Cannes Day Zero: J. Hoberman, Live from France


Our longtime film critic J. Hoberman will be filing regular dispatches from this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Day zero: Hoberman plans his schedule, looks for strawberries, equates Quentin Tarantino’s proudly misspelled Inglourious Basterds to a bad T-shirt.

Things to do: find local strawberries, locate cheap couscous; cluster outside the Palais as several dozen locals seem to be doing a full 24-hours before the opening night film, Pixar’s 3-D wonder Up; page jet-lagged through the festival catalogs, pondering the gnomic film descriptions and trying to plan a strategy.

No problem tomorrow when the only thing press-screened is Up. Complications begin Thursday. Opting for an early screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro means standing on line and passing on the press premiere of both Andrea “Red Road” Arnold’s teenage family drama Fish Tank and the official Un Certain Regard opener, Bahman Ghobadi’s underground Iranian rock doc No One Knows About Persian Cats. (Or maybe it means catching Tetro in New York.)

Placement matters here. Hopes are high for Chinese controversialist Lou Ye’s Spring Fever (one of several Cannes entries about homosexual affairs in repressive societies) precisely because it’s showing Thursday in a spot given in previous years to Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days and Waltz With Bashir. On the other hand, holding Tsai Ming-liang’s French-set Fellini-sounding Visage for the competition’s last day, the market long packed up and the festival hemorrhaging press, doesn’t send an optimistic signal. Cannes likes to be backloaded but not that backloaded.

Quentin Tarantino’s World War II film Inglourious Basterds has the prime spot, quel surprise, in the middle of next week, following festival axiom Pedro Almodovar and followed by French legend Alain Resnais. In that context, Tarantino’s proudly misspelled title has the effect of a souvenir T-shirt emblazoned with an arrow and the words I’M WITH STOOPID!!! If I see producer Harvey Weinstein wearing one on the Croisette, you’ll be the first to know.