If further evidence were needed that the lines between TV and film are becoming less and less visible, Cannes has provided a decent opportunity. Last year saw “Hemingway & Gellhorn” get an out-of-competition screening, whereas this year went one better, and has seen Steven Soderbergh‘s “Behind The Candelabra” pick up some of the best reviews of the festival.
But the trouble with the Liberace biopic getting so much attention is that it’s overshadowed the other HBO movie, “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” which screened this morning to virtually no buzz, and which has just debuted its first three pieces of footage. Written by Shawn Slovo (“Catch A Fire“), and directed by Stephen Frears, it tells the story of the Supreme Court debate over the great boxer’s conscientious objection to fighting in Vietnam, focusing in particular on the relationship between the torn Justice Harlan (Christopher Plummer) and his clerk (Benjamin Walker: Vampire Hunter).
Frank Langella, Danny Glover and Ed Begley Jr are also among the cast, so it’s pretty solid in theory, but reaction from Cannes was tepid this morning, and it’s not hard to see why; the three clips below pretty much make “Lincoln” look like a Gaspar Noe movie. Maybe it works better as a whole, but this looks like it has more in common with Frears’ disappointing recent work (“Cheri,” “Lay The Favorite” etc) than with, say, “The Grifters.” Still, take a look for yourself below, along with the official synopsis, and we’ll find out how it turns out when it airs on HBO later in the year.
MUHAMMAD ALI’S GREATEST FIGHT looks at Muhammad Ali’s historic Supreme Court battle from behind closed doors. When Ali was drafted into the Vietnam War at the height of his boxing career, his principled claim to conscientious objector status on religious grounds led to a lengthy legal battle that rattled the U.S. judicial system right up to the highest court in the land. Justice Harlan, a respected jurist with 15 years on the Court, finds himself at odds with the Court’s status quo – as defined by Nixon appointee Chief Justice Burger – after his perspective is challenged by the contemporary ideals of his new clerk.