Cannes Stories

On Film / The Daily — May 14, 2020
Tony Leung Chiu-wai in Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love (2000)

Wong Kar-wai aims to begin shooting Blossoms, an adaptation of Jin Yucheng’s 2012 novel, in July. For Variety’s Rebecca Davis, this news is “the latest indication that film production in mainland China is revving back up again after coronavirus closures.” The novel, which has won a good number of top literary prizes in China, is set in Shanghai, where Wong was born, and spins a series of interwoven tales over the course of two periods, the first stretching from the 1960s through the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, and the second spanning the boom years from the 1980s to the year 2000.

Profiling Jin for That’s Shanghai last year, Dominic Ngai notes that in the preface to Blossoms, “Jin compares the final scene of Wong’s Days of Being Wild (1990), where Tony Leung appears as an unnamed character (later introduced as Zhou Muyun in In the Mood for Love) counting banknotes and combing his hair for a night of gambling, to the corrupted, money-driven society that Shanghai has become since the economic boom. This ‘cameo’ likely paved the way for his collaboration with the celebrated filmmaker.” Jin says that Wong has told him that “he was really moved by the book, and said that the characters’ experiences reminded him of what his brother and sister had been through.” At the Film Stage, Jordan Raup has reported that Wong has said that Blossoms would be a third installment in a story begun with In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004).

When In the Mood for Love premiered in Cannes twenty years ago, Alejandro González Iñárritu and his wife, unable to find a taxi, raced on foot—he in a tux, she carrying her high heels—to catch the screening. After the credits rolled, “Maria and I walked in complete silence for almost ten minutes,” he tells New York Times film critics Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott. “We suddenly stopped by the sea. Maria hugged me and started crying inconsolably on my shoulder. And I did the same on hers. In the Mood for Love had left us speechless and deeply moved. It was that moment that reminded me why, even when it’s so stupidly difficult sometimes, I wanted to become a filmmaker.”

Iñárritu’s is one of nearly two dozen Cannes stories Dargis and Scott have gathered, and what comes through loud and clear in this marvelous collection is just how sorely the festival is being missed this year. One of the most moving stories is told by Alice Rohrwacher, who cast her father’s sworn enemy, Carlo Tarmati, in The Wonders (2014). “And then,” she says, “during the screening, Carlo and my father recognized themselves in the story. They laughed and cried together. They were afraid together. They loved the work we had all done together. At the party after the screening they teased each other. In a few days, they were best buddies, inseparable.” More anecdotes, memories, and reflections come from Josh and Benny Safdie, Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Jia Zhangke, Claire Denis, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Abel Ferrara, and so on, and so on. “A year without Cannes is a sterile year,” says Christophe Honoré. “No need to deny it. It is a hole, a void, an inconsolable absence.”

On Tuesday, the day that the seventy-third edition would have opened, Dargis and Scott took part in an informal roundtable with the NYT’s awards season columnist, Kyle Buchanan. “Whether it’s the festival’s repudiation of Netflix, or the way Cannes grapples with the #MeToo movement and gender parity, the controversies on the Croisette can be instructive,” writes Buchanan. “It seems strange to say I’ll miss all that, but I find that Cannes holds a chic, cracked mirror up to Hollywood, and I always leave with a new perspective on what I’m returning to.” David Ehrlich, taking part in a similar exchange with fellow IndieWire writers Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, agrees. “Yes, it’s stuffy and draconian and resistant to change even when it represents progress, but the fact that the festival is stuck in the past is also what gives Cannes its power,” he writes. “Being at Cannes is a kind of cinephilic ecstasy that’s hard to describe, and impossible to equal.”

And evidently, it always has been. In a dispatch to Esprit from the second edition of the festival in 1947, André Bazin, the renowned critic who would go on to cofound Cahiers du cinéma a few years later, described feeling out of place on the Croisette among the tanned, the beautiful, and the rich. “It was then that the critic realized that cinema was a dream,” he wrote in the piece translated by Sis Matthé for Sabzian, “because it is nothing but a ‘dramatization’ of the realization of a desire. At the cinema, no woman, no matter how beautiful, is forbidden since you are Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, or Spencer Tracy . . . For those who do not participate in it, the reality of luxury naturally provokes the painful awareness of being banned. Its cinematographic dramatization, on the contrary, equals its realization and the euphoria of possession. But it was time for the screening. The critic, his skin still white, only had time to get dressed and run off to the cinema.”

The Latest

In a fresh round of home viewing recommendations for the New York Review of Books, J. Hoberman spotlights not only the program of Palme d’Or winners at the Criterion Channel but also Cannes ’68: Cinema in Revolt, a collection of six features and a short documentary about the year that filmmakers shut the festival down in solidarity with striking workers and students. Three of the features “were products of the Prague Spring, which would itself be ‘canceled’ in August of that year, when the Soviet-led forces of the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia,” writes Hoberman. “These are Miloš Forman’s masterful satire The Firemen’s Ball, Jan Němec’s less subtle political allegory A Report on the Party and Guests, and Jiří Menzel’s rueful, apolitical idyll Capricious Summer. The Fireman’s Ball is a comic gem—without doubt, the best movie Forman made in Czechoslovakia.” Writers and editors at the Norwegian film magazine Montages, in the meantime, have programmed Cannes 2020: Limitations, a series of films that have premiered at the festival but which they haven’t yet seen.

Michael Mann, whose Thief premiered in competition at Cannes in 1981, tells Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri that, back in mid-March, he’d shot about a third of the pilot episode of Tokyo Vice, a crime series he’s executive producing, when the production was shut down and he returned to the U.S. “At home, I’ve been editing remotely some of the scenes we shot, in this strange world of Evercast, which is the remote editing system that everybody’s been working on,” he says. “Everybody all over the planet, whether they’re in Mozambique or Thailand or Taiwan or Detroit, is dealing with the same thing simultaneously and they’re doing it all in real time and everything is totally interconnected. That’s never happened before.”

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