Obviously, not every movie at Cannes is an artistic masterpiece. Heck, some real dreck even sneaks its way into the main competitions (hi, Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty). But it's out in the Marché du Film, the movie marketplace, where the true cine-madness lurks. From Cupid Dog to Dino Mom, from Bong of the Dead to Dear Friend Hitler..., come with me on a trip into the deranged realm of the Trash Cannes.
Last year at Cannes, between scoping out such ace fare as Mike Leigh's Another Year and Xavier Dolan's Heartbeats, myself and Indie editor Emma also took a look at some of the more oddball flicks which were present at the festival, if not quite correct. Because aside from the headline acts – your Malicks, your Almodóvars, your Winding Refns – there are movies of every conceivable size, shape and genre pitching up at the Palais des Festivals each year, their backers arriving armed with fervent hopes of securing that crucial investment or signing that bonanza of a distribution deal.
And while the 2011 edition of the festival might have far surpassed last year in terms of the quality of the films in competition, the movies swilling round the Marché were as mixed a bag as ever. Like what? Well, Christmas at Castlebury Hall seems as apposite a place to start as any. Directed by Michael Damian (who, according to IMDb, also has Marley & Me: The Puppy Years on his upcoming slate. Can such a thing really exist?), the movie is all about a regular young gal who falls for a European prince, it seeming not unfair to suggest that the film is looking to ride the crest of the Kate 'n' Wills wave (that being a wave of snooty lunatic bilge).
Playing the Duke of Castlebury in the movie is no less a personage than the erstwhile Saint, James Bond, and Seymour Goldfarb, Jr., the all-time hero of Alan Partridge, Sir Roger Moore himself. And judging from the available publicity pics of Sir Rog, he is these days looking a bit like an inflatable version of himself that has had too much air pumped into it first, only for it now to be slowly deflated in a bid to get it down to more manageable dimensions. Worth noting also that if he didn't still possess a fine rug of hair, then Moore's uber-tanned head would simply blend in, chameleon-like, with the rich hues of his character's stately throne.
Thanks to the apparent passing resemblance to one of the biggest media brouhahas of the year so far, a certain amount of buyer attention will surely have come the way of Castlebury Hall (and no, I couldn't find a better quality poster shot, having foolishly binned my printed copy before leaving Cannes). And with 'simply getting noticed' being one of the most crucial tasks facing those intrepid souls who step into the whole Marché circus, it was no surprise to see plenty of movies advertised in the Cannes dailies and around the Palais which used eye-catching titles in a seeming bid to masquerade otherwise not especially noteworthy content.
For example, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, which sounds like an unremarkable thirty-something ensemble comedy, starring Will Forte, Leslie Bibb and Lucy Punch, amongst others. Or Dear Friend Hitler..., which has the sum total of eff and all to do with Lars von Trier, but is instead an account of how poster boy of peaceful protest and eight-time grown-up nappy-wearer of the year, Mahatma Gandhi, wrote to LVT's newly-revealed Nazi soul mate back in 1939, in a bid to get him to knock all that war-mongering nonsense on the head. Incidentally, fail on that one, Mahatma. EPIC fail, my man.
On the other hand, there were plenty of movies which pitched up in Cannes bearing fairly non-descript names and equipped with synopses that perhaps could've just done with that extra five minutes of work. Feast your peepers, for instance, on the Marché catalogue summary of US horror, Neighbor, directed by Robert Angelo Masciantionio...
'A mysterious new girl arrives in posh suburban neighbourhood and quickly sets out to terrorize the town.'
Okay, so maybe we could have done with an 'a' before 'posh suburban neighbourhood', but overall so far so non-awful. However the second and concluding line finds things going more than a little bit awry...
'As she starts breaking into homes and torturing the occupants, they begin to realize that she isn't just another girl next door.'
'They begin to realize'? Really?! And what, prey tell, was it that fostered these first doubts amongst you razor-sharp cookies? The breaking into homes? The torturing? Or did it require a combination of the two to make you think, 'Hold on, there's something a bit rum about this new girl'? By the way, if any of you geniuses happen to need any double-glazing fitting, or you want to invest in a Spanish holiday timeshare, then please don't hesitate to get in touch.
If that synopsis was a tad muddled though, then what about the selection presented by Imagination Worldwide? Said company brought a roster of 17 films to Cannes, in various stages of completion, (several were produced by Lance Entertainment, which is operated by industry veteran Pierre David, who via his Cinepix firm helped David Cronenberg get started back in the '70s), with the attendant log lines offering a litany of pleasures. Particularly for those who savour a near-brusque succinctness and the wild overuse of exclamation marks...
The Wife He Met Online – 'They met online. After a whirlwind romance, they are getting married! If only he knew...'
Alyce – 'She was always a bit weird... now she is truly insane! The breakdown of a psychopath!'
Yes, that's right, the leap from 'bit weird' to 'truly insane' is a far shorter one than most would have you believe.
Secrets From Her Past – 'It's time to tell the truth!'
I'm still not sure if this is a strapline for a film or a popular call to arms, the demand of a revolutionary firebrand to the world's moneyed elite, exhorting them to come clean about the full failings of the World Bank, IMF and rampant free-market capitalism. Viva El Salvador!
The Perfect Roommate – 'Don't let her live with you!'
Is this an incredibly lame riddle? 'Who's the perfect roommate? Someone who doesn't actually live with you.' True, though. Gives you freedom to fart with impunity.
Don't Let Him In – 'What if you invited a serial killer on holiday?'
A nigh-on philosophical question I'm sure millions ask themselves on a daily, nay, hourly basis. Mind you, if Don't Let Him In alludes to some bizarrely high-minded thinking, then Hong Kong action flick Naked Soldier just comes over as a bit confused...
'A gorgeous lethal killer, brainwashed by the villain, makes a startling discovery in a secret mission to eliminate a person she can in no way imagine.'
Ooh, I dunno. Imagine two legs. Two arms. A head. You're most of the way there.
Genre fare such as Naked Soldier has come to dominate at film markets, as tougher commercial conditions have left buyers scrabbling around for what they perceive to be sure-fire product. 'Sure-fire' generally being a euphemism for 'guns, boobs and blood'. Salaciousness, in other words (I'm sure stoner zombie movie Bong of the Dead did better business than many, just on the basis of its title).
But there is still some room for more gentle-sounding independent fare, of the kind that might have even sparked a mini-bidding war just over a decade ago. Miserable git that I am though, there is little I can stand less than a quirk-festooned indie, and these were two of the most irksome-sounding ones I spotted during this year's Cannes.
Tortoise in Love – 'A lovelorn young gardener's awkward attempts at courting fall flat until he enlists the help of a young boy and an entire village who give him their own well meaning, but very British, lessons in love.'
Jesus Henry Christ – 'Ten-year-old Henry, who has a genius IQ and a feminist mother, follows a string of Post-it notes in hopes of finding his biological father.'
Ugh, how utterly charmless. Like a drunken acquaintance leaning in to whisper something in your ear, only to vomit uncontrollably, duly filling your aural canal up with so much sick that it starts slopping out the other side of your head. Decent cast for the latter though, with Michael Sheen and Toni Collette both featuring.
If the pronounced undercurrent of laboured zaniness coloured me hateful towards those last two movies, then there were plenty floating about which just sounded flat-out dreadful. The kind of movies you would crawl over broken glass to avoid ever having to watch as much as a minute of. Here are some of the worst offenders, complete with genuine synopses...
Cupid Dog – 'A mischievous dog plays matchmaker!'
If Owen Wilson voices the dog then it is official: the renaissance was all a big waste of time and paint.
Dino Mom – 'Three curious kids trip a time machine and suddenly find themselves face to face with a smiling T-Rex. They're not food, they're family!'
Personally, I'd rather watch the version where they're food. Especially if the time machine was in north London and the curious kids are over-privileged little mop-tops named Toby, Henry and Olivia.
Twigson Ties the Knot – 'Twigson is back and this time he meets the twig of his life! Get ready for action and romance with Junior and Twigson, as Twigson falls in love with Caroline – a very special birch wood twig. And it s not just Twigson s heart that s beating faster. (sic)'
Anybody got a light?
Cattle – 'The true life of a cow: grazing, ruminating, gazing – but also feeling – mooing with grief, or simply enjoying an apple...'
They've got to be fucking kidding.
However, not wanting to end on a negative note, it seems only right to draw your attention to one of the possible gems to emerge from the ocean of madness that is the Marché, all pert and alluring like Ursula Andress in Dr. No.
The movie in question is action movie spoof Poolboy: Drowning out the Fury, starring Danny Trejo, Jason Mewes and, in the title role, Kevin Sorbo, who in his small screen guise of Hercules propped up Channel Five's Saturday night schedule for the first few years of that UK broadcaster's existence. Directed by Garrett Brawith, the synopsis and trailer follow...
'Vietnam veteran Sal Bando (Sorbo) returns home and begins a mission to reclaim his rightful “rightful” vocation as a poolboy and enact revenge on the man who killed his family (Trejo).'