Bonjour Milos! The Inaugural Post from the Cannes Film Festival

May 13, 2009

Worldview Film Contributor Milos Stehlik, of Chicago's Facets Multimedia, is where every film lover would like to be: the Cannes Film Festival. Well, film lovers and celeb watchers‚ as‚ the big names usually make the trek. Milos will keep us posted on films to catch and ones to miss, and give us the overall vibe from the fest. Without further ado...here's Milos! Chicago Most trips now begin with stress. How and what to pack? What, exactly, does 20% chance of precipitation mean? A torrential downpour or a sprinkle? Likewise, no one can predict that at 3 pm on Saturday, the Kennedy Expressway will be packed and barely moving. The plane is delayed. The sign says boarding in 13 minutes, but the pilot and flight attendants are hanging out by the gate -- travel optimism at work. Loud, intrusive announcements about collecting the I-94 immigration form for non-U.S. citizens. One world and we are so divided. The United flight to Paris: dirty plane, no pillows or blankets and freezing cold. Everyone is reaching into the overhead compartments for their winter coats. The purser tries to re-start the video system and after 2 hours gives up. Not that there would be anything to watch, in any case. Day 1 Meet Scott Foundas, film editor of the L.A. Weekly, at the baggage carousel. He is spending 2 days in Paris, then taking the train to Cannes. He says he saw two of the films in Cannes in Los Angeles before he left. The opening night film,‚ the Pixar-produced animated feature UP, which he liked (although he says not as clever as Ratatouille or Wall-E. Day 2 The news is full of some estimate that 30,000 French would die if the Grippe-A, as the HN1 or whatever swine flu virus is called here, takes hold. No idea of whom or how they came to the estimate, but it's enough to occupy the TV news, along with the Pope waxing anti-anti-Semitic in Israel. Last night, a long and very detailed report on the state of Carla, Madame Sarkozy, from G., the wife of a filmmaker friend. G. is not happy that Carla "represents France"-her country. G. liked Cecilia, the Sarkozy ex-wife. I said I know very little about Carla -- American press writes about her only as if they are waiting for her to make some kind of blatant faux-pas, or to compare her negatively to Michelle Obama. We want our women to look the best, and no question that Carla is competition. She has style and all of those French designers behind her, after all. But, I tell G., I adore her sister, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, an amazing actress, and not a bad film director. I see in a bookstore that Bertrand Tavernier has published a new book (his history of the American cinema, never published in English, is incredible), a collection of interviews with his American friends. It weighs about 10 lbs, and is definitely the book to have, but better to order and have shipped than lug to Cannes and then home. Also what looks like a wonderful collection of photographs, memoirs, letters, interviews called Tu n'as rien vue a Hiroshima (You've seen nothing in Hiroshima) by Emmanuelle Riva -- the co-star of Hiroshima Mon Amour. It's quite wonderful -- in the photos, Riva and the very young Resnais (he is now 86 and about to show his latest film in Cannes) on a boat somewhere in Japan look like they are from an alternate universe -- when making a film about the devastation of the atomic bomb might actually make a difference, get people to think about nuclear and the future of humanity in one sentence. Instead, what we got was 30 more years of the Cold War. Day 3 It rains in Paris for two days. Fortunately, the hotel has an umbrella better than my little folding one. Still, Paris is filled with tourists -- you hear "American" spoken everywhere. The Galerie Lafayette, the huge department store, is packed. I don't know if anyone is actually buying anything (and the only "sale" is 15% off if you get a Galerie Lafeyette credit card) but it's definitely a destination. Interesting Jacques Tati exhibition at the Cinematheque Francaise. A book, new edition by Pierre Etaix, the very talented Tati collaborator whose own work (the wonderful "Yo-Yo") is nearly forgotten. Wonderful sketches for the Tati characters, the sets and locations. On the way to Orly airport (a much friendlier airport than the horrific Charles de Gaulle, which must rate as one of the great monstrosities of the universe) in a taxi, we pass rue Daguerre. In the brief glimpse I get of it, it looks as charming as the wonderful documentary of Agnes Varda, who lives there, made about the street and its inhabitants. My first experience with EasyJet is easy. I think that the cheap European airlines, something which we don't have in America have done more to unite Europe than all of the Euro-pudding bureaucrats in Strasbourg or wherever they hide out. The cheap prices are unbelievable, they are always full, and in two hours you can be in a totally different country for less than it costs to get from Chicago to Indianapolis by bus. Day 4 (Day of the Fest!) The most amazing thing to me about the Cannes Festival, a world-class event, by all means with all of the hoopla only the French know how to really pull off well, is how it is pieced together at the last minute. Last night, at 6, workmen were attaching anchors to the concrete steps of the Palais for the red carpet, yet to come. Today, in 20 minutes, the first press screening of UP opens the Festival. It's the first Disney film at Cannes in 5 years, and the first animated feature to open the festival. Todd McCarthy, writing in Variety, who obviously saw the film before coming to Cannes, declared it a 10-for-10. (I admit the reference is lost on me, but I think it means 10 Pixar films, 10 winners). The first screening of UP includes lots of cameras. Thierry Fremaux, the director of the festival comes out, jumping back and forth between French and English, to ask everyone to put on their 3-D glasses, so that they can take a picture of everyone with their glasses on. UP: Wonderful animation, light-hearted humor, its biggest innovation is perhaps that it deals with two old people. Eva Zaoralova, the director of the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, whom I see immediately afterward (and who watches the film WITHOUT the 3-D glasses -- she says something about their not working over her regular glasses), says that she understands it is in part, about being old (Eva just turned 70). An old man realizes his life-long, never-realized dream about going to a wild place in South America by floating his whole house with balloons; a boy-scout stowaway is along for the ride. The sentiment sometimes steers close to over-sugary schmaltz, but it is forgivable. Stay tuned for more of Milos' adventures from Cannes!
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