Cannes makes nice with H’wood

U.S., French, Asian titles dominate competish

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This article was updated on Apr. 25, 2004.

Hollywood will play a starring role at the May 12-23 Cannes Film Festival, thanks to a substantial hike in the number of U.S. pics in competition, a galaxy of stars expected and some good old-fashioned tubthumping on the Croisette.

In contrast with last year’s paltry U.S. presence, the Official Selection entries announced Wednesday include no fewer than 13 Yank films. Five of the 18 titles in competition have an American component: DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2,” Disney’s “The Ladykillers,” Michael Moore’s docu “Fahrenheit 911,” Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries” and the HBO biopic “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” the latter two down as U.S.-U.K. co-productions. (Closing film “De-lovely” is also from the U.S.)

U.S.- and French-financed pics make up an unparalleled half of the competition. Of the remaining nine titles, six are from East Asia.

The unusually large out-of-competition slate of 15 films embraces fest gods such as Jean-Luc Godard, Abbas Kiarostami and Zhang Yimou — but it also has a heavy Hollywood presence, thanks to the likes of “Troy,” “Bad Santa” and “Dawn of the Dead.” The fest thus is blurring the line between “art” films and crowd-pleasers, with Hollywood taking the opportunity to tout its wares in an international arena.

Un Certain Regard section mixes fest vets Ousmane Sembene, Benoit Jacquot and Youssef Chahine with the more familiar spread of smaller, serious works.

Yanks Cannes-do

Thesps due on the Croisette include Tom Hanks — making his first appearance at the fest — for “The Ladykillers,” Brad Pitt for “Troy,” Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz for “Shrek 2” and Uma Thurman with “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” from Cannes jury president Quentin Tarantino. Closing-night screening of Irwin Winkler’s Cole Porter biopic “De-Lovely” will be attended by Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd.

Fest jury also is Yank-heavy, with Jerry Schatzberg, Kathleen Turner and Haitian-born New York writer Edwidge Danticat joining Tarantino and fellow jurors — Hong Kong helmer Tsui Hark, Finnish critic Peter von Bagh, Belgian comedian Benoit Poolevorde, British thesp Tilda Swinton and French diva Emmanuelle Beart — in lending the group a somewhat film-buff, culty flavor that should sit well with Tarantino’s own sympathies.

At pains to put last year’s strained relations behind him — the few U.S. or U.S.-related films screened at Cannes were attacked in some quarters as anti-American — artistic director Thierry Fremaux talked up the fest’s friendly rapport with Hollywood. “The more I go to the U.S., the more I have the feeling that things are getting better and better,” he said. “We have established a relationship of confidence.”

Alluding to the fact that some of the titles have already bowed Stateside, he added, “It would be nice to have had more world premieres from America, but we are very happy with our lineup of U.S. films.”

Popcorn meets elite

Fremaux, in his first year in full charge of the selection reins, has made other changes. Throughout the Official Selection, populist and genre fare this year will rub shoulders with Croisette favorites like the Coen brothers, Emir Kusturica, Wong Kar-wai and Pedro Almodovar. Fremaux also has come through on his stated desire to cut down on automatic berths for Cannes favorites; for example, Mike Leigh’s “Vera Drake” failed to make the cut.

At a press briefing Wednesday, Fremaux stressed that among the 18 films in competition — fewer than the 20-22 of recent years — 12 are by helmers who have never been in competition before. However, a number of those names have cropped up in other sections in the past, including Hong Sang-soo and Hirokazu Kore-eda.

“The idea was to renew the competition a little bit and the selection in general, and to put new names on the map, to try to get away from what over the years had come to be considered a certain comfort, a certain routine,” Fremaux said.

At a press briefing, even fest prexy Gilles Jacob, in relaxed and chatty form, appeared to be singing from the same populist songsheet. “These days, people are not prepared to sit through long, boring arthouse films,” he mused. “Films have to hold the audience’s interest from beginning to end.”

However, there’s a bumpy, unresolved feel to the selection that may reflect any number of things: rumored behind-the-scenes disagreements on the selection committee, a new programming philosophy that has yet to jell and a lack of films from many territories that usually are represented at Cannes. Eastern Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Israel, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, India and Canada are all but absent this year.

Gaul gored

Even host country France has felt the squeeze. After its five entries last year were heavily criticized locally, only three genuine French (as opposed to French-financed) pics are in the competition in 2004: Olivier Assayas’ third competitor in four years, “Clean,” Agnes Jaoui’s “Comme une image” and Tony Gatlif’s “Exiles,” the directors of the latter competing for the first time.

As for “Fahrenheit 911,” in which Moore criticizes George W. Bush’s foreign policy in the aftermath of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, Fremaux said: “It’s a militant film but it’s not ‘Bowling for Columbine 2.’ It is a film with a dimension of sadness and desolation over what his country has become. He is clearly anti-Bush, but not anti-American — on the contrary, he’s made a film about the love he has for his country and he explains why things are going badly for his country and why America did the wrong thing, in his opinion.”

Moore’s is the only documentary in the competition, but docus pop up out of competition with Jonathan Nossiter’s “MondoVino,” Raymond Depardon’s “The 10th District Courts: Moments of Trials,” Silvio Tendler’s “Glauber o filme, labirinto do Brasil,” Patricio Guzman’s “Salvador Allende” and Xan Cassavetes’ “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.”

Coincidentally or not with Tarantino’s presence, there is a generous dose of action/gore and martial arts, thanks to Zhang Yimou’s “House of Flying Daggers,” his follow-up to “Hero”; the South Korean “Sword in the Moon”; and, most surprisingly, Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead,” of which Tarantino is a known admirer.

There are more comedies this year, and in addition to “Shrek 2,” animation is represented in the competition by Japanese pic “Innocence” from Mamoru Oshii, director of the cult anime hit “Ghost in the Shell.” “Innocence” is due to be released in the U.S. by DreamWorks.

Embracing genre pix

The whole selection’s genre leanings this year, and the presence of comedies and animation in competition, were deliberate moves, Fremaux said. “Can comedies or action films be in competition? We think so. We wanted to insist this year on the burgeoning of cinematic creativity all over the world and to enlarge the countries and the genres of films included in the selection.”

The number of feature films viewed by the festival shot up from a high of 900 last year to 1,300 this year, Fremaux said, “because of digital technology, because we traveled a lot and because we really incited people to present all their films.

“If we receive a VHS in the mail, we look at it with as much attention as if it was a finished, full-length feature that we’d been waiting for,” he added.

Other highlights on the French Riviera next month will include a cinema lesson given by Stephen Frears, an acting lesson from Max Von Sydow and a music lesson from Lalo Schifrin.

The festival will pay tribute to Godard with a screening of “Our Music.”

Although Cannes will conclude with the awards ceremony a day earlier than in previous years, on Saturday night, organizers are hoping to entice festgoers to stay to the bitter end for a Sunday debriefing on its choice of prize winners given by the jury.

In a gesture that administrators hope will deter striking showbiz workers from upsetting the festivities next month, as they have threatened to do, the fest issued a statement supporting their fight to save France’s showbiz unemployment benefit system. The statement came after showbiz workers picketed a meeting of the festival’s board Wednesday morning.

“We don’t have a single part-time show business worker among our 1,500 staff at Cannes, so we are hoping that the festival won’t be disrupted,” said managing director Veronique Cayla.

(Todd McCarthy contributed to this report.)

OFFICIAL SELECTION: CANNES 2004

OPENER

“Bad Education,” Spain, Pedro Almodovar

CLOSER

“De-Lovely,” U.S., Irwin Winkler

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION

“2046,” Hong Kong, Wong Kar-wai

“Clean, France-U.K., Olivier Assayas

“Comme Une Image,” France, Agnes Jaoui

“Le Conseguenze Dell’Amore,” Italy, Paolo Sorrentino

“The Edukators,” Germany, Hans Weingartner

“Exiles, France,” Tony Gatlif

“Fahrenheit 911,” U.S., Michael Moore

“Innocence,” Japan, Mamoru Oshii

“The Ladykillers,” U.S., Joel and Ethan Coen

“The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” U.S.-U.K., Stephen Hopkins

“Life is a Miracle,” France, Emir Kusturica

“The Motorcycle Diaries,” U.S.-U.K., Walter Salles

“La Nina Santa,” Argentina, Lucrecia Martel

“Nobody Knows,” Japan, Hirokazu Kore-eda

“Old Boy,” South Korea, Park Chan-wook

“Tropical Malady,” Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul

“Shrek 2,” U.S., Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon

“Woman is the Future of Man,” South Korea, Hong Sang-soo

OUT OF COMPETITION

“The 10th District Courts — Moments of Trials,” France, Raymond Depardon

“Bad Santa,” U.S., Terry Zwigoff

“Cineastes a Tout Prix,” Belgium, Frederic Sojcher

“Dawn of the Dead,” U.S., Zack Snyder

“Five,” Iran-France, Abbas Kiarostami

“Glauber o filme, labirinto Do Brasil,” Brazil, Silvio Tendler

“I Died in Childhood,” Russia, Georgi Paradjanov

“House of Flying Daggers,” China-Hong Kong, Zhang Yimou

“Kill Bill Vol. 2,” U.S., Quentin Tarantino

“La Porte Du Soleil,” France-Egypt, Yousry Nasrallah

“MondoVino,” U.S., Jonathan Nossiter

“Our Music,” Switzerland, Jean-Luc Godard

“Salvador Allende,” Chile, Particio Guzman

“Troy,” U.S., Wolfgang Petersen

“Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” U.S., Xan Cassavetes

SHORT FILMS COMPETITION

“Accordeon,” Canada, Michele Cournoyer

“Closer,” New Zealand, David Rittey

“La Derniere Minute,” France, Nicolas Salis

“Flatlife, Belgium,” Jonas Geirnaert

“Gerard Mon Amour,” France, Madeleine Andre

“L’Evangile du Cochon Creole, Haiti, Michelange Quay

“Quimera,” Brazil, Erik Rocha

“Der Schwimmer,” Germany, Klaus Huettmann

“Thinning the Herd,” Sweden, Rie Rasmussen

“Trafic,” Romania, Catalin Mitulescu

UN CERTAIN REGARD 2004

OPENER

“Bienvenue en Suisse, Switzerland, Lea Fazer

CLOSER

“Alexandrie — New York,” Egypt, Youssef Chahine

MAIN PROGRAM

“10 on Ten,” Iran-France, Abbas Kiarostami

“The Assassination of Richard Nixon,” U.S., Niels Mueller

“Control,” Hungary, Antal Nimrod

“Cronicas,” Mexico, Sebastian Cordero

“Dark Night,” Portugal, Joao Canijo

“Dear Frankie,” U.K., Shona Auerbach

“Don’t Move,” Italy, Sergio Castellitto

“Fifty Fifty,” Kazakhstan, Gulshad Omarova

“Hotel,” Austria, Jessica Hausner

“Marseille,” Germany, Angela Schanelec

“Moolaade,” Senegal, Ousmane Sembene

“Nelly,” France, Laure Duthilleul

“Passages,” China, Yang Chao

“Poids Leger,” Switzerland, Jean-Pierre Ameris

“Somersault,” Australia, Cate Shortland

“Sword in the Moon,” South Korea, Kim Eui-suk

“Terre et Cendres,” Afghanistan, Atiq Rahimi

“A Tout de Suite,” France, Benoit Jacquot

“Whisky,” Uruguay, Juan-Pablo Rebella, Pablo Stoll

CRITICS WEEK

OPENER

“Mr. Andemas’ Afternoon,” France, Michelle Porte (out of competition)

CLOSER

“Sotto falso nome,” Italy, Roberto Ando (out of competition)

IN COMPETITION

“Atash,” Palestinian Authority-Israel, Tawfik Abu Wael

“Brodeuses,” France, Eleonore Faucher

“Calvaire,” France-Belgium-Luxembourg, Fabrice du Welz

“CQ2 (Seek You Too),” France-Canada, Carole Laure

“In Casablanca Angels Don’t Fly,” Morocco, Mohamed Asli

“Or,” France-Israel, Keren Yedaya

“Temporada de patos (Duck Season),” Mexico, Fernando Eimbecke

SHORT FILMS

“Alice et moi (Alice and Me),” Belgium, Micha Wald

“Breaking Out,” U.K., Marianela Maldonado

“Con diva,” Spain, Sebastian Mantilla

“Elephants Never Forget,” Venezuela-Mexico, Lorenzo Vigas Castes

“L’Homme sans ombre,” Canada, Georges Schwitzgebel

“Ryan,” Canada, Chris Landreth

“Signes de vie,” France-Belgium, Arnaud Demuynck

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

“Adieu Philippine,” France-Italy, Jacques Rozier

“Ce qui reste de nous (What’s Left of Us),” Canada, Francois Prevost and Hugo Latulippe

“Girls and Cars,” Austria, Thomas Woschitz

“Les vies paralleles,” France, Nicolas Saada

“Roads to Koktebel,” Russia, Boris Khlebnikov and Alexei Popogrebsky

“Stolitchny Skory,” Russia, Artiom Antonov

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