Harry Jargon’s independent film, Festival in Cannes, runs an excruciating 99 minutes, which should be edited down to a 5-minute promotional trailer for the world’s most famous and most pretentious film festival. The best parts of the film are the black and white still photographs of film personalities from past festivals and the 1999 location shooting—with barricaded star struck fans seeking autographs and glimpses, promotional posters (The Winslow Boy and Todo sobre mi madre among them), and the Cannes seashore with Piaf on the soundtrack.
Had Jargon crafted a cinema verité piece, the film could work, but that would require that the director actually have access to the movers and shakers of the film industry, who gather annually to check out the films and make deals. Only Faye Dunaway gets a significant cameo at a party—one of few scenes that feels real. The IMDB states that William Shatner appears, but I must have blinked at that instant.
Unfortunately, Jargon chooses a different route that turns Festival in Cannes into cinema faux (pretentious bull shit). The ensemble piece becomes a poor man's version of Altman's The Player, as Jargon pastes a poorly planned plot on top of the festival. Alice Palmer (Greta Scacchi who starred in Altman’s 1992 film) has come to Cannes in search of a producer to finance her directorial debut, and is thrilled when famous French actress Millie Marquand (Anouk Aimee) tentatively agrees to star in the film.
Complications arise with behind the back deals. Obnoxious producer Rick Yokin (Ron Silver) barges in to produce Alice’s film, knowing that the key to the deal rests with gaining a relationship with the key figures, and the sleazeball can two-time easier with cell phone technology. He's also hot in pursuit of landing Millie to play Tom Hanks’ mother. The aging Millie continues to love her philandering husband—director Victor Kovner (Maximilian Schell), and complications may bring them together.
The sensation of the festival is the star of indie film Fire. Her name is Blue (Jenny Gabrielle), but she isn't sure that she wants to be a star. But she has captured the attentions of Barry, Rick's assistant, who wants to break into film production on his own.
Also attempting to make a mark in the film world is over the top wheeler-dealer Kaz Naiman (Zack Norman), a con man who seems to know everybody but smells fishy from the start.
But that odor matches the film. The acting efforts are credible, but the trite situations aren't helped by too few takes and largely improvised scripting. The director uses similar techniques of providing a skeletal outline and expecting the actors to flesh out the characters that Altman and Wong Kar Wai, but instead of artistry his is more like the hack job of a butcher. None of the characters develops enough to care about.
The clunky editing doesn't help matters. Too many times two talking heads speak directly to the camera, scotch taped together with jump cuts even when the two are face to face. The pacing between the two is evenly timed, so the audience volleys back and forth like a tennis ball. Cell phones also allow the director to stage his actors so they talk directly into the camera as film deals are discussed. It just doesn't make good cinema.
Harry Jargon has a number of other independent films in his resume, but Festival in Cannes, does nothing to promote seeing Babyfever, Last Summer in the Hamptons, or Déjà Vu. It's just a relief to see the end credits roll on this one.