The View From Here
Joy Division, the Coen Brothers and Michael Moore
In which Stephen Dalton files his first report from this year's Cannes Film Festival...
Look! U2 playing a mini-gig on the red carpet! New Order shunning their own party! Roman Polanski storming off in a huff from a supergroup gathering of legendary directors! Leonardo DiCaprio and Angelina Jolie igniting the kind of savage media frenzy not seen since Beatlemania! All in punishing 80-degree heat! And thronged by a perpetual crush of leather-skinned, Versace-clad Eurotrash! Yes, it’s Cannes again. Greetings from your slightly frazzled Uncut reporter at the world’s most glamorous and sense-battering film festival, which turns 60 this year but shows no sign of midlife burn-out.
Whatever you say about New Order, their sense of timing has always been dramatic. Making its world premier at Cannes is Control, Anton Corbijn’s elegant film about the troubled life and early death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Shot in crisp monochrome and starring newcomer Sam Riley as Curtis, this is a beautiful and admirably restrained piece of work, and one of the key festival highlights so far. But just days before the screening, Peter Hook announced that New Order are splitting for good.
The only problem is, nobody told his bandmates and fellow Joy Division survivors Bernard Sumner and Steven Morris. “We’ve not discussed splitting up, he’s decided were splitting up,” a bemused Sumner tells Uncut. “He’s been acting a bit strange lately, let’s leave it at that. He’s done it unilaterally. Hooky has had a few problems over the last two years of a personal nature, which I can’t go into. It would really be up to him to answer. He’s got ego problems, that’s the most critical I’ll get.”
Speaking of giant egos, Michael Moore is back in Cannes with his new blockbuster documentary polemic three years after winning the Palme d’Or for Fahrenheit 9/11. Less bombastic than its predecessor, Sicko exposes the flaws and failings of the United States health care system with a classic Moore mix of interviews, old footage and satirical stunts. It opens with an excoriating attack on health insurance companies which, the director alleges, routinely refuse to pay for legitimate treatment on flimsy and legally dubious grounds.
But it is the segment shot in Cuba, with its hilarious cloak-and-dagger launch on Guantanamo Bay that has landed the director in his own serious legal problems at home. Learning he is under investigation for possibly breaking US law forbidding trade or travel to Cuba was not, he told Cannes reporters, a publicity stunt.
“Our decision was to come here quietly, I’d said nothing about the film,” Moore insisted after the Cannes screening. “I am the one who is personally liable, who is facing fines or jail. I don’t take it so lightly. But to me, the fact we are discussing this is insane. I live in the United States of America. It is a free country; we should be able to travel freely and do what we want.”
Besides the Corbijn and Moore movies, Uncut’s pick of the festival so far has to be the latest Coen brothers collaboration, No Country For Old Men. Adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel, this noir-ish neo-western is a stylish and sombre chase thriller about desperate men and indestructible killers framed against the almost Biblical landscape of West Texas. This is the most straight-faced and irony-free film to date from the deadpan brothers, and also the most violent. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, the tone is more Blood Simple than Fargo, with a dash of Sam Peckinpah in its merciless depiction of cruel fate and frontier justice. Like the sound of gunshot on a lonely highway, it stays with you.
Got to rush now, off to interview the Coens now… more Cannes news coming soon.