Friday, March 18, 2011

Richard Martini's aging CANNES MAN comes to DVD -- on Blu-Ray yet! But why?

The idea (not to mention the execution) of CANNES MAN -- a comedy/satire that combines the goings-on at the Cannes Film Festival with the old standby situation, "I'll bet I can take a complete nobody and turn him/her into a star!"  -- would have seemed like a novel lark maybe 15 years ago. Oddly enough, the movie is exactly that old. And, oh, do those years show. Released to DVD and Blu-ray this month via Cinema Libre Studio, this film, so far as TrustMovies is concerned, is not nearly up to the level of the usual Cinema Libre product.

Directed by Richard Martini who co-wrote the film (along with Deric Haddad, Irwin M. Rappaport and Susan Shapiro), Cannes Man begins with the funeral of a movie producer/con man named Sy Lerner, played by Seymour Cassel (below, right), who's a wonder, as usual, bringing with him via flashback the only real zing the movie offers. Just as Mr. Martini, shown at left, was wise to get this particular guy for his lead role, equally unwise was he to tap into a fellow named Francesco Quinn (below, left) for the other most important role. Mr. Quinn, son of Anthony, is bearable, but only that. Relatively charmless and non-charismatic, he brings no real zeal to the part and consequently weighs things down rather than goosing them up. This is not helpful when you're doing satirical comedy.

Only five years later, Henry Jaglom made one of his best films -- Festival in Cannes -- that similarly skewers Cannes, moviemaking and egos but does so in a manner that is much funnier and glossier and that makes this Riviera-set festival and its entire crazy movie scene seem both glamorous and a kind of con job. For movie buffs, the ace-in-the-hole that Cannes Man offers will be  the several cameos from some BIG stars (some of whom were not quite so big back then, others who've now seen their sun eclipsed).

Among these is a youthful Johnny Depp (above), who, along with Jim Jarmusch (below, left, with Depp and Quinn), the Sy Lerner character tries to interest in acting, directing, co-producing -- literally anything he can induce them to do -- on his film.

That there is no script and never will be dampens Sy's enthusiasm not one whit -- not while there is money to be raised and foolish, pompous people to fool. Along the way we interact with the likes of Benicio Del Toro (below), John Malkovitch (further below) and Treat Williams (even further below).

All this is a little bit interesting (we have the sense that we've seen much of it before -- and we have by now) and a little bit fun, but not nearly as much as it ought to be, given what's going on. Along the way we find out about Sy Lerner's many affairs and meet a few of the ladies in his life. Again, not much new here, either.

The "surprise" ending will fool and delight anyone born after 2001; others could probably write this part of the script themselves. If you're (like me) a sucker for movies-about-movies (and movie-making), by all means, give this one a shot. Just don't expect a lot.

A word or twenty must be said about the Blu-ray level of the disc. This is probably the worst supposed Blu-ray I've yet viewed. The first reel (or however these discs are divided) looked relatively good and sharp --  for a film this old, at least. From then on, however, the image quality was pretty awful: about what I'd have expected from my old VHS machine. If this is Blu-ray, then I'm a teen-ager.

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