Today, right now actually, I will attempt to join Craig Kennedy in line for the Coen brothers Inside Llewyn Davis which will have its first screening here in Cannes two hours from now. It’s raining here so that means two hours standing in line in the rain. I hope they appreciate that people out there are willing to do that just to try to get a seat in a crowded screening. With a blue badge you are only allowed entry after the pinks and the whites have gone in and other mysterious lines of people none of us fully understand. Market screenings? Students? VIPs? Both The Bling Ring and Llewyn Davis are screening in the littler theater, the Debussy. Did I mention it’s raining?
Wish me luck.
(photo swiped from Jeff Wells’ Hollywood-Elsehwere, “Make me miserable. Make me damp. Drench the festival. Have an umbrella at the ready or die. Misery loves company. Cats and dogs. Little rivers and flash floods on the streets. Philippine monsoon. Apocalypse Now. At around 1:30 or 1:45 pm it stopped raining and it started pouring, you see. It didn’t come down in sheets, but almost that. Right now there 20,000 people in this town with damp socks.”)
The Guardian’s Xan Brooks gives Ari Folman’s The Congress three out of five stars,
“Folman juggles live action with animation, earth-toned reality with candied fantasy, to spin the tale of Robin Wright (played, naturally, by Robin Wright), a Hollywood actor on the wrong side of 40, gazing glumly at her youthful self on the Princess Bride poster. Wright’s career is in the doldrums, but here comes salvation. The all-powerful “Miramount” studio wants to scan her, sample her and preserve her in aspic. The actor becomes a character, owned by the studio. As for Wright, she is free to step off the carousel and slide into obscurity. Her subsequent travels lead her to the animated zone of Abrahama, where her alter-ego has become the industry’s highest-grossing digital star.
Today while walking through the Palais du Festivals I saw Chaz Ebert. She was walking across the second floor, heading for the escalator. I stepped on behind her. We slowly rode it down to the lower floor. She stood in front of me not having any idea who was, of course, but I knew so much about her. She was wearing an elegant caramel-colored suit but her expression carried a slight look of worry — and was it sadness I sensed, or was that something I was projecting onto her. Ebert was always such a fixture in Cannes, long before I ever came here. He leaves behind a legacy, and his wife who now must see this crowded festival in a different way. What a difference a year makes.
Was it last year or the year before when I saw Ebert and Chaz walking across that same floor in the Palais du Festival? Then she was smiling. You never saw them apart. Things have changed here at Cannes in some ways. In other ways they haven’t. After four years of coming here I now recognize so many of the faces of people I’ve seen before but don’t yet know. They are distinctive in that European way of letting nature take its course. In America we try to beat back age.
I saw the face of a woman I’d taken a picture of two years ago. When I’d seen her I’d assumed she was a patron, maybe, or a tourist. She stood out because she wears her gray hair unchanged. She is maybe in her mid 60s. And she’s still a journalist coming to Cannes to work the festival. We see what we want to see.
Last year the Weinstein Co. gave Cannes participants a chance to see clips from some films that had never before been seen — The Master, Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook. This year, most of what they were offering had already been seen so the Weinstein Co had to up their game slightly and they did so by having some of the stars from their forthcoming films show up unannounced, Grace of Monaco’s Nicole Kidman and Fruitvale’s Michael B. Jordan.
Media people and other types flooded into one of the back rooms of the Majestic hotel. One well-dressed woman headed for a gala screening later that night was pleading with a publicist to let her in, showing her an invite (someone else’s) on her ipad. There had to be hundreds in that room as trays of champagne made the rounds and guests dined on fried fish, pate, and other sorts of tiny hors d’hourves. It wasn’t particularly fancy but it was a nice break from the usual free coffee in the wi-fi room.
William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” This is the thrust of Asghar Farhadi’s Le Passe (The Past), which screened today at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Past is the kind of film that leaves you changed by the time the credits start to roll and like everything else in this filmmaker’s style, the credits take their time, disclosing a moment that is as important as every other. Farhadi’s A Separation was among the best reviewed films of the year when it debuted two years ago. That film was about the new and old Iran, about separating from an oppressive culture that could not move forward. The Past is about another kind of separation, how we let go of past loves, how children learn to cope with new families as they pick up the pieces from broken marriages.
Like A Separation, The Past dives in and out of different storylines, filling in seemingly meaningless bits of information until each one is put together like pieces of an intricate puzzle, one that ultimately reveals a vivid truth. The film opens with two people reconnecting after time apart. We don’t know anything about them except that they knew each other once. An excellent Berenice Bejo, displaying ten times the range she showed in The Artist, plays the lost love of Ahmed (Ali Mosaffa) who has come back for reasons unknown. Those reasons take their time to be divulged because Farhadi prefers to have us get to know the characters before we hear of their troubles.
You see a lot of movies and most of them are pretty ordinary. Once in a while you see one slightly above average and it’s a cause for celebration. On rare occasions you see something truly outstanding and you’re reminded why you love cinema in the first place. It’s the nourishment that keeps you going through the day-to-day ordinary. That happened this morning at Cannes with the debut of Asghar Farhadi’s The Past – all the more remarkable because the film comes with such high expectations following the Iranian filmmaker’s Foreign Language Oscar-winning A Separation. If anything, Farhadi has topped himself. The Past is a richly rewarding human drama of seemingly infinite depth and nuance.
The raw narrative material exploring a couple in the throes of a breakup is similar to A Separation, but Farhadi manages to dig deeper and reveal even more nuances of human experience. The emotion of The Past is also not quite so front-loaded as it was in A Separation. It’s a slow burn that reveals itself in layers, almost as a matter-of-fact mystery, each new detail reshaping the complexion of the story and upending your expectations. The pleasures come largely from these subtle turns and to itemize each plot point in an attempt to describe the film would be to ruin it.