King of Cannes: Madness, Mayhem, and the Movies

Stephen Walker, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $21.95 (263p) ISBN 978-1-56512-269-7
Long before the first agent tromped through the snow at Sundance, newly crowned directors were walking down the red carpet at Cannes. In his lively carnival of a book, documentary filmmaker Walker writes about the king of film festivals from the perspective of the people to whom it means the most: the filmmakers. Charged with making a documentary about Cannes for the BBC (titled Waiting for Harvey), Walker follows four filmmakers who take their projects to the festival in search of fame and fortune, and the person empowered to bestow them, Miramax capo Harvey Weinstein. Walker's cast includes the hip and tough-talking director James Merendino (SLC Punk), the serious and soft-spoken Frenchman Erick Zonca (The Dream Life of Angels) and a few lesser lights, like an East London cab driver who drives to the Riviera in a van decorated with a large cannabis leaf. Predictably, the film business turns out to be a gamble, and Cannes offers rewards and punishments to the filmmakers in equal measure. While Walker's characters are funny and well drawn, their viability as subjects for Walker's film is never far from his mind. The author's apparently scrupulous honesty in detailing the stretching-of-the-truth and out-and-out deceptions necessary in documentary filmmaking is diverting, but inevitably distances us from the lives he depicts and rebounds against his own sincerity. Part diary, part film script, the book ultimately tells us more about Walker's own hopes and dreams than anyone else's. But perhaps that is the point: to the glamour of Cannes, no one is immune. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
Paperback - 262 pages - 978-0-14-100147-0
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