The Cannes Film Festival is unlike Sundance in SO many ways. And since that's the only other major festival I have to compare it to, I naturally do so in my attempts to synthesize and absorb that which is all around me.
First and foremost, Cannes is HUGE. Not to say that Sundance is small, but there's no doubt that this entire city is alight with the love and passion of filmmaking, including the marina, the clubs, the bars, the restaurants, the theatres, and so much more. Second is the most obvious: the weather. It's been between 70 and 75 here for the most part, which is pretty comfy when you think about the ski weather of the January-based Park City festivals. And thirdly, there's no doubt that this festival is much more international. During my brief stay here thus far, I have easily heard over, from what I can tell, fifteen different languages spoken in my vincinity. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. Luckily, most of the city speaks English as a second language, which helps my poor French skills. (Although I took five years of French in high school, I maybe remember only 10% of it overall.)
The festival this year represents some really great work from around the world, with notable films including "Inglorious Bastards" (directed by Quentin Tarantino), "Up" (directed by Pete Doctor), "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (directed by Terry Gilliam), and of course, the highly anticipated "Drag Me to Hell" (directed by Sam Raimi.)
Now, one of the crappy things about coming in for only the last weekend of the festival is that you miss out on many films you may never see otherwise. I missed seeing Michael Haneke's newest feature "The White Ribbon" (by only three people!), Chan-Wook Park's venture into horror, "Bak-Jwi" (translated as "Thirst"), and Lars Von Trier's newest controversal film, "Antichrist." This being the case, I decided that when tonight presented me the opportunity to see "Drag Me to Hell" on the big screen, I would NOT pass it up. So, I waited in line for two hours, and afterwards, the only words I could think were:
Best. Decision. Ever.
(What follows is a spolier-free review, so rest assured that each and every scare will be as fresh for you as it was for me.)
For a PG-13 film, I am amazed with how much Raimi gets away with. There's no nudity and very little foul language, but the scares and the gore are both there to be feasted upon. The movie is relentless, with Raimi echoing back to his "Evil Dead" days, making sure each scare is bigger and bolder than the one before. Throw in the fact that the speakers in the Salle du 60 (where I saw the film) literally MOVED my seat (I sat in the very front row) because they were SO loud, it was an experience NOT to be missed.
So is this the rebirth of horror? No. This film isn't trying to be the next big thing. Sam Raimi knows his roots and doesn't deviate too far from the tree. So what he tries to do throughout the film (and succeeds) is show you things you've never seen before in a horror film, each time, making you go, "Oh God! Really?!" Alison Lohman does a solid job as Christine Brown, though doesn't really get to show off her skills as a horror screen actor until the final act. Justin Long is also good in the film as Christine's boyfriend, but isn't really given much to work with.
My only criticisms would be 1) there are three times in which CG is used in the film and I found it pretty distracting, especially when there are other times in the film when practicals are used and look great (or if they are CG, they are really REALLY well done), and 2) the dialogue is a little weak at times. Now, I realize that dialogue isn't exactly the Raimis' strong point, but there are times when things feel a little forced as exposition. Do these two distract from the experience? Honestly, no, but these are simply issues that could have made for an even stronger entry into the horror category.
So go see it next Friday, May 29th, and show Raimi and movie producers that good horror films deserve a spot during the summer blockbuster season! Seriously, go now and buy your tickets in advance. I'll wait.
The only other film I got to see today in its entirity is "A Town Called Panic," a belgium stop-motion animation feature based on a successful cult animated series of the same name. I'll spend more time on that another day, however, as I've got to get some sleep. I have a noon-time screening tomorrow at the Grand Lumiere (RED CARPET) of "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" (directed by Isabel Coixet.) They generally want you to wear tuxes, but since I left mine at the cleaners, I'll go with the next best thing. And if that still doesn't work, I'll beat up a guy and take his.
Bon soir everyone! Stay tuned for photos, more reviews, and my contuing misadventures in France.