The man feels strange here, you can see that immediately. His short-sleeved designer summer shirt stretches strangely over his beefy upper body, his feet are simply not made for yacht club slippers. Matt Damon is sitting in a suite of the Marriott Hotel on the Croisette – an orgy of white marble and silver with a wide view of the Riviera – and grins slightly tormented. But what a pleasure to meet an interviewee in flesh and blood again! He asks for confirmation of the other person’s vaccination protection and says: “Then we’ll take off the stupid masks, won’t we?”
It’s the return of human encounters in the film business interview circus, and Damon’s appearance fits perfectly with the film he’s presenting here in Cannes: Tom McCarthy’s “Stillwater”. In it he plays a man who is also very strange in the south of France: Bill Baker, a “roughneck” from the Oklahoma oil rigs, model of traditional American masculinity, a guy who would never pretend, but also never saw a reason, his own Questioning restrictions. The film follows his broad back in lumberjack flannel to Marseille, where his lesbian daughter studied until she – clearly based on the Amanda Knox case – was convicted of murder in a murder case. “It was supposed to be an American film that was secretly turning into a European film,” says Damon.
That worked, presumably mainly because of the collaboration of Thomas Bidegain and Noé Debré, two of the leading screenwriters in France. And so the engine of the American plot – the real perpetrator could still run around freely in Marseille, the judiciary has ticked the matter, Baker wants to find him – slowly stutters, while the Roughneck does not quite voluntarily adopt the French way of life, a French theater actress and lets in her nine-year-old daughter, who likes to pretend she speaks English. Which in turn goes perfectly with Bill, who is learning a few words of French with great difficulty. It’s nicely told and very lovable, and after Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” it is already the second film to reveal a new transatlantic love between Hollywood and France.
In Cannes, you have to develop your love for the cinema through sitting meat
Meanwhile, the observers of the competition are piling up the voices that believe that the Japanese Ryusuke Hamaguchi and his film “Drive My Car” will win the Golden Palm. Hamaguchi won the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin for his last work “Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy”, and now he has turned a short story by Haruki Murakami into a three-hour, very contemplative film in which a director and actor (Hidetoshi Nishijima) a multilingual production of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” is rehearsed and at the same time he is driven around a lot in the Hiroshima area – the local theater festival does not allow him to drive his own car for insurance reasons.
In Cannes, the idea has always been upheld that you have to develop your love for the cinema through real sitting meat, and “Drive My Car” is a perfect example of the rewards that actually await behind the apparent gaps and repetition loops. For example, the director mourns the loss of his late wife, who liked to tell him erotic stories during sex that gushed out of her with increasing pleasure, as if she had wonderfully tapped the poetry of her unconscious. It’s very erotic, and after the few examples that you get to see, you mourn this character almost as much as the man who lost it.
In the only friendly but increasingly intimate conversations between the director and his young driver (Toko Miura), all these things come up again, but also the childhood wounds of the discreet and closed chauffeur. Things are said about love and deceit, feelings of guilt and acceptance, rejection and forgiveness that have not been heard in such depth and clarity for a long time. The fact that you can never fully understand people, not even the most loved ones, is a realization of the film that you definitely don’t want to contradict.
Back in the marble suite of the Marriott Hotel, Matt Damon talks about the real Roughnecks in Oklahoma, whom he visited and studied before filming and who, as he reports, received him very warmly. “My ambition was that you would see the film and then say, that Bill Baker there on the screen, I know him, he could be my buddy.” If you only believe the media, the cultural gap between liberal Hollywood – which has one of its eloquent spokespersons in Matt Damon – and Roughneck America has long since been insurmountable, although it was very easy to ignore the political issues with these men for the time being even to laugh heartily about it. “I was angry after these encounters,” he says. “To all the people in America who no longer want to see what we have in common, but just keep dividing us.”