Say It in English, Part II: Kerrigan, Turturro, and Haynes Hit Cannes in Last Days
by Anthony Kaufman
With only two more days to go, distribs getting edgy and just about
everyone suffering from uncontrollable yawns, there is little to predict
about this year's run for Cannes' prestigious golden awards. Ken
Loach's "My Name is Joe" still remains one of the most critically
acclaimed films in the Competition along with Sony Pictures Classic
recent pick-up, Erick Zonca's "La Vie Revee des Anges" (even though
indieWIRE's faves were Lars Von Trier's "The Idiots" and Roberto
Benigni's "Life is Beautiful").
Zonca's chances for the Palme may be good, but the last time a French
film won was when Maurice Pialat took the prize for "Sous le Soleil de
Satan" way back in 1987. So "Dreams" Frenchness may be either a curse
or a blessing. If not, consider Zonca for the first-time film award, the
Camera d'Or. However, stiff competition in that category comes from a
powerful Un Certain Regard Iranian selection, "The Apple", directed by
Samira Makhmalbaf, the 18 year-old daughter of acclaimed director Mohsen
Makhmalbaf, based on the true story of two girls who after 11 years of
parental incarceration venture forth into the world for the first time.
And there is still Saturday's screenings, of course, with cinematic
vets, Angelopoulos contributing "Eternity and a Day" and Hector Babenco
offering "Illuminated Heart" -- and as last year proved for Kiarostami's
Palme d'Or winner "Taste of Cherry," these last slots are not in any way
reserved for the least.
To complicate matters, over the last few days, a second slew of
English-language buzz pics are making the rounds with mixed results.
All in competition, Lodge Kerrigan's "Claire Dolan," John Turturro's
"Illuminata" and Todd Hayne's long-awaited Miramax release, "Velvet
Goldmine," have the built-in expectation of prior directorial successes
and recognizable stars.
After press screenings rapidly filled up for Kerrigan's "Claire Dolan,"
one would have expected a high turn out for the film's press conference.
But the press mainly bowed out (even with acclaimed actress Katrin
Cartlidge live and in person) so Kerrigan's film, second to his paranoid
and skillful debut "Clean, Shaven," apparently didn't live up to
expectations. For the NYU film alum, Kerrigan strikes similar chords
of anxiety and entrapment as Cartlidge portrays "Claire Dolan", an Irish
immigrant call girl living in New York. The film was financed by French
producer, Marin Karmitz's MK2 who, in addition to working with Kerrigan,
recently announced a production deal with "Sunday" director Jonathon
Nossiter. indieWIRE asked Karmitz about his interest in American
directors. "I didn't decide to finance American independents," replied
the former French New Waver, "It just so happened" that "the miraculous
moment when I met Lodge made me believe once again in a new generation
of American cinema." Kerrigan and his cinematographer, Teodoro Maniaci
describe the impersonal and precise look of the film -- geometric,
glassy, modern -- through their very controlled working method. "Lodge
and I have very compulsive personalities," said Maniaci, "We'll sit
there and argue about should it be a quarter inch over. It's very
specific." Kerrigan said about his innovative filmmaking attempts, "The
only one rule of filmmaking that you absolutely have to adhere to is you
have to know how to raise money -- every other rule, you can break."
Another second-time filmmaker screening in the official Competition is
John Turturro ("Mac") who returns to Cannes with "Illuminata," a
strange mix between drama and farce, about a theater company and the
strained and loving relationships between its members. Like Stanley
Tucci's "The Imposters," Turturro has assembled an incredible cast of
actors (Ben Gazzara, Christopher Walken, Bill Irwin, Susan Sarandon,
Rufus Sewell, and Katherine Borowitz) who create some brief hysterical
moments, though unfortunately within the shell of a thin plot. Walken,
for instance, plays a gay critic dubbed a "macaroni Queen" who tries to
seduce Bill Irwin's character. The impressive Walken appeared at the
packed press conference, claiming the role "was fun" explaining "as a
child I grew up in theater and musical comedy, which I don't think is
very different from the world of this play." That theatrical world was
essential for Turturro. "I wanted to do a film that actually had
serious themes, but put it into a world that I knew something about and
that all the people who articipated knew something about."
"Velvet Goldmine" is in quite a different category than "Dolan" and
"Illuminata." With Miramax already behind the film, the Cannes
competition is the perfect launch pad. Harvey must be proud. Deeply
entrenched in the 70's glam rock days of taffeta and platform shoes,
Haynes swims in the times, incorporating awkward 70's zooms, early
MTV-like sequences, feathers, flowers and all the acoutrements of the
era to investigate the rise and disappearence of a fictional superstar
named Brian Slade. Although Haynes grew up in Los Angeles and had
little direct involvement with the glam scene, he says, "It's music
that I've loved. I was a little young at the time, or maybe a little
square for it, because there was certainly a raging glitter scene in
L.A., but it was mostly very precocious teenage girls who were into it."
He concludes, "I wasn't quite there. " The film combines memory,
fantasy, past and a mid-1980's present in some hallucinatory moments
and a fluid feel which might just be a hit with the kids.
Tamara Jenkins's often autobiogaphical "Slums of Beverly Hills" (closing
the Director's Fortnight) about a young girl coming of sexual and class
awakening is another version of the 70's -- but instead of glittery
make-up and London decadence, it's L.A. palm trees and purple bongs.
Jenkins feels the reason for so many retro pics is simply that the
directors "are writing what they know about -- which is perhaps when
they were growing up. That was my relatioship to it. It was not really
fetishizing a nostalgia of the 70's as much as it was the way I grew up,
it's precisely the time when I grew up, and I was borrowing from then."
"Slums of Beverly Hills" is also screening at Cannes with a domestic
distributor already in place -- Fox Searchlight is opening the film this
summer. So unlike so many of the other directors, producers, agents,
hustling for deals in these last few, hectic days before the festival
closes and thousands of travelers get stuck in Nice because of a
reported Air France pilot strike at the main airport, Jenkins has the
fortunate opportunity to spend her days and nights talking to who else,
but her friends from New York at the "Godzilla" party.