Ah, Cannes. Behold: the cerulean sparkle of the Cote d'Azur, the endless waft of chain-smoked Gitanes over the Croisette, and the wheeling-dealing on private yachts filled with the flotsam and jetsam of European film. At least, that's how I imagine it from the corner booth of my local coffee shop while trolling the web for Moonrise Kingdom reviews. Yes, Cannes is the unapologetic cine-snob's heaven: and 2012's line-up could fill a solid year of art house cocktail banter. Let the plebeians titter over that teaser at the end of The Avengers -- we have cinema to discuss! (Then again, since The Artist conquered the Oscars, pundits wonder which Cannes confection might splash over from the private penthouse jacuzzi into the Olympic-sized swimming pool of the masses. Is this the year tween girls go gaga over Ken Loach? Eh, probably not). Needless to say, Cannes' megaton line-up has arched the eyebrow of even the most indifferent cineastes this year; so join me as I peruse the list of films I really hope Harvey Weinstein brings back to America, and imagine the thrill of paying twenty Euros for a glass of table wine. In return, I shall share my weekend strategies for recreating all the magically elitist indifference of Cannes right here in homey L.A.
First off there is Wes Anderson's latest entry into his canon of postcard precious cinema: Moonrise Kingdom. It's no surprise to see Wes open Cannes at last; Anderson's films have always been lacquered with a European sheen tailor-made for those weaned on the Criterion collection. According to the reviews pouring in, this summer camp Romeo and Juliet story will renew the faith of all who adore his meticulous dollhouse mise-en-scene and its powers of youthful-wonder-rekindling. (You know, when maps were paper talismans of adventure and not an app that drains your iPhone's battery prematurely). It probably doesn't hurt that he's surrounded his young lovers with an all-purpose Swiss army knife of a supporting cast: intense Ed Norton, sangfroid-filled Bill Murray, arthouse bread-and-butter Tilda Swinton, and Bruce Willis, if you can even conceive it, as a milquetoast. The chance to see a John McClane dead-pan delivering Anderson lines alone is enough to set my heart aflutter.
However, that's just the start of the anticipatory heart murmurs. For all those entranced by (i.e. didn't fall asleep during) Andrew Dominik's megaton-arthouse western The Assassination of Jesse James, the rumors are the Australian auteur's Killing Them Softly (also starring Brad Pitt) is just as lush a cinematographic poem. It's a re-adaptation of George Higgin's famous Boston crime-novel The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (previously adapted into a Robert Mitchum cult-classic), and considering how Dominik transformed outlaw grit into a lyric elegy before, I wouldn't be surprised if Cannes' cantankerous crowd swoons over his contemporary take on American gangsters. I smell Palmes-winning possibilities -- though blogger love for Dominik's countryman John Hillcoat makes me curious about Lawless as well. Adapted from crime history hit The Wettest County in the World, it's another foreigner's examination of the American crime scene, i.e. Depression-era backwoods bootlegging. Hillcoat's proved his own cinematic chops with the visual style of The Proposition and he might wow the French if Shia La Beouf can prove to cinesnobs he's more than just that fast-talking, slightly annoying kid from the Transformers commercials. I mean, movies. Robert Pattinson's in the same boat, but guided by the fairly good hands, with David Cronenberg's adaptation of Don Delillo's intellectual screed (novel) Cosmopolis. The trailer combined the soft-core titillation of Red Shoe Diaries with the neon-lighting of a Tron cut scene, which could mean Cronenberg's backsliding to his more lurid ways after the comparative tameness of A Dangerous Method. Lastly, finishing off Cannes' Americana-fetish is a film that's gestated so long, it was born with an AARP card: Walter Salles' adaptation of On the Road, Jack Kerouac's generation-defining novel. Rumors have been that it's a little bit of a shaggy-dog-story of a movie, but if that's your complaint, I advise you to re-read On the Road. Honestly, fishing a coherent film out of Kerouac's river-of-consciousness that could live up to the book's iconic status would be a miracle. Frankly, Salles deserves a medal just for getting this one over the finish line.
Of course, to demonstrate your truly rarified taste, one should drop more than just the familiar American names when you talk Cannes. Abbas Kiarostami, godfather of Iranian cinema, is back with Tokyo-set Like Someone In Love. Considering how well Kiarostami's observant eye and intellectual playfulness transplanted themselves to European soil in Certified Copy, I'm more than excited the possibility of him channeling the spirit of Ozu or Imamura. Of course, he'd be following in the cultural transplantation footsteps of Alain Resnais (man behind the New Wave masterpiece that's still stuck in my Netflix queue Hiroshima Mon Amour), who at a spry 89, also has a film in the festival: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet. In fact, octogenarians are having a banner year in the South of France: the austere Austrian Michael Haneke has also directed French eighty-something legend Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour, about a couple in their 80s whose "love is tested." Since this is the director who delights in torturing his audience (see Funny Games), "tested" might be a dangerous understatement. On the up-and-coming side of the spectrum there's Matteo Garrone, who made a splash with his Neapolitan crime epic Gomorrah is back with Reality--on an equally horrifying topic, reality television. And of course, Cristian Mungiu, who won the Palmes for his excruciating abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is back with Beyond the Hills. However, the Euro-fare I'm most excited for is Rust and Bone by Jacques Audiard. Take one part brilliant director of A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, fold in luminous beauty Marion Cotillard and garnish liberally with Killer Whale and you have possibly the perfect cine-souffle.
Anyway, all this longing can be tiring, and reading reviews from across the Atlantic doesn't exactly sate the appetite. However, for those of us without immediate yacht access, it is possible to play Cannes: The Home Game, at least in the greater LA area. For the truly dedicated, Sunday night you can line up along Wilshire Blvd. for standby-tickets to LACMA's special screening of Moonrise Kingdom -- I recommend cocktails at the Stark Bar first, and if you squeeze your eyes hard enough, the tar pits might come to resemble the Mediterranean. Or you could check out the Bresson retrospective at the Aero in Santa Monica all this weekend and try to replicate the crowded, elbow-room only bars at the Carlton or the Majestic by squeezing into Father's office for a burger and a beaujolais. However, for those who want a more tangible (and attainable) whiff of the Cannes glamour, check out Polisse, which opens this Friday, winner of last year's Special Jury prize. French actress-turned-director Maiwenn takes a docu-drama approach in following the lives of several cops in Paris' child protection unit, demonstrating how the pressures of protecting the wee-ones from pedophiles can wreak havoc on one's personal life. The acting's impressive and the cop patois feels so authentically French, you can practically taste the ennui. Just don't expect Maiwenn to pull any punches when it comes to the sex-crimes, silly prudish American. Art isn't there to make you feel good; it's there for you to argue endlessly about over a half-stale glass of wine and a smoldering ash tray.