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The King and the Mockingbird

What a tortured path The King and the Mockingbird has taken to reach theaters in the United States, and what a treat it is for…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Postcards from Chaz to Roger 2

Dear Roger:

Thank you. Thank you for encouraging me to come to Cannes this year of all years. It is exactly where I should be, and it feels like you are here with me, just slightly out of frame. I have not had one moment of loneliness because every step I take, every movie I watch, every person who comes up to me to either pay their condolences or tell me some joyful story about their experience with you is feeding my soul, filling me to the brim with happiness for having had a chance to share 24 years of my life with you.

I always thought you were an extraordinary man. Funny and smart, with a heart so warm, a spirit so generous, a philosophy so all-encompassing as to say 'if there is no justice for my brother or sister, there is no justice for me.' I recognized your inner light. Yet you were always humble, never big-headed. Not perfect by any stretch, but close enough. And when you made mistakes you were willing to admit them. Curiosity was your passport through life. You expected goodness in your fellow traveler and when it wasn't immediately apparent, you somehow cultivated it, searching for that essence that made that person special in some way and holding up a mirror for them to see it in themselves. You sincerely believed in people. Sometimes I couldn't believe how quickly you shook off a slight, how willing you were to even share it with the world through your newspaper or your blog or Twitter, rather than let it sink into your skin and cause you any doubt or bitterness. Where did that ability come from, I wondered. It was something beautiful and instructive to behold.

You approached film the same way you approached life, with curiosity. We both love Cannes, it is the temple of cinema. Whether any one film you see is good or bad doesn't make a difference because you know the overall experience will be worthwhile. Some years the movies are so good that you walk around exhilarated, your feet barely touching the ground. Other years the movies may leave you in a more contemplative state, head in the cloud, pondering the meaning of life. In those same years you will also see films that you question whether they belong in the festival at all. But there is a method to the madness of festival heads Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux, and they actually want you to debate the merits with your fellow festival-goers while standing in line at the Palais, waiting to see the next Ozon or Jarmusch.

There is a reverence for the whole artistic process of filmmaking here in France, starting with the auteur, the director, and working its way throughout. The philosophy is that film contributes to your development as a person in the same manner as listening to a good orchestra, attending an ambitious play, studying a classic painting or reading a good book. Your passion as a film critic was such that it became an integral part of that process. You entered that temple hoping to see a good movie. But sometimes good or bad wasn't the point. You wanted something to feed your imagination. And when it did, you were most rapturous in your praise, your writing becoming like the most sacred homily. You felt stretched as a person, enlivened, or imbued with an additional understanding of the path we walk on this earth. Writing about this process was for you widening the circle because it made more people aware of the film, and thus enabled a diversity of ages and races and nationalities to join in. But your profession and your honesty caused you to also cast a critical eye and call out pretension, or sloppiness or just plain incompetence and so it was not always comfortable for you in that circle. But what a wild ride it was.

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