Cannes Briefs: Never Apologize, Just About Love


Never Apologize

Double M Prods., Travis Prods. and Circles Associates Ltd.

CANNES — Malcolm McDowell offers a reminder of the tremendous charisma he has onscreen in this film of his one-man stage show, "Never Apologize," about the late British filmmaker Lindsay Anderson. The film is almost entirely McDowell telling tall tales and riveting anecdotes about the director with whom he made such classic pictures as the Palme d'Or winner "If …" (1968) and "O Lucky Man" (1972). It screened in Cannes Classics.

Directed by Mike Kaplan, who produced Anderson's final feature, "The Whales of August" (1987), the film will be treasured by audiences for its vivid insights into the art and imagination of one of the U.K.'s most influential directors. Most of all, it's simply great fun as McDowell never runs out of delicious stories to relate.

There's not a dry minute in the actor's telling of his lifelong relationship with a man who in his time was known and adored by practically everyone in British stage and film circles. This was in spite of holding fierce opinions and being free with a lacerating tongue, as the stories reveal.

McDowell developed the stage production originally for the Edinburgh Arts Festival. It was later presented at London's National Theatre. He and Kaplan devised it from their own rich memories and the Anderson archives at Stirling University in Scotland. As captivating as it was onstage, the film benefits from McDowell's screen presence and the skill of editors Eric Foster and Kate Johnson.

Many famous personalities show up as McDowell relates Anderson's story, including Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts and Alan Bates. There also is American director John Ford, whom Anderson worshipped and got to know.

The title of the piece, "Never Apologize," comes from a line of dialogue that John Wayne repeats several times in Ford's classic Western "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon." McDowell tells of the British director's visit to see the dying Ford, and the picture ends with Anderson singing "Red River Valley" from Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" over the final credits.

But earlier, McDowell has dramatically and often hilariously conjured up images from the sets of his own films including the preposterously awful "Caligula" costarring the unflappable John Gielgud. For anyone who loves movies, this is wonderful stuff.

Ray Bennett

Just About Love

Rezo Films

CANNES — Lola Doillon's charming but slight rites of passage film "Just About Love" follows two likable teenage girls who make a pact to lose their virginity before summer is over. In fact, they manage it before school's out.

There's nothing new in the familiar tale — which screened here in Un Certain Regard — but it is told with gentle humor and without ogling its attractive young performers. It could do well with young international audiences.

Elodie (Lucie Desclozeaux) and Julie (Christa Theret) are best friends at high school with a gregarious gang of mates including Vincent (Gael Tavares) and Nicolas (Nicolas Schweri).

Elodie is bright but self-contained, while Julie, who favors the goth look, is more adventurous. They make their pact determined that their first partners will not be from among their buddies.

Elodie has her eye on an older boy in school, but he's too cool for the room. Vincent, her closest male friend, is in love with her, but Elodie thinks being with him would be like making love to her brother. Julie has no one in mind, but one day after getting wet in some classroom horseplay she is changing her top when Vincent stumbles upon her. Caught up in the moment, they give in to sudden passion.

Being male, Vincent can't keep his mouth shut, though he would prefer Elodie not learn of it. Meanwhile, Nicolas makes a bet that he can seduce Julie now that she's turned that particular corner. The usual adolescent games begin.

The story is told with affection and no exploitation of the young players. Vincent is black, and it is indicative of the film's honest intentions that no reference is made to that. "Love" is refreshingly natural even if it is almost instantly forgettable.

Ray Bennett
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