Cannes Day Six: Looking For Eric
Posted on Monday May 18, 2009, 16:46 by Damon Wise
After the weekend's love-in, during which I showered praise on Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock and went slightly insane for Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, I feel I have to calm my fevered mind down a little bit in anticipation for Inglourious Basterds, a film that's about to occupy the best part of three days of my life. I've already given it two on set; I did an unforgettable set visit in December that has pretty much left me desperate to see it and... I WANT THE WAIT TO BE OVER NOW! But the thing that's really killing me is that Tarantino is so supremely confident about it. Pretty much the last thing he said to me, when I asked if he had any reservations about tackling a WW2 movie, was, “Do I look like I have any reservations?” Well, he didn't and he still doesn't. I'm not naming any names (Cough! Gaspar Noe! Cough!), but while other directors are still fiddling with their films to get them ready for the competition, QT has locked his and banked it. He's been out seeing other movies, too, since he arrived on Friday, and from what I've heard he's seeing all the right ones (you can pretty much figure which). How he can concentrate on them I really don't know.
I'm not sure whether QT has seen Looking For Eric, but I'd be interested to hear what he thinks if he has. I'm an on-off fan of Ken Loach's, but if anyone ever asked me which side I was on, I think I'd say I was mostly pro-him, with reservations. This film is a very good example of what I do and don't like about his films, and it's also very representative of this year's selection. The trend this year is for auteurs to rifle their back catalogue for inspiration, and for some this is really working (see Lars Von Trier), for others the cashback sum is slightly less (the Almodovar is a case in point). The last two Loach films that I really liked were Sweet 16 and Ae Fond Kiss, but Looking For Eric is more on a par with such angry, melancholy sort-of-comedies as Riff Raff and Raining Stones. And like several other titles in the official selection – A Prophet and Mother most notably – it hangs on a single performance that could make or break the movie. Luckily, as in those two films, it makes it.
Steve Evets – The Human Palindrome (thank you, Jonathan Romney) stars as Eric, a depressed postman who is slipping into a blue drudge funk after his latest wife has left him. His friends are worried, so they try a series of ruses to bring back to his old self, which culminates in them forming a makeshift self-help group, inspired by one of Paul McKenna's self-improvement books. McKenna's text advocates finding a person you admire and visualising yourself through their eyes, so Eric settles for Eric Cantona, the legendary French footballer and sometime philosopher, who appears periodically from his subconscious to give him advice about life and love. This part of the film really worked for me, with Evets superb as the well-meaning but shambolic Eric, and there's a lovely subplot that involves him reconnecting with the first of his wives, the former dancing partner he practically left at the altar, leaving her to raise their daughter alone.
I'd hoped the whole film would be about this unfinished business, and for the most part it is, which is what I admired in it. But at around the 30-40-minute mark screenwriter Paul Laverty departs from the magic social realism to turn the film's focus to gun crime. From here, Looking For Eric just lost me; the humour subsided, and I didn't really quite know where it was all going. There are two endings as a result, one dark and funny and one sweet, but the funny one – and it IS funny – leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, because it doesn't quite square with Ken's usual, fairly strait-laced concept of right and wrong. The running time is a stretch too, and like quite a few other films here this year it needs a pair of scissors: two hours is just too much for this material.
And speaking of scissors, I think Tarantino is seeing Antichrist tonight. God only know what he'll make of it...