And Now, the End is Near...
The final weekend of Cannes turned into something of a Nicole Kidman festival. If leading female stars are supposed to fade from view after forty then nobody seems to have told her; Kidman seems busier than at any stage of her career. She was in Scotland recently (including beautiful Bo'ness railway station) to film The Railway Man with Colin Firth. Her face adorns billboards here advertising Rowan Joffé's forthcoming adaptation of the bestselling page turner Before I Go to Sleep and she will star as Grace Kelly in Grace of Monaco.
Kidman was in Cannes for two films and neither will count among the finest of her career. The Paperboy is a lurid Deep South pulp thriller set in the late 1960s and supposedly based on true events. Lee (Precious) Daniels directs a starry cast that includes a bloated John Cusack as a prison inmate who has been sentenced to death for killing a cop. Matthew McConaughey is the hotshot journalist trying to figure out what really happened. Zac Efron is his younger brother and Kidman is Charlotte, a trashy, slutty blonde Death Row groupie. Industry trade paper Screen International runs a daily jury of venerable critics scoring each of the competition titles out of 4. The Paperboy has an average of just 1.6 but it is definitely a guilty pleasure with moments that are hard to forget especially when Kidman's character pees on Zac Efron. Well, the poor lad had been stung by a jellyfish.
Kidman's second film in Cannes was Hemingway & Gellhorn, a sweeping HBO production charting the tempestuous romance between the novelist and the celebrated war correspondent. Alas, this is tosh with painful dialogue and a tone that relentlessly ricochets between cliche and high camp. Director Philip Kaufman fades from colour to black and white so he can incorporate a good deal of excellent archive footage and place his actors into the bombed-out streets of Madrid during the Spanish Civil War or the front line of conflict. The device doesn't work and underlines the phoniness of the whole thing. Kidman is just fine portraying a mixture of steely determination and tough gal attitude but Clive Owen is uncomfortably cast as Hemingway. With his luxuriant black moustache, beret and cigar he looks more like Groucho Marx.
Competition films over the final weekend included David Cronenberg's sterile, stilted adaptation of Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis and the stylish Korean family drama The Taste of Money which felt like a glossy 1980s soap on the lines of Dynasty or Dallas. Finally, In the Fog offered a respectable but slow-moving account of the follies of war. Watching films at Cannes should probably carry some kind of health warning. The twenty or so competition titles from 2012 were almost universally bleak. They paint a picture of a world where the economy has collapsed, capitalism is a bankrupt discredited philosophy with a moral vacuum at its core, the American Dream is an empty, cynical promise and then reminds us that we are all going to grow old, fail, decay and die and that the only sane response to all of this is to put a bullet through your brain. And then it rained all the time. What fun we've had on the Côte d'Azur this year.
The cheeriest event of the festival was an on stage interview with the incredible ninety-seven-year-old Norman Lloyd, the actor who tumbled to his death from the Statue of Liberty in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur in 1942. Lloyd worked with some of the finest filmmakers of all time from Orson Welles, to Alfred Hitchcock, Elia Kazan, Joseph Losey, Jean Renoir and beyond. Eloquent, cogent, perceptive and blessed with amazing recall, he delighted a packed house for close to two hours with tales from his seventy year career. He expressed a fondness for the old masters and craftsmen, filmmakers who knew how to make a picture and just got on with it and told the audience a great story. After Cannes 2012 you can only say amen to that Norman.
Co-director, Glasgow Film Festival