Woody Allen had to take off his sneakers and put on a tuxedo to walk up the red carpet here at the Cannes Film Festival where his new film Café Society, which will open in the U.S. sometime in July, was the opening night film, but his pleasure was short-lived. During the opening, French comic Laurent Lafitte, the emcee, addressed Woody Allen, “You’ve shot so many of your films here in Europe and yet in the U.S. you haven’t even been convicted of rape.”
The comment was met by gasps and moans from the black-tie audience, but the trouble (aside from the fact that Café Society, despite being set in the promising era of 1930s Hollywood, is a tepid, lazy effort from Allen) was only beginning. A few hours before, Ronan Farrow published an article in the Hollywood Reporter largely accusing the press (and himself, since he works as a TV producer) in being a slave to the celebrity machine and largely giving people like Woody Allen and Bill Cosby a free pass when serious accusations about their personal behavior or character come to light. Ronan writes about the difficulty his sister Dylan Farrow had in anyone publishing her initial story, and talks of his own experiences in trying to get TV producers to take his hardline questioning of Bill Cosby seriously.
Woody Allen, who later at a lunch here in Cannes responded by saying he had not read Ronan’s article, but then he never reads any articles about himself, was bested by one of the stars of Café Society, Jesse Eisenberg, who said that he was very happy that for him, Cannes was almost over. At least this actor apparently had enough of the off-the-screen turmoil the film’s director brought with him.
So who is the big winner of Café Society as the opening night film (and remember that the French just adore Woody Allen)? I would say Balenciaga. They dressed Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg’s co-star, both in her casual pants and her evening gown for the opening and she looked –well, stunning.
Jodie Foster is smart, straight-forward, no-nonsense, talented. Her film, Money Monster, showed here out-of-competition. Translated this means a commercial trade-off. Movies these days are released pretty much day-and-date globally. This means that the same film opening in Chicago is opening at the same time in Paris and Beijing, and so films need a global platform. This is part of the unwritten pact between film festivals and studios: the festivals, at best, supply a high-visibility global presence, and the studio supplies the talent. It’s the quid-pro-quo of festival life, and no festival, Cannes included, is immune to it. And no festival can supply that global exposure better than Cannes (over 4,000 journalists, including many from the ever-growing-in-importance Asian market). Hence the Money Monster premiere with George Clooney, who is in the film, and his wife Amal Alamudin, in a beautiful white dress, as well as Julia Roberts, Vanesa Redgrave (here for the restoration of Howard’s End). The fashion journalists complemented Alamudin for her first-ever Cannes presence –she managed not to trip over the long train of her dress going up the stairs, and she pulled off wearing the difficult color of yellow.
The Dancer is the first feature by a young French filmmaker, Stephan DiGiusto. The subject is Loie Fuller, the “skirt dancer” born in what-later-became known as Hinsdale, Illinois, who went on to conquer artistic Paris, become an early global sensation at the turn of the century, and ended up owning patents to many of her visual effects. She is the subject of much serious study by academicians, including the University of Chicago’s Tom Gunning. The film is the story of Fuller’s rise to fame and is best at recreating many of Fuller’s dance routines. The title “based on a true story” which appears at the beginning bothered me throughout – perhaps because the film begins someplace in the wild West where Loie (she was then still known as Mary Louise Fuller) is living with her father (what happened to Hinsdale??) I am now certain that in actuality, the film takes a lot of historical liberties, some of which underplay Fuller’s significant artistic influence, both in the U.S. and in Europe. You can see short clips of Loie Fuller’s amazing performances on Youtube.
Julia Roberts as Cinderella…
Cannes got through its first weekend with “shoegate” (no, not Imelda Marcos). Amid much criticism during the past few years over the lack of representation by women directors, especially in the competition (there are three this year, up from one last year), the Cannes Festival also had incidents in which the fashion police (yes, they are also in Cannes, not just in Iran) refused entry to evening screenings which demand “black tie” to several women who were not wearing high heels.
The theme of the “nothing but high heels” was picked up by Festival attendee Julia Roberts this year, who managed to make herself a global center of attention (much easier than recovering your career path through acting) by taking off her shoes and walking up the red-carpeted Palais steps at Cannes barefoot. She definitely managed the big statement. As for looks–you be the judge – no one looks that great in bare feet unless it’s on a beach.
Steven Spielberg is here this afternoon for an out-of-competition screening of his Disney movie, BFG, based on a story by Roald Dahl. Comic actor Fabrice Lucchini, Juliette Binoche and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (sister of Carla Bruneschi, wife of former French president Sarkozy) star in a wacked-out comedy set on beaches of the Channel Islands, Slack Bay, featuring a totally dysfunctional family in which their incestuous relationships (and the children which result from them) are hard to keep track of, even as they face people who are disappearing from the beaches, the victims of a family of fishermen who, by the way, are also cannibals. All this as a Laurel-and-Hardy duo of police inspectors ineptly investigate the disappearances. (I always thought that Bruni-Tedeschi is just a brilliant actress –she is bilingual and has appeared in both French and Italian films).
The unexpected big hit here in Cannes so far? Toni Erdmann, a three-hour German comedy – no joke. A father-daughter relationship plays out against the backdrop of the costs of corporate work and success vs. “real” life. Shot mostly in Romania, the film features really great performances by Sandra Hiller and Peter Simonischek, in a film that’s alternately funny, ridiculous, and sometimes plain hilarious.