Paris Cinema is a festival of all kind of cinemas, with this year more than 400 films presented in 20 different theaters. Our report is kind of a day-by-day diary (or let's say with a small delay), written by the differents members of the team who were present at those events.
Tuesday 28th, Jackie Chan opens the festival, by Archibald
Last Tuesday, with about thirty journalists and a few lucky guys, I had the chance to be invited to the Paris medal-giving to Jackie Chan by the maire Bertand Delanoë in order to celebrate his coming in town. Indeed, Sing Long (his cantonese nickname meaning "becoming the dragon") comes to present his latest american movie : Around The World In 80 Days at the opening of the Paris Cinema festival, which is going on nowadays.
It is in a magnificent lounge in the city hall that everyone is getting impatient to see the star coming, who came late but not too much, just enough to get excited every guests, among whom I distinguish Jean-Chrétien Sibertin-Blanc (Augustin, King Of Kung-Fu) who appears to be as unconcerned as his Augustin character and seems, under such circumstances, to be Augustin himself, came to catch a glimpse of his idol. But after a few minutes long waiting, several security employees make room among the little but compact crowd, and everyone therefore understands the meaning of this. And as sensed, Jackie arrives, escorted by the maire of Paris and by a translator who accompagnied him during all his stay, and without a pause, all three get up on a stand in front of which a pack of telephoto lenses was already screaming "Here, Jackie !" and others "On the top Jackie !"...
After a short speach of Mr. Delanoë, classic however quoting major events and experiences of the star (Beijing Opera School, dangerous stunts but also all his "jobs" : actor, writer, director, stuntman, producer, action choreographer, singer, dancer...), Jackie also made his speach, just as shy and impressed as the bulk of the people in the room, to tell how much this prize mattered to him. He even declared : "In Asia, for any prize, people always think "we got to give it to Jackie !", that's why when I receive an award here in Europe, it's always a great honour".
Then after a short photo session in front of the "Paris Cinema" poster, it's time for urbane introductions for Jackie who patiently had to shake a few hands like Dida's (the french muay thaï champion who played his own role in Chok-Dee) who, in front of his star, seems to be back in childhood (we all understand...). Jackie then slips away, leaving the guests to champaign and dim-sums as finger food.
So, it was a brief homage, more symbolic than anything else, that Paris payed that night to Jackie Chan who, like I was about to confirm myself the next day in interview, showed the simpleness and the warmth that we suspect him to have when a screen parts us.
Wednesday 29th June, Jackie Chan Interview, by Archibald
At first we've been told that we're going to have an exclusive interview, but after some time, Jackie Chan let us know that he canceled all the interviews to group them into one single round-table conference bringing several journalists from different medias together. Thus, it wasn't without some disappointment that Astec and myself took the place of our chief editor (NDRC: who was planning to hang himself at that time). However, from the moment the star appeared, it was an intense nostalgic feeling of a past time (when we were all died in the wool fans of Sing Long) mixed with a great happiness which filled the room. And despite this conditions less intimate than expected, it's an excellent and quite interesting interview that gives Jackie Chan, thanks to questions which by a majority were sharp and informed.
Indeed, contrarily to what I was expecting, there was only a few persons poorly informed, although we got some wild questions (from two of the three women in the room, sorry ladies...) like : "Do you perform your own stunts ?". Nonetheless, except these few people, every HK nuts (Astec and me among others) seem to have managed to be on that event. And from the first questions, the mood was confirmed, everybody had prepared top-notch questions, and the interview was really worthy, perhaps, despite the bad shooting conditions, the most documented and sharp that I ever saw (though I didn't see dozens), at least in France for sure.
Topics are various, american career, projects back at home, but also questions about subjetcs totally different like tourism or just the opinions he has on various things in life. The main thing coming out of this interview is that firstly, Jackie is definitely listless and disenchanting regarding Hollywood (he really let himself go on that topic) and that he really makes a difference between USA and Europe (France among others), regarding cinema. He even said this sentence which, I guess, filled us all with pride : "In US, people always ask me : "When is the next Rush Hour coming ?", while here I guess you're all waiting for...Drunken Master 3 !"
As Michelle Yeoh said in the excellent documentary Jackie Chan : My Story : "He is what you see !", and that's the feeling that I got from this wonderful meeting, despite a few pretentious sides that every stars of his level has, Jackie Chan showed us that day a simpleness and a patience which contibute to make of him one of the most appreciated actors in the world.
The interview will be online in the days to come.
Wednesday 29th June, Godzilla night, by Francois
Wednesday night, it's the premiere of Godzilla Final Wars, sneak preview should I say as the film will only be released in August. So I went to make myself an idea before making the interview of Kitamura the next day. The screening takes place in the PublicisCinéma on the Champs-Elysées avenue, in the presence of the director. The evening opens with a really nice short movie, Jojo in the Stars, artisticly way more interesting than the following movie. Kitamura then came to talk about his movie, under applause from a few geeks, fans of his films, of Godzillas, of both maybe. Flattered by the welcome, the director appeared quite relaxed and sharp, explaining that when the studio asked him to cut the part in Paris in the film, he simply answered "Fuck Off, I wanna blow everything". The tone of the movie is given. The audience step in for a few questions, that Kitamura answered in very relaxed way.
The screening starts, ultra-speed title which would make Michael Bay pass for Hou Hsiao Hsien under valium, 50 years of Godzilla speed best-of like. Then starts a vibrant screening, the audience already caught enjoy the easy punchlines and others cheap but fun ideas of the film. 2 hours later, you get out a bit exhausted of an extremely noisy projection, opinions are differents, like for every Kitamura's, some love, some others hate. The crazy vibe of the film gives nonetheless more than enough data for me to exploit for the interview the next day.
Translated by Archibald
Wednesday 29th June, French sneak preview of New Police Story, by MLF
Two hours before the opening of the theater doors, a group of forty people was already waiting. Some of them (mostly among the youngest) was already jeering, accusing the others to be simple-minded persons attracted by an asian ufo. This few people were actually persuaded to be the only ones to be interested by the cinematographic side of this ufo, considering that the others were here just driven by exotic curiosity. The funny thing is that by mocking the rest of the audience, it's the movie itself they were teasing, as everyone knows that Jackie Chan is entirely dedicated to his public.
Maybe twenty minutes before they opened the doors, when I turned around, I had my first satisfaction : an incredible crowd was waiting in front of the theater, the lineup was going down the boulevard so far that I couldn't see the end of it. Once we were in places, I was happy to notice that the theater was full and that New Police Story was about to get the audience it deserved. We all know the limits that has yet to be passed over for Hong-Kong Cinema to get a distribution comparable to Hollywood cinema. Therefore, it's a real pleasure to see a large theater full of people from all ages, full of amateurs, of curious people, of specialists maybe and others, in brief, an audience which proves by its size and its diversity that the movie outruns by far the small curiosity status.
After some wait, Jackie Chan made his entrance. There's nothing to say, even if he posess an aura that makes us feel a childish pleasure, he's also a great one-man show. In a few words, he warms up the place and makes a hysterical crowd out of it. He announces a future Rush Hour 3, but also a hong-kongese comedy. He also says that he's invited by the city of Paris to make a movie in France. Time will show if it was just some politician move or if one day the project will come out. Then a time of sharing comes between Jackie Chan and the audience. Unfortunately, it quickly deteriorates and a large part of the public who step in forget the movie premiere circumstances we're in, changing the exchange into a egocentric parade quite shabby. Luckily, Mr. Jackie Chan is a smart man. For each questions, no matter stupid it was, he managed to give an intelligent answer. And everyone knows that it's hard to give an intelligent answer to a stupid question.
Among the numerous things said, and that I didn't said or implied, there are two important things left. Someone asked if Jackie Chan would make a movie with his son, Jaycee. He answered no and for two reasons. First, he wants to let to his son the opportunity to start calmly his career, and secondly, he said that from his point of view, the audience (by a majority) didn't want to see them both in a film.
Finally, Mr. Jackie Chan declared something that I found really touching and which, I guess so, will touch those who like me, see Jackie Chan as an actor (as we're talking about cinema), rather than as a martial artist. He declared :
"When people see me, they do : "Hey, Jackie Chan" with fists ahead like a boxer. But when they see Robert De Niro, they do : "Ah ! Robert De Niro", body fixed, with a small head move and eyes filled with admiration and respect. Nobody does "Hey ! Robert De Niro" with fists like a boxer. I would like from people that they look at me like Robert De Niro, that they see me as an actor."
Translated by Archibald
Thursday 30th, Ryuhei Kitamura Interview, by Francois
First exclusive interview which should've been the second one after the one with the guest star, Jackie Chan, who unfortunately changed it (into a round-table conference) at the last moment. I take back my questions for the old Jackie and concentrate on a director much younger, and already very hype. 30 minutes are scheduled, with a japanese translator. Godzilla gave already a lot to discuss about, the rest of his filmography completes, I largely got enough to fill and even more. His studies in Australia confered him excellent english skills, so it wasn't too hard to persuade him to do it in english. We start with a little presentation of the man, for those who don't know him yet (the question suprises him a bit, hidden behind his trendy sunglasses), then we immediately start on the Godzilla film, in order to go straight into the subjet. The director is quite talkative, just as the day before, even though he was less comfortable, the atmosphere is of course not as good as the movie premiere's. He doesn't hesitate to spit on japanese blockbusters, but shows much less criticism on his own movies, even when we try to tease him a little bit. He cites Michael Bay in his references, I feel Marc on the edge of fainting behind his camera. Unfortunately, the interview must stop, the man is already late and overbooked. 20 minutes of interview on tape and available underneath, we take our stuff back, the next journalist is already here, ready to shoot.
Video Interview (around 20 minutes)
Saturday 2nd July, From Hong-Kong to Korea, by Francois
An interview and a premiere sheduled for Saturday. Rendez-vous at the Forum des Images for the Stanley Kwan interview, as demanded as Ryuhei Kitamura. We also obtained 30 minutes, let's hope that it won't be reduced, above all, the interview is in cantonese with a translator. Alain provided us with a 35 questions list, completed by other members of the redaction. It's thus mission : impossible, the interview can't "overflow". I therefore choose the "one film, one question" method, and starts with the first and almost unobtainable movie of the director, Women. Stanley Kwan appears to be quite chatty and nice to interview. He comes back on his old movies with precision, I must accelerate as I see the clock ticking, a few films are dropped. Last question on his new and very expected film, Everlasting Regret, 7PM, we must conclude. The quarter of the questionnaire was barely used , but we're able to mention several interesting sides of the career of this very interesting director. Subtitled video soon, once the home translators will get on that half hour interview.
Immediate leaving to the Champs Elysées avenue to go back at the PublicisCinema, for a new pre-premiere. Small and quick meal, we take the tickets a bit early, but there's not much crowd. After the japanese craziness of Godzilla, we completely change style for a Korean thriller presented in Cannes, A Bittersweet Life. The screening is much more classic, no presentation nor film crew. Only the possibility to vote for the film at the end of the showing distinguished this screening from a regular one. Then follows an enjoyable projection even if a bit long in the end. The movie tends toward other revenge movies classics, and the HK cinema fan I am can't avoid to think about heroic bloodshed. Which doesn't really help the film, as the HK competition is tough in that genre of films, between John Woo and Johnnie To's Hero Never Dies rather close in the demonstration of the pointlessness of the main theme. Too shame, the movie was technically spotless with a few impressive scenes, although a bit showy from times to times. You also notice the excellent performance of Lee Byeong-Heon, but the movie doesn't fully convince, it's a bit vain.
Translated by Archibald
Sunday 3rd July, Drunken Master 2 & Operation Condor screening, by Astec
After the wednesday 29th June round-table conference, a small Jackie Chan showing, on a wide screen, had to be done. So it was with pleasure that I went to Drunken Master 2 projection on Sunday 3rd. In the retrospection organized for Jackie Chan this year, Drunken Master 2 is with Project A the one that I don't want to miss and which I consider, with Mr Canton & Lady Rose (Miracles), as his three best movies. Firs good surprise when I got into the theater : it's full, the audience is diverse, from "geeks" to parents with their child and also some "teenz" who luv Jackie. There's nothing to say, the HK actor's quotation value has exploded. Before starting the film, Charle Tesson (who contributed to mahe people here start to recognize HK cinema, in the early 80's...) starts an introduction and a presentation of the film. Nothing really new for fanciers but there's no doubt that the main audience appreciated the context just laid, of the film, of the crew (unavoidable flashback on the clash Jackie/Liu Xia-Liang) and of the cast (Anita Mui was mentionned but not Ti Lung, unfortunately)...During all Tesson's speech, your servant and "his gang" was binging popcorn just to celebrate as it should be, this pure moment of pop-culture that a kung-fu comedy is. But apparently, it was disturbing a few people, people with a more cerebral and grave approach to that kind of event (a cinema showing)...After an irated look from one of this persons, it's of course with even more enthousiasm that we started to chew our popcorns, small corn grains lovingly prepared by a young and pretty UGC employee, and it was out of question to insult her by not doing honor to her feast diligently prepared.
The film starts (and pop-corn shuts up) and we forget that we saw it nth times in all possible ways, the pleasure to share this great HK cinema moment in company with an audience bringing a particular taste to that viewing : you surprise yourself to watch out for responses of the audience to one gag or another, to some more dramatic moment, while discovering again at a range that suits it way better. End of the screening, everyone is happy, a few applause and now two hours to kill - I drop the Project A 2 while waiting for the evening projection of Operation Condor ; just the time to eat, popcorns only feed for a time, a movie time. The evening is here, after the meal, just the time to place ourselves in the theater (missed the presentation) and let's go for another ride. In a more punchy style (here, more amazing stunts than in Drunken Master 2) a really nice moment. Nothing special, "come here guys", we go back home...
Translated by Archibald
Tuesday 5th July, kung-fu : internationalization of the genre, by Astec