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[whitespace] 'Festival in Cannes'
Schell Game: Maximilian Schell and Anouk Aimée visit the Cannes Film Festival in Henry Jaglom's new film.

Cannes Job

Henry Jaglom's 'Festival in Cannes' lacks the insider's juice film fans crave in movies about movies

By Richard von Busack

A FILM DIRECTOR should be like a God, creating new worlds before us. And in one respect, Henry Jaglom is like God: he tests your ability to like him. When Jaglom works with crucial material like divorce (as in his best film, Always) or the struggles of actors to apprehend their art (as in Last Summer in the Hamptons), he can be intimate and sweet, with a childlike looseness reigned in by an adult's skepticism. However, his 13th film, Festival in Cannes, is so thin it almost slips off the screen.

Jaglom's location is the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, but throughout Festival at Cannes, the festival seems like something taking place elsewhere, down the street. The biggest stars are the ones we see on a Diamond Vision screen--oh, wait, there is a cameo by film-fest floozy William Shatner. The movies flogged at Cannes 2000--Pushing Tin, Mystery Men, Entrapment, Stigmata--hardly summon up the romantic associations that make most people become film fans.

This underpopulated event is visited by Jaglom's characters, improvising willy-nilly. A high-rent producer (Ron Silver) is professionally courting an actress-turning-director (Greta Scacchi), and both are competing for the services of a screen legend played by Anouk Aimée. Aimée's ex-husband is a coasting film director played by Maximilian Schell. Schell looks stuffed and rigid, as if he's wearing an invisible whiplash collar.

The newer generation is represented by a blossoming ingenue named Blue (Jenny Gabrielle). Blue is a throwback to the 1960s indie-film child-woman, a kook who asks men to kiss her right away. We're told she's a young girl who is going to be a star, although she's protesting being made a star; and yet she is clearly, painfully, not star material. Gabrielle is a modestly cute kid next door without the poise, even, of a young Shirley MacLaine (to whom she's most likely to be compared). She's so open that there's nothing concealed; she possesses none of that cinematic mystery that makes people want to stare and stare until they've solved the riddle of why they're fascinated.

Jaglom's most energetic character is a hustling producer named Kaz (Zack Norman). In a sluggish film, Norman is quick and lithe and "aerodynamically bald," to use New Yorker essayist Adam Gopnick's phrase. Even if he is a glad-hander, this man has the energy that gets films made. And he sees the problem facing the movies. Statistically, he says, more people don't go to the movies than do go.

Jaglom is addressing the discontents of film watchers and filmmakers alike. But the sense of show-business game playing and scheming--that nerviness that makes movies like The Player so much fun--fails to carry in Festival in Cannes. This minor piece, slowly paced, hardly seems like an inside job. Saying that Jaglom isn't an insider isn't meant to denigrate him, though. The point of the man's films is that he isn't an insider, and that's been his appeal to date.

Festival in Cannes (PG-13; 99 min.), directed and written by Henry Jaglom, photographed by Hanania Baer and starring Anouk Aimée, Greta Scacchi and Ron Silver, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose and the Los Gatos Cinema.

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From the April 11-17, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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