'Movies About Movies' A Recurring Theme At Cannes

Melissa Block talks about the films generating buzz at the 2013 Cannes film festival with Steve Zeitchik, who covers film for the L.A. Times.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

It's that time of year when the red carpet unfurls in the south of France and stars descend for the Cannes Film Festival. Steven Zeitchik is there. He covers film for the Los Angeles Times, and he joins us to talk about some highlights of what he's seen so far. Steven, welcome back to the program.

STEVEN ZEITCHIK: Good to be here. Thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: It sounds like there's a mini theme this year of movies about movies and moviemaking, and let's start with one that sounds really intriguing. It's called "The Congress." It's part live action, part animation with digital avatars, is that right?

ZEITCHIK: Exactly. That's exactly right. It's a movie from an Israeli director named Ari Folman, who did "Waltz with Bashir" - some listeners might remember it - a political documentary that also was a hybrid back in 2008. And here, he's doing a movie in which Robin Wright plays a version of herself, and she's being asked by a Hollywood studio executive to kind of digitize herself, give herself over so that her likeness will live on on movie screens long after she does.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE CONGRESS")

DANNY HUSTON: (as Jeff) We are to scan you, all of you. Your body, your face, your emotions, your laughter, your tears. We want to sample you, preserve you, and we want to own this thing called Robin Wright.

BLOCK: This thing called Robin Wright, that's so creepy.

ZEITCHIK: It really is. And, you know, this movie deals with the issues of where the line between digital and reality starts to blur, and the movie actually becomes animated halfway through, very saturated bright colors, but a very dark sort of undertone. So the movie has more than just Hollywood on its mind. It has also kind of the future and how Big Brother watches us on its mind as well.

BLOCK: Well, another movie about moviemaking there at Cannes this year includes a movie that is actually set at the Cannes Film Festival itself, right? It's part documentary, part feature film. It's called "Seduced and Abandoned." What's it about?

ZEITCHIK: Yeah. Well, this is a movie - that's exactly right. It's about as meta as it gets because you're sitting in a Cannes Film Festival screening room, watching a movie about someone trying to make a movie at the Cannes Film Festival.

(LAUGHTER)

ZEITCHIK: So if four glasses of champagne that people regularly consume isn't enough to make their heads spin, this will. This is a movie by James Toback, a well-known director who's turning his attention to the movie industry. And here, he's got Alec Baldwin and himself at last year's Cannes Film Festival it's actually when they shot it, going around, trying to get a movie made. It's a very satiric movie or satiric idea.

They call it "Last Tango in Tikrit," and it's a very explicit sexual drama set in Iraq, and they're kind of doing it for spoof purposes, but they're trying to show you how a movie gets made or doesn't get made. And it's a very sort of comedic look at the absurdities of the film business, which is just funny to watch while you're sitting amid said film business.

BLOCK: Well, another movie that seems to be getting a lot of buzz is about Greenwich Village in the 1960s.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS")

BOB DYLAN: (Singing) So it's fare-thee-well...

JOHN GOODMAN: (as Character) What did you say you played?

OSCAR ISAAC: (as Llewyn Davis) Folk songs.

GOODMAN: (as Character) Folk songs. I thought you said you were a musician.

DYLAN: (Singing) ...another day, another time.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: And, Steven, this is a movie directed by the Coen brothers. It's called "Inside Llewyn Davis."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS")

DYLAN: (Singing) ...another time.

ISAAC: (as Llewyn Davis) I'm interested in gigging here.

GOODMAN: (as Character) I'm going to say something.

ISAAC: (as Llewyn Davis) You don't want to hear the record?

GOODMAN: (as Character) Why should I? You're here, play me something. Play me something from inside Llewyn Davis.

BLOCK: And, Steven, we're hearing Bob Dylan, but this is not a movie about Bob Dylan himself, right?

ZEITCHIK: No, it's not, and that's the really interesting tag of the Coen brothers' take. Of course, they always have a sort of offbeat look at things we think we know, and the folk scene is top of that list. Bob Dylan does make a brief appearance, but it's loosely based on a folk musician named Dave Van Ronk, who kind of preceded Dylan but never quite got the acclaim or anything close to it.

And the character's name Llewyn Davis, and he's played by a young Guatemalan-born actor, actually, named Oscar Isaac, who's quite good in the role, sings, does - pretty much carries the movie as in every scene. And I think listeners will really like seeing him play this character.

BLOCK: Well, overall, Steven, what - how would you rate the crop of 2013 movies at Cannes this year?

ZEITCHIK: Well, you know, kind of as we've been talking about it, even just in these four films, it's a pretty diverse selection. And a couple of big ones haven't even played yet. There's a movie called "Nebraska" coming in a couple of days. Alexander Payne who, of course, did "Sideways" and "About Schmidt," a movie called "The Immigrant," James Gray who did "The Yards" and "Two Lovers." So more to come, but there's already a pretty wide range of material, not all of it landing, which is sort of the fun of the festival, but certainly very much diverse and interesting vintage.

BLOCK: Steven Zeitchik covers film for the Los Angeles Times, and he's covering the Cannes Film Festival. Steven, thanks so much.

ZEITCHIK: Thanks for having me.

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