Being a Film Critic (in Cannes)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/video/2009/may/22/cannes-film-festival


Watching the video of the Guardian’s group of UK film critics on their annual junket to Cannes, sitting around a half empty glass of blanche, un bicchiere di bianco, mezza affogata nell’alcol doing the Guardian’s wrap up video Cannes film festival roundup: ‘A year of Prophets and Basterds, scandals and stars’, watching them get it so completely and utterly and horribly wrong on what and who would win, with at least one expert exhibiting an ‘Oh oh I’m gedding a liddle tipthsy’ half giggle, was one of the best laughs at Cannes 2009 in a year that seemed notably spare of the real thing up on screen.

The film hardheads guarding our take and hold on the fourth dimensional art form, displayed zero-none insight into the Cannes Festival Jury’s collective mind or political process of selection. It had me wondering if they ever got out of the UK film village at all over the two weeks. They weren’t idiots, don’t get me wrong. Intelligent, personable, likable almost – they just didn’t know anymore than you or me, their comments about as good as yours or mine on any given film at any given glassy-eyed moment. I mean who really knows what’s good or not in cinema? God only knows why or how anyone wins awards at these events – what really does go on behind those draped windows? Can you imagine the jury, sorry, The Jury, sitting around seriously trying to be serious about their role. I mean it’s a junket, an annual film publicity junket in a lovely breezy May-warm part of the French Mediterranean. Time to get the sunglasses and floppy linen out and the dingly-dangly things and say words from romance languages almost as the French do…okay, simulate the French.

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But after being there and getting back and seeing the Guardian get it horribly, no, miserably, wrong, I thought I’ll have a go at being a film critic too. I went and sat through Synecdoche at the Rio Cinema and here’s my review:

It was an interesting film, an interesting two hours plus of my time spent indoors on a warmish rainless spring afternoon in London. I left the cinema thinking: real life aint so bad after all.

For me Charlie Kaufman is a genius, or the closest thing to true genius that film, well, the closest thing to true genius that American film… well, there’s also Woody Allen, an influence on him and his work Kaufman said. So who’s first and who’s better? Well…See it all gets very silly, very quickly, not just the genius tagging bit but film criticism all round.

Synecdoche is an uncompromising portrait of a human being doing everything but slip down the toilet before your eyes, all written and directed by someone who wrote Being John M, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine – we are talking serious film writing ability here. But Synecdoche is tough to watch. Not impossible, not horrible or miserable, well yes it is miserable – and between Woody Allen’s division of the world, “miserable” or “horrible”, this is Kaufman’s “miserable”.

It brought Woody Allen to mind, it brought Fellini back to me, Coppola, really anyone who made a film that was tough ask, a tough sit, at least once, in their hey or other days. Bring on the heh heh days I say. Because there seems to be a moment in many famous filmmaking careers when the auteur inside says screw the audience, screw entertainment, screw the laughs I’m going to give them a piece of my art, one from the heart ART.

It also brought to mind a scene in Woody Allen’s Anything Else, David Dobel (Woody Allen) and his protege Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs) walking, nutty Dobel giving Falk some more sage advice.

DOBEL What goals.. wh-what are these goals?

FALK I want to write a novel, Dobel, a novel about man’s fate in the empty universe, no god, no hope, just human suffering and loneliness.

DOBEL Yeah well I’d stick to the jokes if I were you, that’s where the money is.


….Okay I’m a philistine, so what else is new.

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3 responses to “Being a Film Critic (in Cannes)

  1. Yes, genius. But you know what? I was laughing all the way through! And I love the mix of unashamedly intellectual concepts with unashamedly emotional, heart-socking ‘dare to peel away the surfaces’ moments, characters and themes.

    Thanks for your Cannes goss. x

    • It just seemed to me that theatre as a cinematic trope limited Kaufman. Theatre for me is about three dimensional space, in a crude way perhaps about the simple audio echoes and spatial clomping about that comes with that, the proximity of the audience that cinema’s two dimensional flat screen come, phony three dimension, masks. Then I think of the interplay of Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine, and I thought he needed to use that much-used perhaps abused idea – ‘variety’ – to put things in contrasting positions, even to lift us a little. Think the fishing-escape scene in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, another film that used theatrical styled space and tropes. Yes, Synecdoche was funny but only very rarely laugh out loud for me, but as the American critic, Roger Ebert, a critic I do like to read (did a great book on Cannes), Kaufman’s film needs more than one viewing. He saw it three times.

  2. I enjoy this site, it is worth me coming back

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