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Eclectic DVD presents
"I can take any schmuck and make him the flavor of the week."
DVD ReviewFor two weeks each year the international movie business descends on Cannes—the film festival from all accounts is part fabulous party with beautiful people, part mercantile film market to rival anything on the floor of the stock exchange. Cannes Man is an on-the-cheap attempt to capitalize on that concentration of power and fame, a story of the attempts by a cabbie from the streets to break into the movie industry big time.
Comparisons with such industry-savvy movies as The Player are going to be inevitable, especially given that so many familiar faces (John Malkovich, Harvey Weinstein, Lara Flynn Boyle, many others) are on hand playing themselves, but really the setup for this story is taken right from Trading Places: two rich guys wager whether or not one of them can turn a loser into the toast of the film business. That loser is Frank Rhinoslavski (Francesco Quinn), who becomes Frank Rhino; his fairy godmother here is Sy Lerner, legendary producer, played by Seymour Cassel.
Lerner bets that by the end of the film festival, he can turn Rhino into the most sought-after commodity in the business, and he starts selling him as the best screenwriter to come along in years, "the new Faulkner." It's a minor inconvenience that Frank hasn't actually written a script; Sy invents a pitch for one, and calls it Cannes Man. (There's a lot of playing on the Cannes/can/con pronunciation issue, as if that were the best joke ever.) Well-placed rumors and lots of hype do the trick, and soon Cannes is abuzz with stories of Rhino and his script, promises of deals, actors and directors signing on to the project sight unseen.
Frank is an idiot, which isn't necessarily a disadvantage in a protagonist; but he's not an especially likable or ambitious idiot, which is. Quinn is adequate in the leading role, but the character he's been asked to play is so general that it's hard to know if he's capable of better. (In short, this is no Trading Places, and he's sure no Eddie Murphy.) Seymour Cassel as Lerner is all Hollywood bluster (trying to talk an actor into a part, he insists, "If Brando got skinny, I wouldn't give it to him. This is your part"), but that's about it. There's a half-baked attempt at a subplot about him and his estranged wife (played by Rebecca Broussard), and all the "secretaries" he's employed over the years, but it doesn't really go anywhere, and feels like unnecessary padding on a story that's just too thin.
But the bigger problem with the movie is this: it's just not very funny. And that's about the most damning thing you can say about a comedy—if it made you laugh out loud a lot, it would be far easier to forgive its other shortcomings. It's filled with obvious industry jokes about cell phones and car alarms; you sense that you're not in the best hands during the opening sequence, when a couple of industry types, fighting over a limo, start kickboxing one another on Wilshire Boulevard. Or here, for instance, is some of Frank's early narration: "So there I was. My first time in France. Of course, I don't speak French, so every sign is foreign, 'cause it's in French. And that's foreign, because I don't speak French." Not disastrous, maybe, but that's about as funny as the picture gets.
The other thing this movie points up is the difference between being a good actor and a good improviser. There are plenty of talented people on hand, but they're not given much to do, or they aren't inventive enough to come up with interesting bits on their own, or the director didn't provide a particularly fertile creative environment for improvisation, or all of the above. So it turns out that the best moments come not from such name actors as Benicio Del Toro or Johnny Depp, but from those who shovel bull excrement for a living: movie producers, who spin tales about the fictional Sy Lerner in footage that alternates with the Cannes scenes. Robert Evans is really good telling old war stories, but the best of them is Gary W. Goldstein, especially when discussing the festival in Cannes: "Gigantic, colossal waste of time. Yes, I've been. Twenty years in a row." Why? "You gotta go to the prom. You wanna be in the loop, you rent the tux, you go to the prom." If there was more of this, and less unfunny dead ends, Cannes Man would be easier to recommend.
Things peter out, and the ending is unconvincing; the story loses its motor, as it becomes a problem that Frank doesn't actually have a script, or a dream. (Late in the game, he tries to make one up, saying that his script is "the Menendez brothers meets Mary Poppins.") It's as if the guys in Spinal Tap just talked about making music, and didn't really do it, regardless of quality; or it's the characters in Best in Show without the dogs. What's left?
Not much, other than an impressive roster of cameos (The Usual Suspects was at Cannes that year, hence the presence of Del Toro and Kevin Pollak) and the location, the spectacular French Riviera. But ultimately, that's not really enough to sustain your interest or attention for the length of a feature film.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: The low budget on the picture is especially evident in the image quality, and in the transfer to DVD. Colors are blotchy, and there are many, many scratches and bits of debris throughout.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: Sound fares better than the picture, but it's not all that impressive. Hiss is at a minimum, but the location shooting led to some funky dynamics, with some dialogue rendered incomprehensible by the circumstances.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
2 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: There are two interviews prepared especially for this DVD—one is with producer Tom Coleman (21m:03s), the other with the director, Richard Martini (12m:48s), and they seem to have been shot in somebody's living room, much in the style of the feature. They both seem like genial enough guys and experienced in the business, but the tales of the making of this movie just aren't that interesting.
Also on hand are extended outtakes—the first (09m:07s) is with Johnny Depp and Jim Jarmusch being hounded by Frank and Sy. (A shorter version ends up in the feature.) Then there's what's billed as Various Outtakes (24m:23s), almost all of which is interview footage not used in the film, and there's a whole lot of Robert Evans. It is annoyingly without scene listings.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsThe many actors showing up in this movie playing themselves might be the lure, but don't believe the hype: Cannes Man can't. It's a well-intentioned movie that doesn't really deliver the goods, either as an industry satire or just as a screen comedy. It may make you want to jet off to the south of France, though, especially if you can do so on the studio's dime.
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