Fest folk fretful over slim pickings

Top auteurs have varied reasons for skipping Venice, Toronto

Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work.

As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses.

Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, either still in post-production or completed but fest-shy. Others are rushing against the clock and unsure of making completion dates.

Another more subtle but no less compelling reason filmmakers are shying away from fest exposure is a reluctance to have their pics pegged as arthouse fare rather than mainstream contenders.

In any case, the uncertainty is making fest offcials sweat — even though Venice and Toronto programmers are confident of delivering a strong slate of premieres.

With the announcement of the lineup of the 60th edition of Venice due July 31 and the fest itself unfolding Aug. 27-Sept. 6, Venice chief Moritz de Hadeln says: “It’s becoming very difficult to make selections and organize a program like this at the last moment. Things are changing day by day.”

Despite speculation that the changes in Oscar dates would make Toronto, which runs Sept. 4-13, a more attractive venue for studios, Toronto topper Piers Handling says, “It’s not like everyone is banging down the door to launch their Oscar campaigns here.” Toronto will unveil its final sked on Aug. 19.

Those who watch the fests and rate their slates say it’s an idiosyncratic science: Films are either done in time or they’re not; release dates coincide with fest or they don’t; studios either want their pic to have the veneer of a fest run or they don’t.

“There are so many variables that come into the decision-making process,” says publicist Michelle Robertson, who works on awards campaigns for Focus Features. “You look at each film and decide what’s best for that film.”

At this point, it looks like many of the films that weren’t ready in time for Cannes also may not make it to Venice or Toronto either:

  • “Kill Bill” marks the return of Quentin Tarantino six years after “Jackie Brown”; but with the decision to split the three-hour film into two releases, both halves have considerable work to do before the first part bows on Oct. 10, keeping the martial arts actioner out of Venice. Tarantino could conceivably rush to fill a late Toronto berth, but it’s doubtful.

  • Up until a few weeks ago Peter Weir’s “Master and Commander” was expected to dock in Venice, but he has apparently decided to complete post at a more leisurely pace with sights on Fox’s November U.S. release.

  • Wong Kar-Wai “2046” had been eyeing the fall fest circuit, but the SARS scare shut down filming in Shanghai, knocking it off its production sked. Wong will likely be at the fall fests, however, as one of the troika of directors, along with Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni, in the omnibus project “Eros.”

  • Ingmar Bergman could make Toronto or Venice with his “Saraband,” but the filmmaker is reportedly still tinkering with the drama, which may keep it under wraps until the Berlin fest.

  • Greek vet Theo Angelopoulos is editing “The Weeping Field” and is not expected to be finished before December.

  • Bosnian Emir Kusturica still has a climactic sequence to shoot on “Hungry Heart.”

  • Italian director Ermanno Olmi’s period pirate drama “Singing Behind the Screens” will not be ready.

Some completed pics plan to skip the fests.

The Coen brothers won’t be showing “Intolerable Cruelty,” which Universal will release on Oct. 10. The backers apparently don’t want this comedy to be perceived as an arthouse release.

Jane Campion won’t be showing her erotic thriller “In the Cut,” which Screen Gems has in the U.S. While the completed film may have been submitted to the Toronto and New York fests, international distrib Pathe is declining Lido exposure, insisting that film too is a mainstream venture.

Miramax’s “Bright Young Things,” Stephen Fry’s Evelyn Waugh adaptation, is also shying away from the fall fests.

So, who will actually make the trip to Venice and Toronto?

De Hadeln’s lips are sealed until his July 31 press conference. The sole announced title is Woody Allen’s “Anything Else,” which opens the Venice fest.

Warners is taking its Ridley Scott grifter comedy “Matchstick Men” to both Venice and Toronto.

Warners international prez Sue Kroll says of the Lido trip, “There are a number of things that work,” among them the Sept. 12 U.S. release date followed by overseas bows throughout September and October.

Having world-premiered at Cannes, Warners will also take Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” to opening night of the New York fest. Agreement with the latter precludes any other North American exposure, which strikes Toronto, but the drama will be screened in August at the Edinburgh festival.

Another Sean Penn starrer, Focus Features’ “21 Grams,” recently had its release date bumped up from early 2004 to Nov. 14. Consequently, the drug drama from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez-Inarritu, his follow-up to “Amores perros,” is now expected to be ready for Venice.

Miramax this year looks likely to hit both the Lido and Toronto with Robert Benton’s adaptation of Philip Roth’s “The Human Stain.”Also likely Venice-bound are Fox Searchlight with Bernardo Bertolucci’s erotic Parisian drama “The Dreamers,” Christopher Hampton’s “Imagining Argentina,” and Michael Winterbottom’s “Code 46,” which United Artists has in the U.S.

Likely European pics include Marco Bellocchio’s “Good Morning, Night” and Jacques Rivette’s “Marie et Julien.”

More Film

  • 'Piercing' Review

    Sundance Film Review: 'Piercing'

    Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work. As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses. Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, […]

  • Sundance: Lionsgate Nabs U.K. Rights for

    Sundance: Lionsgate Nabs U.K. Rights for 'Colette' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work. As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses. Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, […]

  • 'Hangover' Producer Scott Budnick Forms Good

    'Hangover' Producer Scott Budnick Forms Good Films, Endeavor is Lead Investor (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work. As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses. Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, […]

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg Talks Supreme Court

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg on #MeToo Movement, Her SNL Parody, and Supreme Court Retirement

    Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work. As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses. Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, […]

  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

    'Jumanji' Leads International Box Office, Hits $768 Million Worldwide

    Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work. As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses. Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, […]

  • 'Phantom Thread,' 'Darkest Hour' Shine as

    'Phantom Thread,' 'Darkest Hour' Shine as Oscar Nominations Loom

    Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work. As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses. Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, […]

  • 'Jumanji' Stays Strong, Topping '12 Strong,'

    'Jumanji' Stays Strong, Topping '12 Strong,' 'Den of Thieves' With $20 Million

    Even before the wrap of this year’s underwhelming Cannes Film Fest, pundits were looking to Venice and Toronto for critical redemption and a bumper crop of auteur-driven work. As these fests near, though, it’s becoming clear they won’t be benefitting from Cannes’ losses. Many of the films that missed the Cannes deadline remain in limbo, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content