Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Day 10: Taste of Cherry

by Henri Béhar

CANNES, May 15 -- As could be foreseen, the press conference for Mathieu Kassovitz's "Assassin(s)" was animated, to say the least. Admired and lauded in the same place for his previous film, "Hate", Kassovitz is attacked for his ambiguous use of images of violence to condemn violence in films and on television. After a while, actor Michel Serrault exlodes: "Would you ask Rembrandt why he used yellow in such and such a painting?" Those in favor of the film remained in favor, those against stay against.

In 1978, actor Philippe Caubere, one of the founding members of the Cartoucherie de Vincennes Theater Company, comes to Cannes with Arianne Mnouchkine to present her first film, "Moliere." He plays the title role. The film is booed; Mnouchkine is attacked; Claude Lelouch, the producer, is insulted and actor Caubère almost driven out of town in feathers and tar. He is so shocked that he stops making films, leaves the Mnouchkine company and become one of France's foremost one-man-show performers. Presented in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, performed by Caubere and adapted by Bernard Dartigues from one of the former's stage shows, "Les Marches du Palais" ("The Steps of the Palace") is a ferocious retelling of the entire adventure. It is a gem, and tonight, the only game in town consists in discovering who the real people are under the pseudonyms.

Starring Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn and John Travolta, with Gena Rowlands guest-starring, "She's So Lovely" was directed by Nick Cassavetes from a script written by his father, the late legendary filmmaker John Cassavetes. (See press conference transcript). It's a story of "amour fou" where "amour" (love) and "fou" (mad) have equal weight. Had he written the script more than 20 years ago, and had he been able to direct it, John Cassavetes would probably have cast Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk. "My character and Robin's character are fairly close to their models, Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk," said John Travolta at the press conference. "On the other hand, the newcomer in the family is the one that Sean plays." Penn is now everyone's favorite for Best Actor award.

Stand warned: Robin Wright, the woman who dumped Forrest Gump (but she had her reasons), is now to be called Robin Wright Penn. She's married to Sean and is the mother of his two kids. "Is this name change definitive?", asks one journalist. "And how," replies Sean Penn. "Gosh darn", he adds with a smile and a wink.

According to the rumor, John Travolta, who is shooting a film in Los Angeles, can only spend 2 days in Cannes. A seasoned pilot and owner of several planes, he's come to Cannes on board a private aircraft, a Boeing 707 turned into a five- or six-bedroom condo complete with a gym and a nursery. According to the same rumor, he asked for permission to remain on board the aircraft during his stay. His people apparently started negotiating with the Nice Airport for Travolta to park the aircraft at the end of a runway right by the sea so he could hop to Cannes and back on a speed boat. Despite everybody's efforts, no doubt, it was just not possible. Poor man. He had to settle for a couple of suites at the Hotel Du Cap.

Still, there is one question I would have loved to ask him - and it's the kind of problem I'd love to have: How much was this month's bill for plane parking?

Freed at the last minute by the Iranian government, with no press kit and no photograph in the catalog, Abbas Kiarostami's "The Taste of Cherry" is finally shown at the Palais. The film is admirable. Austere but vibrant. It's a story of a 50-year-old man who drives through the suburbs of Tehran and its industrial zone. To all the people he meets, he offers a sum of money and the weirdest deal: he wants to die, lay down in a crevice on top of the hill, and wishes for whoever will be his ultimate companion to throw on his body 20 shovelfulls of dirt and dust. Why such a weariness to live? Why such a desire to die? The film only lets you guess in slivers. It's a highly poetic work, magnificently photographed - and today's favorite for the Golden Palm.

A skip and a hop to Planet Hollywood for the Penn/Travolta "She's So Lovely" party. The cast is present but leaves discreetly after a half hour to go play at the casino at Monte-Carlo. Thank God. For once, I'm going to bed before 5:00 a.m.

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