What Moore Cannes Go Wong?

The personal schmoozes the political at the world's most influential film fest

Pushing my own deadline here, I'd like to borrow Ebert's trick of delaying critical comment--more for personal reasons than political ones. Ebert booed after the world premiere of 2046 at 7:30 tonight; me, I dried my tears and got back in line for the 10:30. Indeed, I saw Wong's film about repetition compulsion (and diminishing returns) two times in one night. But I'm not ready to talk about it.

 

Saturday

"We thought maybe you guys should send your kids [to Iraq] first": Michael Moore grills  Rep. John Tanner in 'Fahrenheit 9/11'
Dog Eat Dog Films/Wild Bunch
"We thought maybe you guys should send your kids [to Iraq] first": Michael Moore grills Rep. John Tanner in 'Fahrenheit 9/11'

"At first I thought I was making a film about a writer," Wong tells me when I ask which of his movie's many interlocking themes mean the most to him. "But in the end I think it's really about me. I tried to forget everything about In the Mood for Love. But in the process, things just kept coming back."

Meeting the director of 2046 in a sun-drenched hotel salon two days after the screenings, I still feel the film like an open wound. The intensity of emotion in this movie, the degree of personal loss that it communicates largely through color and light and shadow (and our memories of Love), is simply overwhelming.

And yet Wong is wearing the most relaxed, natural smile. "Our memories are selective," he says, seeming resigned to the fact. "Sometimes they're the only reward we have for what doesn't work out in reality. But we can't always select what we want to remember."

My faint glimpse of the director's darting eyes, obscured behind his customary dark shades, suggests to me that this maestro of secret melancholy possesses a playful, slightly mischievous, yet fundamentally gentle and resilient soul. I sense that he'll be fine without the Palme d'Or--even without Cannes, if it comes to that. (Whatever else he may be missing would seem, at least on the evidence of the new film, much harder to replace.)

For me, the festival ends as it began: on video. Tonight the press office is packed with writers from around the globe, gathered around a wide-screen Toshiba to witness the results of the Tarantino jury's deliberations and then punch them into computers. A Grand Jury Prize to the blood-soaked, Kill Bill-ish revenge opus from South Korea, Park Chan-wook's Old Boy, serves as the penultimate scene of a wacky, perverse, shock-inducing, Tarantinoesque awards show. And then the Palme: Fahrenheit 9/11.

I'm thrilled--and just a tiny bit skeptical of this final decision handed down by the maker of American gangster movies. Moore's solemn, purposeful film is, I would say, about nothing more than getting George W. Bush out of the White House. But what were the issues for the maker of Pulp Fiction? Did the fact that he's "very good friends" with number-one Wong fan Sofia Coppola count for anything in relation to the fact that he's been working since 1992 for 9/11's credited co-producer Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax? The awards show's climactic string of cuts--from Tarantino (Fair 'N' Height!) to Moore to Big Harvey, grinning from ear to ear--has nothing, perhaps, on 9/11's photo montage of Bush and Rumsfeld joshing with members of the Saudi royal family. But the similarity sends a chill nonetheless.

Was this really the "apolitical" film festival? Or was it, as Moore might wonder, just a dream? Put it this way. The new politics at Cannes seem more or less the same as the old politics all over the world: It's not about what you think so much as it is about who you know.

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