Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #7 - May 12, Day 4

by Henri Béhar

May 12, 1996

CANNES -- Didn't go to the Paul Allen party. Love reggae, hate to scoot in the rain in a raw silk tux. I hear it was great. Can't wait for the Polaroids.

Today is a heavy day. Robert Altman is world-premiering his "Kansas City", stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Miranda Richardson are already in town, Harry Belafonte has cancelled at the last moment. Too bad. The man hasn't set foot in Cannes since Stan Latham's "Beat Street", the first film to deal with hip-hop culture, was shown her out of competition (he had produced it.). And beside last year's "White Man's Burden," which co-starred John Travolta, Belafonte hasn't really played a leading role in nearly twenty years.

At the "Kansas City" press conference, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Miranda Richardson confirm they have never experienced filmmaking that was so akin to jazz riffing as they did with Altman on this movie.

Asked to compare Altman (with whom she made two films, "Short Cuts" and "Kansas City") to the Coen Brothers, who directed her in "The Hudsucker Proxy" (in competition last year -- or was it the year before?), Jason Leigh tries hard to come up with a sensible answer (there is none), but her face silently shouts "Duh?"

At some point, Altman launches an attack against his "Kansas City" producers, who reneged on their deal to produce "More Short Cuts" (a sequel to the Raymond Carver-inspired anthology) and did not come up with a budget to transfer to film a video-docu ("a visual album") he shot, parallel to "Kansas City", with all of today's major jazz stars. Sitting next to Miranda Richardson, the main producer remains stone-faced. "I don't want to embark on a controversy, not here, not now," he whispers to the moderator.


Some Film Opinions (not quite reviews)

Stephen Frears' "The Van" disappoints. Penned by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, it follows "The Commitments" (brought to you by Alan Parker) and "The Snapper" (Frears). Less a sequel than a variation on the same themes, it completes what is known as Doyle's "Barrytown Trilogy". Same leading actor, Colm Meany, same splendid ear for dialogue. Smashing for 40 minutes, then the film unravels and goes nowhere.

As usual, Frears is brilliant at his press conference. You can't hate a man who still looks like an unmade bed -- or, as Glenn Close once put it, "like a football field after the match."


Also set in Ireland, "Some Mother's Son" is an entirely different proposition. Written by Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot") and Terry George, but produced by Sheridan and helmed by George (in direct reversal of the roles they held on "In The Name of The Father"), it deals through the eyes of two mothers with the hunger strike in Ulster that led to the election to the British Parliament of IRA front man Bobby Sands just before he died in jail. It is chilling, energetic, funny at times. As the two mothers, Helen Mirren and Fionula Flannagan are absolutely superb.


The strangest filmic object: "Microcosmos, The Grass People", by scientists-cum-filmmakers Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou. An amazing tale of life, romance and cruelty --a *fiction* where the main characters are played by insects. It took years to make, and a ballsy producer (former "Demoiselles de Rochefort" star Jacques Perrin). Miramax picked it up immediately. A must we'll get back to when it is released stateside.


Skipped Peter Greenaway's "The Pillow Book" to follow a smashing pair of blue eyes. As Shelley Winters once put it in her memoirs, "stars in the sky, wind blowing in the trees, waves crashing on the sand..."

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