High-profile names embrace the format

What do Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Bernardo Bertolucci have in common, besides being big-name European auteurs?

They are all making movies in 3D, possibly paving the way for global arthouse auds to start developing a different stereoscopic sensibility, one that contrasts with the eye-catching razzle dazzle of multiplex-bound 3D blockbusters from Hollywood studios.

Which doesn’t mean that Hollywood isn’t providing Euro auteurs with 3D inspiration.

“It all started with this amazing experience of seeing ‘Avatar’ in India,” says Bertolucci, who is prepping to shoot intimate coming-of-age drama “Io e te” in 3D.

He thought, “Imagine ’8 1/2′ in 3D. Imagine Bergman’s ‘Persona’ in 3D. I think they would be fantastic,” he says. He thought the format could be used in different ways.

For Bertolucci, and other helmers across Europe, the template for auteur 3D is being set by both Herzog’s docu “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” about the prehistoric art in Gaul’s Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, and “Pina,” the Wenders docu about Pina Bausch, the late German modern dance pioneer. Both pics made a splash in Berlin.

“Movies like ‘Pina’ can change the audience perception of 3D as not just being used for blockbusters,” says Guillaume Blanchot, head of multimedia at France’s Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC).

“We need more movies like that,” Blanchot adds. But he notes that French auteurs are still leery about conceiving their pics in stereoscopy because they still consider 3D coming with blockbuster budgets.

The French film board now has a 3D support scheme, which backed Antoine Charreyron’s “The Prodigies,” a $50 million-plus Gallic stereoscopic motion-capture serial-killer thriller set in New York that Warner Bros. will release Stateside. While “The Prodigies” is certainly not, strictly speaking, an auteur pic, it is unspooling as a special presentation in Cannes.

The Cannes fest this year will also feature cult Asian helmer Takashi Miike’s samurai swashbuckler “Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai,” a provocative Asian genre title marking the first-ever 3D movie included in the venerable fest’s competition lineup.

Elsewhere there is Martin Scorsese’s in-the-works live-action 3D pic “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which is set in 1930s Paris and centered on a 12-year-old orphan who must solve the mystery of a broken robot.

Scorsese has stated that he’s interested in 3D for dramatic purposes rather than special effects. And “Cabret,” which is slated for release by Paramount in November, is expected to break new ground in stereoscopic visual language.

But, of course, “Cabret” is a big-budget project.

“Until now, France has had animation movies made in 3D; but, because of cost concerns, not many live-action films,” Blanchot says.

For a live-action movie, 3D can add 15%-30% to the budget.

But one French low-budget 3D actioner — France’s first live-action 3D pic — is generating buzz.

The $5 million period horror/suspencer “Behind the Walls,” starring Laetitia Casta, was directed — with a definite auteur vibe — by young directorial duo Pascal Sid and Julien Lacombe. It will be released locally this summer.

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