Quote of the day:
Ian McKellen at "The Da Vinco Code" press conference --"I'm very happy to believe Jesus was married. I know the Catholic Church has problems with gay people and I thought this was absolutely proof that Jesus was not gay."
The Wind That Shakes The Barley *** 1/2
The first terrific film of the festival; received strong applause at the finale, especially for a film showing this early in the fest. It's a clear-eyed and very sad look at Ireland in the 20s when the Irish voted for independence, fought against the British troops but then its politicians signed a peace treaty that made no one happy and led to the partition and Irish killing Irish. Cillian Murphy is a young man heading off to London to work in a hospital. His brother Teddy is a fiery leader of the rebellion/resistance. We see the casual abuse and bullying by British troops (almost inevitable in such a situation). Cillian's train is delayed when the driver refuses to transport British soldiers and is beaten up. Cillian just can't leave and he joins up. We see their training, their fighting, ambushes, violence -- none of it is stirring or exciting; just necessary and brutal. One poor Irish lad reveals the location of rebels after the British threaten his mother and sister. Cillian is ordered to execute him in one of several very powerful scenes. It's simple, direct, dreadful. When the treaty is signed, Cillian's brother unexpectedly dons the uniform of the Irish. The endless debates about what to do, friends and lovers fighting over compromise versus brutal all-out war -- the film doesn't really take sides (though it's hardly in sympathy with the British; how could it be?). The movie just shows it and shakes its head sadly. At the end of the film, there is thankfully no scroll about what's happened since. it doesn't have the heart to detail 80 more years of misery.
My Bloody Phone -- so it's more than two days and I still can't place an international call, putting a bit of a crimp into my work. I head back to the FNAC store where the same young man deals with 17 customers at a time in the phone section. I catch him at a down moment though within two minutes five or six more people want attention immediately and he shrugs them off in the Gallic manner. He tries to wave me off, saying international calls can take days to activate but I make him listen to the message I get when I try. He looks puzzled and then looks up the purchase from before. "Someone" made a mistake when they registered your name, he tells me. He of course was the person who made the mistake but I say nothing. He apologizes, goes through the procedure again and says it will take the usual day for the order to take effect. I shrug my shoulders in the Gallic manner and we're both satisfied.
Movie Poster #1
"Answering the door will never be the same."
Philip Kaufman -- who had one of the best one-two punches in cinema history when he followed "The Right Stuff" with "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" -- has a very promising new project called "Challenger." It's about the NASA investigation into the Challenger shuttle explosion and at the center is the intriguing figure of Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who was a key figure. (He's a terrific writer -- start with "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.")
The Weinsteins are making a $20 mil biopic about Alexander Graham Bell and his "romance" of a 16 year old girl. So apparently he followed the invention of the telephone very quickly with the invention of phone sex.
Poison Friends *
I've rarely if ever been to a movie that's playing in Critic's Week. But I was tricked by a suggestive film description into checking out their opening film. It's a dull French movie about two college students who circle around their friend, who is supposed to be brilliant and magnetic but is really just a jerk. He bulies his friends around wiht his opinions and bold manner. When one of them refuses sugar with their coffee, he mocks them. Coffee without sugar isn't coffee. Much later, when we see him drinking coffee without sugar, oh what a blow it is to our hero. he feels let-down. Of course, he lets down the jerk by writing a novel. (Almost no one deserves to write.) Never mind that he throws the novel out. His world-famous writer of a mother digs it out of the trash, sends it in, gets it published and try as he might the young man can't seem to stop it from happening. The book, naturally, wins awards. Meanwhile, the jerk's life spirals out of control. If we had stayed with him and watched his meltdown as the lies catch up and he proves incapable of doing anything more than holding forth grandly during late-night gabfests, the film might have been interesting. (The scene where he slaps his mentor and professor is the one notable scene of the film.) But it meanders through the lives of his friends, who all find success as easily as he found failure. We don't like him and we like them even less for following him.
Sad Poster Of The Day:
C. Thomas Howell was a big star. Lance Henriksen had his own TV show. ("Millenium.") It's a shame to see them reduced to schlock like --
"The Da Vinci Code Treasure"
"The secret to the world's greatest treasure...lies within history's most precious artifact."
In case we don't get the book and movie they're trying to piggyback on, the poster includes a massive reproduction of the Mona Lisa (about 100 times its real size) with the dead body of a woman lying in front. Why not just call it "The Da Vinci Ripoff" and be done with it?
The Page Turner * 1/2
Usually, on the first full day everyone is gung-ho and determined to see as many as movies as possible. (They weaken quickly.) So this screening should have been tricky for me. But apparently the still for the film -- a shot of a young woman turning the pages for a concert pianist -- and the remarkably dry one-sentence description drove everyone away. Terribly French, it begins with a little girl who studies classical piano preparing for a major audition. During the event, a famous female classical pianist signs an autograph, throwing the girl off. It's absurd that the woman would have done this, but the girl will have to deal with a lot more distractions than that if she ever performs in public. Nonetheless, she vows never to play the piano again. And apparently she vows revenge, though we're not told this since that's the only tension the movie can possibly offer. Some ten years later, the girl interns at the law office of the pianist's husband, gets hired as a nanny/cook for a month, and becomes the woman's trusted page turner for a comeback concert. (She has been nervous and fragile ever since a mysterious hit and run accident three years earlier. Hmmm.) The girl also prods their son into pushing his piano skills, presumably to give him an injury that will debilitate the lad forever. All we wonder is whether she really wants revenge and how and when she'll get it. The one unexpected angle is that she emotionally seduces the pianist, who becomes utterly dependant on the girl and is clearly attracted to her. In case we miss the point, when the girl kisses her on the cheek at a key moment, there is a bizarre, extended use of slow motion just to drive the point home. I hope none of this sounds interesting, because it wasn't. I wish she'd actually slept with the woman and the husband (and the son for good measure) and then laughed in their face with a vile cackle. As it is, when the pianist is asked for her autograph after a concert (or cruel world, to throw that action in the girl's face), she's become such a monster I'm half surprised she didn't draw out a knife and stab the fan for asking. Actually, that would have been more fun too.
Second quote of the day:
Helena Bonham Carter about being on the jury: "It's fun because people tend to suck up to you. I'm not sure how good I'll be at it. On the whole, my movie taste is pretty bad."
Uh, then why did you agree to serve on the jury at Cannes?
More Movie News:
I know Sylvester Stallone has resurrected the Rocky franchise with Milo Ventimiglia of "Gilmore Girls" as the new young turk. (How can he possibly be convincing as a boxer?) But I didn't know Stallone was seriously pursuing Rambo. But there's the movie poster for "Rambo IV" with Stallone glowering and that massive knife taking uphalf the page.
Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood are starring in the movie, "King of California." I assumed when I first saw the poster that they'd be playing lovers, even though he's 61 and she's 19. This is Hollywood, after all. But happily, they're playing father and daughter.
And for the first time in movie history, an actor has been penalized for sleeping with a woman he wasn't married to. The Aussie film "Ten Canoes" is the first to be filmed in the indigenous language of its aboriginal peoples. (Don't ask me which tribe.) Well-known (to them) indigenous actor David Gulpilil was supposed to co-direct the movie. But he broke tribal law by sleeping with a woman he wasn't supposed to and had to leave the territory.
I Act In A Movie
My friend Zahi from Israel returns to Cannes for the first time since we met at the fest in 2000. He had a camera with him that time. This time he returns with a crew (a cameraman and a female friend). They're filming this and that and the other thing, with Zahi (who has made national political ads back home) always looking to make contacts, see movies and hopefully meet his idol Steven Spielberg. He brings me a gift of a leather notebook that's initialized, which is nice but even better is the attached card. He didn't have time to fill it out so it's blank. That means I can just imagine all the friendly wonderful things he might have said about me and fill it in later. So then he grabs the card and writes at the bottom, "Yours, Zahi." Oh the possibilities. "Michael, you are the most talented person I know..." "Michael, I want you to have 10% first dollar gross on my first feature film to be released in America..."
The opening night for the Director's Fortnight. it begins with a lengthy chat by the head of DF, who almost fell down coming past me on the side aisle towards the stage. The translator is truly terrible -- she keeps apologizing and clearly missing 90% of what everyone says. (The man gets all sorts of laughs and sighs and even a hoot but none of it comes across for us.) David Cronenberg is given a special award (some of his films will be shown in a retrospective) and after many lengthy speeches, he wins our heart by saying, "Because I love cinema, I'm going to stop speaking so we can see this movie."
It's an interesting, mostly animated movie about a bad-ass ex-priest who takes charge of the five year old daughter left behind when his porn star sister dies. he is aghast that the little girtl mimicks her mom's dancing and crass porn star language. But then he takes her on a violent, vengeful crusade to destroy all the pornographic images of her mother, even encouraging the kid to chime in with the occasional bodyblow to one of the scum that molested the kid. Boundaries, buddy, boundaries. There is live action footage whenever we see video footage from her career, home movies, shots of their parents right before a terrible car crash, which makes for an interesting effect. The movie wouldn't work as lvie action: it would have been too grim or just ludicrous. But as animation, it fits in perfectly with the hyper-violent world of the manga. And the occasional use of live action footage gives it an emotional realism it might have otherwise lacked. falters a bit at the end but then rescued again at the finale. Though I certainly didn't expect the final music cue to be a Shaker tune.