Cannes Man / Con Man (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Producer Sy Lerner had always been the biggest bullshitter in an industry which prides itself on bullshit - the movie business. One day, while idling around the Cannes Film Festival on opening day, he boasted to a companion that he could take the first schmuck who walked by and make him the talk of the festival, even without any product to back the bullshit. The boast led to a wager in which the other bettor got to designate the specific schmuck. It was an easy choice. Sy's companion looked out toward the Mediterranean and saw a doofus wading in his street shoes.

The Chosen One is Frank Rhinoslavsky, a naive L.A. cab driver who happened to be in Cannes because he was making a few extra bucks by acting as a courier for the low budget group at Troma Pictures. Sy then began the process of promoting "Frank Rhino" and his non-existent script, titled Cannes Man (Con Man), into the greatest success story in the history of the festival. Frank was given a new haircut and wardrobe, and was told to wave, smile, and keep silent while Sy did the promoting. It was not long before Sy actually had people coming up to him and begging to be involved with the project. Johnny Depp and Jim Jarmusch nearly ended their friendship in an argument over which of them will direct the non-existent film.

[to Jim Jarmusch] Sy Lerner: This is a very spiritual film. This is a film written by a poet, whose father was a poet, one of the great American cowboy poets.  And in fact, this is the kind of film that you would be perfect to direct. Now I don't know if you could handle a budget that big, 25 million, 'cause you're not used to working with that...

Despite a near-zero budget, Richard Martini's cynical Cannes Man is fun to watch, if for no other reason than that it was really shot at Cannes, and features dozens of major actors, directors, and producers in cameo roles both scripted and improvised. Talk about a big bang for the buck - it was made with very little money, yet stars everyone in the industry!

Better than the movie is an interview with director Martini, in which he explains how he made the film with a combination of guile and balls. Martini and Seymour Cassel (as Sy Lerner) were really the entire film. At first, Cassel simply went up to various people and persuaded them to participate. They improvised the scenes within the basic framework, with Cassel leading the various volunteer stars through the paces. Some people were tricked into participating. John Malkovich signed a release and agreed to participate in a documentary about Cannes without being informed that it was actually a "mockumentary." Once the scene with Cassel began and Malkovich saw the handwriting on the wall, he simply decided that it would be easier and a better public relations move if he just played along, so he had some fun with it.  When Cassel was no longer available, Martini took over the project. To finish the film without his star, the writer/director simply added a framing device in which the story was being told after Sy's death, with people recalling his antics. Martini went up to various showbiz types and asked them to tell their funniest "Hollywood scumbag bullshitter" stories, simply substituting the name Sy Lerner for the name of the real perpetrator.  Almost everyone signed a release agreeing that the film could use their footage and their name in the cast, because virtually nobody read the release. (Peter Gallagher was the only exception.) Since the film was made in Europe, it was out of union jurisdiction, further simplifying matters.

It's worth watching the DVD for Martini's candid interview alone, and the movie ain't half bad its ownself!



  • interview with the director
  • full screen only
  • a set of outtakes which are very similar to the footage actually in the film



The only nudity consists of an anonymous topless woman sunning herself on the beach.

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The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, the movie is a C, an interesting experiment, much of it improvised, some of it very funny. The total DVD package goes up to a C+ because of the fascinating Martini interview.

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