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MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Cannes 2014: Opening Day

I have long been of the opinion that Cannes is an indulgence to US press. Starting my third year covering the festival, I have to say, nothing’s changed that opinion.

But like Telluride, it’s a lovely indulgence.

It’s the most civil film festival of the biggies. The schedule is loaded, but manageable. The town is touristy, but sanity is just blocks away. The weather, for which I am missing L.A.’s first severe heatwave of the year, is coastal cool and sunny, with bouts of rain.

And oh, by the way, the movie selection of world premieres is world class. Even when they suck, they are challenging and worth the pain for lovers of cinema.

The competition element is the least attractive element of Cannes. Of course, it is the most written about because that is what journalism looks like these days. There are many fine exceptions to this rule, including the New York Times, which could care less about the game, but loves to consider the players.

I am a bit of a monk at film festivals. I see a lot of people I know, like, and love. But if I could sit in those dark rooms for 18 hours a day, IV-drip feeding me, I would be happy.

This year, for the first time, I have a producer with me for DP/30. So I hope to see films and then just show up for interviews and embrace the talent. That could be my only improvement on 18 hours in a theater. Ten hours and 3 or 4 hours talking to filmmakers about their work. I hope it plays out well.

But for now, it’s a decent night’s sleep (as defined by the father of a 4-year-old), some bread, some cheese, a coffee with creme, and a beautiful, sunny morning on the Croisette.

It’s definitely an indulgence. No Oscars will be secured here. No box office (or even distribution) in America assured. No one outside of The Bubble will care much what happens here.

But the power of cinema will be celebrated, if not by the media or the hordes taking endless photos or the publicity machines, by the movies themselves. There is no avoiding that. The power of cinema is more powerful than the parade.

And so, once more I indulge.

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One Response to “Cannes 2014: Opening Day”

  1. AdamL says:

    Could care less makes absolutely no sense. Couldn’t care less is the actual phrase.

    Enjoy your week!

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MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

INTERVIEWER
Do you outline plays before you start to write them?

PINTER
Not at all. I don’t know what kind of characters my plays will have until they…well, until they are. Until they indicate to me what they are. I don’t conceptualize in any way. Once I’ve got the clues I follow them—that’s my job, really, to follow the clues.

INTERVIEWER
What do you mean by clues? Can you remember how one of your plays developed in your mind—or was it a line-by-line progression?

PINTER
Of course I can’t remember exactly how a given play developed in my mind. I think what happens is that I write in a very high state of excitement and frustration. I follow what I see on the paper in front of me—one sentence after another. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a dim, possible overall idea—the image that starts off doesn’t just engender what happens immediately, it engenders the possibility of an overall happening, which carries me through. I’ve got an idea of what might happen—sometimes I’m absolutely right, but on many occasions I’ve been proved wrong by what does actually happen. Sometimes I’m going along and I find myself writing “C. comes in” when I didn’t know that he was going to come in; he had to come in at that point, that’s all.
~ Harold Pinter

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