Sunday, May 25, 2008

And the Palme d'Or goes to . . .

. . . a bunch of French schoolkids! 'Entre les murs' is the first French film to win the top prize in 20 years & it was great to see the kids getting to be stars for a night. It was an appropriate choice for a subdued festival with most films in competition focused on social issues. My favourite films were two terrific documentaries-'Tyson' James Toback's portrait of the troubled boxer & 'No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos'-the riveting story of the great cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs & Vilmos Zsigmond who escaped the Russian invasion of Hungary & became the D.O.P.s of choice for the new Hollywood of the 60s & 70s.
But where is my prize for surviving Steven Soderbergh's 4 & half hour biopic of CHE?

It continued to rain all week. Sales in the film market were reportedly just as poor as the weather & most execs were packing up by Friday & heading home.

There was one sunny day on Thursday so I skipped a screening & spent the afternoon drawing on the 'festival only' beach behind the Palais.

The yachts that drop anchor in the bay & the port are unbelievable. Just as you think you've seen the biggest boat ever built an even more immense vessel sails into town! There was one bigger than the car ferries that go to Corsica-up on the poop deck there was a rock band performing on a concert stage.

The chap above was shooting my favourite film critic Mark Kermode reviewing movies on the beach.
The main hall of the Palais des Festivals.

Views from the café terrace.

The International All-Stars Pétanques Championship.

Some of the freaks,geeks & nutty folk who make the festival such fun.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Encore Cannes!

Once the red carpet frenzy begins every evening it's impossible to get a glimpse of any celebs or film-makers; they're surrounded by a wall of photographers. Then behind them are a sea of tourists, curious locals & invitees struggling to get close to the Palais. It's a real circus & once everyone is up the famous steps the mob instantly disperses!

The daily VARIETY had a nice double page spread yesterday for 'A MONSTER IN PARIS'. The artwork was made here at the studio in Nice; layout by Seb, painted by Aurélien & Carlos.

I saw the hotly anticipated INDIANA JONES & THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL but I'm disappointed to report it doesn't warrant the buzz. After almost 20 years you would think they could come up with something better than quicksand, ants & waterfalls . . .and gophers! What's with the bloody gophers!
Sure these perilous obstacles (except the gophers) were staples of the classic serials that originally inspired the series. However even the pre-digital fx original films offered much more inventive cliffhangers & set-pieces. For all of Spielberg's insistence that digital fx were used sparingly 'SKULL' plays more like a film in the 'MUMMY' series with its nuclear explosion & ant-swarms, even those Indy influenced films restrained from cheap gags such as using a stretchy rubber snake as a rope! Skull is a parody of the Indy series- & not even a good one. The jokes aren't funny, the new characters are under-developed, there's no suspense. They should have made this 10 years ago when everyone involved still had some fire in them. Apparently Lucas stubbornly insisted on the 'skull civilisation' macguffin & rejected all other scenarios. I would love to read Frank Darabont's draft on which he worked for a year & was reportedly a cracker. The story Lucas preferred is more like one of those lightweight supernatural Indy novellas that have been published in the intervening years.
Even with his considerable cinematic genius Spielberg couldn't save this-it's arguably his worst film. Towards the finale someone laments 'so much of human life is lost in waiting' with which after 19 years, 2 hours in a queue & 2 hours viewing I regretfully agree.

After the turgid 4th Indy film creaking under the weight of it's overblown nonsensical script it was an utter relief to be blown away by Jean-Stephane Sauvaire's 'JOHNNY MAD DOG'. A 'platoon' of young soldier kids roam the Liberian countryside killing, raping & terrorizing villagers before besieging an un-named city. The brutality of their atrocities is outweighed by their apathy & callousness. Their adult general has brainwashed them to think of their guns as their parents & any sign of parental longing results in execution. They have been stripped of their childhoods & their humanity allowing them to act without empathy or guilt.
The camera-work is frenetic & intense, the soundtrack blisteringly loud, the young cast totally convincing. It will be hailed as this year's 'CITY OF GOD'.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More from the Croisette. . .

Pleuvoir sur le croisette-quel horreur! It's umbrellas & plastic macs this weekend as the festival has been drenched & queuing in line ain't so pleasant. The cafés are more packed than usual so it's hard to find a spot to draw but I did this one from the ever popular Caffé Roma. Caught a couple movies yesterday-my reviews can be read on film critic Mark Salisbury's blog. Here's one animation related:


It's encouraging to see another mature themed animated project in competition after last years' PERSEPOLIS. Contrary to Marjan Satrapi's autobiographical memoir of being raised amid Middle Eastern conflict, it's an account of Ari Folman's quest to remember what happened to him during his days in the Israeli army.
Folman has said he chose animation as his medium because he had no other option-it would have been just talking heads if in live action & there is little video footage of the Lebanon war from this period. Instead he illustrates the war-time experiences of his comrades as they relate their memories in voice-over. Stylistically the artwork is just as bold & graphic as Persepolis but more realistic, similar to Linklater's WAKING LIFE or A SCANNER DARKLY but not rotoscoped.
A talented team of artists evoke the surreal horror of war expertly & often poetically.
It's a moving & gripping account of one man's desire to understand how he came to be part of one of the worst massacres of the Lebanon conflict.

Folman plans to use animation for his next project-an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem's 1971 sci-fi novel 'The Futurological Congress'.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Festival de Cannes 2008

I can't believe a year has gone by already & I'm at my second Cannes Film Festival-I'm well on my way to the special recognition award given to longtime festival goers of 30 years or more!

I caught the first screening of KUNG FU PANDA & Dreamworks have set a new gold standard for themselves with this picture. Right from the 2-D opening sequence you know this is going to be a winner. In fact the title sequence by James Baxter's studio is so good one almost wishes the entire film was done in this style. It's limited, Flash style animation but with gorgeous textures & flourishes of full animation. Despite its meagre premise (fat panda masters kung fu) the film dazzles with its magnifecently orchestrated action sequences. Character designs are excellent & will have you yearning for the inevitable action/plush toys.
Expect this flick to be HUGE this summer, although how Dreamworks will squeeze the paper thin scenario for their desired franchise remains to be seen. This one however will defeat all box-office challengers with its 'awesomeness & bodacity'!

It's only Day 2 I'm already feeling fatigued but I'll be back in Cannes tomorrow to see more movies & make more drawings.A bientot mes amis. . .

Friday, May 09, 2008

Road rage

Motoring in France is always an adventure. Drivers here are just a touch more intense than in the UK. Most seem to think they're participating in the Monte Carlo Ralley & will risk their lives, vehicles & licences to gain that extra couple car lengths in traffic.

I recently had a close encounter with the charming family above who were unhappy about having to let me pass ahead of them on a roundabout. The matriarch was leaning out of the window & banging the side of the car like a frenzied baboon!
I'm driving to Lago Maggiore in Italy this weekend so I'm planning to stick to the slow lane & avoid trouble!
Bonne weekend-report from the Cannes Film Festival in a weeks time. Ciao!