Film Scouts on the Riviera 2000

2000 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Opening Night Notes

by David Sterritt

Film Scouts on the Riviera 2000 is presented by:

This year's opening program had many of the ingredients Cannes likes best: a large-scale production ("Vatel") with international stars (Gerard Depardieu, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth) and chances for global release boosted by English-language dialogue. For some of us, though, this main course was vastly less interesting than the hors-d'oeuvre that preceeded it: "Of the Origin of the 21st Century," a 17-minute short by Jean-Luc Godard, one of the greatest filmmakers of the postwar era. I've published two books on JLG in the past two years, so of course I'm prejudiced, but the new short seemed dazzling to many spectators besides me - a high-intensity plunge into the high-postmodernist style of his "Histoire(s) du cinema" video series, weaving a hugely eclectic selection of materials (newsreel footage, excerpts from classic films, narration, various kinds of music) into a bricolage that careened from the stunningly beautiful to the awesomely disturbing and back again in literally the blink of an eye. Godard in his 70th year is as prodigious a talent as in his 30th, and I salute Cannes for saluting his ornery gifts once again.

As for "Vatel," a colorful visit to the court of Louis XIV during a days-long festival of fun, food, and fireworks, it's certainly no great movie. But it's better than you would have gathered from the stony silence that filled the auditorium after its Cannes press screening.

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