Ten years ago Robert Altman's mordant Hollywood farce "The Player" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and became an instant sensation. In 1999, writer-director Henry Jaglom took cameras to Cannes to give a similarly sardonic treatment to the increasingly commercial atmosphere surrounding the festival itself.
The resulting picture is "Festival In Cannes," the kind of sweet-and-sour insider movie that film buffs will eat up like so much gelati.
Borrowing visual, narrative and performance stylistic cues from Altman, Jaglom fuses together several astute and entertaining showbiz stories of wheeling and dealing, wonderment, deviousness and schmoozing on the red carpets, at the parties, in the street cafes and in the bungalows of five-star hotels.
One concerns a beautiful, naive but sagacious, pixie-ish young ingenue named Blue (Jenny Gabrielle), whose first film is the buzz of the festival. At the other end of the career spectrum is a legendary actress in her late 50s (played by the legendary French actress Anouk Aimée) whose age has put a damper on her career, but who suddenly finds herself in a dilemma over two competing projects.
On the one hand there's a possibly career-reviving offer from Ron Silver, who is just the right kind of slippery -- with an elusive nugget of possible sincere decency lurking somewhere under the surface -- as an Armani-clad L.A. studio executive who badly wants her to co-star as somebody's mom in a big Tom Hanks picture. On the other hand, she has a passionate portrait of a middle-aged woman whose grown children have moved on, affording her the chance to explore her own life for the first time in 25 years. A shoestring independent project being written and directed by another actress (Greta Scacchi) who has begun to feel the pinch of Hollywood sexist ageism herself, this is the film for which Aimée has a passion. But can she afford to do it instead of the blockbuster?
Circling around these three women at various stages of their careers are male vultures of varying degrees that give this film its edge and its humor.
A greasy, schmoozing shyster (Zack Norman) puts on the arrogant airs of a big-shot producer, offering to back Scacchi's picture but with one reservation: "Can you surround the old woman with young people?" he suggests. Aimée's philandering sometimes husband -- a formerly great director played with brilliant but endearing arrogance by Maximilian Schell -- shows up with yet another curvy starlet on his arm and all kinds of self-serving career advice. Silver's back-stabbingly ambitious assistant (Alex Craig Mann) takes Blue under his wing and into his bed, making the roguish Silver look honest in comparison when he begins romancing Scacchi, both professionally and personally.
Jaglom takes wry delight in smirking at the film industry and the cinematic supermarket/circus that high-profile film festivals have become. Yet he still finds the humanity and complexity in even the most counterfeit of characters, which lends "Festival In Cannes" an affectionate authenticity that makes up for its few shortcomings.
The director is so enamored of unstable handheld camerawork that a few otherwise wonderful scenes are ruined by motion sickness. All three of the women at the film's center are disappointingly susceptible to flattery and a well-timed kiss. And, well, the film has no third act to speak of.
But that particular problem isn't really a problem at all since any real film buff will find pleasure in contemplating the fates of the movie's characters, all of whom you'll find yourself surprisingly attached to by the time the credits roll.
Run time: 100 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 25th July 2002
Box Office USA: $41.0k
Box Office Worldwide: $299.2 thousand
Distributed by: Paramount Classics
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Fresh: 35 Rotten: 19
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Henry Jaglom
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