Entertainment behind the scenes
So, Cannes 2010 is about to get underway and the usual bout of soul-searching, navel-gazing and nail-biting is occupying minds in the Mediterranean resort.
No one knows whether it will be a strong year or not until the end, of course, so the main focus for a lot of critics and journalists in the runup to Wednesday’s opening (with Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood”) has been the lack of U.S. titles in the main competition lineup and also in sidebar events. Doug Liman’s political “Fair Game”, based on the true story of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, is the country’s sole representative out of 19 competition movies. That said, Oliver Stone and Woody Allen are both in town with films, and they don’t come much bigger or more respected.
What the lack of U.S. films may translate into, of course, is a lack of A-list stars. Expected to be on the red carpet over the coming 12 days are Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mick Jagger, Tim Burton, Javier Bardem, Antonio Banderas and Kate Beckinsale. Many more will also show up with so many related and unrelated events being held in the area — music awards, charity dinners, concerts and the Grand Prix in Monaco. But the consensus appears to be that this will be a relatively star-light Cannes.
That news is good and bad. On the plus side it allows journalists to focus more on the movies themselves, which, after all, is what Cannes is all about. On the downside, it means less buzz and less interest from the world outside the frenzied, stress-fuelled Cannes bubble.
Austrian director Michael Haneke claimed the coveted Palme d’Or, the top prize of the Cannes film festival, for “Das Weisse Band” (The White Ribbon”), instantly catapulting the movie on the top of the list of this year’s must see films around the globe. Cannes, of course, is the world’s top film festival where cinematic art precedes the showbusiness commerce of Hollywood. For the full story, click here.
The win comes as somewhat of a surprise because heading into the final weekend of the festival , Cannes watchers had said French prison drama “Un Prophete” (“A Prophet”) had the upper hand at grasping the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm). But Cannes awards are given by a jury, and jurors can be a fickle bunch.
The 2009 Cannes film festival reaches its finale on Sunday night when the coveted Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) trophy is awarded to the best film among the 20 in competition. That movie, and current frontrunner is French movie “Un Prophete” (“A Prophet”) will likely find success in theaters around the world.
But critics have been widely mixed with their reaction to the overall slate of films screening at Cannes this year (read a wrap up here). The lack of a clear thumbs up, or thumbs down, also has been a hallmark of the Cannes’ movie market in 2009, where buyers and sellers of film rights from around the world meet to do business. Read about that, here. And while 3D films were a big part of Cannes after the festival opened with Disney’s animated “Up,” the reality is that for independent filmmakers, making a 3D film is a mixed (there’s that word again) proposition. For that story, clicke here.
As the Cannes film festival headed toward it’s final weekend with a few films left to play on Saturday and awards to give away on Sunday, the reactions to films screening here seemed to be mixed and the star power decidedly low, which was what had been expected going into the world’s largest film gathering.
The frontrunner for the coveted Palme d’Or, the festival’s top honor, appears to be French film “Un Prophete” (“A Prophet”) from director Jacques Audiard, telling of a 19-year-old man who learns how to survive in prison. Read more about it here. Because Cannes is considered a festival where cinematic art is explored, winning the Palme d’Or does not always translate into commercial success, especially in the Hollywood-dominated United States. But Sony Pictures Classics acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film, and they are masters at luring U.S. audiences to foreign films. Perhaps their biggest success in that arena was Oscar nominee “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Celebrity heiress and businesswoman Paris Hilton is back in Cannes to drum up some interest in the documentary “Paris, Not France”, which follows her as she goes about her daily life being rich and famous.
The 28-year-old tried to prevent the film, directed by Tom Petty’s daughter Adria, from reaching the big screen, but now sees it as a kind of set-the-record-straight exercise for someone whose portrayal in the media is not always flattering.
Sure, Penelope Cruz will be on the Cannes film festival’s red carpet, and Brad Pitt will be there too. But the festival is not all big stars and glamorous premieres. There’s real business that goes on, too. Buyers and sellers of rights to independently made movies — those made outside Hollywood’s major studios — meet up to do deals.
For the past few years, the indie film business has been in a funk as a glut of expensive movies failed to do big box office and, more recently, the global financial crisis dried up financing to make movies. But major players here say tough times could be nearing and end. While film promotional parties are down, the ranks of company staffs in Cannes are thinner, and restaurateurs and hoteliers have said business is down some 30 percent, many company executives say they have been pleased with the amount of business that has been done.
If Danish director Lars von Trier was out to create a stir with his movie “Antichrist”, he got what he came for in Cannes. After a charged press screening where the movie, in competition at the film festival, was jeered, laughed at and loudly booed, the reviews are in, and unsurprisingly, most of them are, well, diabolical.
Faced with a hostile question during a press conference, the director who won the Palme d’Or in Cannes with “Dancer in the Dark” in 2000, took exception, and said he did not make his film for the press sitting before him or, for that matter, for an audience at all. That only served to wind some members of the press up further, begging the question why he made the film at all.
Plus ca change…******The Cannes film festival IS different from recent editions, but not radically. For me, the most noticeable difference between 2009 and 2005/6/7/8 is the absence of stars, be they genuine cinema greats or headline-grabbing celebrities who people care about, however fleetingly.******Sure, there are famous people here — Quentin Tarantino, Penelope Cruz, Mariah Carey, Brad Pitt, (a little later on) and Bill Clinton (in town soon for a charity dinner). But there are significantly fewer than we in the press are used to. In one sense that’s a good thing in that reporters can concentrate more on the film festival itself rather than the red carpets and celebrity-driven stunts. On the other hand, any major festival, and particularly the world’s biggest in Cannes, needs the glamour that star power brings to generate interest around the world.******So that’s what is different. But what is the same is the sunshine, the extortionate prices, the yachts in the harbour occupied by scantily-clad women and not-so-scantily-clad men, the parties (albeit fewer) and that “Cannes attitude”, in other words, “put-on-your-Sunday-best-even-if-it’s-Monday-because-you-never-know, someone-important-might-notice-you.”
Here at the Cannes film festival along the world famous Croisette, which is not unlike a seaside boardwalk in the U.S., a sort of circus atmosphere lights up the night as tourists stroll along the beachside walkway. Posh hotels, designer boutiques and restaurants border the Croisette and its adjacent boulevard. Artists and street performers work the crowds that come out to see film stars who are here to attend the festival. Movie companies advertise their upcoming films, and industry pros take a break from business to schmooze a little. A nighttime view is pictured above, and for a video look, click below:
And to read some of our early stories from Cannes, click below:
Call it a Cannes-style recession, courtesy of Disney magic. Even though there are fewer people at this year’s film festival — merchants say business is down some 30 percent — the opening night premiere party for the movie “Up” still lit up the Croisette late Wednesday night.
The new Disney/Pixar animated movie about an old man who ties balloons onto his house and floats into the air on the journey of a lifetime opened to solid reviews by critics, and fans at last night’s premiere almost unanimously seemed to buy into its sentiment.