Entertainment behind the scenes
Phew. Eleven days gone and the end is in sight at the Cannes film festival.
2011 has had it all — good movies (I can’t tell you my personal choices — this is Reuters!), big stars, great parties, huge interest from the outside world and a big dose of controversy.
The moment we will all remember above all else is the shock expulsion of Danish director Lars Von Trier for his strange outburst during a press conference in which he joked about being a Nazi, a Hitler sympathiser and used the phrase “final solution” to boot.
People variously found it funny, ill-advised, embarrassing, naive or just downright offensive. Kirsten Dunst, the star of Von Trier’s latest movie “Melancholia”, visibly squirmed as the director dug himself into a deeper and deeper hole. In subsequent interviews the arch-provocateur expressed a mixture of regret and defiance, and many of the festival’s reporters and critics disagree with Cannes’ decision to expel him.
Most film makers are only too happy to share the limelight with their cast at the world’s biggest showcase, bathed in sunshine so far this year and the scene of an endless circus of screenings, press conferences and parties frequented by the beautiful people.
Robert De Niro is known for explosive performances, lighting up movies as a mobster, conquistador or evil CIA stepdad. But to journalists, he has an entirely different reputation — as one of the toughest people to interview in showbusiness.
When facing reporters, the “Goodfellas” star has not always felt compelled to wax poetic. In fact, he barely waxes at all: De Niro has been known to field questions with abrupt ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, leave pregnant silences that can make the most seasoned interviewers squirm — or simply shrug his shoulders.
I, along with just about every other reporter and critic in Cannes for the film festival this year, was a little nervous about Woody Allen being chosen to open the event with his romantic comedy “Midnight In Paris”. Many cinephiles feel the 75-year-old Oscar winner has failed to live up to his famously high standards in recent outings. In Britain, at least, “Match Point” was not much loved while “Cassandra’s Dream” was broadly unpopular.
But Midnight In Paris quickly won over the notoriously picky Cannes crowd at a press screening today, with laughter (in all the right places) and warm applause as the credits rolled on what he has described as his “love letter to Paris”. The surreal tale follows Hollywood scriptwriter Gil, played by Owen Wilson, who is in Paris and travels back in time each night to the 1920s, where he meets his heroes including Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. As he grows closer to Picasso’s lover Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard, he moves ever further from his present-day fiancee, played by Rachel McAdams.
The press conferences that follow screenings at Cannes are singular affairs, where journalists often spend as much time expressing their admiration as they do asking questions. They can be revealing nonetheless and rarely more so than when the regular master of ceremonies, a certain Henri Behar, introduces somebody as “very much part of the Cannes family.”
One of the persistent criticisms levelled at the world’s biggest film festival is that it always features the same names. It is an unfair criticism in some ways. There isn’t an infinite number of great film makers and so it isn’t surprising that certain directors and actors keep being invited back. But just running through this year’s main competition lineup, there certainly does seem to be something like a “Cannes family”.
Each year, tens of thousands of movie industry players from around the world invade the Cannes film festival to watch movies and do business — buy and sell rights to show films around the world or on DVD, TV and other media. Thousands more provide services in restaurants, hotels and at the festival itself, and still thousands more come as tourists. But there’s so much more to do in Cannes than watch movies. We were struck by the three below:
Watch the Grand Prix. As you can see in the picture, these two gentlemen — who happen to be security for the festival — took some time to watch the Monaco Grand Prix. The Formula 1 auto race takes place at the same time of the year as the festival, just up the road. What’s funny about the picture is that television set, always (except when the Grand Prix is running) is used to show interviews with movie stars and film directors. Typically, most people just pass it by but when the race is on, it gets a crowd. What you can’t see is that behind these two, there are about 10 0ther men glued to the TV.
Gemma Arterton may be the eye-catching star, but fans of “The Archers”, have an extra reason to look out for Stephen Frears’ adaptation of “Tamara Drewe” as it marks a rare big-screen outing for Tamsin Greig, who plays the no-nonsense Debbie Aldridge in BBC radio’s long-running serial on life in the fictional village of Ambridge.
In Tamara Drewe, she plays Beth, the long-suffering wife of philandering author Nicholas Hardiment and stands out in a strong cast.
No doubt a lot of things have been lost in the city of Cannes on the French Riviera. but during the annual film festival here, we thought this one was noteworthy. (Especially since this year’s gathering has been rather lackluster. Read about that here).
On cafe tables in an industry pavilion at the annual gathering of filmmakers, critics and fans, this notice appeared on Monday: “REWARD for the return of Roger Ebert’s Macbook Pro.” Ebert, of course, is the award-winning film critic, so what resides on that hard drive might read like an encyclopedia (although Ebert’s writing has always been more lively than an encyclopedia) of film and film review. His website is here. One can only imagine its value to the critic, and to movie fans.
She got “An Education” and landed on “Wall Street,” but now Oscar-nominated actress Carey Mulligan is out of a job. … Really!
Mulligan, who wowed Hollywood in 2009′s low-budget British drama “An Education” was at the Cannes film festival this past week promoting her role in her first big budget film, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” She spoke to reporters at the magnificent Hotel Du Cap in a seaside cabana with the breeze blowing through her hair. If it sounds carefree, it was. Mulligan, behind big dark sunglasses told reporters that after this film, she’s out of work. And that, she said, was “cool.”
You can call a director’s latest film terrific, but it may not mean you get treated nicely.
Relations between filmmakers, actors and journalists inevitably come under pressure at the Cannes film festival, where people work (and party) long hours and often do not see eye to eye on the quality of a movie or performance. But in just three days of this year’s festival, there have been two terse, public exchanges between filmmakers, actors and reporters.