REVIEW: Hopelessly Romantic; Jaglom Takes on that "Festival in Cannes"
by Scott Foundas
(indieWIRE/03.05.02) -- Early on in Henry Jaglom's 13th feature, "Festival in Cannes," the actress-turned-screenwriter Alice Palmer (Greta Scacchi), who's being courted by the hustling producer-who-may-not-really-be-a-producer Kaz Naiman (Zack Norman), describes her debut script as "a movie about real people, maybe for all the people who've stopped going to the cinema." But she might just as easily be talking about Jaglom's film itself. As time goes by, and Hollywood movies -- even "serious," "mature" Hollywood movies -- become less and less tethered to a semblance of reality, the vainglorious maverick Jaglom has slowly, steadily held his course. (And it is a comparison worth making, as Jaglom, who came-of-age with Nicholson, Rafelson, et al. and worked with studio support before setting himself up as an independent is, in his own unique outsider-insider way, very much Hollywood.) Once hailed as the Woody Allen of the West Coast, Jaglom makes films about "real people" at a time when even the real Woody Allen has given up the idea of addressing serious relationships in his films.
Time has been very good to Jaglom, his home-brewed brand of shaggy-dog confessionalism growing more appealing with each passing picture. And as he's distanced himself from his own work (he still wears his trademark hat, but not quite as many of them, having long-ago stopped casting himself as the star of his pictures) something truly rare has occurred: the films have gotten better. With the run of "Babyfever," "Last Summer in the Hamptons" and "Déjà Vu," Jaglom has not only grown as an artist, but settled into a comfortable groove; he seems to have less to prove to the world now, and so it's immensely more enjoyable to spend time in his company.
"Festival in Cannes" is not the first time Jaglom has trained his camera on the film industry itself, but in the decade between the Venice Film Festival-lensed "Venice/Venice" and this film, his insights have grown sharper, shrewder, more truthfully comic. Shot during the 1999 edition of the Cannes Film Festival, "Festival" opens with a dialogue-free montage of the Croisette, adorned by life-size replicas of Keanu Reeves and other luminaries, as the wide-eyed young actress Blue (newcomer Jenny Gabrielle) walks through in a daze, awe-struck. It's a sequence that precisely recalls the Jerusalem-bazaar opening of Jaglom's last picture, "Déjà Vu," and the juxtaposition is ideal; at Cannes, everyone is trying to haggle a deal.
The film is a roundelay between a half-dozen or so major characters, all at different stages of their careers, all present at Cannes for ostensibly different reasons. There's Blue, who has a part in one of the festival's unheralded indie films; Alice, looking to switch careers, mid-stream; sleazebag producer Rick Yorkin (Ron Silver), whose interest in Alice is part business, part pleasure; the aging Euro director Viktor Kovner (Maximilian Schell); and Viktor's estranged wife, the screen legend Millie Marquand (Anouk Aimee), who will be feted at the festival. (Jaglom's film is tribute to Aimee too, who is essentially playing herself in a valentine part, and who is radiant at it.)
Jaglom begins by defining these people in terms of their achievements, breaking them up into the haves and the have-nots, but by the end of "Festival in Cannes," the succinct point is made that, in the movie business, everyone is essentially a have-not, because there's always something more to have. Jaglom really gets, and is sympathetic to, his characters' fundamental neediness, particularly those age-old Hollywood desires to stay forever young and to avoid being typecast. But he also views things from enough of a distance to gently mock these self-absorbed goings-on. It may be the first time Jaglom's characters have been considerably more neurotic than he is himself.
Jaglom spends most of "Festival in Cannes" as he spends most of his films: getting to know his characters from the inside-out. And he is supported in this task by one of the best casts (alongside the one from "Last Summer in the Hamptons") he has ever assembled. Norman (the Jaglom regular who played the lead in "Sitting Ducks") has a jitterbug comic energy, stealing nearly every scene he's in. Newcomer Gabrielle has some of the same, appealing naivet