EYE ON EUROPE
Top center: Mathieu Amalric with the strippers from his "La Tournee" (The Tour), the film that earned him the best director award. Lower left: Director Tim Burton, festival chairman, who looked like he needed a bath. Lower right: A scene from "Uncle Boonmee," theThai film that won the Palme d'or award.
-- or meat market?
By MICHAEL JOHNSON
The Cannes Film Festival has declined steadily for the past few years and is now acknowledged by many critics and filmmakers as sadly irrelevant. Publicists seem to have an inexhaustible capacity to gush praise on doomed third-world films.
Living in France, one is bombarded by desperate hype in newspapers and on television over the course of the 11-day event. Each evening the red carpet is clogged with B-list cinema personnel. The few recognizable players who show up have a deer-in-headlights look. In media terms, the event belongs to cable broadcaster Canal Plus, further corrupting any hope of objective television coverage.
Several leading critics noted that this years selection was well below par, and par at Cannes has become nothing to brag about. Mexico, Chad, China and Thailand took most of the prizes. The critics favorites, Britains Another Year and the leading French entry, Of Gods and Men, were ignored.
Outside the darkened theaters on the seaside of Cannes, glitz, bling and waggling fannies dominated.
On the plus side, the ceremony (May 23) itself has been brought under control. Kristen Scott-Thomas presided, moving through the awards at speed. There was none of the slipshod organization that has marred the Cannes climax in recent years. Winners were ushered on and off stage with military precision. It was all over in 65 minutes and everyone went out for a big dinner.
The anti-climax of the awards ceremony was the choice of outsider "Uncle Boonmee", the story of an old man on his deathbed in rural Thailand, as winner of the top prize, the Palme dOr. Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, never destined to be a household name, took the stage and prattled on about what a great day it was for his native country. Peeking over the lectern, the diminutive Weerasethakul went on so long in Thaiglish that climactic music started up prematurely only to be stopped because he was just pausing for breath.
U.S. presence was, as usual, unrepresentative of the worlds largest film industry. The day cannot be far off when there will be no American involvement whatever. The big films today dont need Cannes.
Festival Chairman Tim Burton was himself, looking like he needed a bath, his hair an exploding mattress, eyes hidden behind the blue lenses of his horn-rimmed glasses. He appeared to be trying to grow a beard. At the awards ceremony his collar popped out, he fiddled with his earpiece and absent-mindedly missed his cues for reading off names of winners.
I keep forgetting, he mumbled to himself.
The sole American entry, Fair Game, directed by Doug Liman, did not get a mention. Woody Allen, looking old and tired, turned up to tout his latest, hors-competiton, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, to an indifferent audience.
looks as if he just read a review of his performance in "Robin Hood," a film nearly booed off the screen at Cannes.
The festival began with another hors-competition showing, Ridley Scotts Robin Hood, which was nearly booed out of the theater for its tired theme and heavy-handed special effects. Big star Russell Crowe didnt help the films image when he stomped out of a BBC interview after being told his English accent was too Irish.
"You've seriously got dead ears if you think that's an Irish accent," Crowe snapped. Moments later the interviewer returned to the accent issue and Crowe shot back, "I'm a little dumbfounded you could possibly find any Irish in that character. That's kind of ridiculous, but it's your show."
The interviewer, by now sensing a chance to ignite Crowes famous fury, asked, "You were going for Northern English?" Crowe laughed and replied: "No. I was going for a (expletive, probably beginning with f) Italian, yeah? Missed it?" Shortly after he stood up and walked out.
Robin Hood didnt fare much better. One critic, interviewed after the showing, said, Robin Hood? Who cares? The reception was reminiscent of another American bomb, The Da Vinci Code, which mystified the Cannes crowd a couple of years ago despite millions spent on promotion, and Marie Antoinette, which unintentionally caricatured the queen of France and her entourage, backed up with a sound track of rock music.
A gaggle of American strippers further made me wince as they paraded on the red carpet in gaudy robes, false eyelashes and layers of pancake. One demonstrated the old stripper act of tassel rotation as her breasts swung around. These girls played in Mathieu Amalrics film, Tournée (The Tour), a story about stripping. For this, he was awarded Best Director, and he invited his stars onstage. They bounced gleefully up the steps, all five of them--*Kitten on the Keys, Mimi le Meaux, Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas and Evie Lovelle. Somehow it all seemed symptomatic.*
The winners were:
Palme dor: "Uncle Boonmee," directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
Grand Prix: "Men and Gods," directed by Xavier Beauvois.
Best Director: Mathieu Amalric for "The Tour."
Jury Prize: "Crying Man," directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.
Best Actor (shared): Javier Bardem for "Biutiful" and Elio Germano for
"La Nostra Vita."
Best Actress: Juliette Binoche for "Copie Conforme."
Best screenplay: Lee Chang-dong for "Poetry."
Golden Caméra Award: Michael Rose for "Ano bisiesto."
©2010 by Michael Johnson. The photo of Tim Burton is courtesy of Access Hollywood. This column first posted May 31, 2010.
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