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Lacklustre with a just couple of gems, says Nick Roddick of the festival program, while Andrew L. Urban puts on his hard hat and looks at the business of Cannes, while Louise Keller captures all the glam...

Nick Roddick on the festival films

As so often happens when the line-up looks great on paper, the films of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival ranged from the frankly disappointing via the competent without being truly inspiring to the very good but not great. There was, quite simply, no buzz title this year.

"more appellation contrôlée than grand cru"

Closing out the festival on Sunday night, as the sun returned to what has been an unusually chilly Cannes, was the Franco-Australian film The Tree. The story of a family living in a small Queensland town whose loss of a husband/father triggers some strange, borderline creepy events, it was a lot better than it might have been - a back-handed compliment that could apply to around half the films I saw. For the rest - well, let's not go there. The Festival can only show the films that are available to it, and this doesn't seem to have been a great year - more appellation contrôlée than grand cru.

(L-R)Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives; Of Men and Gods; Another Year

That the Palme d'Or went to Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall Past Lives by cult Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Joe to his friends), while something of a surprise, seemed entirely fitting. The film, about a dying man who is visited by a series of ghosts (not to mention a princess who mates with a catfish), was slow, beautiful and, at its best, utterly magical. Jury president Tim Burton declared that the director used "fantasy elements, but in a way I have never seen before, so I just felt it was like a beautiful, strange dream". More predictable was the Grand Jury Prize that went to Xavier Beauvois' Of Men and Gods, a stately, measured re-enactment of the true story of a community of monks killed by Islamist fundamentalists in Algeria in 1996.

"a dereliction of duty on the part of the jury"

Frankly inexplicable, however, was the omission from the prize list of Mike Leigh's Another Year, the director's best film in a long time, which brought a hint of the darkness of Naked to that familiar Leigh territory of a family getting by despite difficult circumstances. The film - at the very top end of the very-good-without-being-great scale - deserved at least some nod from the jury: perhaps best actress for Lesley Manville (which she could have shared with Korea's Yeo-jong Yun, who gave the stand-out performance in The Housemaid, after wowing everyone last year in the title role of The Mother). Not even to mention Leigh's film was a dereliction of duty on the part of the jury.

Instead, the female acting prize went to Juliette Binoche, who alternated between her two most irritating registers - simpering and weepy - through most of Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami's clunky attempt to make a movie in French, which had me squirming through its second half at the hollow dialogue and cardboard characters. But at least I see why they gave Binoche the prize: lots of people liked her, which is more than I can say for the best director award which went to Mathieu Amalric for On Tour. Amalric can be a great actor (Un conte de Noël) but showed little directorial flair in On Tour, an old-fashioned and (yes, that word again) clunky film about a group of American 'New Burlesque' artistes on a provincial French tour whose structure and tone seemed to belong more in the world of 1930s Hollywood musicals than contemporary France.

Entirely overlooked among the French entries, meanwhile, was Outside the Law, from director Rachid Bouchareb, whose last film but one, Days of Glory, made such a passionate argument for the North African soldiers who had fought in the French Army that it changed French law. His new film is the story of three Algerian brothers caught up in the murderous struggle for Algerian independence in mid-20th century. This is a subject which can still stir passions, resulting in a massive police presence but a rather muted demonstration. Again, not a great film but a very good one: epic, exciting and with every euro up on the screen. The same might have been said for Ken Loach's Route Irish, a late entry whose screenings were almost a secret; but Loach's film never really managed to deal with the moral ambiguities of its subject (a former private security guard in Baghdad trying to avenge the death of his mate) in a satisfactory way.

And then there was Jean-Luc Godard, whose latest (and supposedly last) work, Film Socialisme, showed the director's once dynamic assault on the language of cinema to have become reduced to a rearguard and rather sterile stylistic skirmish. True to form, Godard promised to show up (a pre-requisite of having your film in the Cannes selection) then didn't, citing "Greek reasons" (i.e. he's broke). Festival programmer Thierry Frémaux threw a major wobbly, banning those cast and crew who had shown up from taking a bow on stage, and cancelling the press conference and official dinner (Cannes' equivalent of casting out with bell, book and candle).

"the highlight of the festival were two Hungarian movies"

For me, though, the highlight of the festival were two Hungarian movies, one in competition, one out. The latter, Pal Adrienne, about a seriously overweight nurse trying to find an old school friend (but actually trying to reconstruct her own sad identity), was a tad over-long but created an intensely strange and consistent world. Even better and with moments of undeniable greatness was Kornel Mundruczo's competition entry Tender Son, an adaptation of the Frankenstein legend involving a director who screen tests the son he never knew, triggering off a violent series of events. The film stays strikingly close to Mary Shelley's original novel, creating a 'monster' out of someone who has never reached emotional adolescence, let alone maturity. A film which tackled big subjects with great stylistic consistency, Tender Son is a work which I suspect will outlive the conventional pieties of Cannes 2010.


Andrew L. Urban reports

It was fitting that Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel, Money Never Sleeps, was one of the few high profile films at Cannes this year (out of Competition, though), a town that each May rivals Wall Street for frenzied deal making on a large scale. For starters, the seaside resort collects at least $650 million during the film fest, which is why the locals tolerate the circus it has become.

"the return to tradition by Screen Australia"

With a modest but impressive profile at the festival (the Aust/French co-production, The Tree closed the festival – see Nick’s comments above; and Michel Rowe’s Camera d’Or winning Leap Year in Directors Fortnight), Australia made its presence felt, thanks in part to Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett walking the red carpet on Opening Night for Robin Hood, a film clearly intended as a business proposition. The other element was the return to tradition by Screen Australia of splashing the Australia brand in the trade papers, which provide a vital bloodflow of information to the 8,000 industry pros attending the film market alongside the festival.

(Left to right) Wall Street 2, Robin Hood, Fair Game

The nine feature length films being sold to international buyers were featured in Screen Australia’s full page ads, complete with screening and sales contact info. It’s the kind of marketing work the Australian Film Commission refined under Sue Murray’s tenure, continued under Kathleen Drumm’s guidance in the marketing department. Screen Australia used Cannes to launch its new look marketing logo, a cartoon creation of a cowboy with a lasso riding a non-plussed kangaroo. The lasso might be symbolic of the industry’s desire to capture dollars for Australia, but the cowboy is harder to figure – unless it’s a reminder to America that Australia gives them a good ride as a source of talent and production facilities.

The equally traditional Screen Australia reception for Australians at the Festival was held at their penthouse office overlooking Cannes, which has a terrace large enough to have accommodated perhaps three quarters of the 279 Aussies (the largest contingent ever) who were in town; the rest mingled inside the plush apartment which has been an Australian ‘embassy’ during the Cannes Festival for years.

"Producers and distributors mingled with Government film agency execs"

Producers and distributors mingled with Government film agency execs; among the guests were veteran producer David Hannay, more recent entrant Andrena Finlay (with her film Red Hill), Screen Producers Association President Tony Ginnane and SPAA Executive Director Geoff Brown, producers Chris Brown (Daybreakers), Peta Astbury (Marriage of Figaro), distributor & cinema operator Natalie Miller, director Louise Alston (with her new film, Jucy), Asia Pacific Screen Awards boss Des Power, among others.

In the morning after Opening Night, daily editions of Variety and Screen both reported the first deals involving Australians: Variety’s John Hopewell (their man in Spain and an old colleague of this writer) wrote that JP Hogan of Muriel’s Wedding fame is reuniting with his star Toni Collette on a new film, Mental, about a charismatic, crazy hothead who transforms a family’s life when she becomes the nanny of five girls. The producers behind the project come from good movie stock: Jerry and Janet Zucker, whose film Fair Game, starring another Aussie, Naomi Watts, was in the Competition.

Screen led with a report by Nancy Tartaglione (another past colleague of this writer) that the US$20 million budget Blonde, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ imaginary Marilyn Monroe memoir will not only star Naomi Watts (busy girl) but will be directed by Andrew Dominik (of Chopper fame), with Anthony Bregman producing. It is already being pre-sold through Wild Bunch, one of the high profile international sales companies.

Also on page 1 was a story by Geoffrey MacNab (yet another colleague) that notorious Lindsey Lohan will star as notorious Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace in the biopic, Inferno, adapted from Lovelace’s memoir, Ordeal. No Aussie connection, but thought you’d be interested ….

As if the frantic round of meetings and deal making wasn’t enough at an event noted for its turbo charged schedule, Screen ran a daily series of excerpts from the new book by Angus Finney (head of Renaissance Films and noted deal maker), titled The International Film Business: A Market Guide Beyond Hollywood. Not the most creative title, but certainly the most descriptive. The series highlights how much Cannes is not all about arthouse filmmaking.

"an ongoing preoccupation with catastrophe"

Illustrating the point, Los Angeles based Aussie Tony Ginnane was peddling three genre films, all of which tune in to what appears to be an ongoing preoccupation with catastrophe – and little wonder, if you watch any news channel, where volcanic ash clouds and huge oil spills compete for attention with earthquakes, tornadoes and human atrocities.

Arctic Blast, the only one completed, is directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, the expat Australian whose Turkey Shoot is famously favoured by Quentin Tarantino. The film is a disaster epic with the tagline, ’- 70 degrees and dropping’, the poster showing an iced up Golden Gate Bridge. (But it was shot in Australia.)

If it’s not the big freeze, Ginnane has his bets covered with the upcoming Wall of Fire, about a city whose underground network of gas filled tunnels is about to ignite.

The third film in his kit bag lifts real life natural disaster and adds some heavy metal: called Metal Tornado, the story combines physics and the search for renewable energy – but the project gets out of control and we have … yes, a Metal Tornado.

Whether by coincidence or sheer force of market pressure, just as Cannes draws to a close, Melbourne’s RMIT’s Professional Screenwriting Course is running a forum this week, in which one of the key questions for writing students is: What is the future of Australian genre films? What do we (the industry) need to do in order for these films to be receptive to Australians? I suggest they ask Ginnane and Trenchard-Smith, both featured in Mark Hartley’s documentary about bravura Australian genre films of the 70s, Not Quite Hollywood (2008).

Cannes is not quite Hollywood, too, but it couldn’t retain its global cache without it.


says Louise Keller

It is easy to imagine that Cannes, the Jewel of the Cote d’Azur, has a ‘deal’ with the Gods of Cinema that supervise from above. After the violent storms of the week prior and the resulting chaos and destruction which affected the exclusive beach restaurants, the trees and flowers for which Cannes is renowned at Festival Time, it seemed nothing short of a miracle that everything was as it should be for the red carpet glamour and razzmatazz of Opening Night.

"the Mediterranean resumed most of its usual sparkle"

The evening before opening night, we watched as shrubs and boxed flowers were transported by the truckload to add the finishing touches to a Cannes that had been looking a little worse for wear. However, the institution of Cannes is a well oiled machine and by dawn, all the cranes, the makeshift weather shields, trucks and workmen disappeared miraculously as Opening Night, Director’s Fortnight and the market got underway. The beautiful Carlton Hotel, centre stage on the Croisette looked as stunning as ever (huge billboards promoting Wall Street 2 [Michael Douglas] and Salt [Angelina Jolie] prominent). By the way, that mandatory drink on the famed Carlton Terrace, from where the world seems a better place, now costs around 35 Euros (for 2). Finally the sun managed to smile and the Mediterranean resumed most of its usual sparkle.

Wearing a stunning black and white gown with an interesting motif design and wide neckline, Cate Blanchett epitomised glamour and elegance on the red carpet. Stylishly tuxedoed Russell Crowe was alongside with his singer actress wife Danielle Spencer, looking feminine and pretty with designer-tossed hair and a simple A-line ivory gown delicately beaded. Producer Brian Grazer and partner Chosan Nguyen, striking in black with deep V neckline and serious jewellery accompanied the Robin Hood stars.

The cameras loved Bollywood favourite Aishwarya Rai and Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria, both wearing glamour-gowns (in lilac and white respectively) that needed personal stylists to position the impossibly long mermaid trains perfectly. Salma Hayek chose a Grecian-style russet-coloured gown with an interesting peephole; she only had eyes for hubby François-Henri Pinault. Helen Mirren (wearing black) happily did some public smooching with husband, director Taylor Hackford.

(Left to right)Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe & Danielle Spencer, Salma Hayek

Jury President Tim Burton, in deep-tinted shades, definitely did NOT have a hair stylist on hand – he wore his ‘just got out of bed’ hair look, reminding one and all of a montage of his eccentric screen characters. Le Nôtre, that wonderful café / deli / chocolate shop on Rue d’Antibes, where you can almost go to heaven sipping the world’s best Chocolat Chaud, paid homage to the great Mr Burton, with an interesting Alice in Wonderland window display.

Much of the Festival’s glamour was from Hollywood. They all love Woody Allen in Cannes and there were plenty of chortles as the 74 year old self-confessed neurotic filmmaker revealed his thoughts about the advent of ageing and said dryly, ‘I don’t recommend you try it…’ Michael Douglas cut a fine figure on the red carpet for Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps, reminding us that elegance and power can still exist in one attractive package. The Vanity Fair – Gucci party at the exclusive Hotel du Cap put paid to any suggestion that glamour-networking and air-kissing was no longer alive and well. Situated about half an hour from Cannes, this is still the drop-dead gorgeous place where the superstars like to hang out.

"Like a temperamental star, the weather kept everyone guessing"

It may not have been the most exciting and buzzy of years for the Festival, but the enticing designer shops with exquisite gowns, bags and shoes (with their tiny price-tags with giant prices) were as glamorous as ever. Like a temperamental star, the weather kept everyone guessing: cool became hot and then cold again. But Cannes is always hot.

Feature films
Palme d'Or
LUNG BOONMEE RALUEK CHAT (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) directed by Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL

Grand Prix

Award for Best Director

Award for Best Screenplay
LEE Chang-dong for POETRY

Award for Best Actress

Award for Best Actor Ex-aequo
Javier BARDEM in BIUTIFUL directed by Alejandro GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU

Jury Prize
UN HOMME QUI CRIE (A screaming man) directed by Mahamat-Saleh HAROUN

Short Films
Palme d'Or - Short Film
Jury Prize - Short Film

Caméra d'Or
AÑO BISIESTO (Leap Year) directed by Michael ROWE (Australia) in Directors Fortnight

Published May 27, 2010

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Nick Roddick

The Tree

Tim Burton - Jury President

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Tender Son

Pal Adrienne

Route Irish

Woody Allen


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