“Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats, the screening is about to begin. Please turn off your mobile telephones for the duration of the performance.”
That recorded message plays first in French, then English, about five minutes before each major screening. One word always stands out to me: ‘performance’. The way that word is used for showings of movies here is the perfect explanation of the Cannes Film Festival – the way they treat cinema as art, something that is just as important culturally as any theatre production. Too right! I say.
This morning as that message played inside the Grand Lumiere theatre, just before the 8:30amscreening of ‘Only God Forgives’, the excitement was palpable. So palpable, that in trying to tell a French reporter I was excited for the movie I accidentally told him I was sexually excited for the movie. Well, it does star Ryan Gosling…
As the film began, the crowd cheered and clapped and settled into their seats. All (presumably) lovers of ‘Drive’ like me, we expected more of the same stylish silence and violence from director Nicolas Winding Refn. As the film wore on it was apparent that yes, there was more silence and violence, but way too much of it. There’s not really a story but the basic plot is an American mother (played hilariously and ferociously by Kristin Scott Thomas) coming to Thailand to bury one son, while forcing her other, Julien (Ryan Gosling), to avenge his death by killing the cop who murdered him. Refn says it’ about a man who wants to fight God. But really, I didn’t see that. Nor did I get any of the Eastern mysticism vibes that were supposedly weaved in. To me it was simply about the endless circle of revenge, and then I just stared at Ryan looking good in a suit.
Out of the 90 minute movie I would estimate the dialogue would take up 10 minutes if you stuffed it all together. The other 80 is slow walking, silent looks, and INTENSE violence. Ryan has about 10 lines in total, but gosh, he really does silent anger/sadness/confusion like no other. The cinematography is beautiful, the way Refn uses light and shadows is incredible, and the score is fantastic (thankfully, because that’s pretty much all you hear!) Really, I applaud Refn’s experimentation with style (it’s closer to ‘Vahalla Rising’ than ‘Drive’) but was left with a hollow and unsatisfied feeling. I might wait for the fan recut, where the entire movie is about Ryan not wanting to eat cereal.
As soon as the credits rolled the audience filed quickly out of the theatre (some had already left during the movie) to smatterings of boos and cheers, making it the first truly polarizing film at the festival. The press ran off to the conference room, and was saddened to see the lack of Ryan Gosling’s name on the table. The festival hoped up until the last minute he could make it, but in the end he couldn’t take time off from shooting his directorial debut (which has already pre-sold for many international territories here in the market place).
But lack of baby goose aside, it was fascinating to hear Nicolas Winding Refn speak about his choice to strip the film of dialogue. “I wanted to try something against all of the cinematic conventions I have done before,” he explained, “Like when your sex life gets boring and you need to spice it up… In the West we always need to explain things, state facts. Dialogue is logical, but images and sound are more emotional.”
Kristin Scott Thomas (KST as Refn calls her) answered questions about her rude and crude character, who, interestingly in the original draft was English. When Luke Evans dropped out in favor of ‘The Hobbit’ (Refn referred to Evans as “that unknown actor”… ouch, doesn’t he know he’s in‘Fast and Furious 6’??) and Gosling stepped in, they changed her character Crystal to be American. KST said she hates violent movies, and funnily enough, wouldn’t watch a movie like this, but was really excited for the challenge.
After lunch (a crepe again! My stomach officially hates me!) I went to a screening of ‘La Grande Bellezza’ (‘The Grand Beauty’) an 2.5 hour Italian film by director Paolo Sorrentino (‘Il Divo’). I’m sure that sounds like hell to some of you, but heaven to me! That title, like my hips, don’t lie - it really WAS grand and beautiful. Saturated in color, every single frame looked like a gorgeous photograph and the story, though slow, was a lovely reflection on life – the joy, the love, the pain. If it’s playing at any sort of film festival or underground parking lot (no), check it out!
Walking out of the theatre I noticed the sky had turned. Angry looking dark clouds were swallowing up the blue sky, most likely because Ryan Gosling isn’t here. That’s the only explanation. Picking up my gigantic umbrella from my handy apartment, I ran off to what I thought was a press screening of‘All Is Lost’. This film has gotten great reviews since playing this morning, with the words Oscar worthy being thrown in Robert Redford’s direction. It’s Redford, lost at sea, not much dialogue, but incredible acting. And not a volleyball in sight. Unfortunately it was less a press screening, more a ‘oh hai there Robert in your fancy tux, I don’t have an invitation to YOUR PREMIERE, and I’m underdressed. I’ll go stand over here now and have a glass of wine’ type of thing. I’ll see it (and critweet it, follow me!) tomorrow night at 10:30pm.
Day 8, two and a half days to go. Do I HAVE to go home?? Can’t I just live here??