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By Jimmy Thomson.
Forget the bluster and bombast about the “big guns” being out for this year’s Cannes film festival, at 62 years old, the doyenne of the movie festival circuit is starting to look her age.

Jimmy Thomson and Sydney filmmaker Chris Ramos unwind at the Le Petit Majestic (Ramos' film is screening in the Short Film Corner)

If by big guns you mean two directors trying to regain some credibility, a couple of Disney animations forcing us into 3D specs and Brad Pitt, who comes here so regularly they probably keep his bar tab open at the Hotel Du Cap, then that may be true.

But the fact is the crowds are smaller, the stars are fewer, the parties are tending towards parsimonious and the successes are more modest too.

Our own Samson & Delilah received a well deserved standing ovation at its gala screening the other night while English director Ken Loach’s Looking For Eric – featuring former Manchester United genius Eric Cantona – is the feel-good hit of the festival so far, creating a whole new genre of gritty (magic) realism.

The good news for your humble journo is that the queues are shorter then they have been for years but the word from the Market is that there have never been so many movies for sale with so few buyers buying.

"The credit crunch has come to Cannes with a vengeance"

The credit crunch has come to Cannes with a vengeance. One estimate is that attendances are 30 percent down but with many of the big name movie studios pre-empting that by not bringing A-listers to Cannes, the competition for the few decent interviews going is as ferocious as ever.

With locally based publicists’ budgets cut – they have to buy interview slots for journalists servicing their markets – there are as few as one interview for smaller territories like Australia.

Add to that the fact that movies like Bright Star won’t give any interviews to Australian journalists while newspapers are cutting back their freelance budgets and the days of the intrepid freelancer doing the festival circuit in the hope of selling a few features here and there may be well and truly over.

"But it’s not all doom and gloom"

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Disney’s next 3D ‘mo-cap’ (that’s the buzzword for motion capture) extravaganza A Christmas Carol was launched with the first sumptuous lunch of the Festival, a two-scene preview, a free copy of the Dickens novel ... and another sumptuous lunch.

Jim Carrey plays Ebeneezer Scrooge at various stages of his life, plus all four ghosts, while Colin Firth’s fading Mr Darcy mojo relegates him to the role of his crumpled nephew Fred. It’s weird to see digital renderings that look like the real actors who play them – with their facial expressions faithfully recorded then caricatured - but the 3D really does work.

Whether this gets people off their sofas and into the cinemas – as Disney clearly hopes - remains to be seen.

The film everyone is trying to see – but the Press is being kept away from – is Middle Men, George (Midnight Run) Gallo’s true story of the two unemployed stoner geniuses who devised a way for people to anonymously pay for porn on the Internet, changing the world almost literally overnight and becoming multi-multi-millionaires in the process.

Luke Wilson plays the “everyman” accountant who mistakenly thinks he can get in, make some money and get out while Kevin (Usual Suspects) Pollak plays the CIA man who asks the porn pioneers’ help in tracking terrorists, some of whom, when not planning the destruction of the Great Satan of the USA, had an (un)healthy appetite for cyber-girls. Anyway, the 10 minute sizzle reel looks sensational.

Actor-comedian Pollak also took the opportunity to tell us about his new online chat show www.kevinpollakchatshow.com in which he gives fellow performers more than the 10 minutes they’d get on Letterman to talk about their work and their lives.

"Other interesting moments"

Other interesting moments included the first glimpse of a chick-flick-action-Bollylite romantic thriller called Kites, which could be the ultimate date movie with six-packs and exploding cars in equal measure. Then there were the leg-crossing scenes in Lars Von Trier’s horror two-hander Antichrist when Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg stop playing nice.

The Making of Plus One is a low-budget improvised mockumentary romp, filmed in Cannes last year - about the production of a movie that’s been sold on the premise that Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett will co-star (without actually asking them). It’s charming and has moments of true comedy without being entirely convincing. The stunt to publicise the new Disney 3D animation Up saw the scale model of the flying house almost get blown away on the sea breezes. And Jim Carrey goofed it up (when does he not?) making snowballs out of fake snow on La Croisette in 30 degree heat.

Now we’re hanging out for the unveiling of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds with the YouTube preview promising we haven’t seen war till we’ve seen it through Tarantino’s eyes.

But it will take more than ultra-violence and a shouty Brad Pitt to overwhelm the simple power of the human spirit portrayed so compellingly in Samson & Delilah and Looking For Eric.

Wish you (or some stars) were here ...

Published May 19, 2009

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Former heartthrob singer Charles Aznavour the voice of grumpy Carl in the French version of the opening film UP, with the boy who voiced Russel in French (Jimmy Thompson pic)



Looking for Eric director Ken Loach and Eric Cantona

Looking for Eric

While journalists inside wait to see the first glimpses of the 3D version of A Christmas Carol, pictures of Jim Carrey and other stars arriving outside the Carlton Hotel are beamed on to the screen.

Jim Carrey tossing fake Cannes snow

Samson & Delilah

Inglorious Basterds

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