Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cannes Day 8

Kylie Minogue and co-star Denis Lavant from Holy Motors

French actress Edith Scob, originally seen starring in Eyes Without a Face (1960), from Holy Motors

 Cannes jury

From left to right, Raoul Peck, Haitian filmmaker, Ewan McGregor, Scottish actor, Hiam Abbass, Palestinian actress and director, Alexander Payne, American filmmaker, Nanni Moretti, Jury President and Italian filmmaker, Emmanuelle Devos, French actress, Andrea Arnold, British filmmaker, Jean Paul Gaultier, French fashion designer, and Diane Kruger, German actress

Now that the NATO outrage has passed, how about outrage about how Wall Street may have ruined Facebook, from Heidi Moore at The Guardian:

Facebook's IPO debacle: greed, hubris, incompetence …

And perhaps worse: if Facebook had set out to showcase a car-crash of an IPO, it could not have done it better

It is three trading days after Facebook went public, and we now know that the IPO will live forever in the history books – just not in the way anyone had planned. Had Facebook openly set out to sabotage its own IPO, it could not have invented a better or more remarkable debacle: a tale of financial chaos fit for history books.

Facebook stock has lost 20% of its value in only three days. In that alone, it is not remarkable. Large IPOs rarely perform well just after going public. Fund manager Och-Ziff, for instance, fell 24% in its first week as a public company. (And thereafter: Och-Ziff went public in 2007 at $32 a share, and now trades at just over $7).
No, what makes Facebook stand out is that, at nearly every junction where wisdom, care and moderation ought to have intervened, they did not. In law enforcement, this is called a "smash and grab" – just knocking out the windows and taking everything in sight. On Wall Street, the disregard of the IPO for normal investors brought up a vulgar old traders' saying: "Pigs get slaughtered." Translation: greed gets punished.
As far as autopsies go, this is a complicated one, from the spiritual to the mechanical.

There was gracelessness: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, made it clear for months that he disdained the company's IPO, and deigned to show up to only one meeting with potential investors. That couldn't have done much to convince those investors to believe that Facebook took the Wall Street system seriously enough to give them a good return on their investment.

There was greed: executives and insiders made the IPO primarily a way to enrich their own fortunes – rather than the company's – and their stock dump accounted for 57% of the shares sold in the offering (reinforcing the old joke that "IPO" stands not for "initial public offering", but "insider profit opportunity"). To pour more money in the pockets of these insiders and the company coffers, Morgan Stanley, the lead underwriter, hiked the price the company was charging investors – $38 – and flooded the market with tens of millions of extra shares. (The investment bank then had to rush back into the market and buy millions of those shares to artificially support the price of the stock on the first day.)

Pricing an IPO correctly – to predict, in essence, its fair market price – is a delicate art, which is supposed to balance how much investors may like a company with how much they're willing to pay for it. For instance, you might buy your favorite cereal at $5 a box; but would you buy it at $20 a box? Probably not. You don't like the cereal any less; you just don't think it's worth that large a chunk of your budget for groceries. People love Apple enough to pay $400 a share for it. But if Apple were valued the same way as Facebook, each Apple share would be worth more than $3,000.

There was hubris: throughout the process, Facebook made it clear that the company believed it was different from other companies. It could straightfacedly value itself at $104bn even though it had just $3.7bn in revenues, for instance. It angled for the title of the "the People's IPO" and promised that one-fourth of the shares sold would go to regular mom-and-pop investors – even though the putative "people" would be buying overpriced shares from insiders eager to cash out. JP Morgan, one of the bank's underwriters, added to the hype by slapping Facebook logos all over its headquarters like a school girl doodling the class hunk's name into a notebook.

There was incompetence: Nasdaq, the company's chosen exchange, froze up and delayed the IPO three times in the space of an hour because it couldn't handle the volume of orders from investors – a good number of whom appeared to be rushing for the exits to sell the stock.

And finally, there may have been something in violation of securities laws. The most respected publications in the US reported that Facebook's chief financial officer tipped off research analysts at the company's three biggest banks that its upcoming financial results would be lower than expected. The analysts then took the incredibly rare move of tipping off large investors to the specific negative impact this would have on Facebook's stock. Small investors had to resort to reading less educational entrails: a vague blurb in the latest regulatory filing about Facebook's trouble breaking into the mobile market.

If this last is true, you can forget all that guff about "the People's IPO". US securities laws are very strict about what a company can say while it prepares to go public – which is to say, almost nothing. Executives maintain a "quiet period" for months. If the company has to disclose anything, it has to do so to all investors, at once. The fact that sophisticated investors knew the company was warning them about its prospects could have been enough to account for the determined selling of the stock from almost its first minute. Wall Street investors are far less patient with changing the goalposts than are the 900 million users of Facebook who accede to every whim of the company's changing user agreements.

The irony of that is just too rich: after all the speculation about how the IPO went wrong, the real reason may have been very simple: Facebook didn't know how to work its own privacy settings for investors. It couldn't figure out, essentially, who should know what.

Still, the entire fiasco is a good lesson for Facebook, which is now an underdog rather than top of the roost. It forces the company to understand that it still has to work hard to earn its $90bn valuation. And while the IPO may have made Zuckerberg and his fellow executives a fortune, it doesn't actually change the company's fortunes.

Wall Street is a fickle master. Facebook just learned that lesson earlier than most.
-    -    -    -    -    -
Cannes photos from The Guardian:

and here:

Cannes photos from The Hollywood Reporter:

Fashion photos from The London Telegraph:

In what appears to be a futuristic scam whose day has arrived, American movie stars, Brad Pitt and Kristen Stewart, in accordance with their commodity stature, are charging the Canadian press large sums of money to conduct interviews at Cannes, while Alliance, the Canadian movie production company that opted out of sending representatives to Cannes, was not charging for interviews of its Canadian films Antiviral and Laurence Anyways.:

The media industry has reacted with dismay on learning that some journalists are being charged large sums of money to conduct interviews with star actors at Cannes.

The two films concerned are Killing Them Softly, starring Brad Pitt, and On the Road, which features Twilight's Kristen Stewart. Before the festival started, Canadian journalists were told by the films' Canadian distributors, Alliance, that a TV interview with Pitt would cost over $3,200 (£2,000), and a one-on-one print interview with Stewart would cost almost $1,300.

Alliance say the situation has arisen because they opted not to participate in the Cannes press junket. "Having made this decision, we felt it only fair to alert Canadian journalists so that they could choose to participate directly if they so wished, independent of Alliance … We stress that the costs of such participation would not have come to Alliance nor talent but directly to the organising distributor. Any implication that this is a revenue source for Alliance is wholly inaccurate."

It is normal practice for actors such as Pitt to have charges for promotional duties built into their original contract, and for regional distributors to "buy" time for their country's journalists at junkets where more than one nationality's press are present. But it is not usual for non-participating distributors to offer a price guide.
-    -    -    -    -    -
Demetrios Matheou from the Sight & Sound blog:

It’s been 13 years since Leos Carax’s last feature-length film, Pola X. When you wait that long for a one-time enfant terrible to show his face, the anticipation is mixed with anxiety. What if the older man is now, simply, terrible?

Imagine the relief, then, when the gleaming Holy Motors was wheeled out of the garage in Cannes, an ambitious, brilliantly bonkers shot-in-the-arm to the Competition. Carax may now be in his fifties, but he’s still making films like a young man desperate to explore and have fun with the medium. Thank God for a Palme d’Or contender who dares to be different.

A prologue features Carax himself navigating a surrealist dreamscape, at the end of which he looks down upon an auditorium, in which an audience sits impassively as Etienne-Jules Marey’s chronophotographed athletes flicker across a screen. The nod to that early pioneer signals the fact that cinema itself is a subject of the film. At the same time these still figures remind one of Last Year in Marienbad; and like the characters in that film, the protagonist of Holy Motors will be on an endless round of role-playing, in search of an identity.

Charlotte Higgins on the reaction to Carax's Holy Motors from The Guardian:   (excerpts)

Once in a while, a film comes along at the Cannes film festival that utterly divides the critics, that is despised by some and adored by others – and that absolutely no one can stop talking about.

It happened last year with Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life – hailed as a masterpiece by some, derided as pretentious rubbish by others.

In 2000 it was Dancer in the Dark, Lars von Trier's Cannes sensation in which a singing Björk is dragged to the gallows.

This year, that film is Holy Motors from French director Leos Carax. Its first screening was greeted by boos drowned out by cheers, by volleys of ecstatic and furious tweets and by one big question: what the hell was it all about?

Asked that very question, the inscrutable Carax proved to be of little help. Clad in shades and a leather jacket, and brandishing an unlit cigarette, he simply shrugged, frowned and wagged his finger disapprovingly.

Some critics were bewitched – if bewildered. "Certifiably nuts" summed up Variety; "completely bonkers" said the Hollywood Reporter.

For Indiewire, it was "balls-to-the-wall crazy, beautiful and unbelievably strange". Little White Lies, a film magazine, strained to describe its effect: "It plays a little bit like a Charlie Kaufman film that's been co-directed by [Luis] Buñuel and [Jean-Luc] Godard."

British critic Jonathan Romney was frosty: "How bad is the Leos Carax? The Brown Bunny of surrealist chic," he tweeted, referring to Vincent Gallo's 2003 production – one of the most universally loathed films in Cannes history.

On Kylie Minogue, who has a small but memorable part in Holy Motors, he said her performance "was marginally worse than in the Doctor Who Xmas special".

Alone of the cast members, Minogue bravely attempted an interpretation: "From reading the script and from the few days I was on the film I did get to thinking [it was about] how we present ourselves in the world in different moments. If I can try to be as overall as that, and it's much more profound, but that's a brief response."

Asked about the public reaction to his film, he said: "I don't know who the public is, except a bunch of people who will soon be dead."

Asked if it was an homage to the history of film, he said: "If you decide to live in that island which is cinema, it is a beautiful island, with a very big cemetery … if you feel the film is about cinema, it's not a conscious process. If you make a film, you make cinema."

On the title of the film, he said it came from a feeling that there was a "solidarity between the characters, animals and machines … that's why I called the film Holy Motors. We have incredible motors inside ourselves too".

In the end, the polarised reaction to Holy Motors makes it the perfect Cannes film, the succès de scandale that the Croisette loves to love – or hate.

Tree of Life and Dancer in the Dark may have been loathed in some quarters – but both films ended up winning the Palme d'Or.

Mike D'Angelo, after the fact, and after watching Carax's "bigfuck masterpiece," grades the Kiarostami as a D+ after grading Holy Motors an A:

The glory of Cannes—and of cinephilia in general, for that matter—is that you never know for sure from which direction the long-awaited lightning bolt will strike. Sure, I was plenty eager to see Holy Motors, having loved previous Leos Carax films like Mauvais sang (1986) and The Lovers on the Bridge (1991). But check the dates on those—it’s been over 20 years since the last Carax joint I loved, and apart from a short (if memorable) segment of the omnibus project Tokyo!, he hadn’t made a movie at all since 1999’s Pola X. So I don’t think anyone was quite prepared for the visionary, jaw-dropping spectacle that greeted us at Holy Motors’ first press screening last night—a work so sui generis, so vast in scope, and so meticulously realized that you can easily imagine Carax having spent every waking hour of the past 13 years working on it—and many non-waking hours to boot, given its dreamlike, surrealistic modus operandi. Ultimately, Holy Motors may prove too bugfuck to win the Palme d’Or, given that the jury is headed by Nanni Moretti and not Tim Burton (whose crew Palme’d the nearly-as-bizarre Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), but I can almost guarantee that it’ll be the film by which this year’s festival will be remembered in years to come. Cannes exists to showcase such unexpected cliff-dives.

Being part of the very first audience for Holy Motors was a privilege. This is why I come here. Grade: A

[SAD NERD ASIDE: Technically Holy Motors is an A- on my scale, at least on first viewing, but it seems even more goofy than usual to impose that on the A.V. Club, as my flat A is so rare that only maybe 6-7 films a decade get it. The only film I’ve loved more over the last several years is A Separation. Also, that I was smitten with Carax’s film even when I had no idea what the hell was going on retroactively sours me on Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, which no matter how coherent and provocative it may prove thematically just never engaged me at all on the surface level. So that now gets a testy D+.]

There is an online Criterion Forum discussion on the films at Cannes:

A big thank you shoutout to George the Cyclists's West coast friend Matt Langdon ( and for mentioning the Cannes coverage at this blog on the Mubi Forum:

Les étoiles de la critique is a scorecard of French critics, through Thursday's edition, where Audiard's Rust and Bone and Haneke's Amour still remain the best reviewed films so far:

Over at Screendaily, the highest scores are Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, rated 3.3, and Haneke's Amour, rated the same, with Audiard's Rust and Bone, Dominick's Killing Them Softly, and Vinterberg's The Hunt rated 2.9.  After that, Loach's The Angel's Share is rated 2.8, Walter Salles On the Road is 2.7, while the Resnais You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet and Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom are both rated at 2.6, while the Kiarostami scores 2.4.  You can find the Digital Jury Grid Ratings Page here.  Click on the most recent Day (currently Day 9), and forward through the pages by clicking on the bottom right page, to around page 22.

While at Jigsaw Lounge, Kiarostami still remains the favorite to win the Palme D'Or prize.  One should review the French Cahiers critical reviews of Kiarostami from Les étoiles de la critique, where 2 stars is the highest rated review, 4 rated it 1 star, and 3 less than 1 star.  Mungiu's Beyond the Hills similarly has one 4 star, five 3 stars, five 2 stars, three 1 stars, and one less than 1 star - - in other words all over the place.  This would not seem to indicate Kiarostami has the critical backing to win the top prize, but he is still the favorite, and has been since the outset, similar to Haneke the year he won with White Ribbon, but unlike here, Haneke's critical acclaim was uniformly positive.  Neil Young with the current odds at Jigsaw Lounge: 

5-2 : LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE  - Kiarostami {prediction : Palme d’Or}
11-4 : AMOUR - Haneke {prediction : Grand Prix, and 65th Anniversary Award – for the actors}
7-1 : BEYOND THE HILLS - Mungiu {prediction : Best Director}
10-1 : RUST AND BONE - Audiard {prediction : Jury Prize}
10-1 : YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET! - Resnais {prediction : Best Screenplay}
10-1 : IN THE FOG - Loznitsa
12-1 : HOLY MOTORS - Carax {prediction: Best Actor}
14-1 : COSMOPOLIS - Cronenberg
16-1 : POST TENEBRAS LUX - Reygadas
16-1 : PARADISE : LOVE – Seidl {prediction: Best Actress}
16-1 : KILLING THEM SOFTLY - Dominik
33-1 : THE HUNT – Vinterberg
35-1 : MOONRISE KINGDOM – Anderson
40-1 : REALITY - Garrone
50-1 : ON THE ROAD - Salles
50-1 : MUD - Nichols
80-1 : THE ANGELS’ SHARE - Loach
80-1 : LAWLESS – Hillcoat
80-1 : AFTER THE BATTLE - Nasrallah
125-1 : THE PAPERBOY – Daniels

Shortening the list to just the basic necessities, Screendaily still has paywalls, but if you click on most reviews, they are open to the public, though some still remain mysteriously unavailable:
or even better:

The Hollywood Reporter at Cannes:

David Hudson (formerly of Mubi) does all the links for each review at Fandor:

Variety at Cannes:

I’ve added a new link to the Sight & Sound blog (thanks Matt!!):

Matt Zoller Seitz and Kevin B. Lee at Press Play from indieWIRE

the indieWIRE Playlist:

indieWIRE reviews, with grades listed:

Robert Koehler from Filmjourney:

Daniel Kasman at Mubi:

The House Next Door at Cannes:

Drew McSweeny and Guy Lodge from HitFix:

Mike D'Angelo at The Onion AV Club:

The Film Center's Barbara Scharres from the Roger Ebert blog:

Richard Corliss from Time Magazine:

Karina Longworth at LA Weekly:

Cannes Fest at Time Out London:

Cannes Diary from Film Comment:

The Guardian Cannes commentary:

And, of course, George is back at Cannes this year, where he finds off the beaten track film fare:

The films continue to come in pairs--yesterday two on trash, today two Belgian road movies.  One was a last minute market addition that I wouldn't have known about if I had found Ralph in the 60th Theater for the "On the Road" morning screening.  He was 30 people ahead of me in line, having arrived at 7:30 to be the first so he wouldn't have to contend with line budgers and the subtle positioning that goes on while everyone is waiting to be let in.  I prefer an extra half hour of sleep, trying to get six hours.

There was a several minute gap between the time Ralph was let into the theater and I, as it was filling fast with press spill-over that had priority over us.  It was down to letting us second class citizens into the theater in increments.  Ralph and I always sit in the upper left hand corner of the theater for a quick exit, but I didn't spot him when I entered as the theater was nearly full and he missed seeing me.  So rather than having a debriefing while we waited for "On the Road" to start I was able to read "Screen" magazine and discovered "Topedo."  Its brief synopsis described it as a 35-year old guy, whose life is in disarray, wins a dinner with Eddie Merckx.    All of a sudden "Torpedo" replaced "On the Road" as my most anticipated movie of the day.

And after the disappointment of "On the Road"  I knew it could be the best movie of the day as well.  I've read everything Jack Kerouac has written and many other books on the Beats and have lived the life and know all the characters well.  Walter Salles has been working on this movie for years but he fell way short of capturing the manic energy of Neal Cassady that drew Kerouac and many others to him.  Kerouac writes of their benzedrine-fueled conversations that went on and on as they drove through the night thriving on the joy of being on the road and free of the constraints of society pontificating on the main stream life they detested. 

There was none of that here. Kerouac sought out mad characters and the madness in life. And he succeeded, though Salles did not. This was a most drab portrayal of their lives.  It was almost as if Salles was at pains to demystify the Beats and not to provide them as characters to emulate or admire.  Sean Penn much better portrayed the zest of being free and on the road living all sorts of different experiences in "In the Wild" than this did.  Kerouac was a writer seeking experience and continually jotting notes.  He had to be thrilled to be living the life he was, collecting material and meeting up with Cassady and many of his friends.

When the representative of "Torpedo" handing out a flyer of the film to the eight or nine of us in attendance I asked him if Eddie Merckx was in the film.  His English wasn't good enough to understand my question.  I was happy to see in the opening credits that Merckx was given thanks for his participation and he is seen early on at a furniture store that is conducting the contest to win a dinner with Merckx.  There is a catch to winning it though and the guy who thinks he has won the dinner is denied his dinner.  He was so much looking forward to it goes to extremes to get it, kidnapping the store owner and driving across the country to Merckx's next appearance.  He also has to enlist the help of a former girl friend to pose as his wife and grabs a ten-year old neighbor to be his son.  When the kid tells him he doesn't know who Eddie Merckx is he says he ought to be arrested. Ample homage is paid to Merckx throughout this comedy to qualify it as a bicycle movie even though  the only bicycling is teaching the ten-year old how to ride a bike.

The other Belgian road movie was two hitch-hikers who link up.  One is a mysterious young woman with blank eerie eyes who admits she has recently been released from "a loony bin."  The other is an aspiring actor who is captivated by her even though he has a pregnant girl friend.  She leads him into all sorts of mischief.  She is a very unsettling character.  He tails her for  awhile and then she turns the tables and tails him back to his girl friend. 

"Hold Back," a most realistic French film about Algerians and blacks in Paris and racial stereotypes, also had unsettling characters that had been fully wondering "what next."  The movie opens with a black man proposes to an Algerian woman.  No one in their families is in favor of their marriage, though none of the family members have met either of them.  The Algerian has many brothers.  They are so upset a friend offers to kill the black. I saw this because I was turned from "7 Days in Havana" a movie I much wanted to see as Gaspar Noe was one of the seven directors who contributed an episode, I was very glad to have seen "Hold Back."

The most entertaining movie of the day was Ken Loach's "The Angel's Share," an almost whimsical tale of English working class blokes in trouble with the law who pull off an incredible heist of some whiskey worth a million pounds.  There was some grim darkness to this, a subject  Loach can not avoid, but it was largely an enjoyable fairy tale that offers hope for humanity rather than the usual despair that Loach dishes up for the human condition.

"Journal de France"was another movie I was greatly looking forward to as it was described as the photographs of six years of travel around France by noted French director Raymond Depardon.  That was only an incidental part of the movie, as it was mostly a retrospective of his decades of documentaries of trouble spots around the world, mostly in Africa.  They included an interview with a French woman who was held hostage for a couple of years while she was being held, an interview that got him in trouble with the authorities.  There was also 60 seconds of silence from Nelson Mandela shortly after he was released from prison.  There were only a handful of set shots of small town France and several short segments of driving on winding rural roads that I know so well. 


  1. Let's all cheer for Holy Motors to win the Palme d'or!

  2. Yeah, I'm all in for this film, where Denis Lavant plays something like 11 different roles. It's always nice to see a film come out of nowhere to take everyone's breath away.