Where do I begin in this second week? Too many films, too many events, so many encounters. But hey, this is Cannes and it’s like the whole world is happening here – beauty, emotions, anxieties, politics…it’s all here in a microcosm of life on this stretch of the French Riviera.
So much to report, but first and foremost, mini-mentions of some of the films:
One of my favorites – which will soon be opening in Geneva, and is ‘out of competition’ here – is the superbly crafted and inspiring documentary by Wim Wenders, POPE FRANCIS – A MAN OF HIS WORD, an unforgettable testament.
As a complete opposite, a horrific work by Danish director Lars von Trier, back once again in Cannes and also ‘out of competition’, this time with a serial-killer allegory called THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT.
It is a sick, violent film with no sense to it. Pity the brief, jumbled moments of brilliance – alluding to Virgil, Picasso or Dante’s purgatory – from the ‘artist that was’…
Then mercifully, EUPHORIA, a beautifully multi-levelled Italian film about two very different brothers – a bit of “he’s not heavy, he’s my brother…”, by the talented actress/director Valeria Golino.
Also BLACKKKLANSMAN, a bombastic, controversial new movie from the always indignant, militant Spike Lee, about a black policeman going undercover into the world of the Ku Klux Klan – shocking and funny, if the state of American politics today can be deemed remotely funny.
SHOPLIFTERS, a gentle, deeply touching portrait of a marginal family unit, by the Japanese master Kore-Eda Hirokazu. Or another delicate gift from Iran, THREE FACES/SE ROKH by Jafar Panahi who cannot leave Iran nor is allowed to make any films, yet keeps coming up mysteriously with such gems as TEHRAN TAXI, or this latest in the Competition lineup about three different women coming together in an isolated village in Iran. I believe it will pick up a prize.
There was also an underachieving LES FILLES DU SOLEIL about a female contingent of Kurdish fighters in Syria (important subject, mediocre treatment), starring the beautiful Golshifteh Farahani of Iran.
Or ‘out of competition’ – the exciting new version of Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451 (from HBO) by the American/Iranian Ramin Bahrani who lives and works in New York City.
In Competition was UNDER THE SILVER LAKE which felt to me like a wannabe David Lynch or a wayward Sofia Coppola in its meandering, mysterious homage to the trendy L.A. scene. I thought it was an empty, pretentious film except for a short scene where the pretty heroine mimics the last, iconic scenes of Marilyn Monroe coming out of a swimming pool.
Many of these works directly mirror the dilemmas of today’s troubled world, culminating in Spike Lee’s film which is a bold rebuke of Trump’s “lack of moral leadership” as Lee repeated profusely at his politically-charged press conference. You can’t keep a good man down, especially one as talented as Lee.
And of course for the public, the free nightly screenings of classic films on the Croisette beach, rain permitting. They even had one evening dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the film GREASE with John Travolta showing up to thrill the crowd. Good for Cannes, and good of the passionate artistic director of the Festival, the ever relaxed, constantly-present Thierry Frémaux.
Despite all the flurry of events, there is a feel in the air that Cannes is less flamboyant this year – less Hollywood stars, less all-night parties, less big budget. There are fewer humongous posters covering the facade of the Carlton as years before or down the Croisette. And the Market is less frenetic. One of the culprits could be the rise of Netflix and the success of TV series vs classic cinema screens. Last year Cannes allowed a few Netflix productions into its Competition lineup and created quite a controversy. This year they outlawed them. Let’s see what happens in the future. Can film and film festivals around the world continue denying the encroaching fact of digital and home entertainment? Thierry Frémaux was almost in deep water because of all that, and because of his decision not to allow journalists to see the Competition films before the red-carpet screenings with the cast and crew. Changes are like tremors of an earthquake, creating tensions and headaches…
Lots of ‘women power politics’ this year, maybe even a bit too much, does one dare say…?
There was an 82-women march for women’s rights up the red carpet headed by Jury President Cate Blanchett and her female members, hand-in-hand with Agnès Varda, the almost 90 year-old (May 30th), prolific French/Belgian film director, her last being the multi-awarded documentary VISAGES, VILLAGES.
An intriguing event was a conference with the Russian dissident, socialite-turned-journalist-turned-politician Ksenia Sobchak at the Russian pavilion, who was presenting a documentary on her father who used to be mayor of St. Petersburg, a friend of Putin’s, and died mysteriously in 2000.
And the ongoing “Women in Motion” program which endeavors to promote women’s issues worldwide and in the film industry, created by actress/director Salma Hayek and her billionaire husband François Pinault’s Kering corporation, with invitees this year such as Hayek herself and British actress Carey Mulligan, interviewed by Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh.
There was a series of documentaries about creators and stars such as the legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and actress Jane Fonda, and a masterclass with Christopher Nolan, the director of DUNKIRK and responsible for the recent restoration of Kubrick’s 2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY, being shown in Cannes. Nolan was eloquent and passionate in his defense of classic 72 mm. film vs digital cinema. Gary Oldman, Oscar for CHURCHILL, will be next.
Another masterclass was the inspiring, two-hour long conversation with John Travolta, star of such iconic films as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and PULP FICTION, among so many others.
It was a love fest between Travolta and the packed Bunuel hall as he gave his time freely to the questions from the audience. Here in Cannes to pick up an Icon Award from Variety magazine, he introduced his family and entourage by name, including his wife Kelly Preston, his sister, friends and assistants whom he said had been his indispensable partners for the past 20 years. You could feel the audience warming up to his charm as he gave advice to aspiring young actors and filmmakers, telling them to “look for things to stablize yourself and work for your inner self, not competing with others”. He said “It’s all about passion when you create a role, and love and trust between the director who creates the vision of the film and the actor who needs to create the character.”
About Edna, his fat female role in HAIRSPRAY, Travolta said, “I played her as a heavier woman with no weight”, so he could dance easily and lightly as her character. He recounted how Benicio del Toro had told him that it was GREASE, which he saw some 14 times as a kid, that made him want to become an actor. In answers to the torrent of questions, he said that he flew here with his own plane, a French Falcon Dessault, and that yes, art, life and politics are interchangeable, so “live life as an art and observe everything so you can use it in your work…”. If Scientology has made him the ‘mensch’ he appears to be, then more power to him.
A special honor was also given to Martin Scorsese through the Carosse d’Or Award by the Society of Film Directors which was created some 50 years ago in Cannes. Time and again one realizes here the importance of writers and directors in the magical puzzle that is cinema.
That is the beauty of Cannes, bringing together top talents to discover the true character of the creators, through their own words and opinions. It often turns out that they are deeper and even more charismatic than their works.
And then amusing were the snippets of conversations overheard on the Croisette.., “The cost of the champagne consumed during Cannes is equal to Palestine’s annual budget!”, “Don’t go to that disco, it’s for bimbos and slick haired guys..” and finally “And that’s when I met the Baron…”
Don’t quote me on these, I just overheard them…
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.