Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Festival in Cannes

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2002 at 12:00 AM

A glamorous zoo of the cinema set, the Cannes Film Festival invites us to step up to the velvet cordons and watch the circus parade of the “beautiful people,” the big-screen wildlife who bask under the Mediterranean sun, the flashes of the paparazzi and the adoration of their fans. But Festival in Cannes is a not-so-wildlife film. Writer-director Henry Jaglom (Déjà Vu) observes the feeding and mating habits in this bestiary — ironically without a moral or much of a story — of Hollywood’s more-or-less luminaries and the predators of their circle.

Jaglom has shown his lack of concern for plot before in his Last Summer in the Hamptons (1995). In Festival, as in Last Summer, he doesn’t seem so much interested in the rise and fall of the stars of stage and screen that he creates and focuses on, but in selecting a potentially pivotal weekend span in their lives. Jaglom’s camera follows a trio of actresses who represent points in the arc of life and career, from budding youth to all but gone-to-seed maturity, as they deal with Hollywood movie-producer types sharp of tooth and manicure.

We first find Blue (Jenny Gabrielle), a dewy ingenue, on our side of the velvet rope. As she wanders unmolested through the throngs of Cannes, we take her as just one of the star-struck faithful. But Blue is on the verge of stardom. She’s at the festival to promote her breakout film, her dream come true.

In an outdoor café, Alice Palmer (Greta Scacchi, Emma), a fortysomething, veteran film actress discusses her screenplay and fumbles through a clueless strategy to direct, attract a star and fund the project. The dew may be off her rose, but somehow her ingenuous naiveté survives. Her story is about a mature woman who finally finds a kind of redemptive freedom.

Millie Marquand (Anouk Aimée, A Man and a Woman, La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2) may be that woman. She’s a faded cinema legend eager to be brought off the shelf and dusted off for a big-screen comeback. Making Alice’s film may be the answer to both women’s prayers, a realization of their hopes.

But Hollywood sharks smell money in the flesh of these women. They circle them with unctuous menace, charm and foot-in-the-door perseverance attempting to sink in their teeth.

Sounds intriguing? Only if just talk of show-biz deals and romance piques your interest.

Jaglom’s characters are undeniably realistic — so much so that you could imagine bumping into them at a movie premiere after-party. But his nearly plotless slices of life have relatively low stakes and leave the classic arc of drama out of the picture. Nothing much really happens, leaving Festival in Cannes as flat as a neglected glass of champagne the morning after the party.

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].


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