Yesterday morning we flew from Hanoi to Dong Hoi, a modest-sized coastal city, and then were driven inland past some profoundly calming, wonderfully aromatic countryside up to the Phong Nha Lakehouse. An hour from now we’re embarking on a day-long hike into the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, which will happen under the professional guidance of a Phong Nha Farmstay guys. The day will include all kinds of good stuff including the exploring of Paradise Cave.
Yesterday afternoon we scootered 20-plus kilometers into Dong Hoi and flopped on the beach for a couple of hours. Jett’s scooter stopped starting once we arrived, but we were twice saved by the kindness of strangers — a young Vietnamese guy helped us to kick-start it in town, and an Australian guy came along and suggested a running jump-start, which worked.
Obviously this is why I’m not filing much. I can’t seem to fit much in, but I can’t leave it alone either. Come hell or high water Hollywood Elsewhere posts every damn day, and with jottings of at least some substance. When we return late this afternoon we’re driving straight down to Hue (over four hours), and the next morning we’re doing a nine-hour scooter journey down to Hoi An.
Filed from Cannes on 5.15.15: “Gus Van Sant‘s The Sea of Trees “was initially greeted with one or two souls applauding, but this was immediately followed by a chorus of boos, loud and sustained for a good five or six seconds. I wasn’t feeling the hate as much as lethargy and disappointment, which began to manifest fairly early. I was getting the wrong vibes even before it started due to the word ‘The’ in the title. That in itself told me plenty.
“The symphonic, rotely soothing score by Mason Bates (i.e., the kind of music that tells the audience ‘you’ll be okay…this is a film about caring and compassion…no rude shocks in store’) told me right away that Trees would be one of Van Sant’s Finding Forrester-like films — an initially solemn, ultimately feel-good drama about ‘redemption’ and rediscovering the joy and necessity of embracing the struggle rather than dying by your own hand blah blah.
“It’s not ineptly made or anything. It starts smoothly and delivers what most of us would call professional-level chops along with an emotionally earnest lead performance from Matthew McConaughey as a Massachucetts high-school teacher and widower looking to commit suicide under the shade of Japan’s Aokigahara forest. But Chris Sparling‘s screenplay jerks the manipulation chain once or twice too often, and the general scheme of the thing just felt tired and pat to me.
“Some were complaining that only McConaughey’s woes seem to matter to Van Sant with scant attention paid to the anguish of Ken Watanabe‘s character, whom McConaughey encounters in the suicide forest and whose life he tries to save all through. This observation isn’t quite true because as there’s a third-act twist…forget it.”
Bob Yari‘s Papa, about a fact-based, late ’50 relationship between Ernest Hemingway (Adrian Sparks) and late journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc (Giovanni Ribisi), had its premiere at last November’s Key West Film Festival, which I attended. I had every intention of seeing Papa but something got in the way and I missed the screening. I did, however, attend the Papa after-party at Hemingway’s Key West home, during which I spoke with a 20something looker named Sammy and got this piece out of it. I did, however, ask around and can report that nobody at the party seemed to have mich to say about Papa. I’m curious to see it despite the obvious insect antennae perceptions. Yari should’ve manned up and not retitled it Papa: Hemingway in Cuba as this conveys panic. Pics opens on 4.26.
You’ll notice that in this candid from the making of Touch of Evil, Orson Welles (dressed in his Detective Hank Quinlan get-up) is simply looking at and listening to Janet Leigh as costar Charlton Heston looks on. Notice that Welles isn’t sneering, cackling, cracking wise, puffing on his fat cigar or being grotesquely animated in the old Quinlan way — he’s just being decent and considerate and listening to what Leigh has to say. This is what Quinlan never does in Touch Of Evil. He’s always “acting’, always behaving, always “on” and is therefore, I feel, constantly dragging the film down into the swamp of ego and personality that’s at least half about Welles himself. Every time I contemplate re-watching Touch of Evil, I remember this will involve having to deal with Welles’ pain-in-the-ass performance. Nine times out of ten, I watch something else.
A still from L’Avventura, portrait shots of Ingrid Bergman, Marilyn Monroe and Faye Dunaway, an image of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward used for advertising art for A New Kind of Love — I’ve been feeling at best placated and at worst underwhelmed by the design of Cannes Film Festival posters over the last few years. But the 2016 poster, an echo from Jean-Luc Godard‘s Contempt (’63), is the first that I’ve really liked and admired in a long while. Question: Why do Cannes posters always harken back to the ’60s or before? The ’60s were a half-century ago — weren’t there any strong iconic images or profound cinematic stirrings that arose out of films from the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s?