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Martin Scorsese Masterclass in Cannes

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American Politics With A French Twist

It is should be news to no one that the Americans and the French are still locked in their love/hate relationship. We Americans do love the French culture and its emphasis on beauty, refinement and good taste. The French do love our the American can-do attitude and our pioneering spirit. But since 9/11, our different geopolitics has driven a wedge into that relationship that has pushed us both into separate corners.

Perhaps that is the reason why so many American films that are openly critical of the current administration and of American values in general, play so well in France. Ever since Michael Moore scored a triumph with FAHRENHEIT 911, it has been open season on the Bush administration on the Croisette.

This year, several American films that openly or obliquely have criticized the current administration and the traditional American prestige that has been severely tattered, have made an impression at the Cannes Film Festival. These films have taken aim at the politicians and their policies in a way that can only shock the system and hopefully provide fuel for opposing a President who is facing criticism and shrinking approval ratings from all camps (including the ones who voted him in).

SHORTBUS, by American director John Cameron Mitchell, explores the hot-button issues of sexual politics, which have remained a divisive arena in American political and social circles. As we move into a new election cycle, suddenly the outcry against gay marriage is sounded as a drumbeat to bring out the conservative vote. Will this strategy work as effectively as it did in the last election (when the issue was raised as a holy spectre and then unceremoniously dumped after the Bushies reclaimed the White House).

In SHORTBUS, Mitchell does not disguise his desire to provoke his audiences, with sexual freedom a metaphor for the loss of liberties that have resulted in a post-911 society that accepts surveillance as a matter of course. The film is set in an around a weekly Brooklyn salon, dubbed Shortbus, where sex, music and expression draw a diverse mix of mostly young people, one of whom quips that their world today is "just like the 60s, but with less hope." Mitchell's movie is meant to be, in his own words, “a call to arms for people who now feel powerless over their futures. If we can't do elections we might as well do erections."

The explicit sex in the film may scare off some distributors, but positive reactions to the screening in Cannes has kindled interest from a number of companies, who see the film as having a built-in audience among the growing number of people who are troubled by the repressive politics and clampdown of sexual liberties that have come about in the past few years.

In Richard Linklater’s FAST FOOD NATION, a fictional adaptation of Eric Schlosser's best-selling non-fiction book of the same name, the industrial chain of how food products are raised, cultivated, processed and then available to the general public, provided a disturbing look at the politics of consumption.

The film focused on a fictional food chain named “Micky’s

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