James Toback and Alec Baldwin‘s Seduced & Abandoned, which screened this morning at the Salle Bunuel, is a doc that basically says that it’s harder than hell to raise money to make a mid-range or a somewhat lower-budgeted chatacter- driven film unless your marquee elements (stars, action scenes, FX) are immediately and effortlessly marketable to a lowest-common-denominator audience in international communities. Which we know going in. It also says it didn’t used to be like this in the ’60s and ’70s and even part of the ’80s, but everything has changed these days for the worse. Which we also know going in.
Now and then a Cannes press conference delivers some kind of newsy, nervy, stand-out quote. But mostly not. Many of the questions can be boiled down to (a) “I’m here because I liked your film and I want you to share a little about the process because it excites me” or (b) “I’m here knowing I can’t really know any more about your film than what I saw on the screen, but here’s a thought that might be fun to kick around.” That’s a long way of saying that the Inside Llewyn Davis press conference, which just ended a half-hour ago, was a little bit meh…but through no fault of the filmmakers.
(l. to. r.) Inside Llewyn Davis costar Carey mulligan, director-writers Joel and Ethan Coen.
Before arriving in Cannes I wasn’t planning on catching Daniel Noah‘s Max Rose, a new Jerry Lewis film, but now I am. It screens Thursday morning at the Salle Bazin with a Lewis press conference two or three hours later. As Paul Bond‘s 2.28 THR piece pointed out, pic “teams Lewis with comedian Mort Sahl for the first time, [and] is a drama — with funny moments, of course — that delivers the message, as Lewis puts it, ‘You don’t throw away old people.’” I want nothing less than scalding self-portraiture.
Four days ago Justin Timberlake co-hosted a foreign-buyers party for a Neil Bogart biopic called Spinning Gold, which he'll produce and star in. JT told THR's Pamela McLintock that Bogart persuaded Donna Summer to record a 20-minute version of "Love to Love You Baby" because "women can't have an orgasm in three minutes." 10 minimum and more like 15 or 20, in my experience.
Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)
An intelligent, well-acted period film about analysis and cure of a Native American man with issues that are serious but unexceptional. Why was this film made? Why am I watching it now? What did the great Benicio del Toro see in it?
It's too much, I tell you! It's like a water virus in a horror film. It permeates and penetrates everything. The only good thing about a rainstorm is lying in bed and listening to it as you drop off to dreamland.
Champs So Far
I've spoken to more than a few dissers of Asghar Farhadi's The Past ("too soap opera-ish"), but it's the singer, not the song. I know what's what, and I'm telling you that right now it's far and away the best Cannes film that has been shown thus far. Closely followed by Fruitvale Station, which got a ten-minute standing ovation. At the end of Wednesday night's screening The Great Gatsby merited only polite applause.
Did you know that arriving at a 8:30 am Grand Lumiere screening 20 or 25 minutes is considered "late"? To be on the safe side you have to arrive at 7:50 or 7:55 am, which is when the good seats on the aisle are still available. So I get up at 6:15 or 6:30 am, shower and then write for 30 to 40 minutes before leaving the pad at 7:40 or 7:45 am.
Legendary Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, whom I've known since the early '80s at Us magazine, has been cut loose by the Village Voice. Ditto theatre critic Michael Feingold. Musto will be fine. Like everyone else, he saw the writing on the Voice wall years ago. I'm sure he has many irons in the fire. Gawker quote: "My brand will be feistier than ever."
I tweeted last night that when it plays before a crowd, Inside Llewyn Davis is a pellet dropped into water. The depth and the delight is in the vegetable dye that spreads out and sinks in, and though obviously emanating from the pellet, da coolness is in the mixture. The Coen Brothers period film, inspired and exquisitely made as it obviously is, is the trigger but not the all of it. And therefore some (like a big-league critic who sat near me last night) are going to sit down with it and say, “Wait…that’s it?”
And that won’t be because like-minded sorts aren’t sharp or open enough. A few knowledgable people of some influence are going to say “Well…I don’t think it quite gets there.” There’s going to be a bit of a backlash. Which always happens whenever a strong film appears that doesn’t precisely spell itself out. And such films are always the ones that expand and deepen and touch bottom over time. Or within hours after your first viewing…whatever.
Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Inside Llewyn Davis, which just let out, is some kind of brilliantly sombre, wonderfully atmospheric, dryly hilarious, pared-down period masterpiece — a time-tunnel visitation to 1961 Greenwich Village that feels so meditatively right and authentic and resonant that I can’t wait to see it again. I read the script about 14 months ago and I still don’t know what it’s really “about.” Well, I do but the Coens sure as shit don’t spell anything out. But I know a profound American art film when I see it. I know what exquisite less-is-more movie backrubs are all about. I know the real take-it-or-leave-it when I experience it.
You need two and possibly three things to get into the Catching Fire party tonight at 10 pm at Baoli Beach (across from the JW Marriott). A white cardboard invitation, a silver pin worn on your lapel (first time in my life I’ve been given a special admission pin for a party), and ID to back it up. So crashers are going to have a tough time. The event is actually being called a celebration of “the 75th Annual Hunger Games.” And its going to be raining the whole time…great.
Best of 2013: 1. House of Cards (Netflix series that began streaming on 2.1.13, d: David Fincher (first 2 episodes), p: Fincher, Kevin Spacey, Beau Willimon); 2. No (d: Pablo Larrain); 3. Mama (d: Andres Muchietti, p: Guillermo del Toro); 4. Room 237 (d: Rodney Ascher); 5. Side Effects (d: Steven Soderbergh); 6. Disconnect (d: Henry-Alex Rubin); 7. The Gatekeepers (d: Dror Moreh); 8. The Sapphires (d: Wayne Blair); 9. Phil Spector (HBO, d: David Mamet); 10. Like Someone In Love (d: Abbas Kiorastami); 11. Starbuck (d: Ken Scott).
Upstate New York Depression:: The Place Beyond the Pines; Decent, Respectable: Spring Breakers, Ceasar Must Die.; UnseenBlancanieves, Broken City, John Dies at the End, Beautiful Creatures, 56 Up, Parker, KOCH; Not Good Enough: Admission; Narcotized CG Mediocrity: Oz The Great and Powerful; Split Decision: Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby.
Worst of 2013 (in no particular order): Movie 43, Olympus Has Fallen; InAPPropriate Comedy; Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Identity Thief, A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III, Stoker, A Good Day To Die Hard, Gangster Squad, Stand-Up Guys, The Last Stand.
(16) Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, based on a John le Carres novel and costarring Willem Dafoe, Rachel McAdams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright; (17 & 18): Terrence Malick's two ventures -- the Austin-based film formerly known as Lawless (who knows what it's called now?) plus the relationship vehicle Knight of Cups with Christian Bale and Natalie Portman. It could be that neither will be released until 2014 or 2015. You know Malick; (20) Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.
(21) James Gray's Nightingale, a New York-based period drama w/ Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix; (22) Guiallame Canet's Blood Ties, a 1970s cops-and-criminals drama w/ Marion Cotillard, Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, James Caan, Noah Emmerich; (24) Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha (seen & praised at Telluride 2012 -- definitely worth its weight); (25) Richard Linklater's Before Midnight (a major Sundance 2013 highlight and an all-but-guaranteed Oscar contender for Best Original Screenplay).
(26) Stephen Frears' Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight; (27) Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring; (28) Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac; (29) Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster -- I don't want to know from this film as all Asian combat/martial-arts films will be instantly ignored in this corner from now until the day I die. I will not go there under penalty of death, fines and imprisonment; (30) Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies (Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson).
(31) Jean-Pierre Jeunet's The Young and Prodigious Spivet (Judy Davis, Helena Bonham Carter, etc.); (32) Peter Landesman's Parkland; (33) Diablo Cody's Paradise (formerly called Lamb of God); (34) Brian Helgeland's 42 (Jackie Robinson biopic w/ Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford); (35 Oliver Hirschbiegel's Diana (Princess of Wales biopic/love affair with Naomi Watts).
(46) Errol Morris's The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld; (47) Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale -- the big hit of Sundance 2013, acquired by the Weinstein Co.
One could also include Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Nicholas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, Ron Howard's Rush, David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars. Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, Robert Schwentke's R.I.P.D., Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful and Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim (9).
The dismissals of Arnaud Desplechin‘s Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian are pretty much universal. It’s the 2013 Cannes Film Festival’s first wipeout. And yet! It’s an intelligent, decently composed, pleasingly acted thing. Adult, probing, patient. As usual, Benicio del Toro‘s performance is steady and rooted. It’s just that you can’t understand how anyone came to believe it was compelling enough to be financed and made into a feature.
If I was to walk outside and run into Idris Elba at the local fruit market, I probably wouldn’t recognize him. I might go “wait, do I…? Nah, I guess not.” I’m not a fan of The Wire (I respected the two episodes I saw but chill the eff down) and I never paid much attention to Elba’s work in RocknRolla, Takers, The Loser, Thor, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance or Prometheus. He’s like Lady Gaga in the sense that he’s famous without having a household face. Maybe the Weinstein Co.’s Mandela flick will change that.
Make me miserable. Make me damp. Drench the festival. Have an umbrella at the ready or die. Misery loves company. Cats and dogs. Little rivers and flash floods on the streets. Philippine monsoon. Apocalypse Now. At around 1:30 or 1:45 pm it stopped raining and it started pouring, you see. It didn’t come down in sheets, but almost that. Right now there 20,000 people in this town with damp socks.
In a Cannes interview with Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan, Paris Hilton talks about allowing director Sofia Coppola to use her actual mansion in The Bling Ring and blah blah. Except the film reveals some embarassing design details. Well, embarassing to a person with any taste, I mean. Images of Hilton are all over the house (her face is even emblazoned on throw pillows), and yet Hilton tells Buchanan that she’s proud of the nouveau riche-ness of the place.
“I designed everything in the house, so it was really cool to see it on film,” Hilton says. “That house is like my dream house. I worked so hard on every detail.” Good effing God.
It’s Saturday, 5.8 at 6:30 am — a big day for me because Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Inside Llewyn Davis screens this evening at 7:30 pm at the Salle Debussy. I’ve been waiting on this for a long time, ever since I read the script and posted a favorable review in early March 2012. I’ll also be catching Arnaud Desplechin‘s Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian) at 8:30 this morning and Rebecca Zlotowski‘s Grand Central at 11 am. I’m on the fence about Laura Lau‘s Bends, which screens at 2 pm…but maybe.
TheWrap‘s Lucas Shaw is saying that The Great Gatsby opened well last weekend ($51 million) and is expected to hold strongly this weekend because (a) general audiences don’t care about the mixed or troubled advance buzz, (b) their responses to Baz Luhrman‘s film, as implied by Rotten Tomatoes ratings, are significantly more positive than those of the critics, and (c) Gatsby is serving an older female audience that is otherwise being ignored with all the comic-book superhero CG action crap that the studios always serve in May-June-July.
But here’s a fourth factor: Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Gatsby is a touching figure. He’s such a clueless romantic in a sense — so constipated and totally persuaded by the importance of appearances and so in love with Daisy and yet so delusional about her true nature that your heart goes out to him. He’s so far from getting it that you want to take him aside and give him a pep talk and maybe offer some advice. You feel for him. Which is more than you can say for Robert Downey‘s Tony Stark.
The Weinstein Co. invited press and buyers to a Majestic Hotel preview of the company’s 2013 films. The crowd was shown trailer/footage reels for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, August: Osage County, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, The Grandmaster, Grace of Monaco, Salinger, Only God Forgives, James Gray‘s The Immigrant and One Chance, a drama about opera-singer Paul Potts.
Grace of Monaco star Nicole Kidman, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints costar Rooney Mara, the Fruitvale Station guys (Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz) and Mandela: Walk to Freedom director Justin Chadwick and costar Naomie Harris joined Harvey Weinstein on stage for the presentation.
Based on the trailers shown, the likeliest Weinstein Co. Oscar contenders are John Wells‘ August: Osage County and Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale Station. If you ask me Twenty Feet From Stardom, which the Weinstein Co. acquired at Sundance, is a likely Best Documentary Feature Oscar contender but today’s presentation was about future releases. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which I saw at Sundance, is going to be a sizable critical hit and a likely Spirit Awards nominee.
Yesterday’s word on Ari Folman‘s The Congress was a little iffy and head-scratchy so I didn’t make the effort to catch it as soon as possible. I’ll get around to it — Folman is a major filmmaker and attention must be paid — but I’m not going to sprain an ankle doing so. And then Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn sent me his review this afternoon, which raised my interest levels somewhat.
“Has there ever been a movie so aggressive toward Hollywood power structures?,” Kohn asks. “From Budd Schulberg‘s 1941 novel ‘What Makes Sammy Run?’ to Robert Altman‘s The Player, storytellers have constantly assaulted the studio system, but Folman makes its evils come alive with phantasmagorical effects that force viewers to see the argument from the inside out.
“The Congress rails against commercialism with an absurdly far-fetched premise rendered in the bright palette of a Ralph Bakshi movie and a wandering surrealism that echoes Naked Lunch. Yet it’s also a wholly original and thoroughly surprising fusion of sensory overload and liberal philosophy bound to confuse and provoke in equal measures.”
I didn’t want to watch this teaser for Jon Turtletaub‘s Last Vegas because I figured it would play it right down the middle and I didn’t want that sludge in my head. What the hell, I watched it anyway. And it played it right down the effing middle — old dogs cuttin’ loose, “Welcome to Las Vegas!”, “Four vodka and Red Bulls!”, yay, we’re bombed! No surprises, no counter-current, no side-pocket shots…nothing.
This stately, impressionistic, half-painterly and faintly lewd composition indicates that Lars von Trier‘s Nymphomaniac will have a certain X-factor (as opposed to X-rated) mentality. It promises that the film will be up to something cool and off-center, although I can’t remotely guess what that might be. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Slater, Shia LaBeouf, Stacy Martin, Connie Nielsen, Willem Dafoe, Stellan Skarsgard, etc.
David Bowie‘s “Beauty and the Beast,” which is now 35 years old (Jesus!), has become the worst ear bug that I’ve had to deal with in a year or so. The only way to get rid of bugs is to listen to the song so many times that you can’t stand it any more. Most of yesterday, all last night, in my dreams, right now…won’t leave me alone.
I’m still fiddling around and shuffling the deck and not yet dealing the cards on my review, but of all the rooted, spellbinding performances in Asghar Farhadi‘s The Past the one that really put the hook in, for me, was Pauline Burlet‘s as Lucie, the elder daughter of Berenice Bejo‘s Marie. I haven’t felt this kind of surging river current in a new actress since I first saw Carey Mulligan go to town in An Education. Burlet is only 16 or 17 or something, but she’s clearly the new Marion Cotillard-plus. Indeed, she played the young Cotillard (or more precisely the young Edith Piaf) in La Vie En Rose when she was 10 or 11.
(l. to r.) The Past director-writer Asghar Farhadi, costars Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa.
In my book (and this in no way compromises the value of Berenice Bejo’s lead perfoirmance), the most eye-opening performance in The Past is given by Pauline Burlet.
The sky is blue and the sun is out! On top of which I’ve seen two phenomenal, award-destined films — strong>Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale Station and Asghar Farhadi‘s The Past — within the past 14 hours. I’m sitting in the Orange cafe now and trying to bang something out on The Past and perhaps Fruitvale Station, although I wonder if I have it in me to write two thumbs-up reviews in a row. It’s much easier to write a slam. What makes a domestic melodrama seem soapy to a snarky few and Eugene O’Neil-ish to others? Here’s the initial Twitter dialogue on The Past:
I’ve been hearing about Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale Station since last January’s Sundance Film festival, where it played through the roof. It did the same thing here tonight at the Cannes Film Festival, or more specifically at the Salle Debussy. It’s an awards-level steamroller, that’s for sure. Perhaps more on the level of critics group and Spirit Awards rather than Oscars due to limited box-office…but maybe not. Coogler, 26, has done himself proud, and cheers also to Michael B. Jordan for his vibrant and emotionally varied portrayal of the late Oscar Grant, who was aggressively if accidentally shot by a BART cop after a melee on New Year’s Eve. Cheers also to producers Forest Whitaker and Octavia Spencer.
I attended a yacht party in Cannes today for Martin Scorsese and Silence, the long-gestating, much-delayed historical drama set in 17th Century Japan that Scorsese will finally begin directing in June 2014. Andrew Garfield, Ken Watanabe and Issei Ogata will costar. The floating soiree was thrown by Emmett/Furla Films, which is producing. The hosts were producers Randall Emmett and Emma Tillinger Koskoff.
(l.) 42West honcho Leslee Dart, (r.) director Martin Scorsese during yacht party earlier today for Silence.
Scorsese arrived about a half-hour after things began, and his publicist Leslee Dart allowed me to speak with him for about four minutes. Mainly we talked about the restored Shane (“I’m waiting to see it…I hear it looks fantastic”). He and George Stevens, Jr. conferred about Shane, he said (presumably about the aspect-ratio situation) and just before they were about to get in touch with Warner Home Video, which will release the Shane Bluray in August, they were told that WHV had flipped on the 1.66 aspect ratio position and that they’d decided to go with 1.37. (more…)
Last night’s rainstorm was miserable all around. It felt like a monsoon in early March. Windy, almost bone-chilling, damp pants and socks. I came out of Amat Escalante‘s Heli, a miserable experience in itself (although it clearly has integrity and auteurist purity) and stood at the top of the steps of the Salle Debussy and the city was under a kind of meteorological siege. Huddled groups, hunched-over bodies, wind and umbrellas. I went to an Asian place and ordered an all-you-can-eat meal for 16 euros. And then I went home and wrote until 2 am.
An apparent attempt to simulate the look of spats, which went out of fashion about 90 years ago. George Raft: “Okay, button my spats.”
My question to Bling Ring director-writer Sofia Coppola at this afternoon’s press conference was about the stupidity factor, although I didn’t use that term. Whenever I see a film about thievery I identify with the thieves, I said. I want them to succeed, and I certainly don’t want them to get caught because of a stupid mistake. Which is precisely what the Bling gang does by ignoring the fact that all pricey homes have security cameras. Plus they don’t wear surgical gloves and plastic foot wraps — standard stuff.
Sofia basically said they were too young and too caught up in their feelings of delight at stealing all the great stuff to think about security cameras. I think they were just too dumb. Wearing masks and not leaving prints or fibres during a robbery is about as basic as it gets. (more…)
There’s a self reflecting, shallow pool, empty-hall-of-mirrors vibe delivered by Sofia Coppola‘s The Bling Ring, which just finished screening in the Salle Debussy. I don’t know what could’ve resulted from a film about fame-worship and malignant materialism, but don’t we know about the yield of shallowness going in? Aren’t the urban GenY kids who live for some kind of nocturnal proximity to the vapidly famous…aren’t they self-parodying to begin with? Weren’t the actual Bling Ring kids extremely self-mocking before they were even caught?
I paid a brief visit last Monday to the Studio Babelsberg set of Brian Percival‘s The Book Thief, which was shooting on the outdoor World War II-era “European street.” This theatrical neighborhood has been used by Roman Polanski‘s The Pianist and Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglorious Basterds, among many other productions. During a chat with producers Ken Blancato and Karen Rosenfelt I was reminded that Studio Babelsberg has lost its lease on the section of the lot where the set stands, and therefore the entire street is being demolished to make way for residential real estate. It breaks my heart but the same thing happened 50-odd years ago to the old MGM backlot in Culver City.
Studio Babelsberg’s European WWII set adjacent to main lot — Monday, 5.13, 3:45 pm.
Update: Zach Braff has responded to Pamela McLintock‘s 5.15 Hollywood Reporter story about his having landed a “full” financing deal for Wish I Was Here through Worldview Entertainment, which has prompted some to ask (a) why he’s holding on to his Kickstarter fund ($2.6 million) and/or (b) why Kickstarter contributors don’t just pull their support.
“The story out there about the movie being fully funded by some financier is wrong,” Braff writes. “I have said on here and in every interview I’ve done on this project that the film would be fully financed from three sources: (a) My Kickstarter Backers, (b) my own money and (c) Pre-Selling foreign theatrical distribution. Those three amounts will bring us to a budget of around 5 to 6 million dollars.
Every fledgling filmmaker is allowed at least one rank embarassment. This is a stab at an opening-credit sequence for a curiously lame short film that I made with a couple of friends in the ’70s. Never mind the particulars. It was called Beyond Embarassment (and not “embarassing,” as the clip is called). What the hell, I’m not that embarassed. It was just a little wank. No animals were killed during the making. The raincoat routine was inspired by a bit in Robert Downey Sr.‘s Putney Swope.
I think I knew it would prove vaguely embarassing later in life, whch is why I used the nom du cinema Peter Bongo.