Halfway through the Cannes Film Festival, which wraps up this weekend with the revelation of the Palme d’Or and other awards, two absurdly fortunate and extremely busy cineastes from Minneapolis somehow manage via phone, text, e-mail, and various psychic fax messages to schedule one those “What’ve you liked so far?” chats. (Don’t worry: No spoilers here.)
But by accident, the curator and critic—the Walker Art Center’s Sheryl Mousley and moi–run into one another two hours before the agreed-upon time while queuing for the Dardennes brothers’ Lorna’s Silence, and decide to observe their own quiet. No talking until after the movie becomes Rule #1—the only rule, in fact—of our Dogme of Q&As.
Yet as rules are meant to be broken, we agree to make small talk in French (e.g., “ Le nouveau vol de NWA est magnifique, n’est-ce pas?”) until the lights go down. Then we suspend the discussion even further while trekking through the gargantuan Palais des Festivals to the fourth-floor meeting place known as Le Club. Eventually it trickles out, even before the microphone is on (quelle horreur!), that while we’re somewhat split on the Dardennes’ latest—Mousley’s thumb points straight up, mine sideways—we’re both big fans of Le Club, in particular its jus d’orange gratuit.
So roll tape—and cheers to free orange juice in Cannes!
Mousley, peeling back the curtain on the Film/Video Department’s theater of operations, explains that “judging the film is how everything begins” for her and assistant curator Dean Otto. As well it should. Last year, for example, Mousley’s Cannes screening of The Mourning Forest–“ a film I adored immediately,” she says–led to the Walker visit of Japanese director Naomi Kawase in March. “ Scheduling is always a major hurdle,” says Mousley. “ Filmmakers are filmmakers; when they’re not in production, they’re in pre-production or doing publicity or taking a rare vacation. But with Naomi, it worked perfectly for her to come in conjunction with the Women With Vision’ series.”
Though the next such series remains nine months away, Cannes isn’t too early for Mousley to focus on films by women here. The curator naturally has her eye on Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s brilliantly surreal La Mujer Sin Cabeza (The Headless Woman) as well as Kelly Reichardt’s follow-up to Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, which hadn’t yet screened when we met for OJ. Lamenting the dearth of women-directed films this year, I joke that maybe multimillion dollar baby (and Hillary Clinton supporter) Clint Eastwood could earn honorary inclusion in “Women With Vision” for his direction of the strikingly feminist Changeling (starring Angelina Jolie); and perhaps he could bank frequent flyer miles to Minneapolis for having previously visited the Walker for the very first Regis Dialogue back in 1990, back in the pre-Unforgiven days when proclaiming Clint as an auteur was something close to radical.
“Of course I’ve looked into whether Clint would come back [for another Regis],” says Mousley. “ But what I’ve heard from Pierre Rissient”—the Gallic “ man of cinema” featured in critic Todd McCarthy’s like-titled documentary—“is that [Eastwood] doesn’t like to revisit old territory.” Not geographic territory, anyway, as Eastwood does trod generic turf repeatedly: Changeling, wherein Jolie plays a mother grieving for her lost son and suffering the rampant sexism of 20s and 30s L.A., harkens back particularly to the director’s Mystic River and A Perfect World as a critique of socially sanctioned exploitation and abuse.
Our juice glasses still half-full, like le festival itself, Mousley and I note that Changeling is the likely Palme pick for a jury headed by Mystic River‘s Sean Penn. But Palme or not, Eastwood’s star vehicle won’t face the slightest challenge in finding a screen, whereas one of the Walker’s chief missions is to usher in the unknown and otherwise endangered. To this end, Mousley is meeting tomorrow with a group of Iranian film exporters to discuss the details of a continued collaboration that would bring more Iranian cinema to Minneapolis at a time when it’s sorely needed anywhere in the United States.
“Iranian cinema is tricky now, for obvious reasons,” says Mousley. “ Paying film rentals can be complicated, and then, of course, there’s the problem with visas for visiting [Iranian] filmmakers. So it’s very good for us to get together [with Iranians] to work through strategies for keeping these films on the [U.S. festival and museum] circuit.”
And with that, the conversation is fini: Mousley is heading to another meeting in the Marché du Film, and I’m gonna sprint up the Croisette to the Directors’ Fortnight, where Albert Serra’s El Cant Dels Ocells (Birdsong) will be featuring the brilliant screen acting debut of my Cinema Scope editor and friend Mark Peranson, playing Joseph, earthly father of…oh Lord, I almost gave it away!