Cannes Film Festival served as backdrop for less-than-memorable films starring Oscar winners

Better late than never. After the traditional Cannes Film Festival was cancelled last year due to Covid, the glitzy event is back with Covid protocols in order. Instead of taking place in May, the 74th annual gala opened on July 6 and will continue through July 17th at the glamorous French resort town. 

Spike Lee, who was supposed to be jury head last year, was asked to take up the reigns of this edition. And he appeared on the legendary red carpet decked out in a striking pink ensemble. The festival opened with the Leos Carax’ offbeat musical “Annette” featuring music by the Sparks Brother and Val Kilmer’s self-titled documentary “Val,” which earned kudos and a long-standing ovation. Other films premiering at the festival including Sean Penn’s “Flag Day,” Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” Asghar Farhadi’s “The Hero” and Francois Ozon’s “Everything Went Fine.”

Besides screening and selling movies, the festival has also served as the backdrop for films ranging from documentaries to narrative features. Here’s a look back at six of them. 

“Seduced and Abandoned” (2013)
What a difference eight years makes. In 2012, director James Toback (“Fingers”) and Alec Baldwin travelled to the Cannes Film Festival to try to get funding for a project they wanted to do. And in 2013, they were back at the festival screening their documentary about their adventure. Reviews were generally strong; it’s at 84% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. “Seduced and Abandoned” certainly does capture the glitz, glamor, and even sham aspects of the festival, as well as the wheeling and dealing. There are many fun and honest interviews with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Caan and Ryan Gosling.

But with the #MeToo movement, you may want to abandon “Seduced.” In 2017, some 38 women came forward accusing Toback of sexual harassment and assault.  He denied the charges. In 2018, L.A. prosecutors said they would not be filing charge against him. But there are also extensive interviews with Roman Polanski. And the film they are trying to do is a loose remake of Bernardo Bertolucci’s sexually explicit 1972 “Last Tango in Paris” with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. Viewers must watch one of the most controversial and degrading scenes from “Tango.” 

“Mr. Bean’s Holiday” (2007)
Though reviews weren’t great for this 2007 family comedy starring Rowan Atkinson as his mischievous, accident prone man-child, “Mr. Bean’s Holiday’ make some $250 million internationally. In this slapstick-driven comedy, Bean’s small British town that had been besieged by rain holds a raffle for a chance to win a trip to go to Cannes to enjoy the beach and the sun. Bean wins the prize, but it takes nearly an hour for him to get to Cannes because he keeps getting into trouble including being wrongly accused of kidnapping the son of a director. Willem Dafoe nearly steals the film as a vain and pretentious American film actor/director who is premiering his film at the festival. The red-carpet sequence was shot during a premiere of a Portuguese film. The best scene in the film comes at the very end when Bean finally arrives on the beach to the strains of Charles Trenet’s beloved “La Mer.” 

“Festival at Cannes” (2001)
Indie auteur Henry Jaglom invaded the 1999 Cannes Film Festival to make this 2001 romantic dramedy with a stellar cast including Anouk Aimee, Maximillian Schell, Greta Scacchi, Ron Silver, Peter Bogdanovich and Jaglom fave, Zach Norman. Faye Dunaway, Jeff Goldblum, Holly Hunter, and William Shatner pop up in cameos. SFGate’s Mick LaSalle thought “Festival in Cannes” was one of Jaglom’s better efforts describing it as a “wry and sometimes bitter movie about love, set against the wheeling and dealing atmosphere of the world’s most famous film festival.” Though it does capture the surreal aspects of Cannes, it also shows the sawdust behind the tinsel. “…under the steady gaze of Jaglom’s camera, Cannes looks like a worn beach town defaced by movie billboards,” said LaSalle.

“Murder at the Cannes Film Festival” (2000)
Variety described E! Entertainment Television’s 2000 comedic mystery as “quicky paced and never burdened with too many pretensions.” French Stewart, his then-wife Katharine LaNasa and Karina Lombard star in this lighthearted murder mystery that was primarily shot in Vancouver. The production did visit Cannes for establishing shots of the festival. Merv Griffin was one of the executive producers-he also has a cameo.

“Cannes Man” (1997)
This thread-bare budget satire directed and co-written by Richard Martini, which was released on video in 1997, was quite literally shot on the fly at the 1995 festival with a lot of the scenes improvised. The late great Seymour Cassel plays the ultimate Hollywood producer who makes a bet at the festival that he can turn anyone into a star through hype and lies. He chooses a cab driver (Francisco Quinn) who is in Cannes after getting a job at a courier for Troma.   Cassel’s Sy concocts a fable that Quinn’s Frank has written one of the greatest scripts ever penned. And soon he has Dennis Hopper committing to directing it with John Malkovich agreeing to star. Cameos include Johnny Depp, Treat Williams, James Brolin, and Jon Cryer.  

“An Almost Perfect Affair” (1979)
The New York Times described this romantic comedy as “modest.” “An Almost Perfect Affair” It does have a lot going for it, a screenplay co-written by former blacklisted writer Walter Bernstein (“The Front”), direction by Michael Ritchie (“Smile”), a lilting score by the great Georges Delerue (“Jules and Jim”) and cinematography by the French master Henri Decae. The cast isn’t too shabby: Keith Carradine (the opening credits announce that his wardrobe in the film is his own) Monica Vitti and Raf Vallone. Carradine is a young indie American director who has brought his film to sell at Cannes. Vitti is the glamorous but basically ignored wife of Vallone, who is a high-powered producer making deals at the festival. Before you can say “oh-la-la,” Carradine and Vitti begin an affair. Though the film was shot during the festival, you really don’t get a sense of the atmosphere. It’s more of the fringe of the festival; Carradine’s room looks like it’s at the Cannes version of the Motel 6.

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