andrews, Soderbergh has been his own cinematographer since Traffic -- conveys a dreamily beautiful Las Vegas that is more beautiful than Las Vegas, and I say that as someone who likes Las Vegas.
2) Each film reshuffles the emphasis of the cast, and nobody is stuck being Norman Fell or Joey Bishop -- everyone gets moments, Clooney, Pitt and Damon are the stars, but the lesser cast members don't get abandoned, whether it's Casey Affleck and Scott Caan paired as the film's low comic relief or Eddie Jemison as their timid computer whiz.
3) Bits of wicked stunt casting -- look! it's Eddie Izzard! Vincent Cassel is back!
On the other hand, the narratives barely function as working narrative -- try and sort out Ocean's Twelve and see if it makes any sense. (Trust me, it doesn't...) And if you want to argue that the inside jokes are a lazy way to get laughs, I'd be hard-pressed to argue that you're wrong.
There's a new contender for Best Actress in the Competition. Do-Yeon Jeon, the star of Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine is in virtually every scene o this Korean film about a young widow who moves with her son to her husband's home town. Then bad things happen, she finds god or a while, then she gets pissed off at God for her own reasons and goes into complete emotional meltdown. You can imagine the four actresses on the Jury trampling each other to get the remake rights, because it's a great part, with just about every emotional colour imaginable, and Jeon pulls it off. It's an emotionally demanding part, and she's amazing.
I'm not entirely happy with it, in part because it is paced very oddly over its 140 minute running time. The first forty minutes is an exquisitely detailed set up of Shin-ae's arrival in Miryang (the town is the title -- Miryang translates as Secret Sunshine), then tragedy strikes abruptly, and things happen fast, then there's the long period when she seems to be lifted out of her depression by her discovery of Christianity -- Dong is playing time like an accordion in this picture, and it's alternately enthralling and annoying, but ultimately it pays off. This is highly detailed realistic filmmaking of a sort that's been almost abandoned by mainstream American filmmaking, and has its own melodramatic satisfactions.
PLOY -- High hopes for Ploy, given that director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang made two of my favorite Pacific Rim films of recent years, Last Life In The Universe and 6ixtynin9, and the latter isn't about what you think it's about, but is a very clever "hide the body" thriller that takes place mostly in the confines of a single apartment. Both films are available on DVD in North America, and Amazon lists them as in stock if your local doesn't carry Asian films that don't feature people getting kicked in the head.
Ploy runs into the problem of leaden pacing. A couple suffering from brutal jetlag -- flying from the States to Bangkok -- find themselves rattling around a hotel. The wife wants to sleep, the husband goes out for a drink and meets a girl -- whom he brings back to the room. Meanwhile, there's a chambermaid having it off with a hotel bartender, though that may just be happening in the girl's head.
This sounds better than the movie is. Unless you want to recapture that feeling of being jetlagged in a hotel and too tired to sleep -- Ploy admirably captures that feeling.
Tomorrow -- The Five Directors You Meet At Cannes -- A Taxonomy. No, I mean it this time.