Last evening was not great for films at the 62nd Festival de Cannes. So it was with an easy conscience that one crossed the bay on which the town and its festival thrive to the Isle of Sainte Marguerite.
This was a Fort Royal of the French kings where such notables as the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask languished in the mid-17th century and the Marquis Jouffroy d’Abbans, inventor of the steamboat, was a guest of the Crown.
More recently, it is known to be the home of Vijay Mallya. That is, when he can tear himself away from Royal Challengers Bangalore to`visit here for Formula One in nearby Monte Carlo. Make beer and sip champagne!
His “India Party” thrown for the Festival was at Le Grand Jardin, or The Great Garden, where his early 20th century villa is situated on a property valued at between US $50 and 60 million.
It was at a poolside — heated water, rimmed with diyas, with dancing ladies and live musicians performing fusion music / dance and Lata Mangeshkar singing vintage filmi geet.
The previous evening had nothing but drizzle at the reception at the lavish Hinduja villa on the mainland; Mallya had ordered perfect weather for his show and got it.
He is a warm and conscientious host, with time to converse. In this case it was with Ambassador Ranjan Matthai, members of the jury of the festival’s two main sections and its top management, plus notables too numerous to name. The chat? Cinema as art and business, but many with their blackberries kept track of happenings to do with that astonishing hit in India: the Congress Party in the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha.
Going back to movies, eight of the “Top Twenty” in competition have been seen. Among them are two possible contenders for main Festival laurels: Bright Star from Jane Campion (Palme d’Or for The Piano) which tells of the tragic love of poet John Keats for Fanny Browne, and Fish Tank, by Andrea Arnold.
Four other features are fancied up pot-boilers and two make you wonder how they ever got here, Kinatay and Taking Woodstock, except that for the latter it was Ang Lee directing.
Woodtsock is ragged, unshapely and, as Variety puts it colourfully, “about as memorable as a mild reefer high.” There’s a certain archival value here. It takes you backstage to show how a few people bumbled their way to putting on a generation-changing musical event in White Lake, up-State New York (Woodstock never happened in Woodstock — make your fortune off that in TV trivia).