MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland

My Cannes 2012: Episode One

(Note: This post was the victim of a software malfunction that disappeared hours of work. Having not suffered a computer glitch like that in years, I find myself in retro-shock and I just can’t rebuild quite yet. But I wanted to at least get the framework on the record before anymore awards announcements. My apologies, both for the lack of a full piece and the simplicity of these headers, which were fleshed out in individual graphs for each before the “accident.” I unreservedly recommend all the films in the top 3 categories. Hopefully, I will rewrite it all by the end of the holiday weekend.)

My experience of Cannes 2012 was unsurprising. The films in competition were either very good or very well crafted but missing the mark. And for the the record, you will find support for the films I didn’t care for and plenty of slaps against the films I embraced, with only Amour really emerging unscathed.

The most significant thing of note was how whiny the media gets in the South of France. Mon Dieu! Cannes is, I found, the easiest festival I have ever had to navigate aside from Telluride. I was turned away from one screening in a week of screenings… and that was a market screening that was not particularly significant to me and was full of potential buyers. But the coffee, the badge colors, the remarkable gentle – in my experience – staff… even the frickin’ weather. Did I miss something or weren’t we there to see the inside of movie theaters, not sit on the beach?

Yes, it’s very expensive. And I was shocked… actually shocked… to hear the budgets that some people had for their festival. I guess if I was a solo person and hadn’t felt compelled to sleep so close to the action and hadn’t brought a second checked bag of gear, etc, etc, I could have cut my budget in half. But if you’re coming from L.A. and manage to do a week at Cannes for under $5000, God bless you. Color me impressed.

The staff/guards are a bit stiff. But basically, if you are going where you are being asked to go and not trying to shove your way into where you aren’t being asked to go, I found them nothing but polite and helpful. It wasn’t so helpful to have the Croisette locked down for blocks, so that if your point of approach is from the Palais side, you have to walk blocks in order to turn around into the funnel and go through a narrow point of entry. But that was really only for evening screenings in the big house. And the streets are insanely crowded, so getting around in a hurry can be brutal. But hardly impossible.

I was given a Rose badge, no pastille. I didn’t run into a single occurrence where the pastilles seemed to be separated, though there were plenty of very funny conversations about people, in the past, who were desperate for that pastille… so it must have mattered more at some point. But I had a functional, useful mailbox. (It would have been better if they put the daily market schedule into the box as well. Once I figured things out, I picked on up each morning in front of the market theater on the way to the Palais.) Apparently, Blue and Yellow badges feel screwed. And perhaps they are, at least in terms of popular morning screenings. But there are so many screenings of the competition movies, access can be had.. just not at the speed of Twitter.

The movie viewing experience at the festival is as good as anywhere I have ever experienced. The English subtitles are done expertly, even if they often seemed overly simplistic. (As a big colloquialist, the small notes and tiny repetitions mean a LOT to me.) And even from the balcony, which my tardiness left me in a few times, the site lines were fine. Not all the seats are made for people over 5′ 9″, but few theaters are built with that in mind. (I love the EbertFest experience, but those seats in the Virginia… oy.)

The biggest shock in Cannes for me was the lack of great food and serious French cooking. And then one remembers that we’re at a seaside resort and that the not-inexpensive menu of pizza, pasta, and shrimp (with occasional and iffy homages to beef) serves that demand. I’m sure that just blocks away or not at the most expensive hotels, there is plenty of “real” French cooking available and probably some really interesting chefs. That said, the bread and cheese were abundant and magnificent.

And yeah… the whining.

Everything I thought about Cannes was pretty much affirmed in this trip. What I didn’t really understand about Cannes was how the central festival combined with the market, which is both very smart and very viable. I now understand some of the efforts to combine AFI Fest and AFM into one big event. (I also understand that there are also massive problems with the details of that notion here in Los Angeles.) Sundance would be incredibly well-served by this kind of mechanism, though their ongoing problem is not enough screens, either big or small. Toronto has never really tried to be a sales festival, so even though the city of Toronto could support an event like this, that hasn’t been the focus.

Anyway, it’s always nice to see films before there are a bunch of opinions floating out there. I was really struck by how much the film critics in attendance felt compelled to define their opinion early and intensely… which more often than not led to really crap criticism. No festival really demands more time and thought about the movies on display and I have never seen one where there is less… at least in the moment. Perhaps it’s a phenomenon of the internet era… or the number of people who call themselves critics but who never really think past their personal taste of the moment… or the expense of the trip and the pressure to produce from editors. But reading the first wave out of Cannes has always, as perceived from months later, been a rather poor way of judging a movie. And in the middle of it… oy.

And now, my ramblings…

Amour – Micheal Haneke strips down to a deceptively easy-seeming piece, mostly played in one apartment, quiet and thoughtful. But the transformation of a year in the death of one member of a long-time couple into an experience of cinema is another magic act by Haneke, who seems to just get better and better as he gets older. The film reminds me of songs like Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” which must be specific, but feels so universal and truthful. Every story of a loved one hitting that wall… that moment where it changes profoundly and the best of life is unavoidably in the past… is different. Haneke makes very specific choices in telling his tale. He doesn’t reach for the universal. But in being so detailed, in making the characters so rich and real, he finds it. A truly remarkable film that will resonate forever.

Rust & Bone – Jacques Audiard is a master showman. His work has always been provocative and sophisticated, both as a writer and director. Here, he takes multiple genre notions, turns them inside out, and blends. Anyone who tells you that they knew the turns coming in Marion Cotillard’s character is lying (if not to you, then to themselves). Her character alone embodies 4 different genre stereotypes slammed together in a way that only real life tends to do… human contradictions. Matthias Schoenaerts, who broke out in American arthouse cinema just last year in Bullhead, is challenged again to embody and outstrip basic notions of the masculine stereotype. The film plays as an angry, intellectual response to last year’s audience-pleasing French mega-hit (now in the U.S.), The Intouchables, working through some of the same themes. But it is so much more than that. And at the same time, it will please a lot of audiences, though on a different scale than Intouchables. Cotillard will be in serious contention for an Oscar nomination, as will Audiard’s screenplay.

2 Responses to “My Cannes 2012: Episode One”

  1. Don R. Lewis says:

    I was shocked how many bloggers/commenters on other blogs were bent out of shape at your lack of genuine written “reviews” yet none of them noted that you were likely doing DP:30 stuff (for the sake of sanj). Just goes to show how we all scream into a void that looks more at the vocalist than the song.

    Not that anyone ever need fight your battles for you but…..if you’re gonna be a bitchy bitch, get it right first.

  2. jim emerson says:

    David: OS X Lion with version control!

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

“Don’t work with assholes. Ever. No matter what they’re offering, no matter what they bring to the table. If they’re the sort of person where the phone rings at 10 o’clock at night and you wince because you see that it’s them, then don’t do business with them. One asshole will ruin your life. I’ve managed my entire TV and filmmaking career to work with people I like and respect. If the point comes where I don’t like or respect someone, I don’t work with them anymore.”

– Anthony Bourdain

The Atlantic: You saw that the Academy Awards recently held up your 2001 acceptance speech as the Platonic ideal of an Oscar speech. Did you have a reaction?

Soderbergh: Shock and dismay. When that popped up and people started texting me about it, I said, “Oh, it’s too bad I’m not there to tell the story of how that took place.” Well. I was not sober at the time. And I had nothing prepared because I knew I wasn’t going to win [Best Director for Traffic]. I figured Ridley, Ang or Daldry would win. So I was hitting the bar pretty hard, having a great night, feeling super-relaxed because I don’t have to get up there. So the combination of a 0.4 blood alcohol level and lack of preparation resulted in me, in my state of drunkenness crossed with adrenaline surge. I was coherent enough to know that [if I tried to thank everyone], that way lies destruction. So I went the other way. There were some people who appreciated that, and there were some people who really wanted to hear their names said, and I had to apologize to them.
~ Steven Soderbergh