Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2017
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Film fest of the mind

Only a month and a half to go until the Cannes film festival!

No, of course I’m not going again this year, but I still get excited about it. The new poster has been revealed, and it features a lovely image of the vivacious, swirling Claudia Cardinale. What’s not to get excited about? Of course, lots of commentators can only get excited when there is a whiff of controversy, so for those who enjoy that part of it there is endless commentary and opinion about retouching and photoshopping issues. I think that might actually be some kind of metaphor for what is wrong with the arts in general and cinema in particular, but I am too lazy to think much about it.

Cannes poster

I almost got a chance to go to the Cannes festival earlier this year, but it would have been in the year 1980, and anyway it didn’t work out. Yes, I know that makes no sense, but it will once you cop on to the fact that this is only a sneaky way of finding a hook to talk about my next book.

If you don’t read my book blog, then you may not know that I finally finished the first draft of my new novel a couple of weeks ago. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there is still a lot of work to do on it, but at least now the end is in sight.

This book is a sequel to my first one, which had the handy and convenient title Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead. I learned my lesson on that first effort, and I can assure you that the new book’s title will definitely be shorter. This tome follows the further adventures of Dallas Green, focusing on how he spends the latter part of the year 1980. As before, there is an ill-advised foreign adventure, too much alcohol consumption, a possibility of romance and a fair amount of male bonding. Yes, I have followed the Rules of the Sequel and basically told the same story over. Okay, I’m not exactly doing a great job of selling this book, am I? Let me put it another way. The new book has everything you liked about the first book, but it is nothing like the first book. Okay, I’ll try again. In film terms, the new book is the Godfather II of coming-of-age novels.

Since there is no point spending so much time writing something unless it is going to provide ample opportunity to entertain and amuse myself, I made sure that Dallas would be attending a French film festival. My first idea, of course, was for him to go to Cannes. What fun that would have been to have him hobnobbing among the glitterari on the Côte d’Azur in the year of All That Jazz, Kagemusha, Being There, Breaker Morant and Bye Bye Brasil. Sadly though Cannes did not fit into Dallas’s busy schedule. For complicated plot reasons Dallas needed to go to France in September and, as we know, the Cannes festival is held in May. Luckily, there was another French film festival that did happen to take place in September, so Dallas wound up going to Deauville. So instead of attending a festival showing the latest works of directors like Bob Fosse, Akira Kurosawa, Hal Ashby, Bruce Beresford and Carlos Diegues, he goes to a festival showing, well, a bunch of American movies that have already played in the States.

The beauty of him going to Cannes would have been—in addition to fulfilling my own personal fantasy—the fact that I myself have been in Cannes a couple of times and so it would have been easy to write about. While I have been in Normandy a couple of times, I have never been in Deauville, so I had to do long, hard, serious research—mainly by watching Claude Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman while drinking lots of French wine. Yes, it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

The other fun thing about writing the book, from a cinematic point of view, is that the story required the invention of a mysterious filmmaker and his legendary cult movie. If that wasn’t something I was born to write, I don’t know what else it would be. Since the setting is 1980, it was a lot easier to create a mysterious, much-discussed, much-sought-after lost movie. One character talks of having seen the film exactly one time on television and then looking continually for a chance to see it again. In those days, home video playing and recording had not quite taken off, so there was no local video store with shelves to peruse or helpful staff to order a movie for you. Moreover, the possibility of downloading or streaming from the internet was still but a far-off sci-fi concept. I sometimes wonder if the youth of today can ever really appreciate what it was like to live in a time when you did not have every movie, television show episode and song ever created pretty much literally at your fingertips. Will young readers be able to relate to a time when a person might have but one single chance to see a movie? And no running to the computer afterwards to re-watch the key bits on YouTube?

To the above list of media available everywhere in the world at all times, I should add books. Yes, the new book will be available in digital formats as well as paperback. (See what I did there?) So there is no excuse for it becoming a lost object of cult fandom. Stay tuned and one of these days I will let you know when it is available to order and/or download.

-S.L., 31 March 2017

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