CANNES, FRANCE -- After a week's vacation where the sun came out for a grand total of 23 minutes in seven days -- okay, I'm exaggerating, but not much, and nobody goes to London for the sun, I was immensely relieved to arrive in Cannes and actually see the sun shining on the blue Mediterranean. I’ve said it before, if my hotel room had a balcony I’d never leave. -- let's take a look at the Selection for this year's Cannes selection. Now, there are tea-leaf readers out there who can divine the thoughts of programmer Thierry Fremaux and his evil overlord, Darth Maul, sorry, Gille Jacob from the slection.
I'm impressed by people who can do this, but none of them look like mindreaders.
Here it is.
CANNES 2007: OFFICIAL SELECTION
OPENER "My Blueberry Nights," Hong Kong-France-China, Wong Kar Wai
CLOSER "The Age of Darkness," Canada, Denys Arcand
"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," Romania, Cristian Mungiu
"Alexandra," Russia, Alexander Sokurov
"Auf der anderen Seite des Lebens," Germany-Turkey, Fatih Akin
"The Banishment," Russia-Belgium, Andrey Zvyagintsev
"Breath," South Korea, Kim Ki-duk
"Les Chansons d'amour," France, Christophe Honore
"Death Proof," U.S., Quentin Tarantino
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," France, Julian Schnabel
"Import/Export," Austria, Ulrich Seidl
"The Man From London," Germany-France-U.K.-Hungary, Bela Tarr
"Mogari No Mor," Japan, Naomi Kawase
"No Country For Old Men," U.S., The Coen Brothers
"Paranoid Park," France-U.S., Gus Van Sant
"Persepolis," France-U.S., Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
"Promise Me This," France-Serbia, Emir Kusturica
"Secret Sunshine," South Korea, Lee Chang-dong
"Silent Light," Mexico-France-Netherlands, Carlos Reygadas
"Tehilim," France, Raphael Nadjari
"Une Vieille Maitresse," France, Catherine Breillat
"We Own the Night," U.S., James Gray
"Zodiac," U.S., David Fincher
OUT OF COMPETITION
"A Mighty Heart," U.K., Michael Winterbottom
"Ocean's Thirteen," U.S., Steven Soderbergh
"Sicko," U.S., Michael Moore
"Boarding Gate," France, Olivier Assayas
"Go Go Tales," U.S., Abel Ferrara
"U2 3D," U.S., Catherine Owens and Mark Pellington
UN CERTAIN REGARD
"Am ende kommen touristen," Germany, Robert Thalheim
"L'Avocat de la terreur," France, Barbet Schroeder
"El Bano del papa," Uruguay, Enrique Fernandez and Cesar Charlone
"Bikur Hatizmoret," Israel, Eran Kolirin
"California Dreamin'," Romania, Cristian Nemescu
"Calle Santa Fe," Chile, Carmen Castillo
"Et toi, t'es sur qui?," France, Lola Doillon
"Kuaile Gongchang," Thailand, Ekachai Uekrongtham
"Magnus," Estonia-U.K., Kadri Kousaar
"Mang Shan," China, Li Yang
"Mio fratello e figlio unico," Italy, Daniele Luchetti
"Mister Lonely," U.S., Harmony Korine
"Munyurangabo," U.S., Lee Isaac Chung
"Night Train," China, Diao Yi'nan
"Les Pieuvres," France, Celine Sciamma
"Le Reve de la nuit d'avant," France, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi
"La Soledad," Spain, Jaime Rosales
"11th Hour," U.S., Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners
"He Fengming," China, Wang Bing
"Retour en Normandie," France, Nicolas Philibert
"The War," U.S., Ken Burns
We've left out a few things, like Competition shorts and some special 60th Anniversary stuff.
And let's ignore, for the moment Un Certain Regard, which is basically "films that weren't good enough for the Competition" which is a little different from film shown Out of Competition -- those are, generally speaking, films that don‘t really need the Competition, or, in the case of Ocean‘s Thirteen, a film the festival needs more than it needs the festival -- stars to the Palais, the paparazzi cheer.. There are a lot of American films in the Selection, in part because several Cannes regulars have films ready this year, but also because American films draw international press.
In the Competition, four of the filmmakers are previous Palme d'or winners -- Tarantino for Pulp Fiction, the Coen Brothers for Barton Fink, Gus Van Sant for Elephant, and Emir Kusturica for When Father Was Away on Business and Underground.
There are two Palmaires getting Gala Screenings, Michael Moore and Steven Soderbergh, who famously, on winning the Palme for Sex, Lies And Videotape said “I guess it’s all downhill from here.” And the opening and closing films are both directed by previous Cannes prize-winners -- Wong Kar Wai having picked up Best Director for In The Mood For Love and Denys Arcand, Canada’s Ken Loach, having won the Jury Prize for Jesus de Montreal, the FIPRESCI Prize for Decline Of The American Empire, and the screenplay prize for his Oscar-winner, The Barbarian Invasions.
Among the others, Zvyagintsev and Kim Ki-Duk have both won prizes at major film European Film Festivals for The Return and Three-Iron, respectively.
This is Bela Tarr’s first visit to the Competition, though he seems to have placed films in every other section of the festival over the years, and Gus Van Sant’s Elephant getting a prize is a lot like Tarr getting a prize, if he’s been smart enough to cast his films with dreamy American teenaged boys rather than homely middle-aged Hungarians Likewise Catherine Breillat, which is kind of shocking -- how did a French filmmaker with 30 years experience manage to avoid the Cannes Competition until now?
This is what we might term the “usual suspects” portion of the Festival -- Your basic “these are the heavy hitters we could get.”
The unusual presence in the Competition is David Fincher’s Zodiac -- American films that show up after opening in the US simply don’t have a very good track record at Cannes, and this year’s Cannes may simply have the wrong jury for Fincher, an actress-heavy assemblage (Maggie Cheung, Sarah Polley, Toni Collette and Maria de Medeiros) confronting a director who’s never spent a lot of time on his female characters. And, for people who like to keep track of such things, it’s the Longest movie in Competition by about 25 minutes. And on “size matters“ front, the revised Tarantino Death Proof is now listed at 127 minutes.
Anyway, a quick browse of the catalogue reveals that the youngest director in the Competition is 34 -- Fatih Akin, the Turkish/German director of The Edge of Heaven.
The big demographic for this festival’s competition is Baby Boom -- Breillat, Kusturica, Tarr, Sokhurov, Julian Schnabel, Ulrich Seidl, Gus Van Sant, the Coen Brothers, Wong Kar Wai. Cannes is, for all its feints in the direction of relevance, is the Establishment film festival par excellence. And there’s no way around that. Quentin Tarentino isn’t a daringly radical filmmaker. Nor is Wong Kar Wai. They are influences. They’ve been weighed and found not wanting. They’re two of the last three presidents of the Cannes Jury.
This is why Cannes is the perfect film festival. The conservative old critics can complain that the Selection isn’t up to the Golden Age when they started coming in. The middle-aged critics who think they’re not conservative can complain that these filmmakers aren’t up to the daring work they did in their youth. The young critics can dismiss the whole thing as another case of old and in the way boomers blocking the paths of daring young directors who are shooting their new films with cellphone technology and editing it in pixelvision. Everybody’s miserable, so everybody’s happy.
And the face of the 2007 International Festival du Film de Cannes is.... Asia Argento. With Marie Antoinette in the Competition and Transylvania the closing night film, she was damn near the face of the 2006 Festival as well. The three films she’s finsished since then are all here -- Olivier Assayas’ Boarding Gate and Abel Ferrara’s Go Go Tales are both midnight screenings out of competition, and she’s the star of Catherine Breillat’s The Old Mistress, in Competition. That’s five consecutive films in the Selection -- Asia Argento IS the Cannes Film Festival.
Later.. My Blueberry Nights...
Tomorrow... The five filmmakers you meet in Cannes....