There have been many emotional moments for me at this year’s Festival de Cannes, like hearing Dustin Hoffman talk intimately about the death of his mother in law during a press junket, Thierry Frémaux giving his speech from the stage of the Sale Debussy during the evening in honor of French maestro André Téchiné, while pointing out of the legendary actresses and actors the filmmaker has worked with in his lengthy career, and catching up with favorite filmmaker Amos Gitai about his vision for peace in Israel.
But the tearful climax of this festival of heartfelt pondering and soul searching for me has been the minute of silence observed on Tuesday afternoon at 3, all around Cannes, in remembrance of the kids who were slaughtered the night before in the terrorist attack at the Arena in Manchester. I happened to be in front of the Grand Théâtre Lumière when the clock struck 3 p.m. and that eerie stillness, while the stars and filmmakers stood solemnly atop of the red carpeted stairs gave me chills. If only we could come together in such understanding and cooperation in real life. All the time. Just imagine what a world we could create!
Thank goodness for cinema I say, for always reminding me what is right with humanity.
Agnès Varda and JR take us to ‘Visages, Villages’
After viewing their film in Cannes and watching the audience go crazy for Madame Varda, I am convinced that she and JR together are the new Beatles. There, I’ve said it. I mean, it does help that the lead photo for the promotional material of their film is of them walking on zebra crossings just like The Beatles were immortalized doing on the cover of ‘Abbey Road’ but the idea began even before I was handed their press kit. Truly, those two bring out the rockstar in each other.
‘Visages, Villages’ (’Faces, Places’) is a road trip of sorts, mixing the wisdom and talent of the young 88 year old Varda with the street smartness and cool factor of old soul 33 year old JR. They poke at each other, they laugh, they cry and in the process, they make us, the audience dream. Dream big, because the fact that this is a world where an anonymous photographer with more a million Instagram followers and the Grand Dame of French cinema with her countless fans come together to make a movie about common people and everyday places makes it all just a little bit better. All around.
When I sat down with the duo, I noticed that Varda has had a powerful influence on JR who no longer hides his soulful eyes behind his trademark dark glasses but is now slowly beginning to peak at the world from just over their frame. And Varda’s lingo now includes cool new words that clearly come from JR’s vocabulary.
Hail to the power of cinema.
Abel Ferrara’s ‘Alive in France’
Films touch us in different ways, for different reasons. It can be a personal tie to the people and locations, or perhaps the situation explored reminds us of something in our own life, or we simply connect to the characters and the actors who portray them.
With Abel Ferrara’s personal rockumentary of sorts ‘Alive in France’ — calling it such is a bit of an understatement I find — what drew me in was a combination of charismatic souls embodied by the musicians, Ferrara’s wife Cristina and the filmmaker himself, the rawness of his insight into the longstanding relationship he’s had with the people who help him make the music for all his films and the intrinsic New York feel of his moviemaking — which although Ferrara has since relocated to Rome and ‘Alive in France’ takes place, well, you guessed it, in France, doesn’t ever disappear from his work.
For nearly 80 minutes I was spellbound, mesmerized by this rave-like, strong, touching, funny and very real portrait of men and women who make the world a better place, simply by being in it. Is the film for everyone? Probably not, because to truly get Ferrara’s love song to his longtime partners in crime, so to speak, you’d have to get their passion for music, a passion that transcends the screen if you just allow yourself to take the jump with them.
As an aside, I spent a few incredible moments with the personalities of this film Paul Hipp, Abel Ferrara, Joe Delia, Cristina and the charming ladies that make up the Dirty Blondes, for an impromptu interview that added fuel to the fire of my love for this film. That fateful interview to follow in the next days.
André Téchiné’s ‘Golden Years’
How far would you go for love? And how far would you allow your loved one to go, to survive? These are the main questions that André Téchiné asks in his latest film ‘Golden Years’ starring Pierre Deladonchamps as Paul and Céline Sallette as Louise — a married couple living in France during the turmoil of WWI. When Paul deserts the army, Louise helps him to hide in plain sight, dressed as a woman. For Paul this becomes a revelation, once he gets over his initial refusal of her plan. He turns into a Parisian celebrity and in the process, explores sexuality, the definition of courage and love.
But this being French cinema and that of the maestro Téchiné, the film is also about what love can turn into, if pushed too far. And how a woman’s affections change with each responsibility added into her life. While I found it shocking at times and incredibly liberating during others, it’s an undeniable statement to humanity — and it is based on a true story!
During the gala screening for the film to celebrate the Cannes Film Festival 70th anniversary, it was magical to be inside the Salle Debussy, surrounded by festival personalities but also grand stars of the French film firmament, like Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche — don’t even get me started on her gorgeous red gown! — Isabelle Huppert, and the stars of ‘Golden Years’. If ever there was an evening that represented the true splendor of Cannes for me, it was this screening, in that theater with those superstars. By strange coincidence, and perhaps all because of my long flowery dress, I was allowed to walk out of the theater with Madame Deneuve close by... And yes, she is that extraordinary!