Death on the Croisette – Wenders gets my Palme

The famous seaside walkway in Cannes – the Croisette – has been stampeded this year by the horses of the apocalypse. We’ve had famine, disease, war and rape in a very high quality but rather grim selection of subject matter dealt with by the films in the official competition. The Palermo Shooting – the film by Wim Wenders I’ve just seen this evening is no different. Death is once again a central theme. And yet the way in which Wenders deals with the subject matter is so totally different that it feels as though a fresh wind has just blown through Cannes. Wenders’ film tells the story of forty year-old photographer – Finn – who is smacked in the face by the mother of all mid life crises. Amidst glitzy photo shoots with Milla Jovovitch (playing herself), vintage cars and a bona fide rock n’ roll lifestyle, Finn, played by Die Toten Hosen’s Campino (one of the most outrageously attractive men I’ve ever lusted after on screen) starts dreaming of clocks marking the time passing in his superficial existance. He can no longer see beneath the surface of his glitzy lifestyle. His life is tranformed by a near miss car accident in which he logically should have ended up pasted all over the tarmac. This brush with death enhances his existential angst and, after one last minimalistic photo shoot with Milla in Palermo, he decides to stay on in Sicily, increasingly drawn by the mysterious and somehow calming atmosphere of the city in which death is an everyday part of life. The strange dreams continue and Finn’s problems get worse when a mysterious bowman starts taking pot shots at him, shooting arrows which at first just miss their target but then hit him square in the chest. Or do they? He meets a guardian angel (Wenders is big on angels) in the form of Flavia, an Italian artist who restores the magnificent old frescos in Palermo’s crumbling buildings. He decides to confront the mysterious bowman head on and finds himself face to face with Death himself played by no other then Dennis Hopper. And Death is not happy. In the central set piece scene of the film, Death explains to Finn that he is not to be feared, but is part of life, part of each and every one of us. He simply suffers from, as Hopper delicately puts it “an image problem” and asks Finn if he can photograph him in an attempt to put this right.

The film is aesthetically gorgeous – the first part dealing with the designer, chrome and glass lifestyle of a fashion photographer contrasting beautifully with the muted terracottas of the scenes in Palermo. One can’t help thinking of Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’ in the sense that the main character travels to Italy to confront death – albeit with very different outcomes. Finns’ dream sequences are nicely surreal with a kind of Magritte-esque anxiety to them. Campino’s portayal of Finn is beautifully judged with wry self-awareness and flashes of dry humour. And although Finn’s brush with Death is a salutory experience, we come out of the film having witnesses a celebration of life. Live each day as though it were your last and cherish your mortality is the message here. The film also features one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard. So although I have little hope that Wim Wenders will walk away with the big prize, he gets MY Palme d’Or for a barmstorming return to form.

Any love out there for Wim Wenders? Who’s a fan?
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14 thoughts on “Death on the Croisette – Wenders gets my Palme

  1. Can’t wait to see this..huge Wenders fan…Great visuals/ interesting soundtracks/ thought provoking themes..whats not to like!(waits for cold-style-substance-debate to rage)reading about the films at Cannes there does seem to be an overwhelming amount of Bleak films.Is it a sign of the times?…on another note, have you seen ‘Synecdoche’? is it as hard to understand as it is to pronounce..I’ve loved Kaufman films so far.

  2. George Formby was a great fan: “Now it’s a job that just suits me A Wenders watcher you will be! If you could see what I can see When I’m watching Wenders…”

  3. Well had I known that I would have pushed my way through the cinema to the windswept giant and said ‘Wim, you do know Geroge Formby was a huge fan…?’ No, I didn’t get to see the Charlie Kaufman as that was a very hot ticket indeed. I have also loved all his work so far (How brilliant was ‘Adaptation???’). But at least I know how to pronounce his film. We were all calling it Sinek-dosh (and indeed many French will continue to do so). It’s Sin-Ek-Dokee (Eric Morecambe voice ‘not a lot of people know that’). And yes you will probably adore the new Wenders film. I shall go and see it again and get the soundtrack. I understand some of the songs are by Die Toten Hosen. I am now officially in love with Campino who gets CineDonds for hobbling up the red carpet with a broken ankle and two crutches.

  4. Salut Frenchy et merci – that’s a worthy winner. Very much like his pronunciation of ‘Imposseeballe’. I was actually planning on hiding in my hotel room to watch it last night but we so much enjoyed the Wenders film that we needed to go and do a post mortem with large quantities of splendid Italian red and great pasta. So I was in bed at one o’clock. Again. And missed it. Tactical voting going on again I see…Pour ton info the 3 French films in the selection went down rather well. Arnaud Desplenchin’s ‘Conte de Noël’ was beautiful with Deneuve and Amalric acting each other off the screen. Garrel’s ‘Frontiers de l’aube’ was laughed at and then we all got a bollocking from ‘Les Inrocktibles’ and ‘Libération’ for being ignorant bastards. The last film ‘Entre les murs’ by Laurant Cantet was apparently a fabulous portrait of a school teacher struggling to keep a class of difficult kids under control – went down very well. On verra ce soir….

  5. He was marvellous. Sad, tender and irked to always be cast as the Bad Guy. His best line was.. “after all, I’m just a service provider….”

  6. Hi FP. Your first post describing the weather on the croisette had me thinking you were actually back in Whitley Bay, strolling the promenade and merely daydreaming. Wouldn’t that be fun – THE film festival in Whitley Bay, with Madge and Quentin and Harrison and the like swanning around clutching clammy hamburgers, candy floss and bottles o’ broon.Wenders sounds cool – I’ll look out for it at the recently re-opened Tynside Film Theatre later in the year. Hasn’t Entre Les Murs won the Palme D’Or? If it has, is it that good? Did you by any chance get to see Blindness? It sounds brilliant according to reviews I’ve perused in the papers. I’ll try and read the book this summer before (probably) buying the dvd.

  7. ‘Der Himmel ueber Berlin’ is one of my all-time favourite films – but, try as I might, I cannot work out what’s so great about ‘Paris. Texas’ at all.On a German theme, many apologies for hyping their entry for Eurovision this year. I was wrong; it turns out that the winner of the Bundesvision Song Contest does not after all automatically go forward, so you all missed the glories of ‘Subway to Sally’ (harder rock than Finland, more serious pirate theme than Latvia…). There is an entirely separate contest, though apparently most of those involved were also in the Bundesvision one – including the four tone-deaf bimbos who turned out to be the offical entry. How else could they have chosen something that was nearly as bad as the UK one?

  8. What’s great about Paris, Texas is the soundtrack. I like the first two thirds of the film but then it gets ruined for me by the last third.

  9. Tempus – yes indeed. We MUST organise the (deep breath) Whitley Bay International Film Festival with the Rendez-vous café as the hub of the glittering action (more about that later). I can just see Madge and Guy and Sharon queuing up at the side window for a ’99. Very glad to hear the Tyneside’s open again. Lovely cinema. I saw ‘let’s Get Lost’ there with my Dad. That’s due for a re-release incidentally – Bruce Weber was down in Cannes to promote it. My favourite ever jazz film. OK that and Round Midnight. I didn’t see the winning film or Blindness. I hear it’s very very good indeed and Blindness is a bit ‘meh’. France has gone ape shit at winning the Palme for the first time in 2O years – which you can understand.Abahachi and Mnemonic: I also love Himmer über Berlin and this film reminded me very much of that as it’s the same interior monologue from a sympathetic charecter you begin to care about. It’s been DESTROYED by the film critics which is puzzling as the audience LOVED it and reacted very warmly to it. Strange. I think some films just don’t go down well with critics but do with audiences. And that doesn’t mean they’re bad films, does it?

  10. Frogprincess your eloquence is compelling; I didn’t like Palermo Shooting but you make outstanding points….

  11. Wow – chuffed that Peter bradshaw read my wee review. Considerably less chuffed about Sidney Pollack. Out of Africa on the telly this Thursday. Obviously. Cue John Barry’s soundtrack…..

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