What with a bomb scare at the Debussy Theatre where the most important press shows are held and a sudden electrical failure on the railways which cut many festival-goers off from their cheap hotels outside Cannes, the 70th Festival was not without incident over a crowded weekend.
But somehow we all survived and began to see some better movies. If none reached the standard set early on by the coruscating Russian Loveless, several were very likely to compete for the jury’s prizes.
There has to be a film about AIDS in the programme and Robin Campillo’s 120 Beats Per Minute was an excellent example. Set in the early nineties, when an action group called Act-Up Paris lobbied a multi-national company to bring out a cure far quicker than they wanted, it has some fine realist acting from members of the group as they sought to bring irresistible pressure on the company. No stars in the film but Campillo’s sincerity and anger shine through what could have been a depressing story, and there is a death scene at the end that moved many of its audience to tears. Campillo is a fine director and only the length of the film is against it.
Many of the film-makers here seem to think two hours plus is the right length, forgetting that the Luis Buñuel once said that if you can’t tell a story in 90 minutes, don’t tell it at all. Where have all the good editors gone?
Not many movies presented at the Festival are actually fun. But Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories proved to be a comedy which had gusts of laughter from its hard-bitten critical audience throughout. About two brothers attempting to look after their often curmudgeonly father, it is cynical, spiteful and truthfully sharp at the same time. Dustin Hoffman gives one of his best performances of recent years as the old man, an artist without much talent, while Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler are equally good as his sons. When you include Emma Thompson and Elizabeth Marvel among the cast, you really can’t complain of the acting. But it is Baumbach’s sense of the awful perils of family life that makes the film. A bit over the top, perhaps, but not by very much.
Finally there was Redoubtable, the sad story of Jean-Luc Godard’s marriage and break-up with Anna Wiazemsky, twenty years his junior. The film was apparently well-researched by Michel Hazanavicius, its director, though it enlightens us more about Godard than his beautiful young actress wife (Stacy Martin). It suggests that he lost his art to Maoist radicalism but found himself in so doing. It’s a theory that seems pretty probable. And Louis Garrel, the son of French director Philipe Garrel, gives a very decent performance as Godard. We all thought the film was going to be full of cliches. Some were there alright. But by no means as many as expected.