"I left Kansas City when I was 18 and went into the Air Force," Robert
Altman, recalled after the press screening of his "Kansas
City" in Cannes,
Sunday. The '93 Palme d'Or winning director ("The Player) said returning to
Kansas City to film the jazz-based movie about 1930s political machine
corruption, left him with a "cold nostalgia."
"I knew the streets and places but none of the people. So some old man or
woman would come up to me and pull out a picture and say 'This was us in
kindergarten.' And I'd look at them and they were *old*," Altman laughed.
"Now I realize why vampires avoid mirrors: When you're inside here and can't
see your reflection...well, I'm going on 32."
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brooke Smith and Miranda Richardson were in tow with
Altman, with Richardson recalling that - in line with her disheveled
character - she came to the set a little drunk and after that "I got very
"Yes, you did," seconded Altman.
"Yeah, we went shopping one day," said Leigh, "and came back and I said 'I
hope that's not your car, Miranda. The engine was running and the keys were
Altman also took a swipe at the film's production company, which he did not
name, but is the French CIBY 2000, itself very active in US productions. "We
had a tragedy on the crew," the director said, adding the producers were
concerned about money and "had no compassion for what had happened."
This is not to mention the tragedy on the screen. Croisette regular Jennifer
Jason Leigh continues the string of squashed bug performances that began with
"Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" and tracks through "The Hudsucker Proxy"
and "Georgia", in which she was very good, largely because her down and out
character seemed less a stretch than her stylized dames from the 20s. In
"Kansas City", if the banality of the storyline had not chucked out all
possibility of suspending disbelief, JJL could have been saddled with being a
picture killer. She plays, sigh, a two-bit moll, out to save her incompetent
two-bit thug of a boyfriend. Her screen time, somewhere north of 50%, is
nothing but grating, and she sounds like she's been dubbed by Olive Oyl (oh,
these self-referential directors). But you can't lay it all on her - she was
just called in to do a variation on a character theme she has beaten to
death. Time for a new agent.
Taking pains to dismiss the story, Altman said- if he said it once, he said
it a hundred times - "The picture is a jazz riff," about the hometown jazz
scene of the 1930s. Well, that worked for me, sorta, but something else
worked more. My father was born in 1902 and grew up in Kansas City in the
same neighborhood, 18th and Vine, in which Altman filmed. Bob's movie let me
see the world my Daddy saw, right down to the push button light switches in
the parlor. I contented myself with that, the coincidental wonderment of
movies when you can sit in the dark and summon the dearly beloved dead.
Julie Sisk's American Pavilion tent, parked outside Cannes Film Festival's
Grand Palais, proved once again Saturday night that with the right program -
like a live telecast of the big NBA playoffs game in which the New York
Knicks clipped the Chicago Bulls by three points in overtime, Saturday night
- it can draw more Americans than steak-frites draws flies. 20th Century-Fox
Searchlight imported two 25-inch TVs to show the game, and the big tent, a
home-away-from-home to US film and media, divided between Bulls fans watching
one set, Knicks fans the other.
In Cannes for a special showing of "Girl 6," Spike Lee paced up
between the two camps in the Pavilion, shouting instructions to the Knicks'
Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Derek Harper on how to stop the Bulls Michael
Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Since the Knicks won this one,
maybe Lee oughtta watch all the Knicks game from France. They do better with
him here than at the Gardens was the reigning theory, until the next night
the Bulls struck back with a 94-91 win in the final seconds. Spike took
solace in a meal at the Colombe d'Or in St. Paul de Vence, Monday night.
Maybe the best way to enjoy Cannes is the way the Spike is this year. He has
gotten beaten up so many times here in competition in the past, from "Do the
Right Thing" to "Jungle Fever" - which caused him to complain bitterly his
last time in competition that Cannes is for white boys only. By showing "Girl
6" out of competition, the Spike can chill out, load up on butterfat, feast
his eyes on a city full of Girl 6000s, and hang out at the American Pavilion,
cheering on his beloved Ewing.
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