It was Cher done him in. Oh, Bradley the time-management-challenged hippie, we’ll miss your non-sequitors about beards and whales and eagles.
It was Cher done him in. Oh, Bradley the time-management-challenged hippie, we’ll miss your non-sequitors about beards and whales and eagles.
Lindsay Lohan to Elle magazine, regarding her desire to travel to Iraq and put on a USO-style show for the troops:
“I’m not afraid of going,” she said. “My security guard is going to take me to a gun range when I get back to L.A., and I’m going to start taking shooting lessons. He says if I’m going to go there I should really know how to shoot. Yeah, I have a dark side. I watched all those videos on Charles Manson for a while.”
Here’s a hot shopping tip for all y’all rednecks, brown-necks, yellow-necks, orange-, and green-necks in need of some styling belt buckles and finding themselves far, far away from Texas and that rad Albuquerque flea market. You’ll have to get your bad, leather-clad self down to this lil’ stand in the center of Serramonte Center in Daly City: Heryadi and Rieky Yusuf’s Jewelry Box Hiphop Style (650-991-7353).
They may not have those scorpion-in-lucite buckles that you still wish you picked up in Rosarito, but that I-hate-work number sort of makes up for it, no? Then after you get a specimen modeled after your ancestral flag, go down the street and stuff yourself on Hawaiian kalua pig at 99 Rice Bowl in Westlake Mall and follow that up with Krispy Kremes by the 280. Urp.
New from Oakland’s AK Press:
The double DVD compiles a pair of films by Scorsese disciples (and lifelong friends, since meeting as nine-year-old Brooklynites) Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher.
The one and only Mary Woronov is a novelist, a memoirist, and the kind of movie star who is too sexy, too campy, and much too smart for contemporary Hollywood (Rob Zombie excepted).
Woronov is coming to town this weekend for Midnight Mass and a screening of the great, underrated Death Race 2000. I recently spoke with her, and she had sharp and funny things to say about loving Playhouse of the Ridiculous, hating Warhol, loving and hating Picasso, despising the Bush era, and channeling Joan Crawford.
Guardian: Were the other Warhol superstars afraid of you and Ondine?
Mary Woronov: People were very intimidated by Ondine. People were mystified by me, not intimidated. For one thing, I didn’t have sex. For another, I acted like a guy, merely as a counterbalance to the transvestites and the female energy that was there. I was not one of the girls who wanted to be a star, I was a really good actress. I did theater and I ‘got’ the theater world, so I was different from the desperation of the other girls who thought Warhol was somehow going to make them a star. That’s what he was selling, fame for 24 hours. That was not my plan, and I never got hooked.
Tony Jaa returns August 25! [Edit: the film is now opening September 8!]
Official site here. Link to my review of Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior here.
Ong-Bak was a massive hit in its native Thailand and earned a stateside cult following, largely thanks to Jaa’s insistence on performing all his own stunts and fights without wires or special effects. The plot, about a country boy who travels to the city to retrieve a stolen Buddha head, may have been pretty lame — but the brawls were numerous and glorious. Judging by the trailer, The Protector looks like a flashier effort from Ong-Bak director Prachya Pinkaew (an avowed martial arts movie maniac). Elephants! Motorcycles! Fire! Helicopters! Big bald white dudes going “Aaaaarrrgggh!” Tony Jaa’s feet and fists of fury! Can’t wait, dude.
Tim Gunn’s take is, of course, exceedingly elegant.
Complete interview: The Descent director Neil Marshall on phallic caves, Iggy Pop-like troglobites, and good old-fashioned horror
(Caution: slight spoilers ahead!)
Director Neil Marshall (kneeling, left) on the set of The Descent. Photo credit: Alex Bailey
Doing publicity rounds for The Descent (in Bay Area theaters Fri/4), British writer-director Neil Marshall called from — appropriately enough — a cave-like environment somewhere deep within darkest Hollywood. (“I’m just stuck in a small room with no windows at the moment. Serving my time.”)
SFBG: You’ve said that you don’t want The Descent to be seen as a chick flick — which it’s clearly not, of course. What inspired you to make a horror film with an all-female cast?
NM: It’s unique in this genre, certainly. It was very contemporary, and nobody’s tried it before in an action-horror movie. The story wasn’t about them being women, it didn’t hinge on them being women — it just, simply, they were. It’s perfectly believable in this day and age that women would go off climbing, go off caving. Why not? I didn’t think it threatened the believability in any kind of way. I just thought it’d be interesting, and be a lot of fun to do. It had the potential to be a lot of fun, but it also had the potential to be a complete nightmare.
If you drive through the Mission in one of these supercute babies, you are on notice, my friend.
Image from www.carview.co.jp.
“I believe that you are a mother who is pretty desperate.
Not only are you not a very nice person, you’re also a slob.
You’re a hustler.
What happened in April?
And you were incarcerated for 3 years’ time, is that right?
Why don’t ya pay attention?!”
Nothing makes listening to my voice mail more enjoyable than when N and C prank me using a Judge Judy soundboard.
Except maybe when I get a similar call from (remember her?) Miss Cleo.
While major media outlets like the New York Times and the SF Chronicle are busy interviewing PR agents to see if good ol’ smelly Mel’s antisemitic tirade is going to affect his career (now there’s an angle for some real investigative reporting!!), we here at the Guardian have uncovered our own global Gibson conspiracy: Mel Gibson himself is responsible for starting almost every war known to man! Think about it.
Braveheart = Tribal warfare.
Apocalypto = Indigenous warfare
Signs = Alien wars/Crisis of faith
Pocahontas = Colonial wars (bonus “war is hell” points for singing)
Tequila Sunrise = War against Michelle Pfeiffer
Chicken Run = Interspecies war
Conspiracy Theory = War of THE MIND
What Women Want = War of the sexes
Lethal weapon = Race war
Mad Max = War of THE FUTURE
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome = Tina Turner
and pretty much every other movie (Gallipoli, The Patriot, Air America, Passion, Year of Living Dangerously, The Chili Con Carne Club) — all about WAR!!! And he started them all! OMG!!! —Marke B.
Except we’re not mean drunks who hurl offensive slurs at the cops when they pull us over…
Nor are we holding up the production of our latest major motion picture with our underage shenanigans …
We were, however, enticed into some unfortunate wedding reception dance-floor antics after tipping back multiple pints of the charmingly-named Polygamy Porter (pretty tasty, actually) during our recent visit to Salt Lake City. And by “we” I mean me. No use denying it. Photos were taken. How Star of me.
Pardon the slow post, but last week’s Project Runway was kinda on the ho-hum side. (Of course, it’s still the best reality show currently on the airwaves, so a ho-hum Runway is still better than the greatest-ever Rock Star: Supernova, if in fact a greatest-ever ep of that show ever existed. Sorry, can’t get past the weirdly sculpted facial hair of one Dave Navarro.)
Anyway, the challenge was to design for a woman and her purse-dog … Uli made a slinky dress for her human model, and her canine model was a pug, so it was a no-brainer that she’d win (though Alison‘s pair o’ ensembles were pretty cute too). There are still so many contestants that the editors have no choice but to highlight the folks who’ll have the top and bottom scores. Basically, if you don’t get a lot of airtime prior to the runway show, you’re IN.
Despite the puppy presence, special Guardian correspondent Max the dog — who would fit in no one’s handbag, and would certainly not appreciate it if you tried to shove him in one, anyway — snoozed through most of the episode. Well, there’s always this week — the promos hinted at the BIGGEST CONTROVERSY IN RUNWAY HISTORY. Tim Gunn is gonna bring the hammer down! (Could it be due to a certain alleged rip-off artist?) In your face, last season’s motherfucking walk-off!
Today is as good a day as any to look at Luc Tuymans‘ much-debated 2005 oil-on-canvas portrait The Secretary of State.
In a 2005 top ten for Artforum, Studio Museum curator Thelma Golden noted that Condoleeza Rice’s mouth is “resolutely shut” in this portrait. This image has also been interpreted as a political critique (in which case, Tuymans’ viewpoint is usually the writer’s), as proof that the painter is turned on by his subject, or simply as one of the latest in a long line of portraits of people who have had Rice’s job. But what would Dave Chappelle’s blind white supremacist character say?
Francois Ozon’s new movie Time to Leave opens in Bay Area theaters this Friday, which means that it’s time to talk to him — about his attractive lead actor, Melvil Poupaud, his legendary supporting actress, Jeanne Moreau, and potentially stupid but fuckable bit players. Oh yeah, there’s some gossipy stuff.
Bay Guardian: My favorite of Melvil Poupaud’s films might be Eric Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale, where he has a Jeff Buckley quality. The beach scenes in your movie resonate off of that one, as well as the beach scenes in your past films — would you agree? Had you admired other films of his?
Francois Ozon: I met Melvil a long time ago for Water Drops on Burning Rocks; I’d asked him to do the lead part, but he was afraid to play a gay character — he wasn’t about to kiss a boy in front of the camera. But now he was ready, maybe because the fact the character is gay is not so important. He was touched by Romain’s relationship to his father.
He’s a great actor because he accepts his passivity, his femininity. To be directed by a man was not a problem for him — in fact, at times, working with him is like working with an actress.
By Cheryl Eddy
1) Nicolas Cage to star in Liberace biopic. (Via TMZ via Hollywood Wiretap.) I can’t decide if I’m excited or horrified, frankly.
2) A Barney Fife statue, set to be erected in Mount Airy, NC (basis for the fictional Mayberry, setting for The Andy Griffith Show) has been destroyed before it was finished. Why? Details are suspiciously sketchy, but money — not interference from lovable lush Otis Campbell — looks to be the cause. A few more deets on the “statue snafu” here. (Via Ohnotheydidnt.)
Image from The Shrine to Don Knotts
By Cheryl Eddy
Somehow I found myself in San Jose — where temperatures broke 100 degrees yesterday — bringing the average age way down at the San Jose Stage Company’s final performance of Idols of the King. The show, which featured a cast of three including a mostly plausible (if vigorously spray-tanned) Elvis impersonator named Scot Bruce, managed to mix songs from all three EP eras (1950s hillbilly cat, 1960s Hollywood, 1970s jumpsuit) with a series of atonal vignettes, one of which actually included references to the Paul Lynde era of Hollywood Squares.
By Cheryl Eddy
I’m in so much shock over this week’s Project Runway elimination that it took me an extra day to post. How sad was saying goodbye to Malan — who was edited to look like a potential villain in the casting special, a snob in episode one … and a sob-story softie in episode two, his swan song? So sad even Miss USA looked a little choked up under all that spackle.
Ok, but that dress DID look like a log. Like one of those chocolate-covered yule logs, even.
Next week: the fall of neck tattoo? the comeuppance of artsy craftsy? the uncorked wrath of “I’m an architect”?
club overload!!! ???? !!! here’s a brief update. and yes, this is her royal pain in the assala Marke B.
ok so first is junk tonite at the stud — yay! back after all these years, the ska-tinged queer living room you always wished your great aunt ida hung out in.
tomorrow is a bunch of fun shit I can’t quite remember (oh yeah! THIS and THIS), then Saturday is Cookie Monster at Harvey’s in the Castro hosted by the nicest drag queen in the world (also quite a Gladys Kravitz, I hear) AND one of my fave new joints ever, Frankie Sharp and Brontez’s gig WORK ME GODDAMMIT at the Gangway in the Tenderloin, it costs like 5$ and has some great and random music. Lots of drunk ass ho’s. and me.
all that stuff above is too queer and I’m too gay. I’ll be into more straight stuff, like, Monday. Sunday I’ll be at the symphony in Dolores Park (1812 Overture! how perfect while we’re at war, again uselessly… ), and then Eagle Beer Bust (for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence) and the Super Soul Sundays for DJ Spen.
you can comment to add in your own damn party planssss. I wanna k-now! ;)m.
Praised be to the gods of fashion and addictive reality television … season three of Project Runway is here.
First challenge: create a look using only materials found in the designers’ apartments (think IKEA … lots of IKEA). Alas, San Francisco’s own Stacy Estrella was OUT. Blame her creation, an ill-fitting shower-curtain gown, or blame her personality, which didn’t seem quite hysterical enough to generate train-wreck television (for that, turn to C.C. DeVille-voiced Vincent Libretti, whose high-drama potential explains why he’s still on the show after making a hat out of a fruit basket).
The early favorite, design-wise, is Barbie doll dress diva Robert Best — but so much of this show is about the characters, not the occasionally alarming garments they turn out. Can’t wait to see who’ll be the Santino of Season 3 — my money’s on snooty Malan Breton. I’m also fond of Kayne Gallaspie, he of the Mommie Dearest -quoting, who makes pageant gowns for Midwestern beauty queens, and Jewel-esque Alison Kelly, the show’s token hipster.
Needless to say, next Wednesday can’t come soon enough. Now, where the hell is my chiffon?
Gary Meyer of Balboa Theater fame dishes the Cannes screening of Sofa Coppola’s forthcoming opus:
Can we get more frills on that? A still from Marie Antoinette.
A hometown girl made good at the world’s most prestigious film festival when Valley Girl (Napa Valley, that is) Sofia Coppola presented her newest film, Marie Antoinette, at Cannes.
The movie was filmed in France and deals with one of the country’s most famous historical characters — an American is always taking chances dealing with something so essentially French. Kirsten Dunst said at the morning press conference, “In America we learn mostly about our history and only a paragraph is dedicated to the French Revolution. “
An 8:30 a.m. press screening generated a handful of predictable boos from a group of French critics though the published reviews were generally favorable and the opening day box office was huge here. What happens at the public showings in more important.
And that is how I wanted to experience Marie Antoinette. I scored hard-to-get tickets for the evening gala. This is the “big deal” where the celebrities and France’s crème de la crème put on their finest. Everyone is required to dress accordingly. Following a day of screenings, I rushed back to my hotel to get into my tuxedo at 5:30. At 6:30 I met my date in front of the Palais. This massive structure is entered via dozens of red carpeted steps flanked by hundreds of photographers and TV camera crews.
Photo opps galore. Credit: Gary Meyer
As we started our ascension, Yseult, wearing a stunning long dress, was stopped because a security guard noticed she wore black tennis shoes underneath. With some fast talking and a flash of her smile, she got him to look the other way. And then we started an entrance that seemed to take a very long time. Not only are there numerous sets of stairs, but everyone is expected to stop and pose for pictures…just in case we happened to be famous. Suddenly there was loud cheering. We put on our best we-are-important look and pretended to belong. Reaching the top steps we turned to look back and it soon became clear that maybe the cheering had been for Samuel L. Jackson. Oh, well, we had our fantasy moment.
Inside the 3,000-seat auditorium we had excellent orchestra seats thanks to Columbia Pictures. On the huge screen was projected the arrivals. We’d been up there minutes before. And now we had a close-up view as jurors ZiYi Zhang, Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter, Monica Bellucci, Tim Roth, and Wong Kar-Wai arrived. Soon came Sharon Stone and Faye Dunaway, then Pedro Almodovar with his film’s star, Penelope Cruz. Several women in astonishing dresses and massive colorful hats came dressed right out of the film. And finally the cast and crew of Marie Antoinette led by director-writer Sophia Coppola under the watchful eyes of proud parents Eleanor and Francis Ford. Ellie made certain to capture everything on her camcorder. Kirsten Dunst was glowing, and her co-stars Jason Schwartzman, Marianne Faithfull, and Steven Cooper seemed to be thrilled, too. As the film’s entourage entered the cinema, the TV cameras followed, and suddenly we saw them a few yards away while projected 50 feet tall. The entire audience rose to offer an advance standing ovation.
Face time inside the Palais. Credit: Gary Meyer
The movie began. It is a beautifully made work that concentrates on the life of a young woman brought from Austria to be married at 14 years old to the heir to the throne, Louis XVI. The rules were strict at Versailles. Annoyed at first that she couldn’t even get undressed without a staff helping her, Marie soon became accustomed to her escape from family infighting and gossip by indulging in the constant pampering, shopping, eating, and playing with her pets. Her husband wasn’t interested in intimacy, and for years Marie was blamed for their lack of an heir.
Coppola has brought a contemporary sensibility to this tale about the young queen. Her script largely avoids politics with the coming revolution being a factor only at the end of the two-hour film. Sofia explained at the press conference that she wasn’t telling the story of the French Revolution, but it is clear to the audience why the masses would rise up in protest at the extravagance of the royal family while most people were starving.
Jason Schwartzman and Kristen Dunst maneuver at the press conference.
Credit: Gary Meyer
The settings and costumes are authentic, and the actors explained how they worked to move and inhabit the clothing. They all did considerable research for their characters. Schwartzman told how amazing it was to wander around Versailles alone and develop a sense of what it might have been like to live there. But Coppola wants the movie to come alive for today’s audiences, and her musical score features 1970s and ‘80s tunes while the spoken language feels comfortably contemporary. She admits to having taken liberties with history while drawing parallels between the excesses of the 18th century French monarchy and modern-day affluence. Valley Girl, indeed…Loire Valley Girl.
“I wanted the film to be credible, but I was inspired more by the visual than historical facts. I want people to be transported into another era with an echo of today,” Coppola said.
The film comfortably coasts along with little dramatic tension, but is a pleasure and should be a popular, if unlikely success to follow Ms Coppola’s very different but linked The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation.
Following the screening was a lengthy standing ovation and then those with colorfully painted fans/invitations moved outside and over to Plage Marie Antoinette for the after party. Tables filled with assorted seafood from raw tuna on spoons to crayfish and oysters, were supplemented by vegetables, salads, and the tastiest cheese balls that have ever melted in my mouth. A large table sported a tall fountain of flowing chocolate waiting for assorted fruits to be drowned. Sofia was spotted indulging, and when nobody noticed (except my friend from the Hollywood Reporter), she wiped some chocolate off on her dress. Additional guests, many dressed casually, arrived. We spotted Robin Williams, Michele Yeoh, REM’s Michael Stipe, and cyclist Lance Armstrong. There were crème puffs but they didn’t let us eat cake, the famous reference, which is referred to as a joke in the movie.
The weather was perfect, and at midnight a spectacular fireworks show erupted over the harbor. A DJ played great ‘80s dance music. My feet started to hurt at 2 a.m., and it was time to go home. There was an 8:30 am screening to rest up for. I carefully exited in hopes that the masses weren’t waiting outside to rise up against the most extravagant party I’ve attended.
To read quotes from the Marie Antoinette press conference, visit the festival site.
First off, I can bitch about the ridiculousness of the Golden Gate Bridge effect, the absurdity of setting so much of this movie in SF when they actually shot most of it in Vancouver (it looks pretty faux, to boot), and the narrative mishaps that leave me, the onetime X-Men semi-superfan, uncaring about whether Jean Grey/Phoenix lives or dies.
But just to be a super-bitch, why has X-Men become a place where supermodels (Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn, we’re looking at you) go to die? Famke, I’m sorry, but you’ve looked finer and your color job has been much classier. This look ranks up there with Val Kilmer’s bad wigs in The Doors. Blame it on the Brett Ratner production?
Can we get any redder?
All that aside, I wanted to simply share a moment in the preview screening when the button/easter egg appeared after the credits. Not only was it blatantly cheesy and soap-opera-ish, but the devotees who I caught it with, were literally roaring. Most memorable response: “Bullshit!”
Gary Meyer of the Balboa is at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Here is the second of his reports.
What a day! They’ve moved things around. Problems with my accreditation badge mean I can’t get into the movies. Offices that used to be in the Palais are at the other end of the Croisette, a 20 minute walk. The lines are huge and don’t seem to move. Finally I get my problems cleared up but every screening is full. Even my friends connected with some movies can’t get me in. The day is almost over and I haven’t seen one film yet. BUZZZZ. “Good morning. This is your 7am wake up call. Have a nice day.” Anxiety dreams are the worst here. I am feeling guilty that I only saw four films yesterday, but that was all there was worth seeing.
The morning started promisingly. Ken Loach’s newest, The Wind that Shakes the Barley , is generally well-received. Cillian Murphy proves that his acting turns in Breakfast on Pluto and Red Eye were not flukes. He stars as a young doctor faced with an offer to practice medicine in London — or stay in his village and become increasingly involved in forming a guerilla army to fight the “Black and Tan” army from England, sent to squash Irish independence. Set in the 1920s, the film has contemporary relevance. The first half is exciting, playing like a grand adventure with a political conscience, just as we have come to expect from Loach. The second half slows a bit but still worked for me.
Continuing in the history vein, with sociology and myth thrown in, is Rolf de Heer’s Ten Canoes. This Dutch director has developed a small but faithful following with his diverse filmography of under-distributed movies including The Quiet Room, Dance Me to My Song, and Alexandra’s Project. Ten Canoes was developed with actor David Gulpilil (most known for starring in Walkabout) who was interested in the stories of his own tribe, the Ramingining people. Gulpilil narrates (in English) simultaneous stories related to forbidden love but separated in time by many generations. There is a certain irreverence in his storytelling that is surprising: What is a flatulence reference doing in a story set hundreds of years ago? But then one realizes people have passed wind as long as they have existed. The guilty warrior is moved to the back of the line as they go through the forest — and more bawdy humor reminds us that dirty jokes aren’t new.
Ten Canoes is an impressive accomplishment on many levels. Though its austerity may be off-putting for some audiences, the fascinating stories, stunning visual delights, and truly unique experiences make it worthy of distribution.
The next two films shouldn’t be watched on a full stomach … but a viewer might not want to eat afterwards either. Taxidermia is the second feature from Hungarian director György Pálfi, after his astonishing Hukkle. Like Ten Canoes — another film dealing with several generations in a family — Taxidermia opens with a story of an orderly masturbating while observing his master’s young daughters, and servicing the man’s rather large wife on a monthly basis. The accidental offspring grows up to become a champion eater, winning contests while becoming a national, very fat, hero. Just as the sexual escapades of his father were graphically portrayed, we are shown huge amounts of vomit following the son’s competitions. The absurdity of it generates nervous laughter from those who haven’t turned away from the screen. He grows older, and becomes so large he cannot move. When he explodes, his son, a taxidermist, does what you might expect — and then what you won’t expect.
In some ways Taxidermia is a brilliant piece, with incredible cinematography, black humor, and a couple of visual treats. A brief sequence in a pop-up storybook and one exploring the myriad of uses for a bathtub are moments I should like to see again. But this is a hard movie to recommend to most; the gross outs just keep coming, each topping the previous one. Obviously, it’s only for those who can stomach it.
If one hasn’t lost his or her appetite after Taxidermia, the fiction film adapted from Eric Schlosser’s non-fiction book Fast Food Nation could move anyone in that direction. The author developed the screenplay with director Richard Linklater (whose animated science fiction film, A Scanner Darkly, screens here next week). The story centers around an executive at a thinly disguised hamburger chain — “Mickey’s” — who is sent to Colorado to investigate reports concerning fecal matter in beef. Along the way he encounters a number of characters working at the slaughterhouse and at the chain’s local burger joint.
In trying to cover as many controversial bases as he can, Schlosser may have taken on too many issues (the treatment of illegal aliens, sexual harassment, America’s poor dietary habits, the lack of sanitary conditions in both the meat-processing plant and the retail outlets, corporate neglect for bigger profits, etc). But the over-ambitious narrative rarely makes the impact these issues deserve. Following Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel, The Jungle, Schlosser’s investigative book confirmed that things aren’t much better in the 21st century. Though trying to reach a wider audience with a narrative film is a noble idea, it doesn’t succeed as either entertainment or piece of muckraking. The French seemed to generally like Fast Food Nation, probably because it makes for an easy anti-American target. But they also eat fast-food burgers in huge numbers.
The Marche is a massive film market that happens simultaneously with the film festival. More junk that you ever imagined is produced all over the world, and thousands of films are being sold here. Some are finished and others are in development. Many will never be finished.
We can always expect ripoffs of Hollywood blockbusters. There is no description for Sacrament Code or Stealing the Mona Lisa in the ads because the makers are probably hoping for some down and dirty direct-to-international video and cable sales. I’ve seen ads for at least three pirate movies, each looking very much like the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean II, with supernatural elements floating through the art work and featuring casts of total unknowns who look a lot like Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley.
One of my favorite things at Cannes is seeking out the most ridiculous titles for movies selling in Marche. Are you ready for a horror film about “hair extensions that attack the women that wear them?” Japan’s Toei is selling it here. Exte will star Chiaki Kuriyama, the crazy chain-swinging schoolgirl in Kill Bill.
And how about Motor Home Massacre? No description offered and none is needed.
The masses gathered at Cannes rarely refer to upcoming Festival movies by their title. We are asked, “Are you going to see the new Almodovar?” or “Did you see the Turkish movie?”
We say: “I liked the first feature from the director of that short Wasp,” and “Don’t miss the Indonesian documentary about the tsunami aftermath.”
This puts the film in a context that is easier to explain than “Are you going to see Volver? Iklimler? Red Road? Serambi?”
What do those titles mean? Until enough people have seen or heard about them, they are merely strange words or odd phrases. Volver is the new film from Pedro Almodovar; it’s a bit more subdued than some of his over-the-top recent entertainments. Penelope Cruz, who returns to her roots in Spanish cinema, plays a mother dealing with a teenaged daughter, a lonely sister, and an aging aunt. When the aunt dies, her dead mother appears, first as what the women assume is a ghost — but, maybe she never died in the fire that took their father? Initially the filmmaker continues his homage to Hitchcock with a surprise murder (and Bernard Herrmann-like music) before moving more to melodrama. While not a great film, Volver is wonderfully entertaining, full of surprises, and features a performance by Cruz that made me an instant fan. The buzz is great.
Iklimler has an English title of Climates, an appropriate description of the hot and cold relationship between a man and a woman who break up during a beach vacation and meet again in the snow. Like director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s previous film Uzak (Distant), the Cannes Grand Prix winner in 2003, this film could be best described as contemplative. On the surface it is a simple story of a relationship, but the emotions and motivations dig much deeper. The characters are believable, the emotions real, and the performances powerful. With virtually no camera movement, the filmmaker beautifully composes each shot; so impressed with his work, the camera stays in that one position for long sequences. Some raved about this “work of art,” but gorgeously composed images don’t make a movie. For me, this slowed too much midway. I stayed with it and appreciated the ending, but as with so much at the festival, Iklimler is an acquired taste. No doubt I will be damned for my comments.
Red Road is another story. Scottish director Andrea Arnold’s first feature is a tense and original thriller. Working from a concept proposed by Lars Von Trier’s team, three different filmmakers set out to create original stories based on the same main characters. Each were given notes; the same two actors will star. Red Road is the first to be made. A woman works for a security company watching various video monitors for possible troublemakers in a rough neighborhood. She concentrates on a man recently released from prison for a crime obviously committed against someone close to her. This variation on Hitchcock’s Rear Window grows increasing more tense as details are carefully revealed. Despite a few missteps, the film works well and Arnold is a talent to watch (her Oscar-winning short, Wasp, was a knockout).
In a given day there will rarely be a logical pattern to the order of film-watching — and the segue from one to the next can be very strange. Following Red Road with Serambi was such a radical shift. This documentary explores the aftermath of the tsunami, following children, young adults, and adults who search for their friends and relatives while coming to the realization they must rebuild their lives and city.
Another documentary, Boffo! Tinsletown’s Bombs and Blockbusters proved a good way to end a day that also included a program of shorts and a long Korean film about young soldiers that left me cold (The Unforgiven). Boffo! is by onetime Bay Area director Bill Couturie. Packed with film clips and great interviews, it tries to help us figure out why a movie is a hit or flop — even if people from filmmakers to studio heads come back to writer William Goldman’s quote: “Nobody knows nothing.”
Gary Meyer of the Balboa is at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Here is the first of his reports from the Croisette and the theater trenches:
Getting there — No snakes on the plane
The trip to Cannes always starts when I board the plane in San Francisco, looking to see if anyone I know is aboard. The 747 was huge but full exploration didn’t reveal any obvious candidates for the Festival.
Once in Paris things change. On the transfer to Nice I always run into several friends making the final leg of our journey to the south of France and 10 days of movies, morning till dawn. We compare stories about how much sleep we did or didn’t get before leaving and on the plane. And the inevitable jokes about being jet-lagged and surely taking naps in films.
Each year I also spot someone famous getting on my plane. One year I chatted with French superstar Jeanne Moreau. I had been involved in distributing a movie she directed, L’Adolescente. Another time Michael Richards (Kramer on “Seinfeld”) was nervous about the trip. It was his first time in France and he was appearing at the premiere of the movie Unstrung Heroes. He was a nervous wreck. He couldn’t figure out how to use the pay phones, scared of the security and certain he would never find his way to the airport gate at DeGaulle (a reasonable worry). I befriended him and showed the way.
This year as the long line waited to board our flight, Snakes on a Plane‘s Samuel L. Jackson was escorted to the front of the line. A member of the Cannes Jury, he had a hat pulled down so he’d only be half recognized. Someone in the line called out, “I’ll see you in Cannes,” to make sure we all knew where they were both headed.
Arriving a day early has it benefits. The crowds haven’t assembled. One can take care of accreditation, press orientation and study the various program books. A press screening of The Da Vinci Code was the only scheduled event. I had already seen it and chose to have dinner with friends.
Film festivals like to open with a high profile movie that is sure to attract big stars, tons of media attention and a major post-screening party that will last all-night. Allowing a film to open a festival, especially Cannes, is taking a big chance. The movie will come under extra heavy scrutiny from critics. The Da Vinci Code is a logical choice to open the 59th Cannes International Film Festival. It is based on a huge best-selling book and largely set in France. Starring a major American movie star, Tom Hanks, and one of France’s most popular actresses, Audrey Tautou, it also features numerous important European actors. As I write this, over my left shoulder I can see them walking up the red carpet for the opening night ceremonies. Thousands of people jam the streets in front of the Palais. TV cameras and photographers catch the face of every person who ascends the steps to make certain they don’t miss anyone of importance.
The press has now seen The Da Vinci Code. The response isn’t too good. But despite the criticism you will read, Columbia Pictures made the correct choice. Director Ron Howard’s last film, Cinderella Man, was invited in 2005 but the producers passed. And the film failed at the box office. This time they aren’t about to miss out on the glitzy stamp of approval that comes with opening the world’s most famous film festival.
I’ve seen three films the first day of the Festival — all official selections caught at press screenings. I’ll catch a few more tonight.
A good way to start off the morning is with something not too demanding. Paris je t’aime is a collection of 20 five-minute films by an eclectic group of international directors including Gus Van Sant, the Coen Brothers, Walter Salles, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne, Gurinda Chadha, Tom Twyker, Wes Craven and many more guiding a superstar cast from Natalie Portman to Gena Rowlands, Gerard Depardieu to Fanny Ardant. (Ben Gazzara, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, and Bob Hoskins also are featured.) Anthology films inevitably are a mixed bag. Each piece is about love in Paris. They are like simple short stories; the best ones aren’t overly ambitious. Paris looks lovely of course and I enjoyed most of it.
Next came a film from Paraguay, Hamaca Paraguaya. At only 78 minutes, this is the kind of movie not to see when still jet lagged. It is all voice-over dialogue (subtitled) with stagnant camera shots. When the lights went up, I asked my neighbor, author Phillip Lopate, if I snored. He said I was a very considerate napper and wanted to know how he did. Just fine, I guess, as he didn’t wake me up. I have no doubt it will be hailed as a work of art by someone.
Much better was Summer Palace, the first competition film. Director Lou Ye (Suzhou River, Purple Butterfly) has constructed a complex film of relationships starting in 1989 China. A student leaves her small town and boyfriend to attend university in Beijing. She discovers both friendship and sex, with the pleasures and confusion they can bring. We journey through the political changes in China and Germany (where some of the characters go) over the next 15 years as the group of friends separate and rejoin. The film is often powerful, vibrant and involving, if a bit difficult to follow at times. It overstays its welcome at 140 minutes; some careful editing would help it become even better.
Summer Palace is the only Asian film in the Competition. It arrives amidst controversy. The Chinese government has complained that the producers didn’t get censorship approval and have broken the law by submitting it to Cannes. But the filmmakers claimed they didn’t submit it to Cannes. (Must have been the sales agent in France.) The Chinese censors turned the film down. Some suspect it is for the highly erotic nature and political reasons. There have been reports that the film has been withdrawn and the director has returned to China. This won’t be the first time claims of censorship by China have garnered attention here. The highest profile case was Zhang Yimou’s To Live.
Sitting in front of a sandwich stand a young British woman told her companion that film sales have been tough and that the DVD market has slowed to practically nothing: “We are looking for Video In Demand, computer downloading — anything where people don’t have to leave their homes.”