(Published in Sify.com, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/movies/Cannes-diary-Stories-from-the-festival-imagegallery-hollywood-mftlDwgfebj.html?html=5)
May 22 dawns with promise, and trepidation. I’m about to attend the screenings of Killing them Softly, starring some of my favourite gangster badboy actors, and Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1 and 2).
I’m a little worried, respectively, because Hollywood’s recent gangster films haven’t really been a patch on the ones that introduced us to those badboys, and because Gangs of Wasseypur is a 5-hour film that I desperately want to be good. There’s nothing worse than a long bad movie. And Anurag Kashyap’s statement to me that the movie had drama, love, fights, murder, revenge, everything, hinted that this recipe could go very, very wrong.
The day turned out to be unbelievably good, as did Gangs of Wasseypur.
Killing them Softly, by Australian director Andrew Dominik, boasts a cast of Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, along with Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn. It’s one of several mainstream Hollywood movies in the running for the Palme D’Or, thus sexing up the competition considerably this year.
It’s best described by Dominik himself as a “screwball comedy”. Following his The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford of five years ago, Dominik enters the world he loves so much – that of American gangsters and tough guys.
Also featuring in this film are Barack Obama’s rhetoric, and American capitalism. Yeah, those in the context of men with Italian surnames and first names that make them sound like a kindergarten lineup – Mickey, Jackie, Frankie, Johnny, Markie. The film intersperses “soft killings” with political debates on the economy. We’re never told where the action happens, and at the press conference, Dominik says it’s “Anytown, America.”
The discussion at the press conference turns cerebral, with Dominik bringing in the Id, Ego and Superego, and telling us the film has a message – not to punish oneself too much, and just to live, to watch out for oneself, because it’s each on his own here. The discussion’s brought back down to earth by Ray Liotta, who says, “I’ve no idea what the hell they’re talking about – this Id, Yid, whatever it is, sounds like a lot of work!”
That’s followed by an interaction with director Ken Loach, and the cast of Angels’ Share. Again, a discussion on a comedy turns serious, as reporters begin to ask political questions. Finally, the talk turns to censorship, and how they had to cut out the C-word in order to be given an over-15 rating for the UK release of the film.
“I think there was a number,” Ken Loach said, “We didn’t cut out all the c***s. We had about 15 c***s in the film.” With that begins a riot of punning. Loach criticises the British middle class’ obsession with swearwords, and producer Rebecca O’Brien takes over, “I think it depended on the context too. So we were allowed about 6 regular c***s, and 2 serious c***s, and we had to cover the rest of the c***s up.”
The lead actor, Paul Brannigan, has a touching story of his own to tell. “I grew up in a pretty rough part of Glasgow,” he says, through a thick Scottish accent that prompts the moderator to request him to slow down for want of subtitles, “And Paul Laverty, he found me, and saved me (by offering me the film).” He turned it down at first, since he knew nothing about acting, but then did it “Because Christmas was coming round, and I didn’t have any money. And who knows what I’d’ve done for the money if Paul hadn’t called?”
I then dash off to the premiere of Gangs of Wasseypur at the Director’s Fortnight section. Introducing the film, Anurag Kashyap says modestly that he hopes we won’t be disappointed. The cast and crew seem nervous before the start of the film.
What follows, though, is quite mindblowing. With stellar performances from the actors, wonderful sound design from Sneha Khanwalkar, and sparkling dialogue, it’s hard to find much wrong with this film. The five hours fly by, and there’s a rumour floating around that the film has been nominated for the Asian Film Awards. I hear Anurag Kashyap telling his cast about “The Asian Oscars”, but they dash off to another screening, and I only have time to catch up with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Richa Chadha to schedule interviews.
Having missed a spot on the red carpet, I have little regret. The films being shown are Killing Them Softly and Angels’ Share. Aside from the cast, and the usual suspects, the glamour quotient comes in from Kelly Brook, who twirls about in a one-shoulder silver-sequined dress, Alec Baldwin and fiancée, P Diddy in white, and Jeremy Irons in grey, still looking tired from his journey to garbage heaps around the world for the documentary Trashed. Or maybe I’m psychoanalysing.