Dispatch from Cannes

Cannes - Oliver Stone

Cannes - look closely and you just might see Oliver Stone (hint: blue shirt).

Cannes, Sunday. Been standing in a line for over an hour in the blazing sun hoping to get into one of the Director’s Fortnight films – which had now better be mighty good. I just happen to also be standing next to a couple of “queue professionals” who, as far as I can gather from their phone calls, are interns whose job is to stand in lines for hours on behalf of sales agents or others.

As I discover while typing this, they’re actually working for a talent agency who’s scouting for new directors. Unfortunately for the girls, when the agents arrived they whip them as to why they’re not standing in the priority line. It’s a weird kind of slave trade. The “queue professionals” pay an intern company to place them, pay most of their own way here, stand in lines all day and get bossed around by men from LA. Now that takes motivation!

Aside from the blazing sun, it’s quite fun in the line – especially in the steerage section. People come well prepared (unlike me who has just drank my last drop of water) with fold-up seats, umbrellas, books, cards and the whole box and dice.  Like I said, it better be a bloody good movie.   

Queuing at Cannes is big business

Queuing at Cannes is big business

Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s the official selections, but this Cannes is hard and heavy going for the most part. Long realist films, tres slow, sparse stories and a real vérité feel…wait…someone’s just fainted from the heat…seriously. Either that or they’re looking for a sympathy way in ahead of the rest of us which wouldn’t surprise me being that zebra crossings and queues are meaningless in this town. A gap means “go”.   

Where was I? Long and slow realist films…which makes the ones that deviate from that style really jump out. The wonderfully innocent Tati-penned animation The Illusionist (screening in the Market), the beguiling and enormously stylish Shit Year, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (also in the Market) and only a handful of others really leap out as connective works.   

There’s also a distinct downbeatness and it’s almost like the life has been sucked out of many of the films. The flesh looks good but there’s not enough blood in the veins to keep them moving. I’m trying to put my finger on it but it’s like there’s a lack of urgency.   

Although the Market seems to be doing good business – no one is really complaining like last year – there is a distinct lack of razzamatazz.   

So what’s around in the Market? The last couple of years I’ve commented on the amount of genre titles, but this year it’s like the Market has lost its mind, with even some of the more traditional “quality” sales agents starting genre offshoots. Where the Official Selections are mostly slow and thoughtful (to my eye), the Market is an assault of swordplay, ninja projectiles and hard-core horror. I feel like I should change my name to “The Shadow”. 

What’s more amazing is the explosion of 3D. It’s everywhere. I can’t help thinking about what a US studio exec said at the Australian Movie Convention a couple of years ago when he announced that 3D will only survive if it’s kept as a premium product and the cheap exploiters are kept at bay. Well that aint happened and it’s more like the 1950s than…the 1950s. Giant spiders, monsters from space – and you guessed it – ninjas battling aliens. It’s huge.   

Otherwise all good at Circus du Cannes!   

Thinking of you all.  

– Richard Sowada 

Post script: the film I was lining up for, La Casa Muda, turns out to be a horror film. I had to crow-bar the woman next to me from the ceiling and we spent the whole time laughing at her incredible reaction. She was scared out of her mind! It’s good.

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