Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Day 2: And the Films Began...

by Henri Béhar

CANNES - May 9. His hair shorn to a close crop and sporting a goatee, Gary Oldman made his second appearance in the press conference room in Cannes. A mere actor yesterday in Luc Bresson's "The Fifth Element," Gary Oldman was now presenting his directorial debut, "Nil by Mouth."

The tone was completely different. Much in keeping with his film, Gary Oldman proved to be brutally honest, far more than the Cannes press was used to, and they responded with the utmost respect. He went on about how autobiographical or not autobiographical his film was. He described his own dysfunctional family life in the South of London where he grew up, how alcohol had affected his own childhood, how he himself became an alcoholic. "Nil by Mouth" was well received at the press screening but shocked many at the Gala screening in the evening. Blue rinses and beehives are not accustomed to such frankness,

And frankness was sorely needed at midnight, when we all checked out Michael Jackson going up the red-carpeted stairs to present a half hour video clip called "Ghosts" by Stan Winston.

Rumor had been rampant for days that Michael Jackson had been spotted somewhere around Cannes. Actually, someone bumped into him (and his bodyguards) as he was coming out from an ordinary Brasserie on the Croisette. Was it him? In Cannes, you never know: so many people try to be somebody else's look-alike.

There was something slightly ridiculous in watching the King of Pop go up the stairs wearing a bizarre uniform for a musical, a sort of throwback to the 1980s. The crowd dutifully chanted "Michael! Michael! Michael!". He smiled, we smiled, he waved, we waved, everyone was happy and the film was mercifully short: at 1:30 am we were out of the main theater and on to the parties.

There was another film in competition: "Heinrich von Kleist's The Prince of Homburg" directed by Italian helmer Marco Bellecchio. "The Prince of Homburg" is a well-known play, a classic of German literature. I guess every generation has the right to revisit classics. Those of us who have a certain age decided to skip this new incarnation, particularly those who had seen French legendary star, Gerard Philipe and a young, very young Jeanne Moreau on stage in Avignon in what is still considered the *definitive* production of "The Prince of Homburg".

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