** Note: I’ve been behind on finishing the blog entries because I caught the mother of all Cannes Colds toward the end of the fest, but since I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of that tunnel, I figured I’d wrap up my last few days’ worth of diary entries. The rest will come tomorrow, and next week a mini roundup of my favourite films from Cannes 2014! Enjoy, and stay healthy, friends. **
Thursday May 22
This was one of those days that started out as a semi-failure (pouring rain, a failed attempt to get into the 11:30am screening of Fabrice Du Welz’s Alleluia) and then turned into a totally successful three movie bonanza!
The rain definitely put the kibosh on my desire to race around getting things done (you know, buying gifts for family, etc) so I stayed in the apartment, caught up on some emails, worked on that cursed Telefilm application (cursed only because they make it more complicated than the guidelines would have you believe. There are way more little details once you enter the actual back end of the online submission system, and many were quite time consuming. I was pretty motivated to get it the hell done though, so I was glad to be able to spend some time on it – that is, until the system kicked me out for maintenance, or something. Cursed, I swear.
In the evening, we managed to secure hard tickets to Alleluia, which was one of my most hotly anticipated titles and absolutely did not disappoint. It’s a Belgian take on The Honeymoon Killers and it’s both supremely weird and very fantastic. There are many friends to whom I want to heartily recommend this one.
The perfect double bill was semi-accidentally created when we also managed to land tickets to the remastered 40th anniversary screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Watching a gorgeous restoration film with a crowd (a very fancily dressed crowd, I might add) really drove home the point of how amazing the film actually is. It doesn’t jut “hold up” after 40 years. It actually could easily stand against any horror film of the present day in terms of good villains, incredibly creepy production design and generally effective terror. We haven’t improved a lot on that formula in the last four decades, honestly.
The film was preceded by a really moving introduction by Nicolas Winding Refn, who talked about how this was the film that inspired him to want to make movies. He also talked about how Tobe Hooper deserved to win the Palme d’Or 40 years ago. Refn was full of zingers about his own career and jokes about how soon he’d win a Palme d’Or himself. “Oscars you buy,” he said, “Palmes you earn”. He implored the audience to give him an “emotional Palme d’Or” by standing and applauding for him – which the audience did for such a long time that Hooper was visibly moved by the time he came on stage. It was actually really moving. Tears were shed.
After the Texas Chainsaw Massacre experience, we raced over to the Palais to catch the Korean film screening at midnight, The Target. It was raining while we stood in line, and we didn’t have umbrellas, but what the hell, the weather’s been great all week so who’s complaining? The film itself was fun enough, but if it had been English language, I highly doubt we’d be talking about it right now and there’s no way in hell it’d be screening in Cannes, y’know what I mean?
The triple-bill left us dinner-less so we hoofed it up to our old neighbourhood (circa two years ago) nearer the train station to a small kiosk that sells shockingly good baked goods until very, very late at night. Walked home with some cheesy pastries and Merguez sausage rolls and avoided the Petit Majestic entirely, because sometimes you just have to eat flaky pastries and fall the hell asleep. Besides, it’s not like it was even early. The midnight films actually start at 12:30 in Cannes and are rarely on time, so by the time the 2+ hour film let out it was nigh on three o’clock.
Anyway, this is my tip for you for next year. If you need a late night snack, this place is called Au P’tit Creux d’Azur. It’s got a blue awning and is on Rue de Maréchal Foch just south of Place de la Gare (so, really, right by the train station). It’s about one block east of the big Monoprix and it’s open very, very late. Trust me on this. It is the best tip I’ve given you all month. I just wish I’d remembered earlier.
This is the day that I pack with film watching! Feels like being at a film festival, finally, except that almost everyone’s already left town and it actually feels like everything is over just as I’m hitting my stride. On day one or two, I felt like I had already been here for months, but now it seems like the whole thing whizzed by in the blink of an eye.
I kick off the day with a screening of the competition film Borgman, which is apparently the first Dutch film in competition in over 30 years. It’s absurd and funny and defies description (and really, any description would be a bit of a spoiler, and the surprises in this one are so satisfying). Loosely, the plot is about a man who slowly worms his way into the lives of an unassuming family, with unexpected and bizarre consequences. Refreshing!
Next up, I pop into the Quebecois film Sarah Prefers to Run, which is in the Un Certain Regard programme. It’s a small and simple movie about a young woman who loves to run. Sarah’s commitment to running has all but eliminated any hopes of a normal social life (or any kind of life outside of running), but considering how awkward she is in all her human interactions, perhaps it’s for the best. After all, given a choice, Sarah prefers to run over pretty much any other activity.
After a short break for quick snacks, I race across from the Palais to the Theatre Croisette (a whopping 10 minute walk, really) to catch Erik Matti’s On the Job. The film looks fantastic and there are a lot of great action moments in it, but I can’t help feeling that a lot is lost in the cultural translation about the way Philippine society works. The plot centres around two inmates who are routinely let out of prison by corrupt guards in order to work as assassins. The relationship between the two is interesting, but the ins and outs of the prison system are difficult to understand at first, and once the film broadens into the larger corruption (it reaches to the top, naturally), I missed the intimate story about the two hitmen that we’d started with.
The final film of the day is Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, which had just a couple of days ago received some boos in the press screening but was then seemingly well received by the later public audience. None of the negative reactions lessened my excitement, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. The film is slow, highly stylized, and Gosling isn’t really the hero or even the main character (Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm is, and he’s great). I loved the Thai colour palette, the deliberately languid pacing and the dreamlike atmosphere. And I loved Kristen Scott Thomas! She is the best bad mom ever.
But anyway, being booed puts the film into some pretty fantastic company, as this Booed at Cannes retrospective at BAM in Brooklyn points out.
After Only God Forgives, Colin and I go off to dinner with some friends who work in distribution, back at Papa Nino’s, our favourite pizza place in town. There’s a weird amount of pizza joints in this town. I don’t know if it’s the proximity to Italy or what, but you couldn’t spit without hitting a pizza place in Cannes. They’re all pretty decent, but Papa Nino’s is by far the best. It’s a small mom & pop shop that seats 30 (tops) and I hope it never gets too popular, because it’s so good. We’ve eaten there three times on this trip and it hardly feels like enough times.
Spending the day watching movies did wonders for my sense of calm and wellbeing. At this point, getting through the odds and ends of the last couple of days seems like it’ll be a breeze.