The Cannes Beach party was chilly. I talked with a $ingapore government officer. I reflected on all the weird cinema on offer this year. Meanwhile, my Middle-eastern lamb was getting cold. Philip Cheah meditates on what $ingapore doesn't understand about Cannes.

$ingapore wants to be like Cannes, a government officer told me while I was concentrating on my food at a beach party during the 59th Cannes Film Festival. I spluttered this reply: "But has anyone seen the films?"

"Yes," the officer replied, "the Da Vinci Code, why can't you show that?" This is, by the way, the reason I take my food so seriously and why anyone who thinks about anything in $ingapore realises that they can only get serious about food.

John Cameron Mitchell's


I swallowed the last morsel of the Middle-eastern lamb that I had been chewing meditatively and offered, "Sure we can show that but have you seen the other films in the programme such as Shortbus, Taxidermia or Flanders?"

John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, about a group of emotionally-challenged people, featured live sex. Every penetration and ejaculation in the film was for real. Mitchell, who directed Hedwig and the Angry Inch, challenged himself by performing cunnilingus. He directed the scene by looking up now and then from the actress' private parts that he was busy at. And yes, he doesn't normally eat "pussy".

Gyorgy Palfi's

Gyorgy Palfi's wonderfully shot surreal fantasy, Taxidermia, was as graphic but in a more composed way. But it featured erect penises, penetration, ejaculations and an almost poetic scene of a cock looking at an erect penis before pecking at it.

Extended vomiting scenes and shots of graphic surgery had the director thanking the audience for the applause at the film's introduction and quipping: "Hope you will feel the same way at the end of the film."

Bruno Dumont's Flanders with its theme of love and violence also did not spare the audience from the horror of war (close-range executions and torture) plus explicit sex.

Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain.

Of course, I didn't have the heart to tell the officer that my examples weren't even isolated ones. The kind of films that I was talking about were spread throughout the programme. For example, the Cannes Classics, the retrospective section of the festival featured two masterpieces by Alejandro Jodorowsky - The Holy Mountain and El Topo, both made in 1973. Fans who have been privileged to have seen these can attest to the phallic symbols and copious nude scenes. Not only that, The Holy Mountain also insults religion and is ranked as one of the 100 most bizarre films of all time. I haven't seen these at the local video stores.

Anders Morgenthaler's Princess.

Meanwhile, the Opening Film of the Director's Fortnight section was an adult animation with live action, Anders Morgenthaler's Princess, which featured butt-fucking rendered cartoon-style, about a famous porno star, who leaves behind a daughter of five, after her death. And this year's exhibition on the Russian film master, Sergei Eisenstein, had as its centrepiece, his erotic drawings. How do you explain to $ingapore officials all these? How do you explain that Cannes actually has a mandate for culture which is the main difference between us and them. And that's not even bringing up the budget discrepancy.

Well, at that point, I gazed at the receding tide. My ship hadn't come in but tomorrow is another day.

Click here for other movie articles by Philip Cheah:

On The Road From Cannes, Part I
On The Road From Cannes, Part II
East Goes West, West Goes East

Finding Asian Film Gems In Locarno 2005
Five Leaves Left: The Last Days Of Kurt Cobain
Imagine There's No Countries...
The Power Of Nightmares

The Year Of Speaking Mandarin

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