Cannes Diary: The enfant-terrible of French cinema returns

May 23, 2012

Milos Stehlik

“Partly cloudy,” read the forecast for Tuesday morning here in Cannes. It turned out to be more rain. And then, a miracle: The sun came out at about noon, and Cannes was transformed. The Canadians, Germans and Turks sipped cocktails at their seaside tents; the Abu Dhabi tent was serving tea.

At noon, a full 7 ½ hours before the screening, someone had parked their ladder in the street median across from the entrance to the Palais with a hand-lettered sign, “We love to Brad.” (Pitt, presumably, who was there for the screening of Killing Them Softly.)

Later in the day, my friend, the film distributor and great film connoisseur Peter Marai, discovered two wonderful film posters for sale at the Cannes market: Dead Sushi promised “Hot Wasabi Action” and warned that “Sushi Bites Back.” Another one advertised an even odder Japanese film called ZombieAss, directed by Noboru Iguchi and is subtitled with the line, “Toilet of the Dead.” It is doubtlessly filled with action since it promises “We are going to flush you!” (I am not making this up.)

Speaking of bizarre: The former enfant-terrible of French cinema, Leos Carax, has returned with a new film after a long absence. Holy Motors – an exquisitely shot film – starts with someone who looks like a wealthy executive going off to work. He is driven through Paris in a very long stretch limo to nine different appointments. At each “appointment” he acts out some fantasy – two murders and an erotic stop-motion action sequence among them. Alternately beautiful, self-indulgent, serious, bizarre and funny, it’s impossible to summarize the film, other than to say that Carax is playing with the audience – though this is “being had” in a pleasurable way.