TARA BROWN: They’re possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most famous couple in the world – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – the star attraction at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. They may be sharing the red carpet with a roll call of celebrities but their only rival in the glamour stakes is Cannes itself.
BRAD PITT: Cannes is glorious, Cannes is fantastic. Cannes is, you know, this international depot of great films with this great lineage and really fun to be here with a movie.
TARA BROWN: How would you compare it to being at the Oscars, for instance?
BRAD PITT: Well, I mean, it’s not really an awards show. It’s… you get to unveil something that, you know, by the time you get to the Oscars it’s been talked about to death and there’s been, like, 18 award shows to get to there and you’re a bit weary. This is just nice and refreshing and it, you know, it’s one of the great spots in the world and you get to show something, you get to unleash it.
TARA BROWN: And the film Brad is unleashing tonight is ‘Inglourious Basterds’, the much-anticipated movie from a very exuberant Quentin Tarantino. He’s hoping for second time lucky in this world-renowned film competition. The jury of film experts awarded Tarantino top prize, the Palm d’Or, for ‘Pulp Fiction’ in 1994.
QUENTIN TARANTINO: It’s the closest thing to the cinematic Olympics that there is. I mean, it is a place where film really matters, where if you’ve grown up knowing about the Cannes film festival which I did at 12 then it really kind of… it’s Oz you know. If for a film director even for a film enthusiast for a film critic it’s like you’re going down the Yellow Brick Road to get to the Emerald City and the Emerald city is Cannes and the Grand Palais.
TARA BROWN: You certainly looked excited on the red carpet?
QUENTIN TARANTINO: Yeah, that was fun.
TARA BROWN: And you’ve described the Palais as a holy place.
QUENTIN TARANTINO: Yeah, it’s a great place to see a movie. It’s a really special experience.
TARA BROWN: The drama doesn’t just happen in the cinema – the Croisette, the colourful beachside promenade, is a show in itself – a magnet for the world’s biggest attention seekers. From the quirky to the quaint, from stilletos to stilts, from the beach to the mega boats – film critic Jason Solomons has seen it all. A columnist with Britain’s ‘Observer’ this is his 12th film festival in Cannes.
JASON SOLOMONS: Cannes is a permanent circus, it’s a bubble, it’s a prism. It’s all of cinematic life rolled up and hurled into one. It’s the parties, it’s the premiers, it’s the art, it’s the artifice. It’s the brilliance, it’s the stupidity – all in 10 days. It is quite extraordinary and there’s nothing else like it. People describe it as Fellini-esque – a parade of the, kind of, freaks and geeks of the world – and this year really is like that. Even in the credit crunch it manages to kind of power through on the promise of God knows what.
TARA BROWN: For all the chaos of Cannes – the hysteria, the photographers, the fuss – at it’s heart this film festival is all about cinema and in that sense Cannes is a great equaliser. The biggest names and absolute wannabes can get equal billing. If your film is selected it premiers here at the Palais and you get to walk the red carpet, the famous red stairs. If the jury likes your film you can go from complete unknown to superstar, overnight. And that’s what’s happened to unknown film director Warwick Thornton. All the way from Alice Springs, he and his young, shy stars Marissa Gibson and Rowan McNamara are about to become the toast of the town with their small-budget film ‘Samson and Delilah’.
WARWICK THORNTON: To get it into this place is incredibly special. It’s very exclusive and, you know, you sit next to Quentin Tarantino and Francis Ford Coppola and that’s pretty amazing and the audience just absolutely… they live cinema.
TARA BROWN: And to this discerning audience Warwick is bringing his first feature film. ‘Samson and Delilah’ is a story set in central Australia, a confronting tale of love between two teenagers who only have each other. Being selected to compete at Cannes is a big deal in itself. To walk the red carpet, to face the jury’s judgement is nerve-wracking. Warwick’s competing for the Camera d’Or prize awarded to the best novice director.
WARWICK THORNTON: In this place it doesn’t matter if you’re Steven Spielberg if they don’t like your film they’ll eat you alive and if they like you they’ll hug you to death.
TARA BROWN: And you don’t have to be Steven Spielberg to be loved and recognised?
WARWICK THORNTON: Absolutely you don’t have to be. It’s about good cinema and good story telling which is very, very cool.
TARA BROWN: And even if you’re Quentin Tarantino there are no guarantees. He’s in competition with 20 other top directors for the gold medal of film making – the Palm d’Or. So, Palm d’Or or Oscar? What’s better?
QUENTIN TARANTINO: Oh, I’ll take them both but.. I have them both, but I guess if I had to choose one or the other I would choose the Palm d’Or.
TARA BROWN: In true Tarantino style, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ is a mix of violence and comedy, set in Nazi-occupied France in World War II. Without giving too much away it’s a precocious Jewish revenge film shown here at Cannes for the first time even before its stars have seen it.
BRAD PITT: None of us have seen it. We’re all going to see it tonight.
TARA BROWN: That’s a bit weird, sitting here talking about a film you haven’t seen that you star in.
BRAD PITT: That you know nothing about. We usually bluff our way through these things.
TARA BROWN: Can I tell you one thing?
BRAD PITT: What?
TARA BROWN: You survive.
BRAD PITT: Great, great. I hear others die.
TARA BROWN: Yeah, quite a few.
TARA BROWN: What’s it like to be part of story that rewrites history, the ultimate get back movie?
BRAD PITT: Yeah, yeah, it’s, even history gets bastardised in this film.
TARA BROWN: Another surprise is the casting of comedian Mike Myers who played Fat Bastard in ‘Austen Powers’. But in ‘Inglourious Basterds’ he plays a British general.
MIKE MYERS: I got a call from Quentin and he was, like, you know, “Would you like to be a British General?” Everybody, all my group of friends, were like, “What? That’s the craziest. What? That’s the craziest. “Of course you want to do this. “That’s all you ever talk about is World War II “and being a British general.” I talk like a British General for my friends as a joke. If we’re making plans, it’d be like, “Gentlemen, here’s how I see it – drinks first, then a steak dinner. “All right, let’s go. This way to the war.”
TARA BROWN: You’ve been auditioning all your life, then, for this role?
MIKE MYERS: All my life. And Rod Taylor’s going to be in it. And I was like, “Get outta town! No way!” And Tarantino’s maybe… yeah, he’s our greatest filmmaker. He’s the most complete auteur there is. And all I had to do is micro-manage one soul, and get to wear the uniform and it was unbelievable.
TARA BROWN: And go to the party? How have you enjoyed the Cannes experience?
MIKE MYERS: Oh, I’m so shy. Those, that’s the hard part.
TARA BROWN: As red carpet royalty, the never shy Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie make it look so easy. Hard to believe there are six kids waiting for them at home. When you go away to promote a film like this what do you tell the kids? Dad’s gone away for work or dad’s gone away for play?
BRAD PITT: “Dad’s got to go to work.” And they get very angry.
TARA BROWN: Do they?
BRAD PITT: Sure, they don’t understand work. I mean the older one, my boys do, my older boys but, yeah, they don’t understand. It’s just the thing that takes mommy and daddy away.
TARA BROWN: What does Brad Pitt represent here in Cannes?
JASON SOLOMONS: He is immensely handsome, very bright and very cool, and I think for Cannes to attach themselves to something like that it kind of reflects itself through him and he’s a pretty good poster boy for this festival.
TARA BROWN: During its 62-year history the film festival has had many glamorous poster boys and girls from the golden years of Hollywood. Today, Cannes is still synonymous with superstar quality but also celebrities desperate for the limelight.
JASON SOLOMONS: Well, Cannes is in fact so important that every celebrity wants to attach themselves to it kind of get a bit of it rubbed off of that movie stardust and people like Paris Hilton who, God knows, needs some stardust because she doesn’t do anything she just turns up and kind of attracts like moths to a flame, the paparazzi.
TARA BROWN: Gatecrashers like Paris may come for the parties but for most Cannes is about the films. What does Cannes mean for the films featured here, for the films that win the Palm d’Or and the other competitions? Does it mean commercial success?
JASON SOLOMONS: Oscars definitely does that’s ‘kerching’, you can market that, Palm d’Or not necessarily. But on the European scale outside Hollywood which is a market that is becoming increasingly important with every year that passes, yes, the Palm d’Or carries a lot of clout.
TARA BROWN: After 10 long days of frivolity and the serious job of screening after screening the Festival jury didn’t grant Tarantino gold this time. Beaten by another war film, a harrowing tale from Austria. But our own ‘Samson and Delilah’ charmed the judges and director Warwick Thornton took home the coveted prize, the Camera d’Or, and the prestige of conquering the world stage.
WARWICK THORNTON: I can look back on the rest of my life now and say, “I went to Cannes with my first feature film and got a standing ovation and have had these incredibly positive reviews not only from Australia but from the world.”
TARA BROWN: For 10 days in May every year the circus comes to Cannes. In the big top, centre stage – a passing parade of stars and their films. And ringside – celebrity worshippers and wannabes. For a short time the spotlight is on Cannes and it’s bedazzling and brilliant. But all too quickly the lights go out.
JASON SOLOMONS: The saddest thing in all the world is Cannes the Monday morning after the Sunday night of the awards when the billboards come down, the flags hang limply and dirtily in the mess, the scaffolding clangs as everything comes down. Basically the circus is leaving town. The artifice is coming down, crumbling around our feet, and you know who comes in after the film conventions? The dentists come in, and that kind of puts it into perspective. Cannes during the dentists convention. I wouldn’t bother.