Cinema Libre // 1996 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 17th, 2011
Sometimes hype is a Hollywood agent's best weapon.
This 1996 mockumentary seeks to harpoon Hollywood insta-celebrity culture and it almost works.
While at the Cannes Film Festival, legendary film producer Sy Lerner (Seymour Cassel) makes a bet with his friend that he can take anyone and turn him into the newest, hottest Hollywood commodity. He chooses a hapless cab driver named Frank (Francesco Quinn) and tags him as the writer of the most-clamored-for scripts at the festival.
Soon Frank is rubbing elbows with huge stars and everyone from Johnny Depp to Benicio del Toro to Treat Williams is scrambling to hitch their wagons to this exciting new fraud.
I know this was made in 1996, but it looks at least 10 years older than that. Perhaps it's the film stock combined with the less than eye-popping Blu-ray visual adaptation, but Cannes Man feels ancient. Also, in this age of ridiculous Hollywood hype, the plot device of a young writer with a hot script seems relatively tame in the face of $150 million movies with $100 million marketing campaigns.
And another thing: Cannes Man isn't that funny.
It's hard to avoid a This is Spinal Tap vibe -- or at least an attempt at a vibe -- so there is some expectation that this mockumentary design would yield equivalent laughs. Nope. There are some gags that land but overall the humor just isn't there to carry the film.
Virtually all of the merriment comes from the celebrity cameo appearances, with Johnny Depp's moments the most amusing. It's refreshing to see actors willing to poke fun at themselves, but don't be fooled: this isn't nearly as self-deprecating as it should be. The actors are merely victims of some light duplicity. (Bonus oddity: seeing Brian Singer talking up the release of his little-known movie The Usual Suspects.)
The weakest element of the film is Frank. Francesco Quinn isn't strong here and he's lacking the comedic chops to sell "oblivious flunkie." His Frank is earnest, but unlikable and a dolt. Instead of someone the audience can at least laugh at, Frank becomes a source of annoyance.
That's all I can summon up for Cannes Man, ultimately an exercise in mediocrity, not nearly as punchy, edgy, and satirical as it should be, considering the fertile ground it aims to till.
I am having a difficult time validating the Blu-ray's existence. The 1.78:1, 1080i transfer offers only a few degrees of visual improvement over a DVD, the stereo track is serviceable in its dialogue-heavy pursuits but a far cry from what Blu audiophiles are used to and there are no extras.
A lukewarm film is made even more forgettable with a Blu-ray disc to forget.
No Cannes do.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R