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May 29, 1974 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-05-29

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Wednesday. May 29, 1974


,olao~ M , 29 94TEMCIA ALaeFv

Yanks and opulence at

Page Five


Cannes Film Festival

Special To The Daily
CANNES -The Cannes Film Festival
is to cinema what the Kentucky Derby
is to horse racing. The film groupies,
ci'eia aficionadoes and people who just
lik2 to be where the action is all de-
scend upon this usually calm town on
the French Riviera each May, convert-
ing it into a madhoose for the two weeks
of the festival.
Opulence is readily apparent: men in
toxedoes and women in fancy gowns
throw 100-franc notes around as if they
were paper (which, of course, they are).
The young people here, coning from
all over the world, can be divided into
two groups. The first group consists of
the descendants of the Beautiful People,
attired in the height of fashion-though
modish, of course. They sit around sip-
ping champagne and looking blase.
The second group is composed of the
freaks of the globe, wearing jeans and
an immensely popular American col-
lege T-shirt. A woman clad in an Ohio
State T-shirt thought that Woody Hayes
was a poetry professor, while a man
wearing a U of M shirt did not know
where the Ding was and, in fact could
barely speak English.
Although only three films entered in
the competition are shown each day, oth-
er movies are shown continuously at five
different locations throughout the city.
Many of these are porno flicks such as
Deep Throat (en presence de Linda
Lovelace) and Tango, a killer of a film
about nymphomaniac nuns. Woody Al-
len's Sleeper ("Woody et les Robots")
had its European premier at a midnight

showing. Allen's film was well received,
in )arlicular the ragtime music. The big-
gest laugh came wheni DeGaulle was
referred to as a "great French Chef".
TIis year's festival could have easily
been dubbed "The American Film Fes-
tiVA", as the U. S. entries dominated
the jury's awards. Le Grand Prix went
to The Conversation, with Jack Nichol-
son chosen best actor for his role in The
Last Detail.
A Russian filmr entered in the compe-
tition consisted of an adaptation of
Iluckleberry Finn. The film was in Rus-
sian with French subtitles, and although
I could not understand a word of Rus-
sian, I was fascinated by the character
Jim's attempt to speak Russian with a
black dialect.
The French were not shut out. Al-
though perhaps the best movie shown at
Cannes this year was Lancelot du Lac
by Robert Bresson, a beautiful adapta-
tion of The Knights of the Round Ta-
ble. It was not entered in the compe-
tition, however. Marie Nat won best ac-
tress in Les Violons du Bal, a film con-
cerning a Jewish woman in France dur-
ing the Nazi occupation.
The Prix du Scenario (best story)
went to yet another American film,
The Sugarland Express, Thieves Like
Us, a movie directed by Robert Altman
and which received wide critical ac-
claim in the U. S., did not fare well with
the jury. Martin Scorsese's Mean
Streets, set in New York's Little Italy,
a film rejected by the committee, play-
ed outside the competition and proved
itself the equal of any of the entries.

FILM FESTIVAL WINNERS (left to right) Marie Nat, Jack Nicholson and
Francis Coppola display their Golden Palm awards at the awards presentation
last Friday. Marie Nat of France was named best actress for her role in
"Les Violons du Bal," a film about the Nazi occupation of France. American
actor Jack Nicholson won the award for best actor for his role as a troubled
sailor in "The Last Detail." American director Francis Coppola took top
honors for his film "The Conversation" (see below for review).

'Conversation': Plot plus sensitivity

Special To The Daily
CANNES - The Conversation, an
American entry in the Cannes Film Fes-
tival which won le Grand Prix, is both ,
complex and interesting movie. As Fran-
cis Ford Coppola, the producer, director,
and writer of the film says it is actually
"two movies in one."
Conversation is a suspenseful thriller
in which the viewer becomes deeply in-
volved in the plot. At the same time it
is an intense, detailed character analy-
sis of a professional "bugger," played
by Gene Hackman, who undergoes tre-
mendous changes throughout the course
of the film. The greatness of the film
lies in its ability to tread the fine line
between these two aspects and combine
them into a cohesive whole.
At the start of the movie, Harry Caul
(liackman) is the best bugger on the
West Coast. He is not concerned with
the morality of what he is doing; rather,
Caul is just a man doing his job.
Much of the early part of the film is
spent detailing Harry's character. We
find that he is a shy, withdrawn person
who is an absolute loner.
For $15,000 he contracts to record a
conversation of two people walking in a
small park, which he does in a master-
ful way by using three high-powered
It is only after the callousness of his
fellow professionals is shown to him at a
convention for buggers that Harry really
begins to think about his job. He remem-
bers that he once recorded three people
and several days later they mysteriously
were killed. At the time he accepted
no blame, as he did not know the pur-
pose of his mission, but now he begins to
doubt his innocence. This leads Harry to'
inspect the purpose of his latest assign-
ment, which he concludes may also lead
to death.
Harry has possession of the tapes on
which the important information is con-
tained. (Ironically similar to Nixon's po-
sition.) However, they are stolen from
him by the man who commissioned him
for the job (Robert Duvall), when he
suspects that Harry may hold onto them.
Harry tries to prevent the murder which

he knows will occur, but is unsuccessful.
The movie ends in a half-fantasy scene
in which Harry, realizing that his own
room has been bugged, destroys every-
thing in it in a vain attempt to locate
the device.
Coppola, whpse credentials include di-
recting The Godfather, producing Amer-
ican Graffiti, and the dubious achieve-
ment of writingthe screenplay for The
Great Gatsby, acknowledges three main
inspirations for The Conversation. The
first was a talk he had about five years
ago where he learned about powerful
microphones which could record over
great distances and filter out unwanted
The second influence was Herman
Hesse's Steppenwolf, on which the char-
acter of Harry Caul is based, at least in
his isolation.
The third, and most important influ-
ence is Antonioni's Blow Up, in which
David Hemmings inadvertently photo-
graphs a murder and has the evidence
Coppola wanted to make this movie
five years ago, (the part of Harry Caul
was originally intended for Marlon Bran-
do), way before Watergate became a
household word, yet it naturally seems
particularly relevant today. Coppola
says that he wants to be a political film-
maker, but not an obvious one like God-
As he says, "I want to make subtle
films about the human, underlying prin-
ciples of t-.litical and social events. If a
movie is too obvious only those who
agree with its principles will go see it,
and nothing will be gained.
"If a movie is entertaining and forces
people to think they may learn some-
thing in the process of watching it. Film
can reach so many people and so can be
such a powerful element. In that way it
can become political," he adds.
The Conversation is such a film; en-
terLaining, subtle and thought-provoking.
If he can make more movies of this cali-
ber, Coppola will become an even more
important director and thus have the
power to affect many people in the pro-


Gene Hackman bugging a toilet

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