It’s still really busy in the last few days of the Festival de Cannes here in the South of France. I’ve kept busy watching films, having meetings, and experiencing the most of the international film community. Among highlights of what I’ve seen in the last two days: Andrea Arnold’s Red Road is a masterful first feature from the Oscar-winning short-maker. The pacing is a bit static at first, but the slow unraveling of a desperate woman bears a great resemblence to Lars von Trier films like Breaking the Waves or Dogville (not coincidentally, one of the producers is Danish company Zentropa). I was chatting with one distribution exec who made a really solid point… if we were living in the indie film business of 10 years ago, Red Road would have been an instant acquisition. Instead, it’s left to work its way through critical support, yet distributors who are reluctant to actually pay cash money for its box office prospects. In other words, be prepared to see Red Road programmed in many upcoming festivals, I predict.
I also saw the amazingly entertaining, fun, and scary Korean film The Host. One of the few films to secure an American deal so far (thanks to Magnolia Pictures), this is destined to be a favorite when it comes Stateside later in the year. A splendid blend of Tremors and 28 Days Later, the film is a white-knuckle thriller about a mysterious amphibian monster that terrorizes a Korean city, and the one dysfunctional family that unites to take it down. I dunno if it will be my favorite film of the festival overall, but it’s certainly the most entertaining one I’ve seen here. As for films I saw yesterday that came to Cannes with distribution, Clerks II provides a sigh of relief for Kevin Smith fans. It takes a few minutes to find its footing, but once the exposition fades and the characters just get to play and insult one another, it’s hilarious. The screening I attended was full of big laughs and a sentimental tone as we watched the characters from this seminal American indie (which was at Cannes more than 10 years ago) re-unite one last time.
The big premiere of Wednesday was Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Starring Kirsten Dunst as the infamous French queen, the film packs all the pop punch you’d expect from Coppola. This is also why it’s getting mixed reviews (the screening I attended, with a lot of press in the house, received a clash of applause and “boos”). I was into the film, but I didn’t feel it provided enough substance for its 2-hour running time. Dunst is okay, but Jason Schwartzman steals the show as Louis XVI. Nevertheless, it’s not surprising that it would get such a mixed reaction, especially from the French press. I mean, when you cast a Texan (Rip Torn) as King Louis XV and feature masquerade balls set to tunes by Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, what do you expect? The terrific soundtrack had a lot of us humming 80s post-punk songs for hours after. Some pics:
(At the ‘Marie Antoinette’ party, the film’s star Kirsten Dunst mingles with actor/comedian Robin Williams. The party was probably one of the best we’ve seen all week, with a guestlist that included the cast/crew as well as Francis Ford Coppola, Lance Armstrong, Kelly Brook, Tim Roth, and more.)
(The spread of food at the ‘Antoinette’ party was amazing, including the dessert tables like this one. And no, there was no cake.)
(The ‘Antoinette’ party climaxed with a spectacular fireworks display over the Med. At first, the DJ stopped the music, so we thought it was all over. And then, the fireworks started blazing and didn’t cease for a good 10 minutes. Setting the mood, the DJ played a great mix of songs from the film’s soundtrack.)
(All dressed up with nowhere to go: Some eager audiences wait outside the Palais, hoping to score tickets for the gala ‘Marie Antoinette’ premiere.)
(Snakes on a yacht! Samuel L. Jackson hangs out at a yacht party for Film Independent, flanked by FIND executive director Dawn Hudson, left, and Los Angeles Film Festival programmer Rachel Rosen, far right.)
(Last night, walking past the International Village, we noticed something fishy at the Czech Pavilion. Reports came in today that, due to a failed bill, funds have been cut from the Czech film industry… as a protest, the Czech Film Center decided to close up shop early and leave a message behind.)
(At the Marche du Film, some Thai film execs hang out at their booth, decorated with ancient warfare for a major film in production.)
(Myself and the super-sweet Winnie Lau from Fortissimo Films at the Fortissimo party. WInnie, based in Amsterdam and Hong Kong, has been very busy this week, selling international rights for some of the festival’s biggest buzz titles.)