Festival in Cannes is built upon a wickedly clever idea: shoot a movie about the business of moviemaking using the world’s most glamorous film festival as a backdrop. With a never-ending parade of haut monde cavorting on the gorgeous beaches of one of the most beautiful seaside villages in the world, the Cannes Film Festival provides such a perfect setting to shoot a film it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done before.
Shot entirely on location at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, Festival in Cannes feels at times like a documentary, thanks to actors whose partly-improvised performances feel strikingly real. But it isn’t. Neither is it a Waiting for Guffman-style “mockumentary.” Rather, it’s a narrative film featuring a quartet of overlapping stories. It’s best not to reveal too much about the plot; suffice it to say it involves an awful lot of double-crossing and air-kissing as a seemingly unrelated group of actors, producers and wannabes (including Greta Scacchi, Ron Silver, Maximilian Schell and Zack Norman) work the festival – and each other – in order to advance their careers. Reigning supreme over all the madness is Anouk Aimée playing – what else – a legendary French actress being honored at the festival (and pursued by just about everyone in the movie). With the grace and charm of a hundred American leading ladies, Aimée is a delight to watch, as refreshing as a heaping scoop of glace on a hot summer day.
Orson Welles called director Henry Jaglom’s style “emotional verité,” and, true to form, here he elicits raw, naturalistic performances by placing his actors in raw, natural situations. Jaglom took his cameras and actors everywhere during the course of the festival – screenings, parties, hotels and restaurants – ensuring plenty of bizarre cameos by the likes of Faye Dunaway, Jeff Goldblum and William Shatner. Hand-held cameras provide an intimacy within these environs that borders on the voyeuristic.
Hollywood has a long history of satirizing itself onscreen (with a populace of vain and shallow citizens engaging in an almost purely ego-driven industry, the town is ripe for ridicule). With a cast of authentic-yet-likable players, Festival in Cannes perfectly captures the ruthlessness and insanity of show biz. The intermingling stories of romance and deception are simple and emotionally honest, even as the film presents a blisteringly funny portrait of the moviemaking culture.