Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #5 - May 10, Day 2

by Henri Béhar

May 10, 1996

CANNES -- We now know why John Malkovich came into town, and why Dustin Hoffman walked up the legendary red-carpeted steps. The latter just "happened" to be there to announce that Punch Productions, his production company, had signed a complex deal that would enable him to produce a certain number of films on its own. Malkovich, who's attended the Festsival many a time, was to declare its 49th edition open.

Broadcast live last night, the opening ceremony was a howler. Actress-turned-emcee Sabine Azema wore an armored bodice (Christian Lacroix?) that would require three hours for a normal human being to slip in. Dressed to whatever passes off as the nines in Festival-land, the jury huddled like potted plants in a florist's window. Greta Scacchi was graceful, as usual; Nathalie Baye had a smile that appeared painted on her face. Eiko Ishioka was as impavid as if she were wearing a kabuki mask. Francis Coppola was his customary ebullient self.

The ceremony dragged on, so messy that it made the Oscar telecast look like a lively romp. When Malkovich mumbled, both in English and in French (which he now speaks fluently), "I declare this Festival open," everyone's relief was palpable.


Eiko smiled. At the jury press conference, the moderator introduced her not as "Dracula" 's costume designer" (which she just happened to be), but as "a visual artist" (which she is), who did do the costumes for Monsieur Coppola's horror epic, but also designed the gates (and sets) that opened wide in Paul Schrader's "Mishima", among a few other things. Eiko's smile is something to behold: all the lines suddenly veer upward. By Confucius, she seemed to think, *someone* has done their homework.

As usual, the bulk of the questions went to President Coppola: about filmmaking, about cultural divides between the US and the rest of the world--to which he replied that the real divide separated "industry films", world-wide, from the rest of film works.


How do you separate those that have seen Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies" from those that haven't? Them-that-have have a smile on their faces (it *is* a comedy) and eyes still glistening with tears--they loved every Kleenex of it. The Croisette is abuzz with the 10-minute take where the camera stands still, at eye-level with two women sitting in a cafe trying to establish some rapport with each other. The actresses are so great, and their timing so flawless you're ready to kill the director if the camera so much as *breathes*! Thank God it doesn't, we all held our collective breath along with it and there's already talk of the top award, the Palme d'Or (On the second day?)

Backstage, before the "Secrets and Lies" press conference starts, one scribe tells the three leading actresses how amazing they were. All three sort of stutter and stammer a shy Thank you. Obviously, they're not used to compliments and don't know how to take them.

In Cannes? Now, *that*'s refreshing.

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