The Festival de Cannes has always been staffed by, how can I put this, rigorous rule-upholders from the straight-faced gentlemen who check your passes and tickets on the door to those who examine your evening attire with a critical eye to make sure it passes muster. I have several cheap bowties to my name after I made the carindal error in the past of wearing a straight black tie.
But this year there is a new way to torture harried festivalgoers. No food of any kind nor water is allowed into the theatres, which means that, with the same determination as airport security employees, they empty everyone’s bags and pockets of bananas, sandwiches, croissants, apples, chocolate, candy bars and water bottles. Quite when this policy began is a mystery but it seems to have started midway through this festival. Not only does it delay entry into the theatres but it also creates enormous resentment in an audience which often doesn’t have time to find water or food in the short gaps between films. Besides, who has time to eat when you know the queues from this latest policy will be so long?! Ah, the pleasures of Cannes.
As the competition nears the end, two high profile English language films hit audiences last night and this morning. Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, a hard-bitten homage to 70s car movies, is entertaining but unremarkable. A couple of superb chase sequences and a fine grasp of Los Angeles driving culture can’t disguise the shallow story - a western of sorts - in which Ryan Gosling plays a stunt driver and part-time crook who falls for his neighbour Carey Mulligan and gets dragged into a heist being pulled off by her ex-con husband and some of his shady associates.
I’m not sure Gosling, a sophisticated actor better suited to rather more damaged characters, can pull off the laconic tough guy persona required of him here. A man of few words, his character is all moody macho who melts into goodness around Mulligan. Nor is she plausible as a girl as the woman torn between two petty crooks. Her looks are two sweet, her character too benign to run with this crowd.
Best in the movie actually are the supporting actors like Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks who all steal scenes liberally throughout.
And if anyone was worried that Refn was going mainstream, they shouldn’t worry. His trademark extreme violence is infused throughout, notably in one of the film’s best scenes where Gosling stamps a wise guy’s head to pieces while a stunned Mulligan looks on.
Many people liked Paolo Sorrentino’s ambitious This Must Be The Place. I was not one of them. The film has a myriad tones, ideas and styles but I couldn’t swallow Sean Penn’s high-pitched rock star - a fragile neurotic who has to leave his solitude in an Irish castle to face demons in the US when his father died. A hunt for a hidden Nazi war criminal follows in Texas, New Mexico and Utah follows.
It’s truly bonkers and many colleagues in the auditorium went along for the ride. But when you don’t, the absurdism of the whole affair is quite annoying and Penn’s little boy lost expressions grate on the nerves severely
Meanwhile, hopefully, the Lars von Trier scandal has subsided a little. The man clearly said some idiotic things, but as we know from his films, he is a joker and his claims to that he was a Nazi were said in jest in his not-so-good English. The festival’s response to declare him persona non grata seems to be overdramatic (Roman Polanski is welcomed with open arms, after all) and I hope that Melancholia does not suffer too much damage as a result since it’s a thoughtful work from a fine film-maker.