Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Day 4: A suspended moment

by Henri Béhar

CANNES - May 10 -- A suspended moment in Cannes yesterday. Italian director Marco Ferreri died at the age of 69. A provocateur among provocateurs, Ferreri, an angry humanist whose works were a vitriolic satire of bourgeois and ideological foibles, was a Cannes regular. We all remembered the queen of controversies he triggered on May 21, 1973 when "La Grande Bouffe" exploded on the screen of the old Palais. Some of us still have the photograph of Ferreri dancing with actor Michel Piccoli, locked in the tightest embrace and kiss...

Two films have been shown in Cannes that deal with Bosnia: "Welcome to Sarajevo", by Michael Winterbottom (a Brit) and "The Perfect Circle", by Ademir Kenovic (Bosnian). "Welcome..." follows a British journalist covering the war and his increasingly personal involvement vis-a-vis a young girl he'll try to save, bring over to England and adopt. (Wonderful depiction of the journalistic milieu with Woody Harrelson impressively subtle as the American scribe).

"...Circle" deals with two orphans, 7 and 9, who seek refuge with a poet whose wife and daughter have been evacuated. War or no war, kids will be kids and, adopting a wounded dog, they'll do what kids always do: they play among the ruins, oblivious of curfews and other inconveniences of a siege.

Although widely different, both films have their merits. The weirdest comment was overheard at the Majestic bar: "Oh, darling, those ruins are magnificent! So photogenic!" Chilling.

Today, however, is Johnny Depp's day. His directorial debut, "The Brave", is shown in competition. "Depp meets Brando meets Iggy Pop" - the expectation had been whipped into a frenzy for weeks. No film can live up to that - and "The Brave" took many by surprise. A cautionary tale about a man's ultimate sacrifice - he enrolls in a snuff movie so that his family can survive - told in the style of Emir Kusturica's "Arizona Dream" and Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man" (both of which starred Johnny Depp), "The Brave" is slow, contemplative, deeply felt - and political.

The film has faults, many of which inherent to its being a first work: mainly an excessive use of music, as if Depp, not trusting his material fully, had been afraid of letting silence fall between characters; yet, silence, inhabited silence (as opposed to blank), is essential to them. Nothing a minor nip-and-tuck couldn't fix. Be that as it may, Depp's voice is unmistakably his, and one should look forward to his next work.

This one was not particularly well-received. Indeed, it became the convenient target of the day. Talk about cultural terrorism: it took days - and a good number of drinks - for people to come out and say, "You know what? I *liked* 'The Brave'. Can't stop thinking about it."

Flanked by producer Jeremy Thomas (last year's David Cronenberg-helmed "Crash") and composer Iggy Pop (Depp's stepfather in John Waters's "Cry Baby"), the actor-director, a shy fellow, spoke quietly but firmly about the plight of native Americans and working with Brando. Watching the three hundred and more journalists that were hanging from the rafters in the press conference room, one could see the press warm up to those rarest of commodities in Cannes: vulnerability, responsibility, honesty.

On his way to the elevator (and safety), Depp held back the bodyguards that were whisking him away to chat with the crowd of fans that had broken into the Palais. Another unusual sight for Cannes: no one grabbed him or tore his clothes. He smiled, they smiled back, they talked, he gracefully responded. A gentleman. My God! It *is* possible, then, for a star to have a sane rapport with his or her fans.

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