Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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Cannes 2007: Breath of Zodiac

Sometimes, I wonder whether film-makers forget that their audiences might just about be intelligent. Let me take two examples from the Cannes Film Festival. David Fincher’s Hollywood thriller, “Zodiac”, is a well executed, gripping movie that is based on an American serial killer who first struck on July 4 1969 in a secluded lovers’ lane in Vallejo, Calif. He walks up to a parked car and shoots the occupants. The man and the woman both die, the woman certainly, but her male friend is shown wounded. We do not know whether he ultimately does.

The serial killings go on for decades, with the murderer sending periodic teaser-letters to the police and newspapers. A crime reporter, an editorial cartoonist (because of the cipher in the letters) and a police officer get obsessed with the crime and the criminal, and their lifelong search for the elusive man goes in vain.

But as the film progresses from frame to frame, one thing is clear. There are at least two eye-witnesses, one of them certainly lives, and I cannot understand why the investigation team never uses them to identify the killer from the suspects.

Ultimately, the cartoonist carries on the probe, the police officer and the reporter having called it a day, and when he is about to bring the guilty to book, the guy dies of a heart attack.

Fincher – who grew up in San Francisco’s Bay Area – was aware of the killer, known as Zodiac, and he translates his fears and imagination into a visually absorbing film. Harris Savides’ digital photography aids Fincher’s work in bringing back the texture and colour palettes of the late 1960s and the early 1970s.


Kim Ki-duk’s “Breath” (South Korea) is yet another Competition entry that relies on a weak script that is unbelievable to the core. We see a married woman visiting a man on the death row and pretending to be his ex-lover. It is only vaguely clear that she is unhappy in her marriage and finds a way to shock and anger her husband. She manages to have a private meeting with the prisoner with just a guard there in the room. While the two freely have sex in the room that the woman decorates with bright wall papers conveying seasons, the guard stands around watching the fun. Do jails allow this? I am not sure, and “Breath” leaves other questions unanswered. Why does the prisoner play along? How does the woman’s husband, who finds out about his wife’s visits to the jail, seem so tolerant? These questions remain unanswered.


The Festival celebrated its 60th birthday in style by presenting a movie – “To Each His Own Cinema” – where 35 directors contributed a three-minute film each. The compilation was conceived and produced by the Festival President, Gilles Jacob, and it was indeed a wonderful attempt at looking at cinema, just cinema. The auteurs were asked to express “their state of mind of the moment as inspired by the motion picture theatre”. They were all well known on the Croisette, with many Golden Palm winners among them.

Most directors visualised the end of the old film theatre. Men like Takeshi Kitano, Theo Angelopoulos and Hou Hsiao-Hsien showed how cinema was loosing its value and importance. One noticed an immense sorrow at the disappearance of old Euro-style art cinema.

This is one of the best compilations I have ever seen. Every short was engaging, and had that little touch of the mysterious. Two examples are here: Walter Salles’ Brazilian movie show a group of musicians singing outside a rundown theatre screening Francois Truffaut’s “400 Blows”. They talk about what it is like to be at Cannes, and quip that the Fest is run by some “Gil”. David Cronenberg himself appears in his intense piece about the last Jew in the world in the last cinema of the world. Kitano comes with a brilliant short about a solitary hall in the middle of nowhere whose sole occupant, an old man, gets to see the movie in fits and starts.

(Webposted May 21 2007)