Cinema: Movie Marathon at Cannes

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Two political films win prizes, but E.T. gets the cheers

The Indians," says a character in I Werner Herzog's epic movie Fitz-carraldo, "believe that the waking world is a fantasy from which we escape into our real life — our dream life." Herzog should know: he was one of 35,000 dreamers at the 35th Cannes Film Festival. For 13 days on the cool but sunny Côte d'Azur, fantasies of art and avarice were spun with blithe disregard for events in the waking world outside. On the façade of the town's posh Carlton Hotel, an electronic ticker tape mixed bulletins from the Malouines (Falklands) with screening schedules for the night's new films. While two movies about political prisoners —Costa-Gavras' Missing and a Turkish production, Yilmaz Güney's Yol — were winning the festival's top prize, the restaurants were abuzz with the latest news from Sophia Loren's pink-walled prison in Caserta near Naples. Comedy, melodrama, illusion 24 times per second. That's the name of the game in Cannes, on and off the screen.

The festival is one of the world's largest international gatherings. It is too large to satisfy the restless crowds and their hopes for great movies, big bucks or an invitation to the right party. And so there are three coexisting subfestivals. On the one hand, Cannes is a glutton's banquet of world cinema: some 350 movies unspooling at all hours in more than a dozen theaters. On the other, it is a showplace and marketplace for the industry's producers, distributors and exhibitors, from Hollywood moguls to Hong Kong porn merchants. And on the third hand — the one in your pocket: Cannes also attracts Europe's most expert pickpockets — the festival is a gilded airstrip for the jet set. The three groups can busy themselves 20 hours a day and rarely cross paths or interests.

In the 2,500-seat theater of the Palais des Festivals, where the two dozen official selections are shown, film buffs file in at 1 in the morning for Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's rendering of Wagner's Parsifal. Nearly five hours later they stagger out into the dawn's hazy light, exhausted and exhilarated. In midafternoon, Menahem Golan, the Israeli producer who now heads his own distribution company, sits on a teeming Carlton terrace flanked by Stalin-era-size posters of his stars: Faye Dunaway, Robert Mitchum, Brooke Shields, Lou Ferrigno. "I have sold a million dollars in film rights each day at Cannes," Golan purrs, but "I did better last month at the American Film Market in Los Angeles." Night falls, and for the assiduous epicure, hopes rise: before long he may be amid sparkling silverware and sleek brown shoulders at a dinner party Harold Robbins is throwing for Pia Zadora, the star of a new movie made from his novel Lonely Lady—and one of the year's show-off starlets for photographers. The experiences of one party provide conversational fodder for the next. "Loved Inchon," said one professional gadfly the day after the $45 million movie financed by Sun Myung Moon premiered to near unanimous pans. "Inchon the movie?" asked an incredulous colleague. "No," the gadfly replied. "Inchon the dinner."

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