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'Festival In Cannes'

Art and business meet on the battlefield of Cannes

Friday, March 22, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Art and commerce collide in "Festival at Cannes," attracting a few other opposites as well -- filmmaker and dealmaker, innocent and predator, starstruck and disillusioned.

'Festival In Cannes'

RATING: PG-13 for brief strong language.

STARRING: Anouk Aimee, Greta Scacchi, Ron Silver, Maximilian Schell.

DIRECTOR: Henry Jaglom.

WEB SITE: www.rainbowfilms.com



The extent of the attraction proves to be the surprise in this movie from director Henry Jaglom ("Last Summer in the Hamptons"), who often makes movies about moviemaking, often in lavish surroundings.

It doesn't get much more extravagant -- or offer much more duality -- than Cannes, on the French Riviera, home each spring to the world's most prestigious film festival.

Jaglom's leisurely shots of the area make the film look like a travelogue in love. The view of the sea offers blue water, soothing waves, beautiful sunsets. The view of the land takes on the color of money: luxury hotels, giant movie billboards, milling crowds talking on cell phones.

Jaglom filmed his movie during the 1999 festival, mingling with both the real people and the beautiful people, dropping names of actual stars into the dialogue, much of which is improvised. The movie benefits from such verisimilitude, making the encounters between the characters feel somewhat spontaneous before they begin meshing into a more complicated web.

Alice Palmer (Greta Scacchi), an actress who has written a script that she wants to direct, has come to Cannes hoping to raise interest from a producer. She didn't bargain for Kaz Naiman (Zack Norman), a bald buzzsaw with a black mustache and a polka-dot shirt who pulls up a seat at her lunch table and won't take no for an answer.

She tells him the story of her movie, hoping to repel him. But, like dog doo on your shoe, getting rid of him isn't easy. He turns up later to say he's raised $3 million and set up a meeting with the venerable French actress Millie Marquand (Anouk Aimee) to play the lead in her film. And he really has, though his methods are unorthodox.

This causes a problem for Hollywood producer Rick Yorkin (Ron Silver), who needs Marquand to play a minor role in his next film as the beginning of a casting chain reaction that will land Tom Hanks as his leading man, guaranteeing financing.

Marquand finds herself in a quandary -- take the money for another tired cameo, or make the smaller film and play a fully realized character? Both films depend on her, and neither can wait for the other.

The stew thickens when Rick starts working on Alice to pry Millie away; when Viktor (Maximilian Schell), Millie's ex-husband and a venerated director, becomes a pawn in the game; and when Rick's assistant, Barry (Alex Craig Mann), starts putting the moves on actress Blue (Jenny Gabrielle), a festival's overnight sensation.

The art vs. commerce dichotomy underlines it all, exposing the rank hypocrisy of many of the characters as well as the pressure it puts on those who are in it not for the money so much as the passion. For them, the setting emphasizes the romance of moviemaking as opposed to the reality.

Silver and Scacchi turn out to be well-matched adversaries, while Norman -- a Jaglom regular -- is a comic dynamo as Kaz, whose single-minded drive (he knows something about drive, it turns out) is matched only by his tacky manner.

Jaglom's films have a way of being repetitious not only in subject matter and settings but also in style -- he uses a lot of talking heads, often at a blue streak. It takes a while for the atmosphere, the situation and the characters to set in. The movie has the structure of a farce but the pacing of a leisurely stroll down the Croisette (sometimes, alas, with a bouncing camera making it a rough walk).

Still, if allowed to percolate long enough, "Festival at Cannes" offers not just the flavor of the place but also of the profession and of the often contradictory zeals that fuel it.

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