Cannes Film Festival Diary: The year of watching unexcitedly

One OF the more curious Cannes phenomena of recent years is the series of "living sculptures" which line the Croisette. How strange that, at an event supposedly devoted to the moving image, these desperate individuals - spray-painted bronze or silver and locked for hours on end in ludicrous poses - expect to be rewarded for the sole accomplishment of being able to stand completely still. Or perhaps not: this festival, generally judged disappointing, shows an art form in a state of temporary stasis.

As the competition draws to an end - the results will be announced tonight - the field remains wide open, though not so much out of an embarras de richesses as because the international film-making community has stubbornly failed to supply a stream of unalloyed masterpieces for the festival's half-centennial.

No single film stands out from the crowd, though there is an array of respectable contenders. Ang Lee, the Taiwanese director of Sense and Sensibility, turns his attention to Watergate-era America in The Ice Storm, a glacially elegant study of emotional paralysis in a Connecticut family coming to grips with the sexual revolution. Also from the frozen North, the Canadian film-maker Atom Egoyan's much hyped - but disappointing - The Sweet Hereafter scrutinises the effect of a tragic school bus crash on a small Canadian community.

In Wim Wenders' ambitious arthouse conspiracy thriller The End of Violence, Bill Pullman plays a Tarantino-esque film producer inadvertently drawn into an FBI plot to control street crime by patrolling the city with surveillance cameras. In exploring Wenders' long-standing fascination with voyeurism and visual technology, the film is not altogether free from intellectual pretension, but impresses none the less for the scope of its ambitions, the gorgeous wide-screen cinematography, and immensely sympathetic performances from Pullman and newcomer Traci Lind.

A far more conventional, but enormously enjoyable Hollywood studio picture, LA Confidential flashes back to the 1950s for a cracking adaptation of the James Ellroy novel about police corruption in the City of Angels. Curtis Hanson, hitherto a wholly undistinguished journeyman (his previous credits include the nanny-horror flick The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) wrote and directed what some have been calling the best film noir since Polanski made Chinatown 23 years ago.

A personal favourite was The Eel, by Shohei Imamura, a previous Golden Palm winner for The Ballad of Narayama. It takes a risibly awful- sounding premise - a man is sent to prison for a crime passionnel and retreats from the world to form an obsession with his pet eel - and turns it into an affecting story, of how he regains his faith in humanity.

The film moves between pathos, melodrama and broad farce with complete assurance. One watched it with regret, since its chances of reaching British cinemas are virtually nil: if nothing else, festivals serve the invaluable function of reminding us that there is a cinematic world beyond Liar Liar.

At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, most British critics admit that our boys (not girls: there is, depressingly, a single female director, Aussie debutante Samantha Lang, in competition) are bearing up well. In the Directors' Fortnight My Son the Fanatic, scripted by Hanif Kureishi, starts out as a social satire which pits fundamentalism against Western hedonism in Bradford's Asian community, and becomes an improbable, but surprisingly touching love story.

Also much liked has been Love and Death in Long Island, whose odd couple consists of an unworldly English eccentric (John Hurt) and an American bratpacker (Jason Patric). In competition Welcome to Sarajevo is still thought to have an outside chance at the Palm while Gary Oldman's gritty family drama Nil By Mouth is strongly tipped for acting honours.

It's inconceivable that the French will allow the home team to go away empty-handed, though the Gallic offerings are thin. Western, a road movie set in Brittany, is an amiable audience-pleaser (and a rare patch of light relief in the festival's mood of prevailing end-of-millennial gloom) that rambles, albeit divertingly, well past its natural conclusion.

Assassin(s), from Mathieu Kassovitz - the wunderkind director of La Haine two years ago - looks unlikely to reproduce the earlier film's success, while La Femme Defendue, the story of an adulterous affair between a balding married man (played by the director, Philippe Harel) and a luscious 22-year-old nymphet, is an old chestnut given surface novelty by a stylistic gimmick: it uses a subjective camera throughout to tell its story through the unseen male character's point of view. The young actress, Isabelle Carre, who carries the film virtually single-handed, is a front-runner for the Best Actress award.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions