Where do we start? After a tumultuous month of April where I went from the double-barreled low of the death of my cat and my job on my birthday to the high of seeing THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE (my feature directing debut) get a more than nice critical reception on its release, with May comes my first trip to Cannes.
Yes, after more than a decade of film fest travels, I finally found myself headed to France thanks to the assignment to bring this column – maybe temporarily, maybe long term – to Festworks.com from the dearly departed Film Threat. On a plane from New York to Stockholm to Nice seated behind the Scandinavian Family Robinson blithely rubbing everyone else on the plane’s nose in the fact this would be the closest we would all come to their particular brand of genetic blonde prettiness in one tidy little nuclear family, I tried to distract myself with the plane’s small video screens playing animated comedies starring Rowan Atkinson and then nature videos of adorable wildlife. However, my curiosity as to how it was determined that this was entertainment for the flying masses by Norwegian Air kept getting interrupted by a peering blonde moppet face staring at me or its cherubic twin sister googooing something at the lady sitting next to me, happy to pretend she spoke “Swedish baby.” I arrive in Nice and I find a driver with a sign that says “John Witdman.” Close enough. Let’s go!
The driver drops me off at the hotel and I discover there is no room waiting for me or film critic and programmer, Robert Koehler, who I was supposed to be staying with. I’ll find out later that he doesn’t get in until the next day, and neither does my room, so to speak. So I set off through Cannes, luggage in tow, to find the rest of my group at another hotel to spend the night there. And, naturally, I have no idea where I am going. After wandering around for about thirty minutes, I run into Getty Images photographer Neilson Barnard, who kindly leads me around town and points me in the right direction. Every film fest I go to these days, it seems like I find one of the Team Getty photographers who either lend a hand or are just happy to see me away from the red carpet.
FINALLY, I find the other hotel, drop off my stuff and then find Rose and Dave at a restaurant down the street. The three of us worked together at AFI FEST years ago and were planning to join forces for Festworks prior to Rose and then myself heading to New York to do our fest thing there at Lincoln Center. Also part of the group is Indiewire’s Eric Kohn with first, IFC’s Arianna Bocco and then, film festival bon vivant and Brooklyn Free Video chief Aaron Hillis, stopping by on their way to other fabulous places. Then producer and former Motion Picture Academy President Hawk Koch joins us and the glamorous big time movie shit suddenly gets real. He and Rose and Dave and Bob, etc. are working on putting together a brand new film festival in China that makes the word ambition sound like it needs a booster shot. All I know is there is a lot of shellfish and rosé and I want to be invited to THAT party in 2017 when it’s due to launch.
We eventually call it a night so here is a good place to talk about the first Cannes film I saw, thanks to the wonders of viewing links.
Trey Edward Shults’s KRISHA stars Krisha Fairchild as a sixty-something woman returning for a family dinner and celebration following an unexplained separation from everyone. While the mood amongst the large group of various relations is boisterous and happy, there is an edge to it all that is readily apparent, as if the unspoken is desperate to be blurted out at any moment, as well as a barely contained anger straining to be revealed and satisfied. Meanwhile, Krisha is clearly someone putting the bravest face on a tenuous hold on her recovery from drug and alcohol abuse – trying to say the right things, contribute to the proceedings, engage everyone in a positive way, and show her family that she has it together. It’s a combustible scenario with the odds so heavily weighted toward the obvious conclusion that the film is less a study of struggle of opposing force versus immovable object, but rather an artful documentation of a single character’s descent into an inescapable fate.
Shultz has crafted something pretty special with the film as he adheres the audience so closely to Krisha throughout the film that you feel as if you are doing a tandem jump through a wind tunnel of hostility and despair with her. The shot selection, the sound design, etc. successfully puts the viewer in a place where the most measured teetotaler would be driven to go on a bender faced with the onslaught of hurt and rejection Krisha faces. It truly is a harrowing experience. So much so, that you have to wonder, despite how artfully done and clearly how successful the film achieves its goals, if someone would really want to watch the film with a group of people. Watching the film, I was reminded of the phenomena of girls watching TITANIC in theaters (and this may possibly be an urban legend) where they would bring heavy coats to put in the seats on either side of them to prevent anyone else from sitting there so they could “be alone with Jack/Leonard DiCaprio.” In a similar way, I think maybe KRISHA is best suited to be viewed on VOD, where you can suffer and agonize alone in your living room with her as well.