Cannes Report 1 - 66th Festival de Cannes

By Moira Sullivan 
Nearly 4,000 accredited journalists descend upon the city of Cannes for a week and a half of cinema magic and what looks like heavy rain for the first few days. The opening festivities for the 66th Cannes Film Festival revolved around the out of competition The Great Gatsby.

On May 20, the independent film company Troma, the oldest in the US with over 40 years of “reel experience”, proposes a manifestation outside the Carlton Hotel for the “Occupy Cannes team” to fight for the rights of independent filmmakers. Then, on May 21 there will be a mass demonstration in front of the Palais at 5.30 pm.

According to founder Lloyd Kaufman: “Troma’s goal is to spotlight the opportunity disparity between independent artists and mega-media corporations as it plays out at the Cannes Film Festival”. 
Today Troma sponsored a lesbian wedding on the beach as a gesture of celebrating marriage equality, an important issue for Occupy Cannes. Two actresses from “Return to Nuke ‘em High”- Catherine Corcoran and Asta Paredes tied the knot. The film will be screened in Marché du Film on May 21.

With some irony the Director’s Fortnight world premiere of “The Congress” directed by Ari Folman was screened tonight to an audience bearing umbrellas. It looks at the transformation of acting roles in the film business, particularly for women over 30. Robin Wright, who produced and stars in the film, plays a women in her forties whose only option is to allow her face and body to be scanned for use in synthetically created films, an advanced stage of motion capture.

Robin Wright, who plays herself in the film, is forced to choose between being scanned for motion capture for any conceivable future project or becoming obsolete in the film business. As a condition of her contract, she is forbidden from acting anywhere else. She signs, nudged by her agent played by Harvey Keitel. Wright’s decision to raise her children during her acting career angered the head of Miramount Theatres (Danny Huston). Twenty years in the future people either live as their “avatar” or age and experience natural death - “on the other side” of the fantasy world. Wright appears at a “Miramount -Nagasaki Congress” and confirms that her children are foremost in her life. The foreboding futuristic message of “The Congress” is created through animation and live action.

Earlier on the Croisette, Jennifer Lawrence appeared to promote “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, for Marché du Film, a film with another alarming futuristic message.

The Last of the Unjust was screened Out of competition by veteran documentary filmmaker Claude Lantzmann. His 3,5 hour epic documentary on the last Jewish elder of a town given by Hitler to the Jews, the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia, was an important and challenging film to watch.  Lantzmann refuses to simplify his work and make it comfortable for his audience and so the length of the film was the time necessary to go back into this history. Lantzmann also revisits the Theresienstadt ghetto nearly 40 years later to present this account.

Most of the documentary consists of interviews from 1975 during one weekend in Rome with Lantzmann and Rabbi Benjamin Murmelstein. The rabbi worked for Adolf Eichmann from 1938 and was the person who did the logistics of the Final Solution, and the forced emigration of Austrian Jews from Vienna.

Joel and Ethan Cohen’s Inside Llewyn Davis has so far garnished the most points from selected journalists for “Screen”, the market journal that is most relied on at Cannes for film ratings. It is one of their least ambitious projects with the least to say, so it is unsettling that the film has become so popular. One reason could be the short scenes with punchy dialogue delivered by some excellent actors: Oscar Issac as Llewyn Davis and Carey Mulligan as Jean Berkey. But the substance of the dialogue is empty such as what a horrible man Llewyn is for getting Jean pregnant, and how there is no money in his music. Many scenes have to do with a cat that escapes from one of the sofas he crashes on as an underemployed musician. His life as a folk singer is unrewarding and he is about to escape to the Merchants Marine and pack it in. In the end, the emergence of Bob Dylan as a young folk singer with a ratchety voice and profound lyrics eclipses his career. 

Takashi Miike’s Shield of Straw was also one of his least ambitious projects. He has made several films about serial killers, such as Ichi the Killer (2001), and Audition (1999) so he has a good background in presenting the psychology of the criminally insane assassin. Based on a novel by Kazuhiro Kiuch, a billionaire offers a huge reward for the execution of Kunihide Kiyomaru (Tesuya Fujiwara), the murderer of his granddaughter. The offer appeals to many low income and down on luck Japanese. Several attempts on the killer are made while police try to escort him to trial, including attempts by the police themselves. In this respect the film has something to say:  how far can someone go to defy the justice system with a vigilante reward, with more dead as a result. No one can be trusted and orders come from high up to execute the killer, since a condition for collecting the reward is that the government sanctions the execution. Fujiwara is excellent as the killer but in general there is far too much dramatic screaming going on in the film. Takashi was in attendance with his two actors Nanako Matsushima and Takao Osawa who play the two cops who try to bring in Kiyomaru for sentencing in defiance of the billionaire’s offer.

© 2013 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 05/21/13
Movie Magazine International