THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Cannes Man, now on Blu-Ray from Cinema Libre Studio, is a fairly esoteric movie. Originally released in 1997, this satire of wheeling-and-dealing at the Cannes Film Festival was clearly intended to be in the same mold as Robert Altman's Hollywood-skewering classic The Player. If you know nothing about the Cannes Film Festival, you won't understand a frame of it. If you've experienced the Cannes Film Festival firsthand, my guess it that you'll love it. If, like me, you've never been there but know a few things about it, there's some fun to be had, even if Cannes Man never achieves the bulls-eye brilliance of Altman's picture.
The plot begins when legendary producer/huckster Sy Lerner (Seymour Cassel) makes a bet that he can turn any Joe Average into a hot property at the festival, simply via excessive hype. His guinea pig ends up being New York cab driver Frank Rhinoslavsky (Francesco Quinn). Lerner goes around telling everyone he meets that Frank has written a brilliant screenplay about - you guessed it - a con man in Cannes. (Cannes Man, con man…get it?) He talks this alleged screenplay up to a wide variety of celebs appearing in cameos, including John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, Harvey Weinstein, Jon Cryer, Benicio del Toro, and James Brolin. At one point, he approaches Johnny Depp and director Jim Jarmusch about the idea of them collaborating to make the film. Frank indeed becomes the toast of the festival, only to find that maintaining "hot" status is easier said than done, especially since Lerner has no interest in actually getting the project made.
Cannes Man finds humor in the way the famous film festival brings together big stars, filmmakers on the fringe, and wannabes eager to hype their own "greatness." Viewers who are familiar with Lloyd Kaufman and Menahem Golan will enjoy the way the movie satirizes the self-promotional Cannes spirit (and will enjoy their cameos, as well). Writer/director Richard Martini certainly seems to understand the insanity of an event that, by nature, requires a sense of grandiosity among those who attend it. I also enjoyed seeing the celebrities turning out to play themselves. Cannes Man was made before shows like "Entourage" made the whole stars-riffing-on-their-own-images thing cool. In that sense, it's a bit of a forefather. The scenes with Depp and Jarmusch are particularly funny.
What the picture needed was more clarity. Simply goofing on the Cannes vibe isn't enough. The characters of Frank and Lerner aren't as developed as the Griffin Mills character from The Player was, and whereas Altman clearly had a point to make about Hollywood in his film, Martini seems content to simply mock. Also, the ending runs out of steam, leaving the plot with nowhere to go except to a rather obvious denouement.
Still, Cannes Man is a genuine curio for hardcore film buffs - one that may be worth a look for anyone fascinated by the way business is carried out on the Croisette.
( 1/2 out of four)
Cannes Man is rated R for language. The running time is 1 hour and 28 minutes.