By Indiewire | Indiewire May 22, 2006 at 3:20AM
At the midpoint of the Festival de Cannes, only a few fest titles have buyers buzzing so far, but action at the Marche du Film has been brisk, primarily focused on companies announcing previously signed pacts (see indieWIRE's related daily biz coverage). Meanwhile, critics, journalists, fest programmers and other attendees have been talking a lot about John Cameron Mitchell's "Shortbus" in recent days, while competition titles like Andrea Arnold's "Red Road," Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Iklimler," and Pedro Almodovar's "Volver" seem to be the best received movies thus far. We'll have more on films from the last few days in Tuesday's critics notebook from the festival.
The Festive Side of the Fest
Sunday night at the Festival de Cannes offered what may have been the hottest night for parties so far. While a number of people made their way out of town for a Wild Bunch party following the world premiere screening of "Southland Tales," those who stayed on The Croisette in Cannes were treated to perhaps the best bash of the festival so far, celebrating John Cameron Mitchell's "Shortbus." Fortissimo Films and Bac Films joined forces to host for a rockin' Martinez Beach party and concert to celebrate the new film. The nearly four-hour plus fiesta included a live concert on a specially built stage atop the Martinez pier.
"Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the first night of the 'Shortbus' world tour," quipped the film's co-star Justin Bond, standing alongside Kenny Melman (who are best known for their Kiki & Herb stage act). The concert featured performances by many "Shortbus" cast members and John Cameron Mitchell belting out two of his most popular songs from "Hedwig And The Angry Inch." Introducing a rendition of the popular "Hedwig" tune, "Wig In A Box," Mitchell admitted that he hadn't sung the song on stage in about five years (he closed the set of songs with "The Origin of Love").
Earlier in the evening, guests circulated at any number of fest parties, making their way to a poolside bash at the Majestic Hotel, toasting the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the London Film Festival, while over at the Big Eagle Yacht, guests mixed in advance of the "Southland Tales" premiere and earlier in the evening, a large crowd were hosted by Moving Pictures, Film Finders and The Hamptons International Film Festival where Hamptons fest head Denise Kassel and board member Pat Swinney Kaufman (New York's state film commissioner) announced that Ted Hope would be saluted at this year's Hamptons/indieWIRE Industry Toast. The indie producer has had an active festival, with Julian Goldberger's "The Hawk Is Dying" screening in the Directors' Fortnight, and having just announced two new film productions with Alan Ball and Todd Solondz. Chatting with indieWIRE at the party, Hope said that this will end up being the biggest year yet for This Is That (his company formed with Anthony Bregman and Anne Carey). They may end up making as many as 7 movies this year, he said.
Pedro Coming to America
Sony Pictures Classics welcomed a select group of American journalists to the Carlton Beach on Monday, for lunch with "Volver" director Pedro Almodovar and the film's stars Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura. At the lunch, Sony Pictures Classics fleshed out details for the upcoming "Viva Pedro!" retrospective that will lead up to their October release of "Volver" in the states.
The series will kick-off at the Lincoln Plaza beginning August 11, opening with "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." It will continue at The Quad Cinema with "All About My Mother" on August 25. Also screening are "Talk to Her," (Sept. 1), "Flower of My Secret," (Sept. 8), "Live Flesh" (Sept. 15), "Law of Desire" (Sept. 22), "Matador" (Sept. 29), and "Bad Education" (October 6). The retrospective will also travel around the country in Summer and Autumn 2006.
At lunch, the strong bond between Almodovar and Penelope Cruz was quite apparent. The actress continued to talk lovingly of the director and even Maura acknowledged that the two of them had a unique relationship. Almodovar explained that he spent months working with Cruz to perfect her accent and develop her character. Later he quipped that while he is gay (and hasn't been with a woman in decades), Cruz is someone he has fantasized about. Journalists asked the Spanish auteur about his seeming fascination with Penelope's breasts in a particular overhead shot in "Volver." He smiled, "I am a gay man, but I am obsessed with her breasts!"
On a more serious note, asked about the use of his trademark bright colors in the film, Almodovar admitted that the La Mancha region where he grew up and returned to shoot his new movie is not particularly known for its brightness. But he explained, thinking about the question and his own work, " My cinema could qualify as baroque, as the opposition to the austerity of La Mancha."
American Filmmakers Chat
On Sunday, May 21, film critic Roger Ebert moderated a nine-person discussion panel at the IFP's 16th Annual American Directors at Cannes Press Conference. Hosted in conjunction with IFC, the conference highlighted nine diverse directors who all have films at Cannes this year. Julia Loktev ("Day Night Day Night"), Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth"), Brett Ratner ("X-Men III: The Last Stand"), Julian Goldberger ("The Hawk is Dying"), Bill Couturie ("Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters"), Richard Linklater ("Fast Food Nation" and "A Scanner Darkly"), Gus Van Sant (" Mala Noche " and "Paris, Je t'aime"), M. Blash ("Lying") and Larry Clark (" Destricted") all spoke candidly about their own films, describing their work and their own filmmaking processes, as well as addressing the issues of high definition technology and its effects on the industry and the politics of filmmaking.
"The catch-22 is that in order to make movies, you already need to have had to make a movie," comments Couturie when asked for advice for up and coming filmmakers. Added Goldberger, "Move. Just do it. Make a film. "
The tone remained light and entertaining, despite the serious subject matter at times. The digital versus film argument dominated the bulk of the discussion, with nearly all the directors weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the two technologies and discussing what they chose to use for their films at Cannes. In the end however, the filmmakers were very open to discussion, conversing among themselves during the panel, overstepping its one-hour allotment. The panel ended in a champagne toast to the directors. [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]
Gena Rowlands Up Close
On Friday, May 19, actress Gena Rowlands shared her thoughts and personal anecdotes with a full audience at the Palais du Festival's Bunuel Theater as part of the Cannes Film Festival's Master Class speaking series. For an hour and a half, Ms. Rowlands discussed with host Henri Behar her start in acting, the various roles that she has played over the years and most notably, her "very, very volatile " relationship with avant garde filmmaker and ex-husband John Cassavetes.
"I had a wonderful play and a wonderful strapless dress, and John Cassavetes was there in the audience watching. Things picked up from there," Ms. Rowlands quipped when asked how she and Cassavetes first met. The bulk of the discussion remained on her personal and working relationship with her then husband. She discussed in depth her experiences working on "Faces," "Woman Under the Influence" and "Gloria," sharing rehearsal anecdotes and how she came to embody the characters she played in these films.
The Actress Master Class maintained an entertaining and light tone, whether it came to Rowlands' friendship with Bette Davis ("She could be the meanest, but I didn't care because I loved her...if you could make her laugh, everything was wonderful.") or her arguments with Cassavetes. She also fielded questions from the audience, most of which concerned the craft of acting. In the end, however, Ms. Rowlands stated, "There are no secrets on film." [Kristina Woo/indieWIRE]
[Get the latest from the Festival de Cannes throughout the day in indieWIRE's special Cannes '06 section.]