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It’s a big day at Cannes, and we folks from the press know we’re going to be working from 6:00 am to 4:00 am. The morning’s screening is On the Road, a film by Walter Salles based on the book of the same name by Beat poet and cokehead Jack Kerouac.
Beautifully shot, largely thanks to the wonderful natural scenery and landscapes America has to offer, the film tells the story of several road trips undertaken by Sal Paradise (Sam Riley, based on Kerouac himself), his friend and idol Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund, based on Neal Cassady) and Dean’s ex-wife and current mistress Marylou (Kristen Stewart, based on Luanne Henderson), as Dean’s wife Camille (Kirsten Dunst, based on Carolyn Cassady) waits home with her daughters. Viggo Mortensen, who plays Old Bull Lee, based on William S Burroughs, is as good as always, but doesn’t look particularly enthused about being in a film with a storyline as weak as this one.
Opinions on the film are mixed, but most of us are of the opinion that the Beats and their opulent language is only relevant when we’re teenagers and too repulsively knowledgeable for our own good. When I offer this opinion to another film critic, the man earlier described as Mr. Facepalme D’Or (check Day 6) comes up to me.
“It is Walter Salles’ film, not this Jack Kerouac,” he explains kindly, “You must be confused. Who is Jack Kerouac, anyway?”
The film is being screened at the red carpet, and the entire cast turns up, along with Robert Pattinson, who seems to be loth to let go of his vampire bride – though she’s shed the vampire avatar for vamp in this film.
The other film at the red carpet screening is Holy Motors, which took everyone by surprise with its gripping, but bizarre, structure. With a star cast including Kylie Minogue, Eva Mendes, Michel Piccoli, Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Jeanne Disson, and Elise Lhomeau, the film is directed by Leos Carax. Carax arrives at the press conference, to be asked what his film means. He replies, “How should I know?”
For some reason, the red carpet event includes a performance by contortionists in leotards, who demonstrate a series of ways through which we might touch our noses around our heads and feet around our noses. Aware that we’re likely to end up with plaster around our legs and braces around our backs, we are content to watch.
We get a bit of a shock when Bonnie Wright turns up on the red carpet. A journalist muses that she must have been tanning on the beach in her swimsuit when she woke up and realised she was late for the red carpet, prompting her to throw on a towel and bunny slippers and rush to the Grand Theatre Lumiere.
As the red carpet arrivals pour in, there’s a debate-discussion on Bollywood cinema nearby. The panel includes directors Sudhir Mishra and Anurag Kashyap. Fresh from the success of Gangs of Wasseypur at the festival, Kashyap confesses that he made Dev D as an angry reaction when a studio asked him to make a love story.
On the subject of love stories, veteran Italian director is back. His film Io e Te (Me and You) turns out to be a very atypical film, with practically no nudity. Recently confined to a wheelchair, Bertolucci arrives at the press conference to cheers and whoops, and answers questions with a cheeky smile and witty quips about Italy.
The biggest draw of the day turns out to be 7 Dias En La Habana, which brings together seven directors, one to direct each day of a week in Cuba. Shown in the Un Certain Regard section, the film premieres at a ceremony that includes felicitation of the directors – Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noe, Juan Carlos Tabio, and Laurent Cantet.
As if that star presence were not enough, jury members Tim Roth and Raoul Peck have dropped in too. The audience, which had taken to catcalling, “Ra-oool!” every time a film began thus far, is quiet when Raoul actually has a chance to hear them.
There’s some hilarity when Pablo Trapero tries to speak French. He is stopped by the Festival Director Thierry Fremaux, who begs him to speak Spanish instead. Trapero persists, and Fremaux gets blunter, till Trapero finally gives in, and allows everyone who doesn’t speak English to follow proceedings.