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Cannes I Kick It? Yes, You Cannes: Previewing Pajiba's Cannes Coverage

By Caspar Salmon | Miscellaneous | May 15, 2012 |

By Caspar Salmon | Miscellaneous | May 15, 2012 |

I’ve dreamt about going to the Cannes film festival ever since I was an insufferable boy of fifteen. Knowing a few people — cough — in the industry at the time, I would hear all about the festival and the exciting films that had premiered there, and long to go to the parties and sit on the beach and, er, I don’t know, be a terrible pain in the arse except not at my home as usual but in Cannes. When I was 15, the people I knew who had been to the festival came back raving about the new Coen brothers film at the time, called Fargo, and about Breaking The Waves, by some dude called Lars Von Trier. I saw both of those films and also saw the Palme d’Or winner that year, Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies (which is certainly a good film but perhaps not as great as those two), and a love affair was born. I’ve followed the festival with bated breath every year, ever since, from Bjork’s Best Actress prize via the Spice Girls creating havoc on the roof of some unfortunate restaurant, right up to Lars Von Trier’s Nazi-gate last year and the inevitable win of Terence Malick’s Circle of Life, brilliantly adapted from The Lion King.

All this is to say that I could not be more excited to be finally going to Cannes myself, this year, to represent Pajiba on the Croisette (get used to me saying Croisette a lot; it’s the name of the beach area there, and you’re supposed to drop it as many times as possible. What’s the Sundance equivalent? Slopes, probably.). When I say ‘represent Pajiba’, I mean that I’ll be slumming it in a ghastly flat about 20 minutes from the festival with some people I’ve never met before and who will probably turn out to have hideous kinks I could not have predicted; that I will be wearing a shamefully slutty ‘reporter’s outfit’ and trying to look as much as possible like a zippy young blogger in front of the printed-word fogeys who actually know what they’re talking about; and that I will be concentrating almost as much on the insanity of the festival as I will on the films themselves.

And what films we have! Each year the festival serves up some treats and this year is pas de mistake. Oh yeah, as well as name-dropping the Croisette constantly I am also contractually obliged to use terrible French in my articles; I actually speak French, but crap French is beaucoup très plus fun to use than vrai French. So, what films am I looking forward to, you ask? Oh mes chéries! There’s the new Cronenberg film, starring the sparkly one from the popular vampires film, whom I’ve actually never seen in a movie before. There’s the adaptation of On The Road, which I have read and which I loathe, starring the female one from the popular vampires film. Both pictures look like they might actually be pretty good, to me: with Cosmopolis Cronenberg seems to be returning to his psycho-sexual futurismo stuff from back in the day (before the dreary Eastern Promises and his Freud/Jung spank-off), and On The Road is promisingly directed by Walter ‘If it’s a road movie, I’ll direct it’ Salles. On The Road is a road movie. We’re in safe hands.

Elsewhere, I’m going almost mental with anticipation for Michael Haneke’s new film, Amour, which sees the veteran of quease-inducing ghastly hyper-real discomfort movies set his sights on a story of dementia and the havoc it wreaks on an old couple and their daughter. If I know my Haneke, there’ll be some really grim shots of the old couple being either fragile and abused, or cantankerous and manipulative, perhaps while a string quartet is playingand their daughter slams her head in a kitchen cupboard. I can only cross my fingers and hope. On a less flippant note, Haneke is disquietingly brilliant at pointing the ambiguous ties that bind families and couples, and at presenting the psychological turmoil of his characters in physical ways, with violence never far from a thin surface of manners and convention. He is wonderful especially at depicting old Europe and its secrets, so I think he should nail this story.

Also on my radar this year, two films starring people I had never expected to see rubbing shoulders with the arthouse crowd: I’m talking about Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, starring Zac Efron, and Mud by Jeff Nichols, starring Matthew McConaughey. I hated Lee Daniels’ poverty-porn schmaltz party, Precious (based on the novel bla bla by Thingy), and if my gut feeling is anything to go by, this story set in the deep South is just the sort of thing that Daniels could go horribly to town on, with his classic Lee Daniels anvil-like sensibility. Advance word says that Nicole Kidman turns in a powerhouse performance in it, which fills me with dread. As for Mud, which also features Reese Witherspoon as the girlfriend of the escaped convict played by McConaughey, I’m dying to see it. Take Shelter, Nichols’ previous movie, didn’t knock me out on first viewing, but its fluid direction, disturbing dream sequences and tonal sense of foreboding — all very Malick-y — have remained with me ever since, making the film grow in my estimation. It’s fair to say that great things are expected of him with this.

Other prospective delights at the festival include Marion Cotillard’s star turn in the new picture by Jacques Audiard, whose Prophet was hard-hitting, dreamlike and magisterial, as well as new films by Palme d’Or alumni Ken Loach and Cristian Mungiu, and some interesting pictures in the sidebar categories of the festival. Chief amongst those are the massively hyped Beasts of the Southern Wild, fresh from its success at Sundance, and Laurence Anyways, the latest film from French-Canadian wunder-enfant Xavier Dolan, about a transgender woman (played by French hottie Melvil Poupaud) and her doomed love for a biological woman.

Finally, I must confess a certain glee at the thought of the new offering from Leos Carax, director of the beautiful Les amants du Pont-Neuf with Juliette Binoche 20 years ago, who returns to the Croisette with >Holy Motors. The film stars Pont-Neuf’s Denis Lavant in the role of a time-traveller who shifts between different identities, including a murderer and a corporate executive. Kylie Minogue has a small role, and I’ve seen some stills of Eva Mendes as a flame-haired Amy Winehouse-alike with a bow-and-arrow. It’s got to be terrible, right? Cannes always has to have one film on its roster that brings about the blazing ire and jeers of the critics (in past years it’s been Southland Tales or The Brown Bunny), and my money is on this one.

I’ll be posting reviews daily (internet access and sobriety allowing), so do be sure to check the site out for updates, and please feel free to leave advice and/or suggestions of things or people you’d like me to do while I’m there, as well as your thoughts on the films. Right, see vous back here in a couple of days, live from the Croisette.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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