Diary from Cannes 2013: Day 4
May 19, 2013: The sun came out on Sunday, and so did… every single Asian film that I wanted to see.
What I got used to very quickly as a first time Cannes attendee (with a low-priority press badge) is that every single day, I’d look through the list of hundreds of press screenings, competition screenings, and market screenings; plan my day in at least three different formations amidst much confusion and indecision; and then when I finally decided on my schedule, at least a third of it would fall through for some reason or another (screening full, interview ran late, starving and took too long to find your third £5 tomato/ham/mozzarella baguette sandwich of the day; heard someone yell “Marion Cotillard!” and found yourself zombie-walking into the paparazzi crowd instead of power walking away); and I’d end up just improvising my way through the day.
It’s what keeps the festival exciting. And normally, it’s smart to pace yourself, but Sunday’s lineup was out of control. Too many good things to see in too little time.
I started the morning making up for what I missed the night before with the screening of Kore-eda’s Like Father, Like Son, which turned out to be a perfect gem of a film. Emotionally and narratively all-encompassing in such an effortless way, Like Father, Like Son follows two couples who learn that their six year old sons have been switched at birth. Not gonna lie; might have momentarily considered naming my future child Keita (both the name of the character and actor), because… look at those eyes. Perfectly cast for a kid you can’t bear to give back, even if he’s not technically “yours.”
Next up was Monsoon Shootout (which had premiered yesterday), a film the explores various possible consequences of a single moment where a rookie cop decides whether or not to shoot a hit man. This was one of three Cannes films that stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui (who is also in Bombay Talkies as well as The Lunchbox).
From there, I rushed to my press roundtable interview with the cast and crew of Bends — Carina Lau, dressed to the nines in a leopard print dress and sunglasses, the handsome Chen Kun with his hair slicked back wearing diamond earrings, and director Flora Lau, looking just the right amount of class and badass that you want in your first-time Hong Kong female filmmaker. The interview will soon be published at Asia Pacific Arts.
After that, my original plan was to either catch Ilo Ilo (directed by twenty-something Singaporean first-time filmmaker Anthony Chen) or The Lunchbox (also directed by first-time filmmaker Ritesh Batra, starring the always amazing Irrfan Khan), both of which I heard overwhelmingly positive feedback about.
Unfortunately, my back to back schedule ran late, so that wasn’t in the cards. (There were also premieres of Adolfo Alix Jr’s Death March and Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture, which I would have to catch tomorrow.)
Instead, I ran into my former Asia Pacific Arts co-editor, current San Diego Asian Film Festival Artistic Director, Brian Hu and figured I’d flip my schedule and tag along with him to the screening of Bombay Talkies, an anthology of four short films by Bollywood directors Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap.
As we arrived in the grand 1,000 seat Debussy theater, we looked from our balcony seats into the audience to see if any Bollywood stars were here. Perhaps Rani Mukerjee, who we knew starred in the Karan Johar segment? The aforementioned Nawazuddin Siddiqui?
But we didn’t see anyone. So odd that no one would show up to the Cannes premiere of their film…
Then, Cannes director Thierry Frémaux called onto stage the French director Claude Lanzmann. How strange to have him introduce Bollywood short films, we thought, until we realized the obvious. We were totally in the wrong theater. “Well,” I said, “We’re not going to make Bombay Talkies anymore, so why don’t just watch whatever this movie is?” Brian looked at me horrified. “It’s a three and a half hour Holocaust documentary.”
Oh… THAT Claude Lanzmann. The one who made the 8 to 10 hour (depending on the version) 1985 Holocaust documentary Shoah that makes this current 218-minute The Last of the Unjust screening seem brisk. Perhaps not something you’d want to watch casually. Plus, it would interfere with our 9:30pm outdoor screening of Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told — the polar opposite type of documentary — which we were convinced would be the most awesome thing to watch on the beach ever. So we paid our respects by pretending we understood the Lanzmann’s French intro, clapping, and quickly bailing as soon as the lights went down. Priorities…
We were right though. Bollywood on the beach was pretty awesome. Interspersed with interviews with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, the documentary, helmed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Rang De Basanti) and Jeff Zimbalist, was a epic montage of highlights from 70 years of Bollywood, from love scenes in the rain to flashy musical numbers to bad guys with badder lines. I got chills when watching Hrithik Roshan and his rubbery limbs move like no one else can and also during the clip of the last scene in DDLJ where Kajol runs for the train toward Shah Rukh Khan, his hand outstretched toward her. When the lovers reunited with blessings from her previously unsupportive father, the crowd cheered.
As if that weren’t enough to blow your movie-loving mind for one day, we still had the Blind Detective Midnight Screening ahead of us. Premiering at the Grand Théâtre Lumière (aka THE 2,300 seat theater in Cannes that hosts all Competition films, accessed through the famed Cannes red carpet steps), the new Johnnie To detective comedy starred Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng, who would all be in attendance.
What happens when you get to see a premiere at the Grand Théâtre Lumière is that you get to your seats early; you watch footage of what’s happening right outside on the red carpet onscreen; you see Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, and Johnnie To walk up the same red carpet steps you had just walked up half an hour earlier to get into the theater and go through the same doors you came through to get to your seats; and suddenly you turn around, and the entire audience has gotten on their feet to applaud, because Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, and Johnnie To are actually walking into the theater that you are currently in.
The movie was hilarious and insane. But what I’m going to remember most is that moment…