The ritual took place in the soft early-evening light of the Mediterranean sun. Thousands watched from behind police barricades. Many had stood for hours, as if patiently awaiting royalty. Orchestral music blared as the black-tie guests ascended the outdoor staircase, 20 red-carpeted steps that led to the cinema like a neo-Aztec stairway to heaven. Long phalanxes of paparazzi, strangely out of character in their mandatory tuxedoes, flanked both sides of the red carpet. Stars waved. Cameras flashed. Each evening of the Cannes International Film Festival (May 10-21), the pageant was repeated as the world’s film-makers competed for the prizes to be awarded on the closing day.
The movies honored on the altar of festival competition ranged from dreamlike visions by legendary veterans to works of graphic realism by the suddenly unfettered film-makers of Eastern Europe. The official program at Cannes included movies by three old masters of cinema: Dreams by Japan’s Akira Kurosawa, Voice of the Moon by Italy’s Federico Fellini and New Wave by France’s Jean-Luc Godard. All three are devoted, in radically different ways, to dreams and nightmares. Their three directors, each in the twilight of his career, dwell heavily on death. And with varying degrees of success, each of them defies narrative conventions with extreme poetic licence.
Macho: Another veteran director,
France’s Bertrand Tavernier, offered a pastoral view of old age in Daddy Nostalgie, featuring a highly praised performance by British actor Dirk Bogarde as a character who must undergo a serious operation. Another French movie, director Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Cyrano de Bergerac, brought new vigor to a classic tale, with France’s indefatigable Gérard Dépardieu playing a heroic Cyrano. Among American directors, Clint Eastwood took a liberal look at macho heroism in White Hunter, Black Heart, a self-conscious safari into Africa based on the story of U.S. director John Huston’s quest to kill an elephant. And David Lynch—creator of the acclaimed TV series Twin Peaks—maintained his reputation for the outrageous with Wild at Heart, a romantic
melodrama that makes perverse allusions to Elvis Presley and the Wizard of Oz. Starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dem as lovers driving west through the United States on a bloodsplattered version of the yellow brick road, Wild at Heart eviscerates the American dream with graphic violence. And, to borrow a line from the script, the sex is “hotter than Georgia asphalt.” For raw shock value, no movie matched Lynch’s latest effort. But Cannes produced some startling images from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Taxi Blues, a first feature
by Soviet writer-director Pavel Lounguine, presents a vivid portrait of a post-glasnost society at war with itself. It is an incendiary drama about a volatile friendship between an alcoholic saxophone player and a fascist taxi driver. The musician, portrayed by Soviet pop star Piotr Mamonov, is a reckless bohemian seduced by Western values. The taxi driver, who seethes with violence, is a proletarian who resents his friend’s insolence and irresponsibility. Without taking sides, the movie uses their conflict to dramatize the rift between the workers who are bewildered by new freedoms and the intellectuals who are quicker to take advantage of them. The movie also captures a side of Moscow that has never before been portrayed so vividly on film—an electric, garish night world that is lit up like Las Vegas. Another Soviet movie, The Mother, an acclaimed three-hour saga, explored the gulf between old and new values in Russia.
Brutal: While the flamboyantly contemporary Taxi Blues is a direct product of the new freedoms in the Eastern Bloc, Interrogation provides a harrowing glimpse of a previous era. Filmed in 1981 by Polish director Ryszard Bugajski, now based in Toronto, Interrogation was banned in Poland until last year. A composite of several true stories, the movie is a brutal and unrelenting drama about the imprisonment and torture of a young, carefree cabaret singer under Poland’s Stalinist regime in the early 1950s.
In Cannes for the première, direco tor Bugajski explained that he finished °° filming Interrogation five days before Polish authorities declared martial law in 1981. After he finished editing the
movie, the government banned it, confiscating the negative. But the film-maker had secretly made a video from it and, from that video, thousands of underground copies were created and duplicated throughout Poland. Then, last year, the authorities released the negative from government archives, and the movie finally opened commercially last Dec. 13, on the anniversary of the declaration of martial law. Still playing, it is a box-office hit—and required viewing for Polish history students. Bugajski has lived in Toronto since 1985
EASTERN EUROPEAN DIRECTORS ARE CHALLENGING THE MASTERS
with his wife and seven-yearold son. After a long struggle to find work, he was eventually hired to direct episodes of such TV series as The Twilight Zone and E.N.G. And while in Cannes, he was negotiating his first Canadian feature, based on Toronto author M. T. Kelly’s visceral 1987 novel about natives and terrorism, A Dream Like Mine.
Blunt and combative, Bugajski seems well-equipped to handle the controversy that such a movie is bound to provoke. Despite his success at Cannes, he seemed irked by the whole experience. “I’m not very comfortable in this environment,” he said. “It’s a competition. I’m being judged. I’m for sale—and that’s not why I make films.”
star, Polish actress Krystyna Janda, seemed more at home in Cannes, where her performance in the film received rave reviews. In interviews, she revived her distant memories of shooting the movie’s torture scenes, which had required her to spend hours in a dungeon filled with frigid water. But, after the recent political upheavals, Polish audiences now want lighter entertainment, she said. “It’s good a few of these films have been made to show the truth,” she added. “But, with democracy, everything has to change. _
We’re going to have to make movies that audiences want to see.”
Ghetto: Janda also starred in Polish director Andrzej Wajda’s 1981 classic about political repression, Man of Iron. Wajda premiered a new movie at Cannes outside the festival’s official competition.
Titled Korczak, it dramatizes the plight of Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation. Its Gandhi-like hero is the legendary Jewish doctor Janusz Korczak, who ran an orphanage in Warsaw before dying in the death camps of Treblinka. The movie, which mixes the realism of the Holocaust with an oddly Christian vision of redemption, received a lukewarm reception.
But two other movies about repression generated
director, shows signs of creative senility with his new feature, Voice of the Moon. Inspired by Poems of a Lunatic, by Italian writer Ermanno Cavazzoni, the movie is a sprawling and largely unintelligible farce about lunacy. Characters rave about the dangers of germs flowing out of pipes, taps and wells. And, in vintage Fellini
fashion, he stages several wild spectacles with masses of extras. But, most often, Voice of the Moon seems a shameless self-parody. Kurosawa, too, reveals a self-indulgent streak in his new movie—but in a more cautious, disciplined fashion. With Dreams, the legendary Japanese director of such samurai epics as Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985) turns inward. Aided by Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg and Star Wars special-effects wizard George Lucas, Kurosawa, now 80, filmed eight episodes that he says are based on his own dreams. In these segments, the director is portrayed as a small boy, an g adolescent and a grown man. * As a child, he escapes into an oriental Oz. Another dream offers a delightful excursion
more enthusiasm. British director Ken Loach’s gritty thriller, Hidden Agenda, dramatizes police terror and conspiracy in Northern Ireland with a documentary edge. And Italian director Gianni Amelio’s Open Doors, set in 1937’s fascist Italy, opened the festival’s Directors’ Fortnight series, which highlights new filmmakers. A darkly stylish courtroom drama, it is about a Sicilian who commits three cold-blooded murders.
Meanwhile, Fellini, 70, Italy’s most famous
through the paintings of Vincent van Gogh, portrayed, in a hilariously bad performance, by American director Martin Scorsese. Kurosawa’s images can be exquisite. But the script’s funereal angst about mankind’s fate is heavy-handed. And despite the director’s claims, his stylized fables lack the strange logic of dreams.
With New Wave, Godard, another of cinema’s living legends, presents a less accessible but more authentic excursion into dream
_ logic. A densely layered
composition of images, words and music, New Wave defies plot synopsis. It involves a mystifying romance between a man (Alain Delon) and a woman (Domizia Giordano), otherworldly manoeuvres by a large communications corporation and haunting views of Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne. New Wave refracts reality into jarring poetic fragments. Light-years from Hollywood, Godard stubbornly continues to explore the metaphysics of cinema. And as huge crowds cheered the ascent of Godard and Delon up the red-carpeted steps to the highest altar of Cannes, it appeared that there is still room for art amid the commerce of Cannes.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.