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Cannes reveals Directors’ Fortnight titles

PARIS — Francis Ford Coppola will be making his way to Cannes this year with his black-and-white drama “Tetro” after all.

Although the director said last week that he turned down an invitation to walk the red carpet at the Festival de Cannes, his film is set to open the 41st annual Directors’ Fortnight, the less-glitzy sidebar to the main event, organizers said.

Coppola opted for the Fortnight invite, he explained, because the sidebar is more in keeping with the film’s indie nature. “It is so difficult to work in a personal way in the cinema today, between the business constraints and commercial realities, that you must let your work be a cry for independence, which is why it is so appropriate that ‘Tetro’ is premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight, where young filmmakers go,” he said.

Though U.S. titles are few and far between in the festival’s official selection, the Stars and Stripes will be flying high over the Fortnight, where five stateside films have been selected.

U.S. filmmaker Lynn Shelton will head to the Croisette with her comedy “Humpday,” which screened at Sundance and will be released stateside by Magnolia. Fortnight selectors also raided the Park City fest for “Amreeka,” Cherien Dabis’ tale of a Palestinian single mom and her teenage son adjusting to life in Illinois, and Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s fest favorite “I Love You Phillip Morris.” National Geographic has picked up U.S. rights to “Amreeka”; “Morris” is still looking for a U.S. distributor.

“There are definitely more comedies this year, which is pretty new for us,” the sidebar’s artistic director Olivier Pere said in an interview. “Maybe it’s because we’re in the midst of a global financial crisis. These filmmakers prove that comedy isn’t just a minor category; there can also be auteur comedies. These mostly young filmmakers are using irony to deal with topics that could just as easily have been much more somber.”

Also from the U.S., brothers Joshua and Benny Safdie will host the world premiere of their co-directorial effort “Go Get Some Rosemary.” Joshua Safdie’s “The Pleasure of Being Robbed” screened in the sidebar last year.

“Last year, it was Latino-American films; this year, North American titles really impressed us,” Pere said.

Not that the Fortnight won’t be speaking a great deal of French.

Portugese director Pedro Costa will be in town with his French-language film “Ne change rien” (Don’t Change Anything), a Portugal-France co-production starring Jeanne Balibar and Rodolphe Burger. Paris-born, Middle Eastern-raised Riad Sattouf will present his first film, “Les Beaux Gosses,” a teen angst story featuring famous faces Emmanuelle Devos, Noemie Lvovsky, Irene Jacob and Valeria Golino in supporting roles.

Canada, meanwhile, boasts three French-language titles in the lineup: Denis Villeneuve’s “Polytechnique,” based on horrific events that unfolded at a Montreal school in 1989; Denis Cote’s “Carcasses,” about a solitary man who collects old cars; and 19-year-old director Xavier Dolan’s “J’ai tue ma mere” (I Killed My Mother).

Franco-Japanese bilingual title “Yuki & Nina” tells the story of the child of a French father and a Japanese mother who learns her parents are getting a divorce. The film is co-directed by Japanese filmmaker Nobuhiro Suwa (“Un Couple Parfait”/”Paris je t’aime”) alongside well-known French actor Hippolyte Girardot, helming his first film.

” ‘Yuki & Nina’ really represents this hybridization of cultures. There are more and more filmmakers who travel a lot and want to understand and present other cultures,” Pere said.

Axelle Ropert will present her “La Famille Wolberg,” a France-Belgium co-production.

“It just turned out this way,” Pere said of the abundance of Gallic titles in selection. “There’s definitely not a voluntary will on our part to defend the French language. They just happened to be good movies.”

Flexing his muscles from Belgium will be Felix Van Groeningen with “De Helaasheid der dingen.”

Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco’s Spanish-language “Daniel & Ana,” about a brother and sister who are kidnapped, will vie for the coveted Camera d’Or prize for best first film.

Also competing for the Camera d’Or will be Bulgarian director Kamen Kalev, with his Bulgaria-Sweden co-production “Eastern Plays,” about two brothers reunited when they take opposite roles in a racist beating.

Pere noted the relative absence of Asian titles this year. “We have a few Asian films this year, but we’re not really seeing a renewal of auteurs from that continent. The new generation is having trouble expressing themselves,” he said.

Among the Asian titles are Singapore director Ho Tzu-Nyen’s first film, “Here,” follows a middle-aged man trying to make sense of life after the sudden death of his wife and opts for an experimental treatment, South Korean director Hong San-Soo’s “Like You Know It All.”

Other French titles include Alain Guiraudie’s “Le Roi de l’evasion” and Luc Moullet’s “La Terre de la folie.”

Austrian-Italian fimmaking duo Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel will present the Italian-language “La Pivellina,” about a 2-year-old girl abandoned in a park who finds a new home with some eccentric characters.

Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani will represent Germany with “Ajami.”

The official lineup, which will include two more titles, will be announced today in Paris.

A complete list of Directors’ Fortnight titles follows:

Francis Ford Coppola, U.S. (opening film)

Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, Germany (closing film)

Cherien Dabis, U.S.

“Les Beaux gosses”
Riad Sattouf, France

Denis Cote, Canada

“Daniel y Ana”
Michel Franco, Mexico

“Eastern Plays”
Kamen Kalev, Bulgaria

“La Famille Wolberg”
Axelle Ropert, France/Belgium

“Go Get Some Rosemary”
Benny et Josh Safdie, U.S.

“De Helaasheid der dingen”
Felix Van Groeningen, Belgium

Tzu-Nyen Ho, Singapore

Lynn Shelton, U.S.

“I Love You Philip Morris”
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, U.S.

“J’ai tue ma mere”
Xavier Dolan, Canada

“Like You Know It All”
Hong San-Soo, Korea

“Ne change rien”
Pedro Costa, Portugal

“La Pivellina”
Tizza Covi et Rainer Frimmel, Austria

Denis Villeneuve, Canada

“Le Roi de l’evasion”
d’Alain Guiraudie, France

“La Terre de la folie”
Luc Moullet, France

“Yuki & Nina”
Nobuhiro Suwa and Hippolyte Girardot, France/Japan

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Spike Lee gets critical in Cannes

CANNES — Spike Lee is in Cannes to promote his Italy-set war film “Miracle at St. Anna,” but he couldn’t resist taking a few swipes at some fellow directors, including Joel and Ethan Coen and Clint Eastwood.

Speaking about death in his World War II period drama, Lee said that, unlike the Coens, he was respectful in the way he portrayed death.

“I always treat life and death with respect, but most people don’t,” Lee said at a press briefing. “Look, I love the Coen brothers; we all studied at NYU. But they treat life like a joke. Ha ha ha. A joke. It’s like, ‘Look how they killed that guy! Look how blood squirts out the side of his head!’ I see things different than that.”

Speaking about the casting for his tale of four black American soldiers in Tuscany during World War II, Lee said that black actors appear in war films too infrequently.

“Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total and there was not one Negro actor on the screen,” Lee told reporters. “If you reporters had any balls you’d ask him why. There’s no way I know why he did that — that was his vision, not mine. But I know it was pointed out to him and that he could have changed it. It’s not like he didn’t know.”

Lee said that his film is in the final stages of post-production and will be complete by the end of July, with an Oct. 10 release date likely — exactly one year after shooting started. The film’s score and about 10 weeks of mixing remain before completion. He said the film is likely to premiere at a festival: either Venice or Toronto.

Lee also told the Hollywood Reporter he is starting work on an as-yet-unnamed documentary about basketball great Michael Jordan, set for release in early 2009. Lee and Jordan starred in a series of award-winning ad spots for sporting goods company Nike in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Buyers waiting for ‘Che’

Today Cannes gets its first look at the most talked-about property for sale here: Steven Soderbergh’s two-film, Spanish-language biography of Che Guevara, consisting of “The Argentine” and “Guerrilla.”

Some studios and specialty labels, including Soderbergh’s former home base at Warner Bros., passed on financing the two pics, but buyers are hovering: Some North American distribs are staying in Cannes through Wednesday just to see the two films at their official Competition screening. (One exception is Miramax topper Daniel Battsek, who is flying to Moscow with producer Graham King to watch the European soccer champion league final.)

The two films, which star Benicio Del Toro as the Latin American revolutionary, receive market screenings on Thursday.

Although distributors at Berlin saw 10 minutes of excerpts, mainly from “The Argentine,” the completed work is still unseen.

Studio specialty distribs and the Weinstein Co. have been trying to land an early screening to no avail. WB denies it is in the hunt for the picture.

A pair of two-hour pics about Guevara, in Spanish, could be a tough sell in North America without great reviews and awards attention (advance buzz is good on Del Toro).

According to distribs, Wild Bunch is asking $8 million to $10 million for the U.S.

The French production, distribution and foreign sales company put up 75% of the $61.5 million budget for the two pics, tapping into a production and acquisition fund (amounting to a reported $150 million) from financing and investment company Continental Entertainment Capitol, a subsid of the U.S.-based Citigroup. Spain’s Telecinco/Moreno Films supplied the rest.

“Argentine” and “Guerrilla” have pre-sold many major territories, with distributors meeting substantial asking prices: Deals have gone down for France (Warner Bros.), the U.K. (Optimum), Scandinavia (Scanbox), Italy (Bim Distribuzione, Wild Bunch’s Italo distrib partner) and Japan (Nikkatsu), among others.

Sun Distribution Co. has Latin America; Spanish rights lie with co-producer Telecinco. Twentieth Century Fox has bought Spanish theatrical and vid rights, which could give it a possible leg up in negotiating a North American deal.

Also for sale at the fest are two other two-hour double features: director John Woo’s unfinished $80 million Chinese period epic “Red Cliff” and Jean-Francois Richet’s $80 million biopic “Public Enemy Number One,” based on famed gangster Jacques Mesrine’s prison-penned autobiography.

Two recent double features met different fates at the global box office. Weinstein Co.’s “Kill Bill” from Quentin Tarantino, was split in two and grossed $181 million in 2003 and $152 million in 2004 worldwide. “Grindhouse,” on the other hand, was released Stateside as a double feature from Tarantino (“Death Proof”) and Robert Rodriguez (“Planet Terror”) and earned $25 million and not much better as two features overseas.

Source: Variety

‘Indy’ raises sun on dark Cannes fest

CANNES — The myriad makeshift signs people waved outside the Palais Sunday said it all: “Me, Indi Jones tickets, please” as hundreds of fans and moviegoers started amassing in hopes of securing passage to the world premiere of the fourth installment of the Steven Spielberg franchise.

And if not to the movie, then at least a glimpse of Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and practically the entire (human) cast as they made their way to the chock-a-block press conference after the screening.

The film played to a packed house made up mostly of press at 1 p.m. There was the energy of anticipation in the room beforehand, and the applause at the end was polite, but then that’s all the emotion journos tend to display no matter the movie.

Early word from exiting journalists was a general thumbs-up, though with a few strongly expressed cavils and qualifiers: “too long,” “too many stunts,” “too wooden,” not enough time for any of the characters to catch their breath or interact. But such objections, however valid, will probably hardly matter in box office terms, judging from the general public enthusiasm that seemed to transform the mood of the Croisette.

Even among frazzled sleep-deprived festgoers, one could feel the shift: Enough of politically challenging, socially relevant Competition pics — a la “Blindness,” “Gomorra,” ” Linha de Passe” — let’s have some brightly lit fun to match the returning blue skies over the Mediterranean.

Spielberg, who hasn’t been to the fest since he brought “ET” in 1982, put it best. He was the last among the creators to be convinced that Indy deserved to be brought back, and it took 17 years to free himself up enough from DreamWorks and his self-described “dark period” movies to tackle it.

“We did it as a celebration of the movies,” he told the throngs of journos at the post-screening presser. “We wanted to reacquaint people with the pure joy of seeing something with others in a darkened room.”

Interestingly, Spielberg also said that, yes, another Indiana Jones sequel was a possibility: “Only if you (the public) want it. We’ll have our ear to the ground,” meaning, presumably, attuned to the global wickets.

With a budget of $185 million and a marketing spend of some $150 million worldwide, the enthusiasm on the Croisette will have to translate onto main streets around the globe if the producers expect to make their nut. If the movie grosses less than $500 million worldwide, it will likely be termed a disappointment.

“People do consistently ask me if there’ll be another ‘ET’ or ‘Indiana Jones’ … No one ever asks about bringing back ‘Artificial Intelligence,’ ‘1941’ or ‘Hook,’ ” he mused self-deprecatingly.

Spielberg and Lucas went on at the presser to talk about their belief in the relevance of more traditional forms of action-adventure moviemaking, in which real stunts are performed rather than relying so heavily on special effects.

“Obviously, when you get new technology, you get sound or you get color, you get special effects, they get misused,” Lucas told the gathering.

There’s no inspiration, Spielberg added, “when a cast and a director walk onto a screen that is blue. We wanted to do as little of that as possible. I was intent and George was intent on making this practical magic and not digital magic.” (The director does think the F/X-heavy “Bourne” franchise is first-rate.)

“We didn’t set out to ‘one-up’ the imitators of the original Indiana Jones adventure model,” Lucas added, suggesting that it’s only human nature to overdo any new technology that comes along and that he wanted to resist the F/X siren when possible and preserve the feel of the original.

Looking fit and tanned, Ford chimed in with his comments about performing his own stunts. “I think of it as physical acting, in that way it’s invested with emotion,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s just watching kinetics.”

Unlike, no doubt, the many executives from Paramount in town for the onslaught of Indy enthusiasm, Ford said he wasn’t worried, nor did he find it unusual for “something popular to be disdained by segments of the press,” apparently girding himself for tough questions or harsh reviews.

“I work for the people who pay to get in,” Ford added.

Not that the queries from journalists in the hour-long encounter were antagonistic; they were always respectful, a few betraying their personal excitement. A Russian journalist bubbled over with praise for the film, sparking Cate Blanchett to apologize to the entire Russian populace for her accent and her role as a communist nasty. (The actress went on to thank Spielberg for being able to play “a fantastic villain with an extraordinary haircut.”)

Asked about the baddies in the movie, Spielberg explained to the largely non-American press corp that he grew up “under the threat of nuclear annihilation,” doing his share of ducking under school desks during air-raid practices in the ’50s and ’60s. “Those were the geo-politics of the time,” he said of the 1957 setting of the sequel. “We couldn’t ignore the atomic era or the conflict between the two superpowers.”

There is, in fact, an iconic moment in the film that features Ford against the backdrop of a mushroom cloud. It comes on the heels of one of the best sequences in the movie: a nuclear test that takes out an entire artificially constructed town, with Indy saving himself by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator.

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Cannes braces for A-listers, art house, fans, fun

CANNES, France(Reuters) – The world’s biggest film festival kicks off in Cannes today, bringing Hollywood A-listers, obscure art-house directors, international media and fans together for 12 party-packed days on the French Riviera.

Posters are up around the resort town in southern France, marquees line the seafront, yachts are gleaming despite unseasonal drizzle and hotels await their famous guests. It only remains for the red carpet to be rolled out.

In addition to movies in the official selection, hundreds more are screened in the bustling film market, a key feature that underlines Cannes’ importance to the industry.

The main competition of 22 films begins with a star-studded premiere of Brazilian entry “Blindness,” appropriate for a festival that is showcasing South American cinema.

The movie directed by Fernando Meirelles of “City of God” renown stars Julianne Moore and Gael Garcia Bernal in a story of a civilization crumbling as it is hit by an epidemic of blindness.

At the same time as the morning press screening, a few hundred yards (meters) along the palm-lined Croisette beachfront, the studio behind animation comedy “Kung Fu Panda” has organized a stunt to publicize the picture.

The combination of hard-hitting cinema and brazen blockbuster promotion, which some critics argue is a sellout to Hollywood, is typical of the festival, which ends on May 25 when the coveted Palme d’Or for best film is awarded.

Critics were wary of making early predictions.

“I don’t anticipate because it doesn’t do any good,” said Hollywood Reporter critic Kirk Honeycutt.

“The guy whose film you really want to see is the one who disappoints you most, and someone you’ve never heard of is the one that just leaps off the screen at you.”

Joining Meirelles in competition is another Brazilian entry “Line of Passage,” by Walter Salles, and two Argentinian productions — Pablo Trapero’s prison drama “Leonera” and thriller “The Headless Woman” by Lucrecia Martel.

They are up against Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” starring Angelina Jolie, and Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” a two-part, 4 1/2-hour hour epic about the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, with Benicio del Toro in the title role.

The two other U.S. entries are James Gray’s “Two Lovers,” featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joaquin Phoenix, and Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” with Philip Seymour Hoffman.


The biggest show in town this year is likely to be the latest instalment of the Indiana Jones series, again starring Harrison Ford as the whip-wielding archaeologist in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” by Steven Spielberg.

Also out of competition, Woody Allen presents “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” starring Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem.

Italy has an unusually strong presence in Cannes, with two competition films reflecting the darker side of its recent past.

“Gamorra” is directed by Matteo Garrone and based on Roberto Saviano’s book about how the Neapolitan mafia works and makes its money, while “Il Divo,” by Paolo Sorrentino, tells the story of controversial former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.

Outside the main lineup comes “Sangue Pazzo,” based on the story of two actors who run afoul of partisan rebels fighting fascism at the end of World War Two.

Previous winners of the Palme d’Or vying for the prize again in 2008 are Belgium’s Dardenne brothers, Soderbergh and German director Wim Wenders.

Israeli director Ari Folman is contesting the main award with “Waltz With Bashir,” an eagerly anticipated animated documentary about the 1982 Sabra and Shatila camp massacres by members of the Christian Israeli-backed Lebanese Forces militia.

Pop star Madonna, Argentinian soccer hero Diego Maradona and U.S. boxer Mike Tyson also are expected at the festival.

Source: Reuters/Neilsen

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