Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Cannes Diary #6: Final Thoughts

by David Sterritt

"Godzilla" turns out to be just as silly as expected, and while some of my colleagues made the best of a bad time by inventing their own silly commentary&emdash;Madison Square Garden jokes were a favorite, at least among the New York contingent&emdash;I let my mind wander far afield, returning to full concentration (well, sort of) only during a couple of the glitzier FX moments. I also enjoyed the subplot about Jean Reno's inability to get anything in the USA that he could recognize as a cup of coffee, since I have an equally stubborn inability to obtain anything in France that I can recognize as ditto. On other fronts the movie is worthless, and critics of every stripe should let it rest at that.

The last movie I saw at Cannes was the rescreening of "Festen" by Thomas Vinterberg, another member of the Dogma 95 group (with Lars Von Trier, its spiritual father) that has decided to make unsigned movies with hand-held cameras, no added music, as much attention to the individual scene as to the entire film, etc. "Festen" is more coherent and less offensive than Von Trier's misbegotten "Idiots," with several lively performances and a truly surprising plot. Dogma 95 may have something up its sleeve after all, although on current evidence I still think of it as guilty until proven innocent.

Finally, a couple of quick notes on Cannes films I saw before arriving at the festival. "Island, Alicia," by American indie Ken Yunome, is an ambitious though overlong (three hours) drama about a young couple with a troubled past and an "amour fou" relationship that they fecklessly pursue in New York City's suburbanish Staten Island, of all places. The movie appears to be influenced by early Jacques Rivette, and while that's a tricky pedigree for any first-time filmmaker to handle, it's certainly more interesting (and promising) than the Tarantino influence to which so many of today's new cineastes eagerly succumb. Rumor has it that Yunome is trimming 40 minutes in hopes of more American exposure, and that will be all to the good.

Another rousing dose of "amour fou" arrived in "Love Is the Devil," about Francis Bacon, the tormented British painter. A portrait of the artist as a not-so-young dog who spends more time on the sex-and-drink circuit than in front of his easel, John Maybury's movie combines painterly images with cinematic complexity and virtuoso acting by Derek Jacobi as our dissipated hero. Not since "Prick Up Your Ears" has similar territory been so energetically explored. It's a harrowing but memorable ride.

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