SARS, war won’t derail Cannes plan

'River,' 'Elephant,' 'Bunny' to rep U.S. in competition

This article was updated at 9:36 p.m. PT, April 23, 2003.

See lineup

PARIS — Increasing worries about the spread of the SARS epidemic and a much-rumored American snub were both brushed aside Wednesday as the lineup of the 56th Cannes Film Festival (May 14-25) was unveiled in Paris.

Contrary to speculation that the fest might give Asian pics a wide berth this year, a bunch of East Asian helmers will be winging their way to the French Riviera. No one is being told to stay away — yet.

“We are in close contact with the French Health Ministry, and we’ll follow whatever recommendations they make,” said fest managing director Veronique Cayla at the press conference with prexy Gilles Jacob and artistic director Thierry Fremaux.

And despite Franco-U.S. froideur over the war in Iraq, which some had feared would impact the fest’s selection, American pics occupy more or less their usual amount of space in the Official Selection.

Yankee trio

Like last year, Yank productions take up three slots in competition: Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River,” starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon; Gus Van Sant’s HBO feature “Elephant”; and Vincent Gallo’s reportedly highly sexy indie “The Brown Bunny,” with Chloe Sevigny and the helmer himself. Latter two directors are making their first appearance in Competition at Cannes.

However, despite the presence of several other U.S. productions in Official Selection, Warners is the only Hollywood major (or even mini-major) repped in the lineup, with “Mystic River” and second-night preem “The Matrix: Reloaded.”

“We worked with Warners for a long time on ‘Matrix.’ Things went very well with Joel Silver. He’s a strong personality who really wanted to come to Cannes,” Fremaux told Daily Variety. He added the fest had looked at 344 American feature films, while he paid four visits to the U.S. in seven months.

Difficult year

Fremaux confirmed selection had played out right to the wire — and beyond: Three more titles will be announced for Un Certain Regard, possibly by Friday.

“It was a difficult year,” Fremaux commented. “It’s getting harder and harder, because films arrive late, from everywhere.”

In all, 908 features and more than 1,500 shorts were submitted. Total figure is nearly 10% up on last year, though the number of features submitted is actually 30 less.

Fremaux categorizes this year’s selection as containing “films with a mixture of comedy and tragedy, a couple of pure comedies, films that are radical aesthetically, and films that are very serious and somber.”

Even though many Cannes regulars didn’t have pics ready in time, faves like Lars von Trier with the in-competition “Dogville” (a “very radical film,” per Fremaux) and Alexander Sokurov with “Father and Son” return to the Croisette. Though much-rumored, Ingmar Bergman has decided not to send “Saraband” to Cannes.

In all, 52 features will be screened across the Official Selection’s various sections. Of the 20 films in competition (two fewer than last year), six are by directors new to that section.

Three other U.S. productions, all documentaries, will receive special screenings: “Charlie: The Life and Art of Charlie Chaplin” by Richard Schickel; Errol Morris’ study of Robert McNamara, “The Fog of War”; and Wim Wenders’ blues docu “The Soul of a Man.”

As well as the Hollywood talent associated with the fest pics, other U.S. big guns making the trip to the French Riviera will include Oliver Stone, who will give the fest’s Cinema Lesson this year, and Steven Soderbergh and Meg Ryan, on the main competition jury.

French in forefront

But as expected, French productions will play a preponderant role this year — a full quarter of this year’s pics hail from Gaul. The French flavor will be in evidence from the moment the curtain goes up on the opener, Gerard Krawczyk’s color remake of the 1952 swashbuckler classic “Fanfan la Tulipe.” Vincent Perez and Penelope Cruz take the roles originally created by Gerard Philipe and Gina Lollobrigida.

In addition to French-based Chilean helmer Raoul Ruiz (“Ce Jour-la”), no fewer than five Gallic helmers are in competition, most of them veterans. They are: Bertand Blier with “Les Cotelettes,” based on his play; Claude Miller with Chekhov adaptation “La Petite Lili”; Francois Ozon with the English-language “Swimming Pool,” starring Charlotte Rampling and Charles Dance; Andre Techine with Emmanuelle Beart starrer “Strayed”; and Bertrand Bonello with “Tiresia.”

Noncompeting Gallic fare includes Sylvain Chomet’s much-bruited toon “Les Triplettes de Belleville” and “Who Killed Bambi?,” a first feature by Gilles Marchand, co-writer of Dominik Moll’s “With a Friend Like Harry” and Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s “Bon Voyage.”

A French production, Arnaud Desplechin’s “En jouant ‘Dans la compagnie des hommes,'” will open Un Certain Regard, and the sidebar also contains Solveig Anspach’s “Stormy Weather.”

Acknowledging that this would be a bumper year for France, Fremaux said: “We viewed 85 French films. It was a pleasure to see them and heartbreaking to choose.”

The French also have a hand in a number of other Cannes pics including the in-competition Franco-Swiss “Ce Jour-la,” Michael Haneke’s Franco-Austrian “Le Temps du loup,” (out of competition because it stars jury prexy Patrice Chereau), and the special screening of Franco-Cambodian “S-21, the Khmer Rouge Death Machine,” by Rithy Panh. As usual, French co-production money is also present in several other titles.

Chinese characters

Asia is repped by three pics in Competition — 1930s spy drama “Purple Butterfly,” by China’s Lou Ye, plus two artier titles from Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Bright Future” and Naomi Kawase’s “Shara.”

Three more Chinese-lingo films are in Un Certain Regard, repping the various territories: “Drifters” by China’s Wang Xiaoshuai, “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by Hong Kong helmer Nelson Yu and “Robinson’s Crusoe” by Taiwan’s Lin Cheng-sheng. Aside from Lou Ye, all the directors have previously had films in Cannes.

From South Asia comes Indian helmer Murali Nair’s “Arimpara” and from Sri Lanka, in a noncompeting slot, 84-year-old Lester James Peries’ “The Mansion by the Lake,” the second Chekhov adaptation in this year’s fest.

Youngest helmer this year is Iran’s Samira Makhmalbaf, 23, who used Afghanistan as the setting for the in-competition “Five in the Afternoon,” reportedly the first feature shot in the country since the ousting of the Taliban.

After France, Italy has the next best showing, with Pupi Avati’s in-competition “The Heart Is Elsewhere,” Marco Tullio Giordana’s five-hour-plus “La meglio gioventu” in Un Certain Regard, a special screening of two shorts by Nanni Moretti and a Fellini retrospective that will run throughout the fest.

Blighty’s down

In marked contrast with last year’s hefty Brit lineup, this year features just three pics by British directors. They are: Peter Greenaway’s in-competition “The Moab Story/The Tulse Luper Suitcases — Part 1,” a pan-European co-production with a vast international cast; Cinefondation discovery Emily Young’s “Kiss of Life” (aka “Helen of Peckham”); and David Mackenzie’s sophomore feature, “Young Adam,” a chamber drama set on a Scottish barge, with Tilda Swinton, Ewan McGregor and Peter Mullan.

The smattering of pics from other Euro territories in Un Certain Regard lineup includes “September” by Germany’s Max Faerberboeck, “Empty Hands” by Spanish helmer Marc Recha (whose “Pau and His Brother” competed in 2001) and the drama “Struggle” by Austria’s Ruth Mader.

“Come and Go” by Portugal’s Joao Cesar Monteiro, who died earlier this year, will screen out of competition.

From other continents come the in-competition “Invasion of the Barbarians” by Canada’s Denys Arcand, a sequel to his “Decline of the American Empire,” and “Carandiru” by Brazil’s Hector Babenco.

Un Certain Regard features Australia’s sole standard-bearer at the fest, Sue Brooks’ Outback drama “Japanese Story,” with Toni Collette, and the Argentine pic “Today and Tomorrow” by Alejandro Chomski.

Among special events will be gala nights dedicated to Jeanne Moreau and to the memory of Maurice Pialat and Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who died earlier this year. There will also be a Jean Cocteau exhibition previewing a retrospective planned for this fall at Paris’ Centre Pompidou.

(Derek Elley in London contributed to this story.)

Official Selection: Cannes 2003

OPENER

“Fanfan La Tulipe,” France, Gerard Krawczyk.

CLOSER

“Modern Times” (1936), U.S., Charles Chaplin.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION

“Carandiru,” Brazil, Hector Babenco.

“Invasion of the Barbarians,” Canada, Denys Arcand.

“Purple Butterfly,” China-France, Lou Ye.

“Dogville,” Denmark, Lars Von Trier.

“Ce jour-la,” France-Switzerland, Raoul Ruiz.

“Les cotelettes,” France, Bertrand Blier.

“La petite Lili,” France, Claude Miller.

“Strayed,” France, Andre Techine.

“Swimming Pool,” France, Francois Ozon.

“Tiresia,” France, Bertrand Bonello.

“Five in the Afternoon,” Iran, Samira Makhmalbaf.

“The Heart Is Elsewhere,” Italy, Pupi Avati.

“Bright Future,” Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

“Shara,” Japan, Naomi Kawase.

“The Moab Story/The Tulse Luper Suitcases – Part I,” Netherlands-Spain-Hungary, Peter Greenaway.

“Father and Son,” Russia, Alexander Sokurov.

“Distant,” Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

“The Brown Bunny,” U.S.-Japan, Vincent Gallo.

“Elephant,” U.S., Gus Van Sant.

“Mystic River,” U.S., Clint Eastwood.

OUT OF COMPETITION

“Qui a tue Bambi?”, France, Gilles Marchand.

“Le temps du loup,” France-Austria, Michael Haneke.

“Les triplettes de Belleville,” France, Sylvain Chomet.

“Come and Go,” Portugal, Joao Cesar Monteiro.

“The Mansion by the Lake,” Sri Lanka, Lester James Peries.

“Matrix Reloaded,” U.S., Andy & Larry Wachowski.

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

“S-21, the Khmer Rouge Death Machine,” France-Cambodia, Rithy Panh.

“Aprile & The Last Customer,” Italy, Nanni Moretti.

“Charlie: The Life and Art of Charlie Chaplin,” U.S., Richard Schickel.

“The Fog of War,” U.S., Errol Morris.

“The Soul of a Man,” U.S., Wim Wenders.

UN CERTAIN REGARD

“Today and Tomorrow,” Argentina, Alejandro Chomski.

“Japanese Story,” Australia, Sue Brooks.

“Struggle,” Austria, Ruth Mader.

“Drifters,” China, Wang Xiaoshuai.

“En jouant ‘Dans la compagnie des hommes,'” France, Arnaud Desplechin (opener).

“Stormy Weather,” France, Solveig Anspach.

“September,” Germany, Max Faerberboeck.

“All Tomorrow’s Parties,” Hong Kong, Nelson Yu.

“Arimpara,” India, Murali Nair.

“La meglio gioventu,” Italy, Marco Tullio Giordana.

“A Thousand Months,” Morocco, Faouzi Bensaidi.

“Empty Hands,” Spain, Marc Recha.

“Robinson’s Crusoe,” Taiwan, Lin Cheng-sheng.

“Kiss of Life,” U.K., Emily Young.

“Young Adam,” U.K., David Mackenzie.

“American Splendor,” U.S., Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini.

(more titles to be announced)

SHORT FILMS COMPETITION

“Cracker Bag,” Australia, Glendyn Ivin.

“Fast Film,” Austria, Virgil Widrich.

“A janela aberta,” Brazil, Philippe Barcinski.

“To tameno,” Greece, Marsa Makris.

“Ik ontspruit,” Netherlands, Esther Rots.

“November Snow,” Sweden, Karolina Jonsson.

“The Most Beautiful Man in the World,” U.K., Alicia Duffy.

“My Blind Brother,” U.S., Sophie Goodhart.

(Derek Elley in London contributed to this story.)

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