Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #12 - May 17, Day 9

by Henri Béhar

May 17, 1996

CANNES -- Based on Goethe's eponymous novel, the Taviani Brothers' "Elective Affinities" is a tale of "amour fou", where Isabelle Huppert, married to Jean-Hughes Anglade (of "Queen Margot" fame), falls for Fabrizio Bentivoglio while Anglade pines and sighs for young Marie Gillain. Set in Tuscany, Italy, but presented in French, "Elective Affinities" reminds one of Eric Rohmer's "Marquise d'O", only slightly colder, although sunnier.


The day, however, belongs to David Cronenberg's "Crash", which no one, absolutely no one, has yet seen. Based on a J.G. Ballard novel, it's the weird tale of people who can only reach orgasm in the midst of car crashes, with the ultimate woman-machine played by Rosanna Arquette. All sorts of sexual combinations are displayed on screen: between James Spader and Deborah Unger, between Spader and Canadian actor Elias Koteas (the strip-joint D.J. in Atom Egoyan's "Exotica").

Though the film is roundly booed, the press conference is lively, but respectful. ("We expected much more hostility," Cronenberg later told the moderator. "This is a film crowd," the latter replied. "They may disagree with a filmmaker, they will, however, remain courteous."). A recluse not unlike Thomas Pynchon and J.D. Salinger, writer Ballard strongly supports the film: "It goes beyond the novel. It actually starts where the novel ends. It is one of the most extraordinary films I've seen in a good ten years."

At one point, a journalist asked the panel why Cronenberg used female frontal nudity so liberally but proved demure when it came to male nudity. "Well, er," Cronenberg mumbled. "I think I can handle that," Spader jumped in. "It's a question of geography. In most of those scenes, we f--k. And when you f--k, you don't see penises."

And that was the end of that.

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