'Nights' opens festival, 'Death Proof' restored

PARIS — The Stars and Stripes will be flying high over the Croisette when the Cannes Film Festival’s 60th anniversary edition unspools May 16-27.

High-profile U.S. helmers and stars – even some dead ones – are so prevalent, it would almost be easier to list those that won’t be there.

In a lineup of 21 competition titles, unveiled with the rest of the Official Selection in Paris on Thursday, there are no fewer than five American films: Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men”; David Fincher’s “Zodiac”; James Gray’s “We Own the Night”; Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof,” in a version of his “Grindhouse” contribution with an extra 10-15 minutes of footage; and Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park.”

The Coen brothers, Tarantino and Van Sant are all previous Palme d’Or winners, while Fincher will be making his Cannes debut.

Another competition pic, Wong Kar Wai’s Cannes opener “My Blueberry Nights,” is set in America and stars Norah Jones and Jude Law.

Artistic director Thierry Fremaux told Daily Variety that the festival had no fears about the film making it to Cannes on time, after the late arrival of “2046” three years ago. “We have been guaranteed that it will be ready,” Fremaux said.

“Blueberry Nights” symbolizes the increasingly cross-border direction cinema is taking today, the topper added. “It is a Chinese director with European money and American actors shot in the U.S. It’s a sign of a new world,” Fremaux said.

The out-of-competition lineup is dominated by “Sicko,” the public health-themed docu from Michael Moore, Palme d’Or winner two years ago with “Fahrenheit 9/11″; Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Thirteen”; Michael Winterbottom’s “A Mighty Heart,” an Angelina Jolie-starrer based on the book by the widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl; and Abel Ferrara’s midnight screening title “Go Go Tales,” set in a New York strip joint but actually shot in Italy, where it was produced.

With Brad Pitt and Jolie, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Wahlberg and Jane Fonda among a plethora of talent expected in town, the red carpet looks set for some serious celebrity wear-and-tear.

Fest will screen a yet-to-be named restored Henry Fonda film, and “Brando,” a docu about the actor, in its Cannes Classics section.

Commenting on the U.S.-heavy lineup, Fremaux said, “I belong to a generation of cinephiles for whom loving cinema means loving American cinema, and I’ve the feeling this is going to be a great year for American films, both auteur and mainstream.”

He added, “We want to show that American cinema is full of energy and is regenerating itself, and also that so-called genre films like Tarantino’s and Fincher’s have true artistic ambition.”

Other U.S. fare in Cannes will include Lynn Novick and Ken Burns’ 14-hour long docu “The War,” an account of America in WWII that will be screened in three parts, and “11th Hour,” an ecological docu produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.

“As well as being part of a festival, we are also citizens of the world, and having had `An Inconvenient Truth’ in our lineup last year, I want to keep open the debate about global warming,” Fremaux said.

Of course, other parts of the world will be explored when festivities get under way on the French Riviera.

In competition, Cannes fave Emir Kusturica, another Palme d’Or winner and recent jury president, is back with “Promise Me This.” Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas returns a second time with the unusual Dutch-language Mennonite love story “Silent Light,” and Iranian comicbook auteur Marjane Satrapi will compete with “Persepolis,” her bigscreen adaptation of her autobiographical graphic novel (co-directed by Vincent Paronnaud).

France has three competition titles: Asia Argento costumer “Une Vieille maitresse,” from Catherine Breillat, known for her steamy fare; Christophe Honore’s musical comedy “Les Chansons d’amour”; and American Julian Schnabel’s French-language biopic “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” about French Elle magazine editor-in-chief Jean Dominique Bauby’s life with “locked-in” syndrome after a stroke, with Mathieu Amalric in the leading role.

All three directors are in competition for the first time, among 13 newcomers making their first bid for the Palme d’Or.

Cannes regular Olivier Assayas’ “Boarding Gate” has been slotted in as an out-of-competition midnight screening. Bono is also expected to attend a midnight screening of concert film “U2 3D.”

Other Europeans in competition include Fatih Akin, with “The Edge of Heaven”; Austrian Ulrich Seidl, with “Import/Export,” about people on the frontier between the two worlds of Ukraine and Austria; Romanian New Wave helmer Cristian Mungiu, with the abortion-themed “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”; Bela Tarr, with the long-aborning “The Man From London,” a Georges Simenon adaptation with Tilda Swinton; Russian Alexander Sokurov with “Alexandra”; and fellow Russian Andrey Zvyagintsev (who won the Palme d’Or for “The Return”) with “The Banishment.”

“Eastern Europe and Russian cinema had disappeared, but this is a part of the world whose cinema is emerging again,” Fremaux said.

Israel is repped by Raphael Nadjari’s French-Israeli co-production “Tehilim,” while three Asian titles – fewer than expected – made the cut: “The Forest of Mogari,” from Japanese helmer and 1997 Camera d’Or winner Naomi Kawase; “Secret Sunshine,” from Korean Lee Chang-dong, who won the Venice Film Festival’s special directors prize in 2002 for “Oasis”; and Kim Ki-duk’s “Breath.”

Stephen Frears heads the jury that includes actor-directors Michel Piccoli, Maria de Madeiros and Sarah Polley.

Denys Arcand’s “L’Age des tenebres” will close the festival.

Though Brit Ken Loach took home the Palme d’Or last year for “The Wind That Shakes The Barley,” the U.K. has no official selections this year. And a real Cannes rarity: There are no Italian pics.

At a press conference in the ultra-chic Hotel Crillon on Paris’ Place de la Concorde, Fremaux said, “The choice is always difficult, but this is a rich year for the festival.”

Cannes sometimes has the reputation for programming dreary fare, but fest attendees will have some fun with the Coen brothers, Kusturica and “Persepolis,” which is “joyful,” Fremaux said.

Shock value – usually a factor somewhere in the lineup, as was the case with “Irreversible” or Reygadas’ “Battle in Heaven” – is likely to be less intense this year, although the Romanian film on abortion grapples with tough material.

Some 49 films make up the Official Selection, with 21 in competition, chosen out of 1,600 candidates from 95 countries. Including shorts, some 3,983 films were submitted this year, up 22%, Fremaux said.

With one or two exceptions, such as Barbet Schroeder’s docu “Terror’s Advocate,” about French lawyer Jacques Verges, and Harmony Korine’s “Mister Lonely,” the Un Certain Regard section has fewer standout names this year than in some previous editions, when the selection appeared to be a home for established auteur films that did not quite make it into competition.

The lineup, 17 titles of which were announced Thursday, will eventually comprise some 20 pics from the four corners of the globe, including Estonia’s first-ever officially selected film, “Magnus” by Kadri Kousaar, and the Rwandan-set film “Munyurangabo,” by Korean-American helmer Chung Lee Isaac.

Three Un Certain Regard entries hail from the Asian continent: Chinese helmers Li Yang’s “Mang Shan” and Diao Yinan’s “Night Train,” and Thai helmer Ekachai Uekrongtham’s Singapore film “Kuaile Gongchang.”

There are also four Hispanic titles: France-based Chilean exile Carmen Castillo’s autobiographical docu “Calle Santa Fe,” about the lives of refugees from Pinochet’s regime; “La soledad,” by Spain’s Jaime Rosales; “El bano del papa,” by Uruguayan helmers Enrique Fernandez and Cesar Charlone; and “Bad Habits,” from Mexico’s Simon Bross.

European titles include Italian helmer Daniele Luchetti’s “My Brother Is an Only Son”; Germany’s “Am ende kommen touristen,” by Robert Thalheim; and “California Dreaming,” which will be shown posthumously following the death of Romanian helmer Cristian Nemescu earlier this year in a car accident.

“The selection is an extension of the competition lineup; it’s a strong selection that demonstrates the vitality of cinema in the world,” Fremaux said about Un Certain Regard this year.

Three or four more titles will be added to the lineup by next week, Fremaux said, bringing the number up to some 20 titles, alongside 21 competition pics.

As previously announced, Martin Scorsese, guest of honor at the festival this year, will give the Cinema Lesson to an audience of cinephiles and students, and hand out the Camera d’Or for first film during closing-night festivities.

Among Cannes’ tributes this year, the festival’s own 60th dominates, with festivities May 20 kicking off with the screening of “To Each His Own Cinema,” a collective work of 33 short films by famous auteurs, most of whom are hoped to attend. Under the banner of the 60th there will also be screenings of the feature films “Ulzhan,” by Volker Schlondorff; “Boxes,” by Jane Birkin; and “Roman de gare,” by Claude Lelouch.

Cannes Classics will also screen films on Maurice Pialat; “Lindsay Anderson/Never Apologize,” a biographical performance piece about the late British helmer by Malcolm McDowell and directed by Mike Kaplan; and Variety critic Todd McCarthy’s docu “Man of Cinema: Pierre Rissient,” about the famed French publicist, director and discoverer of talent.

The Cannes Classics restored films are still to be announced.

Several familiar Croisette names who were expected back this year with new films didn’t make the cut. Woody Allen’s new British crimer “Cassandra’s Dream,” starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell, was offered the closing night slot, but when Allen balked at that idea, discussions came to an end.

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “The Red Balloon” seemed to have Cannes written all over it – the Taiwanese helmer is a longtime fest darling and it’s a French production starring Juliette Binoche – but the selection committee passed, as it did on Chinese director Jiang Wen’s “The Sun Also Rises” with Joan Chen.

Two venerable figures from the French New Wave, Eric Rohmer, with “Les amours d’Astree et de Celadon,” and Claude Chabrol, with the Ludivine Sagnier starrer “La Fille coupee en deux,” are similarly conspicuous by their absence.

Two highly anticipated Yank entries, Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood,” simply were not finished in time to be considered.

CANNES 2007: OFFICIAL SELECTION

OPENER
“My Blueberry Nights,” Hong Kong-France-China, Wong Kar Wai

CLOSER
“The Age of Darkness,” Canada, Denys Arcand

IN COMPETITION
“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
GALA SCREENINGS
“A Mighty Heart,” U.K., Michael Winterbottom
“Ocean’s Thirteen,” U.S., Steven Soderbergh
“Sicko,” U.S., Michael Moore

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS
“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

SPECIAL SCREENINGS
“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

60th ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTES
“Boxes,” France, Jane Birkin
“One Hundred Nails,” Italy, Ermanno Olmi
“Roman de gare,” France, Claude Lelouch
“Ulzhan,” Germany, Volker Schlondorff

CANNES CLASSICS — DOCUMENTARIES ON CINEMA
“Brando,” U.S., Mimi Freedman and Leslie Greif
“Lindsay Anderson, Never Apologize,” U.S., Mike Kaplan
“Maurice pialat l’amour existe,” France, Anne-Marie Faux and Jean-Pierre Devillers
“Pierre Rissient,” U.S, Todd McCarthy

COMPETITION SHORTS
“Ah Ma,” Singapore, Anthony Chen
“Ark,” Poland, Grzegorz Jonkajtys
“The Last 15,” U.S, Antonio Campos
“Looking Glass,” Sweden, Erik Rosenlund
“My Dear Rosseta,” South Korea, Yang Hae-hoon
“My Sister,” The Netherlands, Marco Van Geffen
“The Oate’s Valor,” U.S., Tim Thaddeus Cahill
“Resistance aux tremblements,” France, Olivier Hems
“Run,” New Zealand, Mark Albiston
“To onoma tou spourgitiou,” Cyprus, Kyros Papavassiliou
“Ver Llover,” Mexico, Elisa Miller

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION JURY
Stephen Frears, British director (president)
Marco Bellocchio, Italian director
Maggie Cheung, Hong Kong actress
Toni Collette, Australian actress
Maria De Medeiros, Portuguese actress
Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist
Michel Piccoli, French actor
Sarah Polley, Canadian actress
Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritanian director

UN CERTAIN REGARD JURY
Pascale Ferran, French director (president)
Kent Jones, American writer
Cristi Puiu, Romanian director
Bian Qin
Jasmine Trinca, Italian actress

CAMERA D’OR JURY
Pavel Lounguine, Russian writer, director (president)
Renato Berta, Swiss cinematographer
Julie Bertucelli, French director
Clotilde Courau, French actress

CINEFOUNDATION AND SHORT FILMS JURY
Jia Zhang Ke, Chinese director (president)
Niki Karimi, Iranian actress, filmmaker
Jean-Marie Le Clezio, French writer
Dominik Moll, German director
Deborah Nadoolman, American costume designer

CINEFONDATION
“Aditi Singh,” France, Mickael Kummer
“Ahora todos parecen contentos,” Argentina, Gonzalo Tobal
“Berachel Bitha Haktana,” Israel, Efrat Corem
“Chinese Whispers,” India, Raka Dutta
“For the Love of God,” U.K., Joe Tucker
“Goyta,” U.S., Joanna Jurewicz
“Halbe Stunden,” Germany, Nicolas Wackerbarth
“Minus,” Serbia, Pavle Vuckovic
“Mish’olim,” Israel, Hagar Ben-Asher
“Neostorozhnost,” Russia, Alexander Kugel
“A Reunion,” South Korea, Hong Sung-hoon
“Rondo,” Finland, Marja Mikkonen
“Ru Dao,” China, Chen Tao
“Saba,” Brazil, Thereza Menezes and Gregorio Graziosi
“Triple 8 Palace,” U.S., Alexander Ku
“Vita Di Giacomo,” France, Luca Governatori

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