Cannes Do Attitude: Day 4
Our correspondent Stephen Garrett writes from the Cannes Film Festival:
Ever circling outside the Palais des Festivals (an accreditation-only zone) are the ticket urchins, quietly desperate people with hand-written cardboard signs begging for a ticket to the hottest public screenings. One placard this morning said it all: “Billets s’il vous plait pour NO COUNTRY, SICKO.”
The Americans have arrived in full force, and what a hurricane it has been. The crowd at last night’s press screening for the Coen brother’s dazzling No Country for Old Men caused even more of a riot than the Blueberry crunch on Wednesday. And for good reason: buzz has been building for weeks on the Texan drama, their adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel and a stunning return to form for a filmmaking pair that recently has squandered its talents on a string of flaccid comedies.
As lyrically taut and razor-sharp as piano wire, and featuring a harrowing performance by Javier Bardem as shrewd, venomous killer, No Country (above) is a cat-and-mouse thriller about a man (Josh Brolin) who stumbles on a briefcase full of $2 million in drug money and must outwit the homicidal crooks tracking him. Suffused with tension and dripping with blood, the ultimately mournful film nevertheless retains a beguiling sense of levity that milks gut-wrenching humor at the most unlikely moments.
Less masterful was Sicko (at left), Michael Moore’s comic polemic against the U.S. health care system that had droves of socialist Europeans laughing in condescending solidarity at the Yank’s flawed capitalistic model. There’s no love lost between Americans and their home-grown HMO’s, to be sure, but Moore’s patented political-cartoon approach, while effectively entertaining, is maddeningly, and predictably, reductive. Still, having any sort of rib-tickling discourse on health care is a remarkable feat, and Moore pulls off the dark humor in spades.