opening night film, Vatel, will bring Gerard Depardieu back to the
Festival, where he won a Best Actor award for his turn as Cyrano de Bergerac. It
will also hopefully be an improvement over the director Roland Joffé's last
film, Goodbye Lover (the screening will be preceded by the showing of a
new short film by the great Jean-Luc Godard, On the Origins of the 21st
Century). Since the opening film is traditionally shown out-of-competition,
the slugfest for prizes won't start in earnest until the next day, May 11. And
there looks to be some contenders.
the U.S., there's the Coen brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? (a
Depression-era prison break comedy -- and it's a musical, too!); The Yards,
James Gray's first film since his highly-regarded 1995 picture Little Odessa;
and former B.Y.U. classmate Neil Labute's black comedy Nurse Betty.
British director Ken Loach's Bread and Roses is set in the Latino
community of Los Angeles and concerns labor strife in the city during the 1980s.
Israeli director Amos Kitaï, whose 1999 film on religious orthodoxy, Kaddosh,
became a love-it-or-hate-it film, will be showing his newest, Kippur. Trolösa
is a domestic drama directed by Liv Ullmann from an original screenplay by
Ingmar Bergman. Samirah Makhmalbaf, the twenty-year-old daughter of Iranian
director Mohsen Makhmalbaf (director of The White Balloon), will be
showing her second film, Takhte Siah (initially translated as The
Black Picture, making it sound like it will be something like a film noir,
but actually translating as The Blackboard). James Ivory's film of the
Henry James novel The Golden Bowl will be presented (setting the stage
for Uma Thurman, who appears in both Vatel and Ivory's film, to be this
year's la belle de festival), along with new pictures by Michael Haneke,
who previously made the hair-raising Funny Games, and Arnaud Despleshin,
whose new film, Esther Kahn, will the French-director's first
is going to want to have a look at Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark.
Von Trier, who initiated the Dogma 95 school of filmmaking, has turned
around and made a new film in which the singer and songwriter Björk plays a
factory worker in the American Midwest who periodically breaks into song. There
are musical numbers, and Catherine Deneuve plays a woman who works at the
factory alongside Björk's character. Von Trier is supposed to have filmed the
whole thing using unobtrusive fiber-optic cameras, but how this film fits in
with the Dogma school's "vow of chastity" -- sound must never be
produced apart from the images, only hand-held cameras may be used, no optical
effects or filters, no special lighting, and, also, NO GENRE FILMS (and musicals
are considered to be a genre) -- remains to be seen.
pictures will also be long. two hrs. three mins; two hrs. twenty; two hrs.
forty-four; two hrs. thirty-five; two hrs. fifty-five; three hrs. If you had
problems sitting through The Green Mile or Magnolia last
Christmas, think again: Japanese director Shinji Aoyama's Eureka is
listed with a running time of three hours and thirty-seven minutes. This can
create a terrible problem, especially for a filmmaker, because the seats in the Palais'
auditoriums make a particular "snapping" sound when people get up to
leave before the showing's over. A newborn film's reputation has risen or fallen
depending on the occurrence of "the snapping effect" once the lights
have dimmed and the screening has started.
the two most intriguing films this year are from Asian directors (three, if you
count Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai's new film, which is currently being
called Untitled), along with a series of films to be shown en annexe
to the Festival. Very positive word-of-mouth has already preceded Chinese
director Jiang Wen's During That War, about Chinese citizens who shelter
Japanese soldiers during World War Two -- a highly volatile and perilous
situation, given that the Imperial Army killed hundreds of Chinese civilians
when it invaded the mainland, and send others to a camp where they became
subjects of medical experimentation.
Oshima's Gohatto (Taboo) is the director's first feature film in
almost fifteen years. After making the absurdist comedy Max Mon Amor, in
1986, Oshima spent years trying to do a film, Hollywood Zen, about the
silent film stars Rudolph Valentino and Sessue Hayakawa. While traveling through
London's Heathrow Airport, Oshima collapsed in public, having suffered a stroke.
Gohatto is his first feature film following his recovery. It is a samurai
drama, it has homosexual themes, it features "Beat" Takeshi Kitano in
a supporting role, and it is said to be visually ravishing.
organization CCAS will also be holding, during the festival, an event
celebrating women artists on the eve of the "third millennium," and
which will spotlight the work of Alice Guy. Guy directed 229 films between 1896
and 1920, produced twelve (from 1911 - 1916), and set up her own production
companies in both France and the U.S. However, her place as the first woman film
director has often been eclipsed in the history books in favor of Dorothy Arzner,
who did not make her first film until seven years after Guy retired from
Out-of-competition, there will be showings at the Palais of new films by John Waters (his long-awaited Hollywood satire Cecil B. Demented), Barbara Kopple (A Conversation With Gregory Peck, with Peck himself in attendance), Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with Chow Yun-Fat and Michele Yeoh), and Darren Aronovsky (Requiem for a Dream, his first film since Pi). Yes, the Dave Stewart who is credited with directing Honest is the same one who performs with Annie Lennox in Eurythmics. Under Suspicion, with Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman, turns out to be a remake of Claude Miller's Garde a Vue, an excellent 1981 police drama and psychological thriller. And the closing night film will be Canadian director Denys Arcand's Stardom. It was said that the Festival tried to get Mission: Impossible 2 for this position, but, given what happened when the 1998 Festival closed with the remake of Godzilla, the Arcand film might be a better choice.
sunning themselves in the cool, non-competitive air of the sidebar programs will
include new works by Rodrigo Garcia (Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at
Her), Hugh Hudson (I Dreamed of Africa, with Kim Basinger), Griffin
Dunne (Famous), Arturo Ripstein (Such is Life), and Tran Ahn Hung
(Vertical in the Summer), in Un Certain Regard. In the
International Critics Week, Frank Novak's film Good Housekeeping has been
described as a family drama with the look of "an interiors magazine
designed by Robert Crumb"; while Melvin van Peebles, who made his first
film, The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1968), in France, will be premiering
his new digitally-made feature, Le Conte de Ventre Plein (A Belly-Full of
a Story), during an electronically-facilitated "encounter" with
festivalgoers. (Bernardo Bertolucci, who has been designated as
"sponsor" of this year's Critics Week, will have a non-digital showing
of his debut feature, the wonderful 1962 Before the Revolution, about a
young activist who suffers from a "nostalgia for the present.")
Directors' Fortnight has snagged some major films for inclusion in its program,
including Girlfight, the picture which shared the Grand Jury prize at
Sundance last January; Elias Merhige's Shadow of the Vampire (formerly
called Burned in Light), with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe in a
fictionalized account of the making of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu; and The
Werckmeister Harmonies, the new film by Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr,
director of the legendary Satantango. Seven new films by first-time
French directors, including Virginie Wagon, one of the co-screenwriters of The
Dreamlife of Angels, will be shown. The late Robert Bresson will also be
putting in an appearance, in the form of a short filmed interview that will be
shown before the Fortnight's opening screening; and there will also be a showing
of the recent interview, for Swedish television, with Ingmar Bergman and Erland
Josephson, during which Bergman stated he was "completely indifferent"
over whether he continued to live into old age or not.
in their absence from any of the Festival's programs: Terence Davies' The
House of Mirth, his film of the Edith Wharton novel starring Gillian
Anderson; and Benoît Jacquot's Sade, with Daniel Auteuil, the first of
two films coming out this year about the Marquis de Sade.
course, the best films of all may be none of these, a completely unknown
quantity which will seem to come out of nowhere. That's why people go to film
festivals, or to films in the first place, to be completely surprised, stunned,
awed, and delighted.
this May, starlets will once again continue to rip off their clothes by the
seaside for the obliging cameras (a quaint custom started by aspiring actress
Simone Sylva, in 1954). The new Palais, which replaced the old one in
1983, will continue to be referred to as "the bunker" (for its
monolithically block-like architectural style). Critics and journalists will
dash dizzyingly from one screening to another, around the specters of Romy
Schneider and Alain Delon walking down the Croisette, Claudia Cardinale walking
a leopard on a leash, Maurice Chevalier leading a "parade of stars"
through town, Jean Cocteau tête-à-tête with Yul Brynner over whether
the actor would like to appear in a little film Cocteau was thinking of making
called The Testament of Orpheus; where Gina and Sophia exchanged a frosty
glance or two as they passed each other by, Jayne could be seen wending her way
through crowds while clutching two of her beloved pet chihuahuas in each hand,
and two blond goddesses named Kim and Brigitte could be seen, in the crosslights,
atop the mere de rouge of the Palais; and where Nastassja Kinski
could be seen looking oddly excited by the crush of photographers and press
swamping her after a showing of The Moon in the Gutter.
all this could transform, or not, come next year. The change in Festival
directorship should not be taken lightly. In 1997, Felice Laudadio took over as
director of the Venice Film Festival, held every September, and his attempt to
strike out in a bold, new direction almost wrecked the event, which was in
danger of extinction once before, in the early Seventies. Critics and audiences
leaving the screenings in Venice that year complained that the films were of
highly variable quality; and that some of the ones that were shown not only
weren't up to Festival standards, they weren't even very good films to begin
with. (Niagara Niagara, a sort-of cross between David and Lisa and
Badlands, was a love story between a manic-depressive girl who goes off
her medication and a boy with Tourette's syndrome; The Vesuvians featured
a talking crow who quoted from the works of Karl Marx, just like the one in
Pasolini's film Hawks and Sparrows.) The discontent spread even further
the following year, with the film that was chosen to receive the Lione d'Oro,
Gianni Amelio's The Way We Smiled (which may or may not have had an
effect on the film's getting a U.S. distributor). The Venice fest looked to be
in danger of foundering and sinking below the waves to where the Moscow Film
Festival now resides. But, before the 1998 Festival had barely begun, Laudadio
announced that he was not putting himself in the running for the post of
Festival director for the coming year (directors for the Venice festival are
chosen by election). The following year, a new director was chosen, the film
programming got better, and all was well once more. Festivals, like fresh eggs,
require careful handling.
will be succeeding Gilles Jacob as director of the Cannes festival? We won't
know until June, but it won't be Olivier Barrot. The journalist and T.V.
producer, who recently joined the Festival Organization in the capacity of
"consultant," was referred to as le dauphin by the French press
who widely expected him to take Jacob's place as the new Festival Director.
Barrot was not present at the April 18 press conference in Paris where Jacob
announced the fifty-third Festival's lineup, and, when pressed on the matter,
Jacob acknowledged, "Yes, he has gone away from us." But this year's
first tempest-in-a-teapot didn't really get started until April 25, when Barrot,
in his own statement, claimed that he had been forced out of his job, in a
"brutal and unilateral manner," for reasons that, he said, "have
not been brought to my knowledge."Did he jump, or was he pushed? The
newspaper Le Monde speculated that there would now be a veritable frenzy
of contenders trying to get their hands on the chance to run what has become the
biggest film festival in the world.
But that, again, won't be until June. For now, during the next several weeks, stars, filmmakers, producers, distributors, journalists, would-be's and wanna-be's will be scrambling to prepare for several days in which, as the venerable Rex Reed put it, one's priorities consist almost entirely of the following: "[Y]ou...put on your glasses, take an Excedrin, and head for the movies." Or, there's the way movie executive Irwin Shapiro, in 1987, described his outlook on the perennial event: "It has expanded, it has changed, it has been alive and it takes place in the south of France and it is spring." C'est ça.