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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Exile from Cannes stars

The 63rd Festival de Cannes ended on Sunday. I participated in it the same way I usually do. I kept going to Mark Kermode’s video blog and pointing to streets and buildings in the background and saying, “I was there once. I know where that is. That looks familiar.” I know. Sad.

No, what’s really sad is that this actually represents progress. It used to be that the only way to “attend” Cannes vicariously was to read the papers and magazines days or weeks later. Now, thanks to modern technology, you can pretty much follow it in real time. You can get the sights and sounds and the buzz and the chat and the gossip as well as seeing all the glamor on the red carpet. You can even watch the multitude of news conferences. With all this info and ambiance from the festival in which to immerse oneself, it seems like merely a minor detail that one cannot actually see the films being shown. But thanks to the festival’s great web page you can at least see trailers and clips which, one suspects, in a number of cases is more than enough. Besides, at the numerous film festivals I have attended, I have met plenty of people who weren’t actually seeing any films. They could list all the parties they had crashed or all the famous people they had hounded for an autograph or the meetings they had set up (or in at least one case the cute guy they had hooked up with), but an attempt at a discussion about any specific film would only draw a blank.

And in some cases it is actually possible to see the movies at the film festival without actually being at the festival. Not only can you do it without going all the way to Cannes but you can do it without even going to France. As I’ve already mentioned, I happened to see (as presumably did millions of other people) Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood the very same day that it opened the Festival de Cannes. And, despite that it was simultaneously playing at cinemas all over the world, there were still people fighting to pay scalpers so they could see the official festival screening of the movie. Can’t quite work that out, but maybe the Palais has really, really good popcorn.

Another festival movie that I could have easily seen during the festival (I “Tivo’d” it or, more precisely, “Sky+‘d” it and will watch it at the first opportunity) is Stephen Kijak’s documentary Stones in Exile. It had its premiere at Cannes, accompanied the most hype I have seen around a movie (that wasn’t in 3-D) in years. After going through most of my life with Mick Jagger being some sort of enigmatic figure who showed up only occasionally is blurry photographs in celebrity magazines, suddenly he was everywhere and I couldn’t get away from him. Everyone was interviewing him, as he sold the documentary and, especially, the enhanced re-release of the Stones album Exile on Main Street which the documentary accompanies. Those of us in the UK and Ireland who couldn’t get to Cannes to see the flick only had to watch the BBC Sunday night to see it.

It was, of course, appropriate for the Stones to hype this album in Cannes since that is the general neighborhood mostly closely associated with the recording of the album—although the reality is that the songs were written and recorded during a period ranging from 1968 to 1972 in England, France and Los Angeles. The Stones re-located from the UK to France because, in those days, the upper tax bracket in Britain was (tea partiers take note) something like 90 percent. Jagger and company actually owed more taxes than they were worth, so off they went into self-exile. In the popular music fan imagination, their French sojourn lasted for years and was one single long non-stop drug-fueled party of cosmic proportions. The lived and recorded in a sprawling villa on the waterfront of Villefranche-sur-Mar, which had been leased by Keith Richards and during World War II was used as a headquarters by the Gestapo. Visitors included the likes of William S. Boroughs, Terry Southern and Gram Parsons. In the end, the guys were only on the Côte d’Azur about nine months before they left because of Richards’s legal issues involving something about illegal substances.

I watched Jagger’s extended interview with Larry King, and I have to say that the longtime Stones front man seemed a tad uncomfortable. Maybe it was because he was ticked at being interviewed by the one person on the planet who is actually too old to have been a Rolling Stones fan. Anyway, the interview didn’t ask the most burning question in my mind, which was, when the heck did Jagger get to look so much like Don Imus? A few nights later, Jagger turned up on the French channel I watch sometimes. And this time, he seemed to be a completely different man. Sitting outside with dark sunglasses, he was relaxed and happy and congenial. (At the end, the interviewer asked him to remove his shades, I suspect in order to verify that it was really him.) And he was taking and answering all the questions in French. This is very unusual for American and British figures who go on French television to hype things to not speak through a interpreter. Heck, Russell Crowe, who had been on the same program the previous week to talk up Robin Hood, nearly needed a translation of the questions after they had been rendered into English. Anyway, I was impressed with Jagger’s command of French, and maybe it shows that he got more out of his exile in France than a bunch of dead brain cells and a few forays to the shop to look for a packet of decent tea bags.

Speaking of Mark Kermode (as I was), one of his most interesting video blog entries involved a chat with English producer/director Stephen Woolley who, as it happens, made one of the best most overlooked movies about the Rolling Stones (the 2005 Brian Jones biopic Stoned). Woolley, a true, down-to-earth movie fan as well as movie maker, waxed quizzical about the disconnect between the over-the-top glamor, commercialism and conspicuous consumption of the Festival de Cannes and the typical subject matter that wins the glittering awards. “How does this work?” wondered Woolley. “How does it fit that everybody from Ken Loach to Mike Leigh to Stephen Frears has to dress as if they are going to the biggest banquet in the world and they make movies about the oppressed, terrible, downtrodden poor of the world?”

That’s a good question. But I have an even better one. How the heck did the organizers of the festival know so far ahead of time that Juliette Binoche was going to get the prize for Best Actress (for Abbas Kiarostami’s Copie conforme)? And wasn’t it a bit obvious making the official festival poster all about her? And wouldn’t it have been only fair to include Javier Bardem and Elio Germano (Best Actor winners for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful and Daniele Luchetti’s La nostra vita, respectively) as well?

* * *

Three weeks ago in my personal tribute to the recently deceased Lynn Redgrave I suggested an analogy between our perception of her in the famous Redgrave family and that of Sarah Ferguson in the British Royal Family. Even though it was an analogy and not a comparison, it wasn’t really that apt and seems even less so in light of recent events involving the Duchess of York. She may have been the down-to-earth Redgrave, but Lynn Redgrave was a class act and really shouldn’t have been mentioned in the same sentence as the problem-plagued Duchess. I regret that I did so.

-S.L., 27 May 2010

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