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Category: Cannes 2010

Thai upstart 'Uncle Boonmee' takes the Palme d'Or at Cannes

May 23, 2010 | 11:36 am


The Cannes Film Festival jury defied the oddsmakers on Sunday night, voting to give Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" its top prize of the Palme d'Or.

A supernatural-laden drama about a dying man who takes a mystical journey, the film had won the hearts of many critics and festival-goers when it screened last week, but most experts believed the prize would go to one of a group of Cannes veterans, including Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Abbas Kiarostami and Mike Leigh, all of whom had well-received films. Weerasethakul, known colloquially as "Joe," becomes a Palme d'Or winner at the relatively young age of 39, with "Boonmee," his sixth film. The movie does not yet have U.S. distribution.

The Cannes competition jury, headed by Tim Burton, gave its runner-up Gran Prix prize to Xavier Beauvois' monastery-set drama "Of God and Men," which Sony Pictures Classics picked up late last week.

Acting prizes went to Javier Bardem ("Biutiful") and Elio Germano ("La Nostra Vita") on the men's side and Juilette Binoche ("Certified Copy") on the women's. Mathieu Amalric ("Tournee") took home the directing prize.

 -- Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes, France

Photo: Actress Charlotte Gainsbourg stands next to director Apichatpong Weerasethakul after he won the Palme d'Or award for the film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" at the Cannes Film Festival. Credit: Eric Gaillard / Reuters

Cannes 2010: A video examination, Part 8

May 23, 2010 |  5:00 am

The Cannes Film Festival features some abrasively noisy streets and many enjoyably quiet films. As the 12-day movie feast comes to an end, The Times' Steven Zeitchik and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips look back at the art, the commerce and the wackiness in between.

Cannes 2010: More surprise than laughter as 'Ha Ha Ha' takes a prize in Cannes

May 22, 2010 |  5:46 pm

We were traveling earlier in the evening and couldn't post this news right away, but a bit of a surprise in Cannes as "Ha Ha Ha," Hong Sangsoo's Korean-themed contemplation of destiny and purpose, scored the top prize in the festival's Un Certain Regard section on Saturday night.

The film centers on two native Koreans who meet each other in present-day Canada only to discover they had once been on a trip to Korea together. The film won after premiering at the festival on Friday, after many of the other Un Certain Regard titles had been unveiled -- and despite comparatively few observers touting its odds for a big trophy. (The Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams marital drama "Blue Valentine" and the Romanian gem "Tuesday after Christmas" were our own favorites in the section, but then, the jury doesn't usuallly consult with U.S. film reporters.)

Daniel and Diego Vega's "Octubre" won the runner-up jury prize in the section, while the actresses from Ivan Fund's and Santiago Losas' "Los Labios" were bestowed a special acting award.

The announcement sets the stage for Sunday night's Palme d'Or announcement, in what experts say is one of the most wide-open races for the Cannes top prize in years. Korean existential drama "Poetry," Thai genre-buster "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives" British character drama "Another Year" and Mexican-Spanish melodrama "Biutiful" are all considered top contenders.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Un Certain Regard winner "Ha Ha Ha." Credit: Cannes Film Festival

Cannes 2010: Olivier Assayas: 'I did not want to make Carlos'

May 21, 2010 |  5:12 pm

There are long movies. There are massively long movies. And then there is "Carlos."

A dramatized story of the rise and fall of the enigmatic, charismatic and at times dogmatic terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, Olivier Assayas' new film clocks in at a leg-numbing 5 hours and 19 minutes. If that sounds like a daunting viewing experience, it may be of some comfort to know that the man responsible for it was intimidated too.

"I did not want to make ‘Carlos.' It seemed too crazy and too complicated,” said Assayas during an interview in a Cannes restaurant two days after the film premiered. "It just happened to me."

What happened — or what Assayas made happen, with the financing of the French broadcaster Canal-Plus — was a seven-month shoot across three continents. The result, which premiered in a marathon screening at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday and will be released by IFC both in this form and as a 2 1/2-hour condensed version in theaters and on television this fall, is a sprawling and suspenseful film about one of the 20th century’s least understood radicals.

Born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez in Venezuela, Carlos emerged in the 1970s as a radical leftist operative with the violent Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine before striking out on his own. In his subsequent two-decade career as a leftist guerrilla and terrorist leader, he allegedly masterminded numerous deadly attacks across Europe and the Middle East before finally being captured in 1994 and convicted three years later of the slaying of several counterintelligence agents.

Divided into three parts (and airing over three nights this weekend on French television), the film thoroughly and thrillingly explores the becoming of Carlos, his run as a guerrilla leader and debonair Lothario in the vein of John Dillinger, and his eventual demise into a cartoonish glutton who spends too many hours dancing in cheesy nightclubs. Think of "Munich" with more ambition, or "The Bourne Identity" with more substance, and you begin to get a sense of the film’s tone and scope.

Assayas, who landed on Americans’ radar two years ago with a very different work, the family drama "Summer Hours," combed through reams of material and consulted with multiple journalists (though he still warns in the title screen that this is a work of fiction). "What spoke to me is a life full of such extraordinary events. I had about three stereotypical notions of him, and they didn’t even connect. Until now, he’s existed only as a media abstraction."

Indeed, Carlos has been among the most romanticized terrorist leaders of modern times (he’s memorialized, among other pop-cultural vehicles, in Robert Ludlum’s bestselling Jason Bourne novels). But this film, in which the Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez plays Carlos with suave aplomb, is meant to shred some of the paper-thin conceptions about the assassin.

"What we’re trying to do is demystify him," Ramirez said in an interview. “This guy who supposedly had everything figured out was not as keen as he was said to be. The public and historical image was as history’s big manipulator but in many moments of his life, he was being manipulated."

That image is in particular relief during the film’s linchpin scenes, occupying most of the second chapter. In a major attack Carlos led on a meeting of OPEC ministers in Vienna, and in the subsequent removal of hostages to Algeria, the terrorist makes numerous political and logistical missteps and loses control of the operation.

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Cannes 2010: America braces for an auteur attack

May 21, 2010 |  4:15 pm

The Cannes competition titles may, as a group, be thought an underwhelming bunch. But American audiences won't have to trust the tastemakers on the Croisette. They'll get a chance to see for themselves after two more titles were sold to American companies on Friday. Both are in French and both feature religious tensions, so we're thinking ... art house.

Sony Pictures Classics announced that it had picked up "Of Gods and Men," Xavier Beauvois' French-language film about monks in North Africa who resolve to stay in their monastery even as tensions in the Muslim-dominated region intensify. IFC, meanwhile, has announced that it has acquired domestic rights to "The Princess of Montpensier," the love story from French auteur Bertrand Tavernier set amid 16th century battles between French Catholics and Protestants.

The latter stages of the Cannes Film Festival tend to see a flurry of U.S. deals for foreign-language films, as distributors pretty much have decided what films they really want (and as some make a play to buy competition movies before the Palme d'Or is announced and the winner's price rises; as it is in the commodities market, so it is with Cannes).

Both of the movies acquired Friday are thought to be respectable contenders for the the Palme, with "Of Gods and Men" considered -- along with Mike Leigh's "Another Year" (also an SPC buy), Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy" (an IFC buy), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful" and Lee Chang-Dong's "Poetry" -- in the top group of candidates.

 -- Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes, France


Photo: "The Princess of Montpensier; credit: Cannes Film Festival

Cannes 2010: A video examination, Part 7

May 21, 2010 |  5:00 am

Is "Fair Game," the story of the Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame incident, a thrilling story of secret documents, or just a story of documents? The Times' Steven Zeitchik and the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips offer some hard-fought answers.

Cannes Critical Consensus: 'Fair Game'

May 20, 2010 |  7:48 pm


"Fair Game" director Doug Liman  ("The Bourne Identity," "Swingers," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith") is apparently not going to get rave reviews from Fox News.

Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, the filmmaker's dramatization of how he believes CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband, retired ambassador Joe Wilson, were thrown under the bus by the George W. Bush administration and its supporters drew mostly positive marks after its Thursday screening.

The only American film playing in the festival's main competition category, "Fair Game" is set to be released by Summit Entertainment this year.  

A roundup of the early notices:

Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter:  "Whether moviegoers even today can look at this real-life couple, extremely well-played by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, without the distortion of political beliefs is uncertain. Nonetheless, Liman and his collaborators strive to locate the human element amid the clutter of spin, hypocrisy and partisan rhetoric. One can count on more op-ed pieces and political controversy when Summit releases the picture in the fall."

Justin Chang, Variety:  "Following 'Green Zone' as another slightly dated attack on the Bush administration's mishandling of Iraq, 'Fair Game' serves up impeccable politics with a bit too much righteous outrage and not quite enough solid drama. Doug Liman's film does a respectably intelligent job of spinning the Valerie Plame affair into a sleek mainstream entertainment that means to rouse one's patriotic ire and at times stirringly succeeds. But the overall conception feels too streamlined to maximize the impact of leads Naomi Watts and Sean Penn."

Joe Utichi, Cinematical:  "Adapted for the big screen, 'Fair Game' is a political thriller akin to 'State of Play' or 'Spy Game,' but that it's drawn straight from life makes it all the more compelling. For Liman, this is a more serious piece of cinema than he's delivered to date, but his action chops mean it's a film which maintains its tension from scene one, even if there are no big action moments to fall back on."

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Nike's World Cup commercial showcases Iñárritu's filmmaking flair

May 20, 2010 |  3:15 pm

Writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose films include "Babel," "Amores Perros," "21 Grams" and the Cannes Film Festival premiere "Biutiful," has shown a unique talent in weaving together seemingly unrelated narratives into a coherent whole.

Rarely has that skill been on greater display than with a new Nike soccer commercial that was unveiled Thursday ahead of next month's World Cup.

Called "Write the Future," the three-minute Nike ad stars soccer legends Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Landon Donovan and Ronaldinho. There are also quick appearances from the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant, a pingpong-playing Roger Federer and television's Homer Simpson. In one sequence in the commercial, the Mexican-born director imagines how Rooney's life might have turned out had a particular soccer play not gone well for the star of Manchester United and England's World Cup team.

The commercial was made at advertising agency Wieden & Kennedy. Trevor Edwards, Nike’s vice president for brand and category management, has said that the spot is one of the best Nike has ever turned out.

Will it sell Nike apparel? Who knows? But the ad is certainly going to elevate Iñárritu's status as a storyteller, even as he waits for a Cannes buyer for "Biutiful" to come forward.

-- John Horn
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Cannes 2010: 'Fair Game's' fair response

May 20, 2010 |  1:27 pm

As we write this, "Fair Game," one of the Cannes Film Festival's most high-profile movies, is making its public premiere at the festival. It remains to be seen how the viewing public feels about the the Doug Liman-directed, Sean Penn- and Naomi Watts-starring drama about the Valerie Plame incident. But if it's anything like the way it played at the media unveiling earlier in the day, that should give film fans and distributor Summit mild, but not overly strong, encouragement.

The film, which is the only picture directed by an American to play in the festival's competition section, does a fine job of conveying the treacherous position that Plame and husband Joe Wilson found themselves in after the Bush administration, in a politically motivated gambit, helped out Plame as a CIA agent (without, interestingly, ever naming Robert Novak, the columnist who was the conduit of said outing). Liman — and, especially, the top-flight performances — convey the appropriate tension and injustice at the entire sordid matter.

But the film can't ultimately escape the fact that this is, essentially, a movie about people writing articles, who are writing articles about people who write reports. It's not a political thriller, despite a director skilled in same willing to deploy some thriller techniques, and the reaction in the press screening channeled as much. That should confirm what we suspected: This could pose some marketing issues for Summit, which hopes the topical film will be this year's "Hurt Locker" -- an awards powerhouse and media darling (though, of course, that film was hardly a box-office juggernaut either). (For more, check out Rachel Abramowitz's piece on the film in The Times.)

Several other things stood out at the post-screening news conference, including the absence of Sean Penn (reluctant to turn out for the dog-and-pony show — we mean, testifying before Congress) as well as Plame herself, who's in Cannes promoting a nuclear-nonproliferation documentary. Asked about her absence, Liman said that he had wanted her there too, but "we were told in the history of Cannes that we wouldn't normally bring the people who the film is based on to the press conference." We hope that changes for the U.S. rollout — Plame is a galvanizing and compelling figure, and she could be used to help sell the movie. The movie could use it.

— Steven Zeitchik, reporting from Cannes, France


Photo: A scene from "Fair Game." Credit: Cannes Film Festival.

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Cannes Critical Consensus: 'Carlos'

May 20, 2010 | 11:19 am


If you can spend a day in a theater and have buns of steel, "Carlos" might be for you.

The epic-length biographical drama about a violent Venezuelan revolutionary known as "Carlos the Jackal" attracted some of the better reviews to come out of the Cannes Film Festival. The movie, which clocks in at nearly 5 1/2 hours, will be released on the Sundance Channel as a miniseries and by IFC Films (in its full and a shortened version) theatrically.

A sampling of some of the mostly positive notices:

Todd McCarthy, IndieWire: " 'Carlos' is everything 'Che' wanted to be and much, much more—a dynamic, convincing and revelatory account of a notorious revolutionary terrorist’s career that rivets the attention during every one of its 321 minutes. In what is certainly his best work, French director Olivier Assayas adopts a fleet, ever-propulsive style that creates an extraordinary you-are-there sense of verisimilitude, while Edgar Ramirez inhabits the title role with arrogant charisma of Brando in his prime. It’s an astonishing film."

Manohla Dargis, the New York Times: "...if Carlos is essentially uninteresting – it’s his violence and the veneer of sexiness that violence can bring with it that makes him a star – it’s because Mr. Assayas has worked hard to create a new kind of movie terrorist. With his beard, beret and black leather jacket, the young Carlos is a militant pin-up. But Carlos isn’t Che slogging through the jungle for the cause: Carlos is a mercenary, a thug."

Sukhdev Sandhu, the Telegraph: "...this enthralling portrait of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal lasts for over five hours and doesn’t contain a wasted minute. The story ranges far and wide – from Europe, Latin America to Africa and the Middle East – and it’s a testament to Assayas’s control and discipline (qualities for which, though often brilliant, he’s not renowned) that the murky and dispersed nature of the central story never escapes him."

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