Cannes 2003 Diary Day 1: Expecting Little Fanfare From Opening Night "Fanfan"
by Stephen Garrett
Sun-drenched Cannes, the Riviera's most sparkling ville-de-mer, awaits those arriving Wednesday for a film fortnight unrivaled by any other event the world, as its bronzed and dapper locals brace for the international onslaught that is France's premier festival du film.
But before the true feast of movies begins, there is always an unsatisfying appetizer. The 56th Cannes Film Festival opens Wednesday night with the latest swashbuckling screen version of "Fanfan La Tulipe" (originally made in 1907, 1926, and again in 1952), and expectations are low. (With the exception of 2001's "Moulin Rouge," recent Cannes openers have been notoriously forgettable -- Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending," anyone?) Director Gerard Krawczyk is best known for making the wildly-popular, Luc Besson-produced car-chase trifles "Taxi 2" and "Taxi 3," and with Vincent Perez in "Fanfan"'s title role and faded flavor-of-the-month Penelope Cruz as his love interest, Cannes veterans are more interested in making dinner plans with each other than packing the Palais for the screening.
Aesthetically, the festival is already starting off on shaky ground: tapping American installation artist Jenny Holzer to design this year's poster has led to a hideous pink-on-gold display of bare type screaming out, "Viva Il Cinema!" -- both a banal salute to once and future movies as well as a nod to the 10th anniversary of the death of Federico Fellini (the subject of this year's retrospective). But Holzer may redeem herself yet: Xenon-bulb projections of famous filmmaker quotes will pepper the town's more prominent buildings as her commission continues throughout the festival.
Thankfully the union-flexing Gauls have not completely paralyzed plane, train, and bus travel, but Tuesday's pre-announced strike certainly inconvenienced plenty of domestic and foreign travelers. While a few flights landed as scheduled, many en-route festgoers found themselves waylaid in Paris for hours before a couple of Nice-bound evening flights brought them southward.
If anything is to be expected from Cannes, it's the unexpected -- as well as the sense of playful cine-folie that always gives the event such a carnival atmosphere. Meticulous attendees of the festival's Marche du Film will notice in their market guides an L.A. production company named Sorry Angels -- with its sole representative a title-less individual named Francois Truffart. What better way to deflate pretension than to associate yourself with both a seminal French auteur and intestinal gas?