Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #13 - May 18, Day 10

by Henri Béhar

May 18, 1996

CANNES -- In 1980, Michael Cimino made history in Cannes. Preceded by the wildest rumors, "Heaven's Gate" was shown in its three-hour version and triggered tremendous controversy among American journalists in particular. Adding fuel to the fire, came the news, at the end of the press conference, that United Artists, which had produced the budget-gobbler, was going bankrupt.

Back with "Sunchaser", his first studio-released movie in sixteen years, Cimino was afraid he might be forced to rehash the past. When the inevitable question came, he "innocently" asked the journalist whether he played golf. "No, why?" "Because if you did, you'd know you never think of the last hole, you think of the next one."

Exit "Heaven's Gate".

"Sunchaser" is splendidly shot, in full Cinemascope--which the Arizona locations demand. It is a road movie -- make that a *journey* movie -- in which a terminally ill Native American teenage convict (John Seda) kidnaps a doctor (Woody Harrelson) and forces him to take him to a holy mountain where a high priest and a magic lake will cure him of his cancer. Harrelson is great, but keep an eye on Jon Seda, he's something else entirely. Better yet, go to your video store and rent Darnell Martin's "I Like It Like That" and find out how promising this young Hispanic actor is.


Andre ("Wild Reeds") Techine's "Les Voleurs" ("The Thieves") is superb. Broken into chapters, playing with time, narrated by several different voices, it is a multi-layered film that deals with a love-hate relationship between a cop and his mafia-like family, a love-hate relationship between the cop (Daniel Auteuil) and a teenage tough gal (Laurence Cote), a love-hate relationship between the cop and a philosophy teacher (Catherine Deneuve) the girl is also having an affair with. Only with Techine (her fourth film with him) could Catherine Deneuve play a lesbian grandmother you could instantly fall in love with. It all sounds complicated but it isn't. It's luminous, subtle, rich, and damn good.


This year's "film-surprise" was hardly that. A week ago, "Variety" surmised it was Steve Soderbergh's new opus -- and it was. (In all honesty, all it takes is check with subtitling labs which movies they're working on.)

Presented as a "work in progress -- no titles, no credits and (mercifully) no press-kit -- "Schizopolis" is a spoof, a gag of a movie in which the *auteur* of "sex, lies and videotape" (Golden Palm in 1989) plays several parts. It starts out as the story of a man writing a speech for the president of a sect, but, since it is semi-experimental, it veers at will from one story to another, with Soderbergh playing another character who is the spitting image of the previous one (but speaks a different language). It's quick, sharp, and fun.

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