Friday, March 8, 2002
Romance and Deal-Making High Jinks Unfold in "Festival in Cannes"

Movie Review

Henry Jaglom's â Festival in Cannes is a giddy comic fantasy, full of romance, chicanery and beguiling, sophisticated players. No doubt much of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering Jaglom depicts has or could happen during the world's most famous film festival. What he's done is to put all the pieces together to create a classic farce and, as he has done so often before, found in effervescent artifice a context rich in humor and emotion. A dizzying plot is set in motion with the arrival of a glamorous icon of the French cinema, Millie Marquand, played by real-life icon Anouk AimÃee. The radiantly beautiful Marquand is to receive a tribute to her illustrious career, but she quickly becomes the center of unexpected intrigue. A well-respected but frustrated actress, Alice Palmer (Greta Scacchi) has already arrived with two young associates (Kim Kolarich and Rachel Bailit) hoping to get financing for her script, which she intends to direct. The script is about a Midwestern wife and mother who's been taken for granted by her family and now wants to rediscover herself. Swooping down on the three women is a brash wheeler-dealer, Kaz Naiman (Zack Norman) who assures them he'll get the money for their project. Alice dismisses him as a jerk, but he returns with the news that he's set up a meeting for her with Marquand. Alice, who had Gena Rowlands in mind, thinks her script could be retooled for Millie, whom she admires deeply.

...What Alice doesn't know is that Kaz has preempted a meeting with Marquand set up by hotshot (but actually desperate and hard-strapped) Hollywood producer Rick Yorkin (Ron Silver). Yorkin has lined up Tom Hanks for a project provided he land a certain young French actress as his leading lady; the actress in turn has agreed provided Marquand plays her mother. (Peter Bogdanovich's Milo is in line to direct.)

So Millie, whose career has slowed down lately, has a choice: a meaty role in a small, personal picture or yet another small, meaningless role in a high-profile $90-million Hollywood movie for big bucks. In a quandary, Millie turns for advice to her charming playboy husband, Viktor Kovner (Maximilian Schell), a prestigious European director who's run through his wife's money. Viktor hasn't worked for a long time but tends to return to the ever-loving and endlessly forgiving Millie. Victor has turned up at the festival with his latest protagate, a sexy Italian starlet (Camilla Campanale) on his arm.

...Also on hand at Cannes is Blue (Jenny Gabrielle), shy and pretty star of a tiny indie film that has created a buzz at the festival. She's caught the eye of Yorkin's opportunistic assistant, Barry (Alex Craig Mann); like his boss, Barry is not above using seduction as a means to an end. The heart of the film is Alice's eloquent lament to Millie on how Hollywood uses actresses and casts them off when they hit 45. She thinks women should reject men's view of them and see themselves enriched by the passage of time. Millie gently points out,There are losses, but she feels renewed by Millie's sentiments.

...Jaglom is well known for providing his cast with only a skeleton script and giving them little time to prepare, which requires his actors to dig into themselves to flesh out the people they're playing. Jaglom is expert at picking players up to this challenge, and the results are highly rewarding when the actors are skilled as Anouk Aimee, Scacchi, Schell, Silver and Norman; younger players such as Mann and Gabrielle are no less impressive. Jaglom's usual cinematographer, Hanania Baer, bathes the cast and the legendary resort setting with natural light, and the effect is honest rather than unflattering; Anouk Aimee's remarkable bone structure looks as beautiful in daylight as on a studio set.

...The film's jaunty pace is accompanied by a clutch of vintage French pop tunes, many of them standards by the late Charles Trenet, to whom the film is dedicated. It seems unlikely that the scheming and seductions of a real-life big-time film festival could ever play out with the artistic unity and poetic justice of Festival in Cannes. The charm of the film is that it leaves us thinking that if things don't actually happen quite that way at Cannes, they should.

MPAA rating: PG-13, for brief, strong language. Times guidelines: The film is for sophisticated audiences, including older teens.