Festival in Cannes

By Scott Foundas

Henry Jaglom's 13th feature, "Festival In Cannes," crystallizes the new maturity that has surfaced in the iconoclastic director's work since "Last Summer in the Hamptons" in 1995: It's more an exercise in group analysis than the exhaustive self-analysis that typified his 1980s films. He's moved on to bigger budgets and bigger casts now too, and he seems very comfortable with the transition. This latest work, which was entirely shot on location at Cannes, may lack some of the sweeping romance of Jaglom's previous "Déjà Vu," but it's an advance in all other respects. It's his quickest and funniest picture in years and, yes, his most accessible too. With proper handling, pic stands to do art-house biz well above Jaglom's niche norm.

In typical Jaglom fashion, pic weaves together a series of crisscrossing narrative threads, involving a gaggle of characters hocking their wares at the world's largest film festival. There's the American actress Alice Palmer (Greta Scacchi), who's looking to finance a low-budget script she has written; there's the aging, but radiant screen icon Millie Marquand (Anouk Aimee), who must choose between a leading role in Alice's film and a lucrative "cameo part" in a big Tom Hanks picture; and there's the slimy Hollywood producer Rick Yorkin (Ron Silver), who employs every wily charm in his extensive repertoire to woo Alice away from Millie. These are the key players, as it were---the been-there, done-that who have a sense of Cannes' potential, but also its allure of false promises.

On the sidelines, Jaglom turns his attention to an equally endearing bunch---the up-and-comers, some hustling, some naïve, some terrified by the very prospect of their own stardom. Of this group, the newcomer Jenny Gabrielle gives a wonderful, wide-eyed turn as Blue, the bashful starlet whose zero-budget indie pic has just become the hot-buzz item of the festival. And Jaglom regular Zack Norman steals nearly every scene he graces as the fast-talking, fast-walking Kaz, a "producer" who may be less than the sum of his parts. Norman, who memorably played the lead in Jaglom's caper comedy "Sitting Ducks," is a volcanic explosion of improvisational comic energy here.

The dilemmas faced by Alice, Millie and Blue are adroitly illustrative of the delicate balance between art and commerce inherent in making pictures (and the ironic raison d'etre of a hybrid festival/market like Cannes). Pic is keenly perceptive of this divide, and it's something Jaglom---who began his career by starring in and producing some studio pictures, before positioning himself far away from studio machinery---may be in a particularly good position to comment on. There is, in fact, an extent to which "Festival In Cannes" serves as a meaningful articulation of Jaglom's own personal aesthetic, much more so than any of his overtly autobiographical projects. Early on, Alice describes her script as "a movie about real people, maybe for all the people who've stopped going to the cinema." At its root, Jaglom's film is such a movie too.

Jaglom is, and always has been, a hopeless romantic, and he makes hopelessly romantic pictures---movies that, even when tinged with bittersweet, are in love with the idea of being in love, and which pine for an old-fashioned Hollywood kind of romance, where people in movies spoke wittily and intelligently about their feelings for one another, before the much-discussed "culture of irony" came along and made them all tight-lipped and glib. Jaglom neither is nor positions himself to be Ernst Lubitsch---his cinema is the Golden Age of Hollywood filtered through a post-Freudian sieve---and his largely unscripted, unrehearsed methodology can lead (and often has) to rambling digressions. But a consistent strength of Jaglom's films has been the unself-consciousness with which his characters explore their innermost feelings. It's something that's become more refreshing over time, as even Woody Allen has given up the idea of addressing real relationships in his films.

At their worst, Jaglom's films can seem repetitions of one another ("Festival In Cannes," coming after "Venice/Venice," is not even the first pic Jaglom has lensed and set at a major international film festival). But Jaglom has become a much more savvy organizer of his improvised affairs---there's very little "fat" on the scenes here and the picture really moves. At its strongest, his habit of cross-cutting between multiple actions occurring simultaneously imbues certain sequences with a disorienting, Alain Resnais-like energy.

Plus, Aimee and Scacchi both give luminescent performances: Aimee is simply extraordinary; Scacchi filmed this role shortly after giving birth, and her familiar movie-star glamour is downplayed here in favor of a more stunning, organic beauty. Even if you catch her credit during the opening titles, you may not recognize her when she first appears on screen. Like the actress-turned-screenwriter she plays, Scacchi is incognito.

Pic is dedicated to the late, great chanteur Charles Trenet, several of whose tunes are well-placed on pic's soundtrack.

A Rainbow Film Company/Revere Entertainment presentation.
Produced by John Goldstone.
Co-produced by Judith Wolinsky.
Directed, written, edited by Henry Jaglom.
Camera, Hanania Baer.
Music, Gaili Schoen.
Costumes, Jo Kissak.
Sound, Tim White.

Running time, 99 minutes.

Blue .......................Jenny Gabrielle
Rick Yorkin ............Ron Silver
Alice Palmer ...........Greta Scacchi
Barry ......................Alex Craig Mann
Libby ......................Kim Kolarich
Viktor Kovner .........Maxmilian Schell
Nikki .......................Rachel Bailit
Gina ........................Camilla Campanale
Kaz Naiman ............Zack Norman
TV Interviewer .........Marya Kazakova
Millie's Agent ..........Pamela Shaw
Milo .........................Peter Bogdanovich
Milie Marquand .......Anouk Aimee
Milo's Girlfriend ......Louise Stratten
Millie's Escort ..........Vernon Dobtcheff
Bert Shuster .............Robert Shaye
Fan in Crowd ...........Christian Rallo
Hotel Manager...........J.C. Irondelle
As themselves ...........William Shatner, Faye Dunaway, Michael White