Sean Penn falls off the cliff, again, with ‘Flag Day’

Dylan Penn and his father Sean, during the presentation to the press this Sunday of ‘Flag Day’.IAN LANGSDON / EFE

Because of him they changed the rules of the Cannes festival. Five years ago, Sean Penn entered with the heart shrunk to the gala session of I’ll say your name a love drama in the middle of the Africa of humanitarian crises, after reading the reviews of his fifth feature film as a director. There has never been a film that scored this low on the critics’ voting racks at Cannes in magazines like French Film O Screen International. From that moment, the screenings of the films for the press are made at the same time as their gala sessions (only a few critics see it before and their comments are embargoed like the rest, until the end of the official screening). So the return of Penn (Santa Monica, California, 60 years old) to La Croisette caused a lot of curiosity and a handful of questions: why does he return to the scene of the crime? Is it really worth the filmmaker? as will be Flag Day?

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The result is discouraging. Penn is responsible for Strange blood bond (1991), Crossing the dark (1995) the The oath (2001), iron films, with poise. Yes I will say your name drowned in syrup, Flag Day dies of starvation of the director. And for a Penn obsession: directing his daughter Dylan, giving her a role that launches her stuttering career (her son Hopper also appears, but in a more anecdotal way). Flag Day is based in a book by journalist Jennifer Vogel, which picks up on the tortuous relationship he had with his father, a compulsive liar and con artist who left his two children abandoned with an alcoholic mother. Trickster, flatterer, excessive (he even closed a cinema so that his daughter could see alone Rocky one Christmas day), owner of a gold pick, John Vogel was scratching money in different businesses, all outside the law. Years after several entrances and exits in her life, the then adolescent Jennifer tried to redirect the life of her father, who ended up in jail after a disastrous bank robbery. Vogel was already making a living as a journalist when his father finished his sentence, returned to the streets and his old ways, and in 1995 he tried to place counterfeit bills: he manufactured up to $ 22 million by hand. But he was quickly caught.

“I didn’t want to direct myself; however, I wanted to move the project forward “

In that parent-child confrontation Sean Penn started his approach to the script. “It came to me and I thought there was a good role for me and the producers and I thought of a director like Alejandro González Iñárritu. The project was delayed, I even sent the script to Matt Damon so that he could star in it, and he told me that it would be stupid if I did not do it. And at that time I realized that I would always see the face of my daughter in the actress who embodied her; It already happened to me on the first reading of the book, ”says Penn in Cannes. So why not hire your daughter? Sean Penn is the director’s son Leo Penn and the actress Ellen Ryan, there is therefore a family cinematographic tradition. “It can, but Dylan was hesitant, I had a logical fear, and over time I discovered that the solution was for me to lead it. It was never clear to me because I did not want to direct myself; however, I wanted to move the project forward ”. Penn claims that he already saw that Dylan (daughter of your marriage to Robin Wright) she would be an actress “before she knew it”, since she came home from school as a child and told her about her day at school by staging various characters. “I also know that I will never act and direct at the same time again.”

Dylan Penn, and 'Flag Day'.
Dylan Penn, and ‘Flag Day’.Allen Fraser

What Penn absolutely rejects is that this film serves as an exorcism of his possible absences in Dylan’s childhood. “When my children were small I decided to accept simple and fast jobs that would allow me to continue by their side,” he said at the press conference. Regarding his time in Cannes, the night before he had stressed that he is fascinated by a contest “that better than any represents the passion for cinema, for films born for the big screen, with powerful reflections”. As an actor or jury, Sean Penn has participated in up to eleven editions of the contest.

The obscenity of the Trump Administration

A chat with Penn never tiptoes through current affairs. At the press conference prior to the interview, spoke of the work of his NGO CORE, which he founded in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti. “Humanity is paying a huge price for the current lack of empathy. And we have seen it very clearly for a year and a half. We run the risk of continuing like this ”. And that is why he spoke of the presidential stage of Donald Trump. “His Administration was obscene and unacceptable. He issued a lot of false information, half-truths, insults, ”he assured. CORE has been dedicated to testing and providing vaccines during the pandemic. “And while we were hearing absolutely unacceptable news in the media, as if there was someone with a machine gun firing at people from the White House.” For this reason, for the filmmaker, with the triumph of Joe Biden, “we have the impression that the sun is rising”.

In a later interview, a very happy Sean Penn, calm, relaxed, even somewhat shy (a feeling that underlines his incidental stuttering), says: “Yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life. Being able to walk the red carpet with Dylan, have her be there to receive the accolades she deserves … As a filmmaker and as a father I couldn’t be more proud. The rest, look, I don’t even worry. They are bullshit ”.