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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Cannes Day 1: Will Uncle Tim recall his past lives?
The ash cloud dispersed so I've landed in Cannes, sunny and blue and crazy. To begin, I quote Mathieu Amalric, a French actor/director who has a film selected for the Competition this year: "If you approach Cannes with a sense of humour, nothing is that bad." Thank you.
One important person who almost missed the opening night because of the volcanic sleet over the European stratosphere is British actress Kate Beckinsale. Ravishing, as she is in Underworld 1, 2, 3 and the in-the-pipeline 4, (or is it 5, 6, 43?, Beckinsale appeared at the jury press conference on Wednesday afternoon looking pretty and slightly nervous. Every year, Cannes selected nine film professionals or artists, usually those with formidable profiles (ok, sometimes not really), to sit in the panel that decides which film will be garlanded with the coveted Palme d'Or, possibly the world's most prestigious film award.
This year, the jury is headed by wild-haired Tim Burton. The master of Wonderdom and Cuckooland showed up with a tooth-achingly red shirt under his jacket and spoke of how he wished to avoid being called the head of the judges. "We'll enjoy the film and the discussion...we'll keep the spirit of letting the films affect us," he said. Joining Mr Burton and Ms Beckinsale in the jury are: Benicio del Toro (last spotted as the hirsute Wolfman), Shekhar Kapur (director of Elizabeth), Alexandre Desplat (French composer), Alberto Barbera (Italian film historian), Giovanna Mezzogiorno (Italian actress), Emmanuel Carrere (French writer), and Spanish director Victor Erice.
Since there's a Siamese film in the Competition this year -- Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives -- I can't resist the urge to picture the Euro-centric jury watching the film from this little country tucked away in Southeast Asia (Thailand, not Taiwan). Mr Burton has made a career out of richly-imagined fantasy films, childlike and sometimes as dark as a forgotten attic, but I believe (and I might be presumptuous) that the fantastic elements in Apichatpong's film, those steeped in the groundswell of dream alchemy and sylvan esotericism, is a different breed of cinematic avatar that will keep him wide awake. Mr Burton doesn't need to recall his past lives, but at least I secretly wish that he recognises that the ability to do so is perhaps what cinema is all about.
Likewise Ms Beckinsale, or so I hope, since she's made a career out of playing heorines in vampire sagas (Underworld hinges on the battle between bloodsuckers and werewolves) and surely she won't shy away from the prospects of everyday exotica. Fingers crossed. But if I may speculate, the member of the jury who's likely to share the sentiment with the Thai director is Victor Erice -- the Spanish director made a stunning film called The Spirit of the Beehive in 1973, and you're able to find the DVD of that film in Bangkok. Haunting and elliptical, the cinema of the subconscious, by both Erice and Apichatpong, is now so alien even in the liberal floor like Cannes.
The screening of the Competition films, the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and the attached event of the Directors' Fortnight -- all will begin (or explode) tomorrow, and I'll keep you posted on this blog. By the way it took me a long, long time to write this report because I left my talismanic mousepad at home. I miss it so much, but anyway...
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