Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Cannes Report

Okay, so I didn't go to this year's Cannes Film Festival, which ended a couple days ago.  That doesn't mean I can't read about it and report what I find.  

Here goes:

At least three movies shown at the festival got good reviews and a lot of interest.  You may want keep an eye out for their releases in this country.

First is Foxcatcher, from Bennett Miller, who brought us Capote and Moneyball.  It's the story of a rich man (played serious by Steve Carell with a fake nose) who gets involved in the development of America's Olympic wrestling team with Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.  Seduction, betrayal, murder, described as an American horror.  Crowds loved it.

Second is Maps to the Stars, yet another satire about Hollywood, this one the story of a twisted and screwed-up Hollywood acting family.

Directed by David Cronenberg (he of 2012's Cosmopolis) and starring Robert Pattinson, Carrie Fisher, Julianne Moore and John Cusack, among others.

Film industry people get tetchy about these sorts of movies, but I think they are used to them.

Third is Mr. Turner, starring Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies) as the deeply conflicted 19th century British painter JMW Turner.

Brits love it.  "Every scene...expertly managed,... every performance given with intelligence and love... another triumph for (director) Mike Lee and for Timothy Spall," said the Guardian newspaper.

Then there were two movies that got a lot of attention, albeit mixed.

Grace of Monaco                                                                                                                           
About Grace Kelly, the American film star who met her husband, Prince Rainier III, at the Cannes festival in 1955.  This was a natural choice to open this year's festival.
Hopes were high.  The director, Olivier Dahan, won great praise for La Vie en Rose in 2007.  Nicole Kidman stars as Grace and Tim Roth (?) as the prince.  The movie is set in 1962 and apparently exaggerates Grace's role in a battle between Monaco and France's Charles De Gaulle about taxes.

Unfortunately, just about everybody hates the picture.  The Hollywood Reporter called it "a stale wedding cake of pomp and privilege."  The Los Angeles Times  described the script as "agonizingly airless and contrived."   And those were some of the generous reviews.

Grace's children, the prince and princesses of Monaco, insist it is pure fiction.  Harvey Weinstein, whose company is to distribute it in the United States, says it is not the film he was told to expect.

This sounds like one to miss.

 Welcome to New York                                                                         Like most French releases of the last 30 years, this one stars Gerard Depardieu.  He's said to be very good in it.                                                                                                                                                         Here he plays George Devereaux in a not-thinly-veiled fictionalization of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal story three years ago.
                                                                                                              The film starts with 30 explicit minutes of orgiastic excess, moves on to Devereaux raping a hotel maid and continues through his capture and house arrest in New York with his wife, played by Jacqueline Bisset.                                                                                                              
According to Variety, director Abel Ferrara sees Devereaux/DSK as "a man of large, insatiable appetites he is at a loss to control."

Americans who liked Wolf of Wall Street no doubt will enjoy this movie.  Others will have to consider how much of the ever beefier Depardieu they really want to see.

Angry Iranians
This isn't a film, but rather an incident that makes an interesting counterpoint to the French film discussed above.  It concerns the photo below.

The picture shows Iran's biggest film star, Leila Hatami, greeting Gilles Jacob, 83, the head of the Cannes festival in a red-carpet moment.   (Red carpets are big photographic moments everywhere these days, alas.)  Ms. Hatami was a member of the festival's jury this year.

Notice that she is kissing Jacob on the cheek, in the French manner.  This is not the Iranian manner, however.

The Iranian deputy culture minister said this presented a "bad image of Iranian women" that demeaned their "credibility and chastity."

He also objected her outfit, which left her neck uncovered "in violation of the country's religious beliefs."

Iran's Young Journalists' Club also piled on, noting that Hatami had extended her hand to Jacob, calling the touching of hands "unconventional and improper behavior."

I am struck at what a broad range of what can be shown and seen there is around the world these days.

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