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Category: Cannes 2010

Cannes 2012: Michael Haneke's 'Amour' feels the love

May 20, 2012 |  7:23 pm


Michael Haneke's AmourConsensus at Cannes is about an improbable as a Del Taco at the Louvre. But the numerous critics and wide swath of public filmgoers attending the festival seem to have found common ground on a new movie: the mortality drama “Amour." Michael Haneke’s meticulous look at an octogenarian man and the wife he is slowly losing to the after-effects of a stroke (the French-language film is referred to as "Love" in English) scored raves from critics as well as a warmly enthusiastic reaction from the public when it premiered Sunday in a rain-soaked Cannes.

Sunday night’s post-screening standing ovation, a key measure of Cannes sentiment, topped seven minutes, and audience members could be heard buzzing about the film on the way out in the manner you wouldn’t expect from a movie about a slow death.

Like its main characters’ existence, the film’s dramatic furniture is simple. Some problems with their grown daughter (Isabelle Huppert) notwithstanding, octogenarians Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Luis Trintignant) have led a comfortable, cultured life as music teachers, and seem to be enjoying a relaxed retirement. But when Anne is felled by a stroke, their idyll is destroyed. She begins declining mentally and physically, and he is pressed into a thousand difficult tasks while watching the love of his life fade away, asked to do a lot but not able to do anything where it really counts.

It’s the kind of movie that brings filmgoers starkly face-to-face with the realities of failing health and death. Older viewers will be more likely to focus on themselves; younger filmgoers will think of parents and grandparents.

Those with good memories and/or a taste for mortality cinema might watch "Amour" and recall "Away From Her," Sarah Polley's 2006 examination of a marriage ravaged by dementia, though there’s undeniably something more intimate and under-your-skin here. There are also a few shocking moments in the vein of some of Haneke’s more famous provocations, but it’s generally a low-key work; if gentle Haneke isn’t an oxymoron, then that’s how it’s best described. (More shortly from Haneke himself on his eclectic career--from "The Piano Teacher" to "Cache" to "The White Ribbon"--and the process behind this film.)

"Amour" will be released by Sony Pictures Classics later this year, when it will face some hurdles. Some moviegoers know of Haneke’s reputation as a master of the uncomfortable and may pass on those grounds; others simply may not want to see a drama focused on death and dying.

Much of the promotional campaign, though, could be built around the actors, whose back stories are almost as compelling as the film. In their eighties themselves and, as a press conference indicated, more slow-footed than they once were, Riva and Trintignant hark back to an earlier time in entertainment. Riva, whose performance here makes her an instant Oscar contender, began her career in the wartime romance "Hiroshima Mon Amour" 53 years ago. (She would turn 86 the day of next year's Oscars, the oldest age of any nominee in history by about five years.)

Though 81,  Trintignant  has been working even longer, notably starring in movies such as Costa-Gavras’ best picture nominee “Z” over a remarkable 56-year career.

Still, Trintignant had been in retirement and hadn’t had a bona fide film part in nearly 15 years before Haneke lured him back. “I didn't want to act in films anymore,” Trintignant told reporters Sunday morning, saying he had been concentrating on occasional theater work. “But when Haneke offered me this part it was an exception,” describing how demanding the filmmaker is.  He then added to some laughter, “I think he's one of the great directors in the world, and it’s a wonderful opportunity. But I won't do it again.”

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 Photo: Amour. Credit: Sony Pictures Classics


How will the Palme d'Or affect 'Tree of Life's' commercial prospects?

May 23, 2011 |  6:30 am

Treeof

In the coming weeks, there will be plenty of chances to gauge the mainstream appetite for Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," the story of God and nature and one mid-century family's issues among them, which opens in limited urban release this weekend before expanding in the following week to suburban precincts.

But Sunday's news out of the Cannes Film Festival that the movie had won the Palme d'Or -- one of the few festival prizes to draw universal respect -- raises a more immediate question: How much will the Croisette honor motivate filmgoers to turn out to see it?

The question of a Palme bump has been an interesting one in recent years. Foreign-language films are their own breed, but among English-language titles, the prize has had a limited but hardly insignificant effect on what we see.

Over the last 20 years, it's helped set the table for box-office hits such as "Secrets & Lies," "Fahrenheit 911" and "Pulp Fiction" -- at minimum facilitating momentum the movie already had, and in some cases actively putting it on the map. The average filmgoer may not know a Palme d'Or from a palm reader, but he or she is certainly acquainted with the media that respond to one.

On the other hand, the Cannes prize did almost nothing for "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and "Elephant," both of which failed to break out of an art-house ghetto.

Certainly a host of factors played into all of these results. But the Palme does seem to help movies that contain big, bold premises (including "Secrets & Lies," about interracial adoption). In that respect, "Tree," with its visual centerpiece featuring dinosaurs and colliding planets, would fit right in. (It's also worth noting that two of these three Palme hits were distributed by Harvey Weinstein, though "Tree" distributor Fox Searchlight is no slouch itself.) "Tree" also stars Brad Pitt, who has shown himself capable of motivating a mainstream filmgoer to specialized fare.

At Cannes, several involved in the international distribution of "Tree" shook their head ruefully when the subject of the film's U.S. fate came up. Romania and France, the thinking went, stood a far better shot of fielding a hit. But of course the odds are always long when you have material as abstract -- and as resistant to being boiled down -- as this. A Palme just makes those odds a little bit shorter.

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-- Steven Zeitchik
Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight

 


Cannes 2011: A video examination, Part 2

May 13, 2011 |  9:55 pm

Julia Leigh's "Sleeping Beauty" and Lynn Ramsay's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" have plenty of similarities. They're both intense dramas with distinct visual styles from young female directors, and they both traffic in questions about female identity. So why can't The Times' Steven Zeitchik and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips agree on which is the gem and which is the dud? A festival throwdown, Web-video style.

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Cannes 2011: How will Catholics react to a papal comedy?

May 13, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Nanni moretti The Catholic Church hasn't been known to take kindly to films it perceives as offensive; considering "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "The Da Vinci Code," there's been no small amount of lashing out at films it deems undermine church doctrine.

The Vatican is now taking early shots -- if not quite aiming its full invective -- at Nanni Moretti's Italian-language comedy "Habemus Papam," which deals with a fictional papal selection process and the dysfunction surrounding it.

"Why should we support financially that which offends our religion?" asked a writer in the Vatican-linked Avvenire last month as the film screened in Italy. "We shouldn't touch the pope -- the rock on which Jesus founded its church."

The broader reaction of leaders and lay Catholics, particularly in English-speaking countries, could be equally telling. Moretti, who came to American attention with a family drama called "The Son's Room" a decade ago, here takes on a far more taboo subject -- and with far more irreverence.

The film premiered for English-speaking audiences Friday at the Cannes Film Festival. From the start, when the electricity fails during the convocation, it's clear Moretti has comedy, even farce, on his mind as he portrays the selection process.

After the cardinals all silently pray that they will not be chosen (the responsibility is too much) an underdog candidate is selected --and promptly freaks out. Soon enough, the church has a full-blown nightmare on its hands, as the chosen candidate (Michel Piccoli) begs off on his inaugural address to the adoring crowds at St. Peter's Square and proceeds to spiral into a paralyzing depression. Basically, he doesn't anywhere near this job.

Psychologists are then brought in, allowing for the requisite laughs about repressed sexual desires. Curious about life outside the cloistered Vatican walls, the pope-in-waiting soon escapes into the streets of Rome, in a journey of accidental discovery not unlike Helen Mirren's country wanderings in "The Queen." A panicked spokesman tries to cover up the scandal. He only makes things worse.

Moretti hardly seems to have malice or apostasy on the mind --tenets are never specifically called into question -- but the humanizing and even satirizing of the papal convocation and cardinal mindset is bound to get under the skin of some Catholics. For centuries, this has been a process shrouded in holy secrecy, and Moretti is playing it for comedy.

That it comes on the heels of years of Catholic Church sex scandals and cover-ups won't help; if the Vatican is already trying to repair an image zinged by charges of incompetence or worse, a portrayal of circus-like ineptness won't help.

After finding that official protests often just stoke public interest, the Vatican lately seems to have realized that a muted reaction may be the best reaction of all. It has said it won't issue a formal condemnation of Moretti's movie.

Still, if the film finds an audience in the U.S. -- while there's no distributor yet, the film's comic accessibility hardly rules it out  -- American dioceses may find it hard to sit by quietly. Moretti has already told the Italian press he wouldn't be surprised by a boycott. When it comes to Catholicism, it's usually the historic and the theological films that rankle and bring out the pundits. Moretti may show that a comedy can yield the same result.

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--Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France

Photo: Nanni Moretti at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. Credit: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images


Cannes 2011: Spirit of Margaret Thatcher (and Meryl Streep) hovers over festival [Updated]

May 12, 2011 |  7:48 pm

  Ironlady

Sometimes the most interesting movies at the Cannes Film Festival aren't playing the Cannes Film Festival. They're projects -- everything from scripts to finished movies -- that are being sold at the market, the rights bazaar that runs concurrent with the elegant screenings of auteur films.

There was the year, for instance, a quirky ballet movie that hadn't shot a single frame of footage was being shopped for a very reasonable price. That project turned out to be a little film called "Black Swan." (No one bought it.)

So far this year one project is rising above the rest: "Iron Lady," Meryl Streep's take on Margaret Thatcher. The movie, which shot this winter and tells of both the personal and professional life of the former British prime minister, has plenty of buzz around it; entire blogs, in fact, are devoted to tracking it.

As with many films in the market, though, there's a problem: No one's seen the blasted thing. The sales agent that's handling rights here, Pathe, is looking to make a deal with a buyer in the U.S to distribute the film, which is currently in post-production, based on footage alone. If it can close a sale, the movie could hit theaters this fall and become a force in Oscar season.

As for who might pick it up, the Weinstein Co. is believed to be at least one of the serious contenders, according to two competing buyers. A spokesman for the company did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but the awards-minded firm would be a logical home for several reasons, not least of which is that Harvey Weinstein doesn't have an obvious best picture contender yet this year. That's a notable absence in any season but certainly in the wake of the Weinstein Co.'s win for "The King's Speech" this year. "Iron Lady" may be a credible candidate.

[Updated, 4:41 a.m. May 13: A source familiar with negotiations confirms that Weinstein has indeed acquired rights to the film. The company is expected to issue an official release shortly.]

Still, there are questions. One buyer who spoke to 24 Frames on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of rights dealmaking, noted that buyers had until now been holding back to see if Streep plays a convincing Thatcher; footage is now being shown to executives. The movie is also directed by Phyllida Lloyd, whose previous film credit, "Mamma Mia," doesn't scream serious biopic.
 
"Iron Lady" does play strongly to several current trends: It comes off the strong box office for the British "King's Speech," touches on U.S. interest in British public figures a la the recent royal wedding, and  centers on a political leader with a strong anti-union stance, a subject that's been prominent in the news for several months now. And, oh yes, it stars Streep, who's had a remarkable string of box-office hits and has been nominated for an Oscar an eye-popping five times since 2000. And of course "The Queen" was a hit in the U.S. five years ago. Don't be surprised if a deal for "Iron Lady" happens at this spring festival and the movie hits theaters in the fall.

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-- Steven Zeitchik in Cannes, France
Twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in "Iron Lady." Credit: Pathe UK


Who, if anyone, is seeing 'Carlos' in theaters? Well, Keanu Reeves, for one...

October 23, 2010 |  2:00 pm

 Carlos-still6
Who, if anyone, is seeing the full-length version of "Carlos" in theaters?

After months of build-up, the 330-minute film, French filmmaker Olivier Assayas' overwhelming portrait of the terrorist best known as Carlos the Jackal, screened for its first paying audience in Los Angeles on Friday night.

But considering that the movie had already aired, in three parts, on cable TV last week -- and that a 166-minute version will be in cinemas early next week and available via video-on-demand -- how many people are willing to devote five and a half hours to the full big-screen experience?

Turns out, some 450 people showed up at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on Friday night for the first of four shows of the long version this weekend. They filled more than two-thirds of the 600-seat venue. Keanu Reeves was among the audience, as was Directors Guild President Taylor Hackford.

There were seemingly only a dozen or so walk-outs during the epic showing of the movie, and perhaps even fewer audience members who slipped away during the intermission between the film's second and third parts. The crowd, a sort of eclectic, only-in-L.A. mix of ages, genders, races and apparent economic status, appeared to stay engaged with the film throughout. At least one person was sporting a Che Guevara T-shirt.

Before the screening began, Assayas and actor Édgar Ramírez, who plays the title role in the film, made a few introductory remarks. As to how the project began, Assayas laughed, acknowledging the long haul ahead and said, "I'll give you the short version."

Assayas said he was initially struck by Carlos as "a real-life character with a bigger-than-life story that's also the story of a generation" that "touched issues you rarely have the opportunity to touch in cinema. And he's fun." He was also taken by "the complexity of the politics of that time and simultaneously I was amazed by the wildness of the stories."

Asked how he came to cast Ramírez, who, like the real-life Carlos, is from Venezuela, speaks several languages and was the right age for the part, Assayas responded, "I always say it's kind of obvious... it's like a computer would have connected us." Once he had Ramírez for the role, however, Assayas said, "I realized I was in serious trouble because now I had to make the film. I was cornered."

Assayas said it was "overwhelming" to have such a large audience in the theater for the full-length version. "When we were making it, that seemed like science fiction," he said.

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Édgar Ramírez in "Carlos." Credit: IFC Films 

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Preview review: Gemma Arterton gets saucy with director Stephen Frears in 'Tamara Drewe'

August 27, 2010 |  4:35 pm

MV5BMjAwOTUwMjIzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTY1MjM0Mw@@._V1._SX640_SY426_ On the big screen, Gemma Arterton has been no stranger to playing the role of resident hottie. She's was a Bond girl in "Quantum of Solace" and a fiery vixen earlier this year in "Clash of the Titans" and "Prince of Persia."

Her new film -- director Stephen Frears' "Tamara Drewe," which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival next month -- may have been shot on a much smaller budget, but Arterton is again portraying a sought-after female.

The film -- based on Posy Simmonds' graphic novel, which was inspired by Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd" -- is centered in the English countryside. There, a variety of writers and artists are pleasantly surprised when bombshell Tamara Drewe rolls into the sleepy town. Tamara, once not so attractive, has gotten a nose job and now enjoys a wealth of local male attention. She catches the eyes of two men in particular: one guyliner-wearing and surly (Dominic Cooper), the other muscular and outdoorsy (Luke Evans).

We're not sure if all of the elements here seem to work: For instance, the explanatory word boxes (which we assume exist because the film is based on a graphic novel) feel out of place in the comedy and more suited to a movie like "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." The movie also seems -- no surprise here -- to have a distinctly British sense of humor that audiences might not expect given the source material.

That being said, Arterton is really appealing in the role -- self-assured and sassy without making herself unlikable. And it looks like it will be fun to watch her multiple love affairs intertwine until the situation inevitably implodes. If she can bring enough youthful energy to the film -- which we're hopeful she can -- the movie seems like a light, easy comedy from the frequently stellar Frears.

--Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Gemma Arterton in "Tamara Drewe." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

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Palme d'Or winner 'Uncle Boonmee' heads to the U.S.

July 6, 2010 | 11:39 am

Boon

Palme d'Or winners don't have a huge track record here in the States -- the occasional Michael Moore entry aside, they usually earn in the vicinity of $4 million ("The Class"), or $1 million ("4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days").

But then, $4 million would hardly be a bad result for "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s quirky Palme d'Or winner from this year, about a country man who has visions as he lies on his deathbed (putting it reductively). Strand Releasing has just acquired domestic rights to the film and will bring to the U.S. next spring, and a few million dollars in box office would mean several hundred thousand people will have come to see the film, which is a lot more than we would have expected when the film played Cannes in May.

Strand released several of Weerasethakul’s previous movies, including "Syndromes and a Century," to very minimal commercial effect. And although this film is more accessible than some of his earlier work, it has a less marketable conceit than some of the previous Palme winners. Strand, God bless it, may nonetheless be in a tough spot to push it; one could have imagined another distributor coming in and spending (marginally) more money.

Of course, the way things go these days, foreign auteurs get exposure in the U.S. in a different way, getting snapped up by studios looking to bring a touch of class to their otherwise generic projects. One can only imagine what a set that had studio executives hashing out their desires with Weerasethakul might look like. If nothing else, that would be an award-winning drama in its own right.

-- Steven Zeitchik
twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: A scene from "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives." Credit: Cannes Film Festival

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World Cup host South Africa gets a (different kind of) cinematic close-up

June 28, 2010 | 12:49 pm

If the sounds of the vuvuzelas isn't still ringing in our ears months after the World Cup ends, South Africa might find another way into our consciousness. Sony Pictures Classics said Monday morning that it has bought distribution rights to "Life, Above All," Oliver Schmitz's South Africa-set movie that played Cannes last month, and would release the film in the U.S.

The movie, which we saw on the Croisette, focuses on a teenage girl beset by a host of problems (a series of father figures who've abandoned her, a mother who may be dying) while she must simultaneously care for her younger siblings. The film's got a bit of a "Winter's Bone" feel to it -- there's a strong, wise-beyond-her-years teenage girl fighting the odds in a poor rural area, protecting children even as she is, in many ways, still a child herself (though the film is not the tour de force that "Winter's Bone" is).

LifeOur Cannes viewing had actually made us wonder, given all the ways South Africa is in the news, if a major American company might take a flier on it. If the ESPN telecasts and other news coverage awaken a larger curiosity about country, this is a movie that satisfies it; "Life" is much more of a foray into social realism than many more politically minded South African films have been.

Still, there's an unavoidable problem with putting out this movie. The film's portrayal of rural and working-class parts of the country is hardly glowing; many of the adults are downright harsh or so preoccupied with their own survival that they have no time for the children. Schmitz, who based the film on a popular young-adult novel, also casts a depressing light on the powerful specter of AIDS among the country's poor.

All that grittiness makes it a more interesting film, but it could also present a marketing incompatibility, flying in the face of the feel-good aura hovering over South Africa, literalized by those incessant notes of harmonic folk music accompanying all showings of the World Cup logo.

("District 9," of course, became a big hit despite hardly being a Chamber of Commerce-approved piece of work, but that movie came out well before the World Cup and put many of the social issues behind a genre cloak anyway.)

Sony Classics hasn't committed to a release date for "Life" yet. That may be simply because it needs to find a place for it on the always-crowded specialty-release calendar. But it could also be wise not to push a film about the unseen problems in South Africa when everyone is still hearing the World Cup music.

— Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Life, Above All." Credit: Cannes Film Festival.

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Cannes 2010: Addition by subtraction and the final sum

May 23, 2010 |  3:01 pm

Cannes2010

For all the noise and crowds on the Boulevard de la Croisette these last 12 days, the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, which came to a close Sunday evening, was defined as much by the elements that weren't there as by those that were.

A trio of the film world's most outsize personalities -- figures who no doubt loomed large in the mind of artistic director Thierry Frémaux as he began programming the festival in the winter and early spring -- didn't turn up. For reasons of injury, schedule or simple reluctance, Ridley Scott, Sean Penn and Jean-Luc Godard all stayed home despite world premieres that surely would have earned them a lion's welcome. The result was several conspicuous holes torn through the presentations of some of the festival's most anticipated movies.

The industry side of this global cinema gathering, meanwhile, brought a similar motif. The much-rumored announcement of Harvey Weinstein's and Ron Burkle's purchase of the Miramax library didn't materialize, as negotiations continued throughout the festival (and hit the skids Friday afternoon).

Another independent-film business fixture, Bob Berney, while technically present, felt missing, as he came to the festival just three days after resigning his post at start-up distributor Apparition and with no apparent means of acquiring films. It was just last year at Cannes that Berney announced the formation of the label with the purchase of Jane Campion's “Bright Star” (in its lone year of operation, Apparition's buys were few and its release performance tepid).

A similar muted feeling ran underneath many of the film presentations. Brash and loud movies were rarely in evidence among the festival's most beloved titles, replaced by seemingly unassuming films that only gradually turned into discoveries.

Last year, the two most talked-about movies at Cannes were big-budget Hollywood extravaganzas: the 3-D stylings of “Up” and the filmmaking bravura of Quentin Tarantino and his “Inglourious Basterds,” both of which brought a degree of Hollywood panache. They were joined by other forms of media spectacle -- the long-awaited premiere of the posthumous Heath Ledger film “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” and by cinematic shock-jock Lars von Trier, who unveiled his brutal, polarizing “Antichrist” at the festival.

This year, two of the most-talked about films were a drama about a couple in their twilight years, Mike Leigh's “Another Year,” and “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives,” a mystical drama from the Thai up-and-comer Apichatpong Weerasethakul. “Boonmee” went on to win the Palme d'Or, besting movies from higher profile filmmakers such as Alejandro González Iñárritu and Doug Liman, and underscoring that this year's festival was in many ways defined by the personalities below the radar.

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