Cannes's Killer Movies

Competition was brutal at the world's most cutthroat film festival

Leave it to Funny Games director Michael Haneke to stick it to the bourgeoisie, but pointedly: His TV-celebrity "hero" in Hidden (Caché) epitomizes the times by passively doing untold damage to those less fortunate; finally, in the fest's most hauntingly resonant image, he draws the shades, pulls the covers over his head, and enjoys a deep, narcotized sleep.

 

You know it's a dark film festivalwhen the most well-adjusted male protagonist is Charles Bukowski. Based on the barfly's semi-autobiographical novel and shot last year in our own fair state, Factotum arguably uses the audacious miscasting of handsome Matt Dillon as "Hank Chinaski" to its advantage. Certainly director Bent Hamer's deadpan ode to the upside of alcoholism charmed audiences at the Directors' Fortnight, the Cannes sidebar whose low-key alternative to red-carpet hoopla had similarly suited the Norwegian filmmaker's first two comic soufflés (Eggs and Kitchen Stories). Marginally more plot-driven than Last Days (which it resembles right down to the grungy artist hero's distaste for conventional ambition), Factotum pledges fidelity to the source by thumbing its nose at dramatic development--unless you count the pivotal scene wherein the serial fornicator discovers he has crabs.

Whether or not Dillon's hardly complex appeal will help get the movie sold and distributed, Factotum's four Cannes screenings represent a landmark achievement for both Minnesota film and executive producer Christine Kunewa Walker, whom Hamer invited to share the Fortnight stage on opening night along with him, Dillon, co-star Lili Taylor, and co-producer and -screenwriter Jim Stark. Walker, who also co-produced American Splendor, garners extra distinction for her auteurlike focus on stories of brilliant cult authors whose curmudgeonly demeanor puts them not quite beyond redemption. (Too bad Splendor's Paul Giamatti didn't step sideways to essay Chinaski.)

Even more than other Minnesota features written and directed by out-of-towners, Factotum accentuates the vacant industrial side of the Twin Cities, using the Warehouse District to mirror its old soul's own slightly crumbling facade. Chinaski enjoys one of countless drinks at Cuzzy's on Washington; just a block and a half west, a legendarily nasty bump in Fifth Avenue North (directly adjacent to City Pages and the former Minnesota Film Board offices) exposes the broken springs on the Taylor character's $500 car. Having once lost my own muffler to that half-cobblestone hellhole, I appreciated the fact that this local crater not only earned a big laugh from the international crowd in Cannes, but seemed to translate as a metaphor for urban pitfalls the world over.

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