DISPATCH FROM CANNES: Tarantino's Jury Duty; Almodovar's Latest Opens Fest
by Eugene Hernandez
"Viva Le Cinema," exclaimed Festival de Cannes jury president Quentin Tarantino as he raised a clenched fist during the opening-night festivities of the 2004 Festival. On stage before Thursday night's screening of Pedro Almodóvar's powerful new film, "La Mala Educación" (Bad Education), Tarantino joined fellow jurors Edwige Danticat, Emmanuelle Béart, Kathleen Turner, Tilda Swinton, Tsui Hark, Jerry Schatzberg, Peter Von Bagh, and Benoit Poelvoorde, as well Almodóvar, in officially kicking off the event. Raised fists were also prominent outside the Palais des Festivals last night, as several hundred protestors marched towards the venue as the red carpet arrivals were well underway. And later, juror Swinton was among those kicking up her heals at the late-night party toasting the movie.
Tarantino, who said during Thursday's jury press conference that he first heard about Cannes as at the age of about eight, explained enthusiastically that the festival has always been a dream for him.
"For me, as a cinephile as far back as my memory goes back, to me Cannes is heaven," Tarantino enthused during the conference. In fact he added, "If there is a level above heaven, that's where I'm at."
Tarantino screened "Reservoir Dogs" out of competition in Cannes in 1992, won the Palme d'Or for "Pulp Fiction" in 1994, and now is here ten years later as president of the jury and showing an out of competition screening of "Kill Bill, Vol. 2." Also set, Tarantino confirmed yesterday, is a special screening of the combined version of "Kill Bill," parts one and two, the same film that has already screened in Japan and Hong Kong. This version will show on the final Sunday of the festival with a brief intermission.
"It's great as it is to (be here) with a movie," Tarantino added, "It's better to be president of the jury."
"The joy I feel is enormous," agreed Pedro Almodóvar, who sat down in front of the press to talk about the festival and his new film earlier in the day. He added, "To play the part of the person who opens the curtain is a joy."
The director, an award winner at this festival in 1999 with "All About My Mother," reiterated that his new movie is not an autobiography. Yet its story elements, and some of the film's characters, point to the life of the Spanish auteur. In the film, a burgeoning love between two parochial school students is cut short by a priest who is obsessed with one of the boys. As the story unfolds, one of the boys, all grown-up and now a successful Spanish filmmaker, decides to make a new movie about his experiences back in school. Along the way, the on-screen filmmaker is confronted by deception and tragedy, all the while pursuing a relationship with a lead actor.
While Almodóvar said that the film represents fundamental aspects of his own life and is told in a very personal way, he added that none of the events depicted in the movie are from his life specifically.
"Bad Education" is a serious look at love, cinema, and the influence of the church. Just as a character explains in the movie, Almodovar told the press Thursday that he too lost his faith in God at a young age, but the filmmaker added that he remains a believer in the church's ceremonies and rituals.
Religious rituals and general celebrating were on display last night at Pathé's opening night party for the movie. Film co-star Javier Camara and "les Diabeticas Aceleradas," along with DJ Dmitri From Paris, entertained guests into the wee hours with an incredible kick-off celebration that included fireworks, Spanish snacks, and hundreds of mini-bottles of Champagne Veuve Clicquot. Almodóvar sang along with the music that played during the fireworks display and was later pulled on stage to sing and dance along with actor Camara and the other performers in drag. He enthusiastically joined the fun.
The celebrating was no doubt a relief for fest organizers who averted a major disruption of the event by protesting arts workers who had vowed to interrupt the opening. A vocal group of demonstrators made their way towards the Palais last night but were stopped on the Croisette by police. Chanting loudly, they temporarily evaded the police line and made their way to the outer edge of the Festival's International Village. After a brief scuffle broke out, the protest began to wind down. On the red carpet, festival organizers welcomed a delegation of protestors. As the group made their way up the red steps in a line, they turned and revealed a word spelled out by the letters pinned on their individual backs: N-E-G-O-C-I-A-T-I-O-N.
Tonight, the festival's press will get their first look at an added, 19th film in competition, Jonathan Nossiter's wine documentary, "Mondovino."