Quentin Tarantino, who's in Cannes for the 20th anniversary screening of his Palme d'Or-winning "Pulp Fiction," held a press conference on Friday and proclaimed that the two most exciting directors working in cinema today are David Fincher ("Fight Club" and the upcoming "Gone Girl") and Austin's Richard Linklater, whose "Boyhood" will hit screens this summer.
Answering a question from Roger Ebert's widow Chaz about the state of cinema, Tarantino says he checks in from time to time with a circle of wel-informed friends who pay close attention to movies, and that he recently emailed all of them and asked that they list the directors that excite them the most. And by excite, Tarantino explained that he meant who's doing the best work and whose best work might be ahead of them.
He said that only two names made everyone's list: Fincher and Linklater. He personally expressed surprise that Spanish director Pedro Almodovar wasn't on everyone's list and said Almodovar was certainly on his.
The question came at the end of a hour-long question-and-answer session in which Tarantino touched on numerous topics: the importance of editing, the crucial role that music can play, the impact of spaghetti westerns and the woeful effects of the digital age on cinema. At one point, Tarantino said that he sees the digital revolution as the "death of cinema" and that he hopes a new generation of moviegoers will insist on 35 millimeter. "It's too late for this generation," he said.
When pressed on the difference between digital and 35-millimeter films, Tarantino said that he saw no reason to leave the house to see a digital film, because you can see that on TV. "I don't need to go see television at a theater," he said. "Thirty-five millimeter is a reason to leave the house."
Tarantino will also be hosting a special screening of the 50th anniversary of "A Fistful of Dollars," a Sergio Leone film that he says helped revive cinema, with its emphasis on incorporating music with editing and its overall operatic flair. He said he considers spaghetti westerns to bve the "birth of genre action cinema, with music in the foreground."
He was especially dismissive of movies in the 1950s and 1980s, saying that they were products of repressive times, when studios insisted that the main characters be likable. And if they weren't likable, they at least had to undergo a reformation in the last 15 minutes.
"I like showing warts and all," he said, "and I like it when I have .. violent, deplorable characters that I'm gonna get you to root for anyways."
Then he added: "I do have a sympathy for the devil."
He said that his cinema in the 1990s, like "Reservoir Dogs," was an answer to the repression of the 80s.
Tarantino's press conference came after the final screening of the films in competition. The last to screen was Olivier Assayas' "Sils Maria." And I personally think it's a longshot for an award. It stars Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz in a story about an aging actress (Binoche) who's considering starring in a play that's a sequel to the first play she ever did. And this time, she's playing her older nemesis, rather than her original character.
The cinematography is wonderful, with dramatic views of the Swiss Alps. But there's a distinct lack of narrative thrust, and the performance from Stewart is rather one-note. (She plays Binoche's personal assistant.)
"Leviathan," meanwhile, was the penultimate film to screen in competition, and it has been receiving favorable reviews. Directed by Andrey Zvyaginsev of Russia, it deals with a man who is battling the mayor of a seaside village who wants to declare eminent domain and take away his land. The film indirectly questions whether the Russian government is really serving its citizens, and much of the film is devoted to bureaucratic battles. But the little guy in this movie isn't an easy target to take down.
There's also copious drinking of vodka. No surprise there.
The winners in the Palme d'Or competition will be announced Saturday.