Coffee And Bullets: Looking Back At This Year’s Cannes – By David Stephenson

I’ve read a little bit about Cannes film festival this year, and it all seems rather dreary like we’ve come to expect – failed homosexuals in loud shirts eating oysters, lots of arthouse movies about small, thin men penetrating each other and people with far too much knowledge of patisserie. If you could stab Cannes in the heart it would bleed champagne. Or at least I think it would, I’ve never been. I’ve got better things to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love film festivals, and apart from Sundance, Cannes has the biggest and best reputation for kicking ass and taking names. I could go on and on about its storied history, it’s glamorous past, it’s many victories but I don’t want to bore you or insult your intelligence. If you cared that much, you’d have been there in person. Like most people, dear reader, you’re probably above all the ass-biting and cuddles that festivals like this encourage. Good on you. You are, after all, reading a website that specializes in interviews with chicks from slasher movies, directors with a fetish for chainsaws and actors who have an uncanny knack in biting people.

I read about it though, in an attempted to appear cultured and sophisticated, and so that unsuspecting readers would foolishly buy me as an expert, rather than some power-crazed hyperactive fanboy on a spree. But hey, since when did knowledge become a part of journalism, right? I too can do a Cannes report, and just like the others before me, I too have no clue what’s going on, what the hell any of the films mean, what the heck any of the directors are talking about, or even where the hell Cannes even is. Besides, unlike most of the Cannes journalists floating around out there, I’ve actually found something you might be interested in…

The big winner this year was apparently a film called Uncle Boonmee which, if I’ve read it right, is about a bunch of Thai chaps who run around a lot, make funny noises, stare into space and generally do things that make no sense whatsoever. Impressed with a switch in pace away from buggary, the Cannes film board gave it lots of shiny trophies and gave director Apitchatpong Weerasethakul plaudits mainly for having a hilariously unpronouncable name. The film, apparently, has much to say on the nature of life, morality and the soul – which is code for ‘nobody knows what the hell is going on’. But it’s foreign, ridiculous, pretentious as hell and will doubtless be embraced lovingly by espresso drinkers and turtle-neck wearers everywhere.

We’ve come to expect this kind of thing for Cannes – what was at one stage a revered and solemn monolith of film critique and expression has now become little more than a holding pen for the culturally obnoxious, vegans, pretentious art school drop-outs and Socialists. I sound like I’m paraphrasing here, lashing the festival with ridiculous stereotypes and unfair generalisations. I’m not. Read up for yourselves if you please – this year’s affair was so full of misguided, snobbish goodwill that people were even applauding the crap movies, rather than doing the traditional thing of lynching the director. I swear to God they could lock the audience in a big, dark room and show them all of last year’s films and nobody would notice. What would happen if they were to play one of the movies backwards, just for kicks? Would anybody mind?

Of course, there’s a movie out there that everybody knows is awesome but none of the Cannes judges have given it much love – principally because it’s fun and full of shooting and swearing and other such candy that people actually enjoy. It’s a film riddled with that foible known as Entertainment which seems a bane amongst the art house set, despite being by it’s very nature the reason for making films in the first place.

It’s a movie called Outrage, by an angry Oriental fellow called ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano. Kitano, a man who delights in making people’s faces explode so bits of them land on the camera lens. Kitano, who delights in nothing less than a bloody orgy of murder filled with immaculately dressed Japanese shooting each other to death for no apparent reason. Kitano, a screaming wake up call reminding people of why cinemas exist in the first place – to entertain those who kindly bought a ticket. Kitano, a man who knows that films about apathy, doubt, tears and soul-searching redemption are best left to the French.

I mean, just look at this fucking picture:


Cannes 2010: Postscript

What more do we need to know? Takeshi. A suit that cost, at minimum, the price of at least three or even four Korean ladyboy prostitutes. An angry sneer. A small wooden cabin. And enough machine pistol fire to actually light up the whole fucking room in flames. This is what films are about – not dull gray backgrounds full of nuns and orphans crying, but about fun, violence, humour and… oh yes… ENTERTAINMENT. I know little about this new film Outrage, but I guarantee it will put smiles on people’s faces, rather than leaving them confused or insulted, or with the depressive need to sepuku once they leave the room.

Alex Billington of sums up the film nicely: "A few days ago I watched my first Takeshi Kitano film. I’m not sure why I haven’t seen any of his previous films (he’s directed quite a few), but I was excited to check out his newest Cannes entry Outrage, a modern Japanese mobster film that’s literally just two hours of yakuza yelling at each other and killing each other in brutal ways. But I’m now a Takeshi Kitano, or Beat Takeshi (as they call him in Japan), fan because I dug the hell out of this film. It’s one of those totally badass Japanese mobster flicks that anyone can kick back and watch with friends and totally enjoy just because it’s so damn crazy."

Yes there are films out there which have profound meanings which stir the soul, fire the senses and kick start the imagination. There are true cinematic greats with profound messages that really do change the world, that leave audiences breathless, that really inspire and make people think about their lives and the world around them. But, like with most art, for every masterpiece there are thousands of aborted celluloid turds floating around, stenching up the place and dizzying us all with their irrelevance.

Take for instance Mathieu Amalric’s Tournee which, as I understand, is full of noteworthy actors doing a lot of crying. Rebecca H by Lodge Kerrigan was apparently a terrible movie, but Cannes audiences warmed to it anyhow because it was deep and contained quite a lot of crying. Two Gates Of Sleep is according to Empire Magazine "a wildly elliptical tale of two redneck brothers taking their dead mother to a remote burial ground, managed the incredible task of calling to mind the work of both David Lynch and Terrence Malick, whose styles you’d think might be mutually exclusive." I have no idea what the hell any of that means, but I bet it was lengthy and involved a lot of crying. You get my drift – I’m sure all of these films are very impressive and important in their own way. But one question springs to mind – WHO were these movies made for? Would you actually drag your ass off the sofa to watch any of these? Really? Truthfully? Wouldn’t it be more fun just to watch Bruce Willis patrolling a skyscraper and murdering lots of Germans instead?

The problem with Cannes and the wider world of independent cinema these days is that people have come to embrace these films. Pretentious masses with a penchant for foreign accents and long films about women crying are clogging up the cinemas, creating a demand for fussy, idealistic crap that 20 years ago would have been left in script format, tidily filed with the rest in the trash.

We need to remember what films are about – fun. Yes, the art form has it’s place, and in the right hands really can move mountains. But let’s not forget the reason why films are made in the first place – for the people watching.

We need to remember, every once in a while, just to kick back, relax and BLOW SOME SHIT UP.

That is all, dear reader. Rant over. Crisis averted. I’ll go and get my Ritalin now…