By Indiewire | Indiewire May 17, 2007 at 8:31AM
No sooner does the Festival de Cannes open than attendees start buzzing about the potential award-winners. Last year, Pedro Almodovar's "Volver," which screened early in the festival became the instant odds on favorite to win the top prize, the Palme d'Or, which it famously lost to Ken Loach's "The Wind That Shakes The Barley." So, its not surprise that the nine Cannes jurors were up for a grilling when they met the press yesterday afternoon prior to beginning their service here at the festival. Among the burning questions was whether actress Maggie Cheung will be able to remain impartial despite her close friendship with opening night director Wong Kar Wai, whom she has worked with many times. She noted that she won't let her personal fondness for the filmmaker affect her vote, noting, "I have been judged by many friends (on juries) before."
Cheung sat on stage laughing and smiling cordially along with actress Toni Collette, director and actress Maria de Medeiros, director and actress Sarah Polley, director Marco Bellocchio, writer Orhan Pamuk, director and actor Michel Piccoli, director Abderramane Sissako and filmmaker Stephen Frears, serving as jury president.
"Film isn't a competitive sport and I don't think any of us think that," noted Sarah Polley, when asked how the group will make its choice and what they did to prepare. "But, I think it wil be great to discuss (the films). "I don't know if it is possible to judge art," said Maria de Medeiros, "But it will be interesting." While Toni Collette added later, "I don't know how one can prepare, it's a matter of being in the moment and being affected, just as you do for any film. Being engaged."
Author Orhan Pamuk, recent winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, summed it up suitably, saying that the jurors have been preparing their whole lives for such an experience and they simply need to rely on their own judgement. And he recommended, "Going into a movie with the child's enthusiasm and then saying to daddy, 'this is the one I like, this is the one'."
"The truth is that I will be curious to see how we all end up," joked Frears about the warmth among the jurors on stage, "maybe terrible things will start to come out, you know, so far so good." [Eugene Hernandez]
IM Global Hits the Ground Running
Industry insiders in Cannes have been buzzing about the fact that while the Festival de Cannes officially got underway on Wednesday, onsite deal-making began a day or two earlier this year, with buyers and sellers anxious to get a jump on things. Amidst a flurry of negotiations taking place throughout his new company's large Riviera suites, Stuart Ford, managing Director of InternationalMedia's just launched IM Global noted that the lack of fully packaged projects at this year's European Film Market in Berlin lead to immediate action.
"I think this market is very strong in that respect," Ford explained. "A lot of these projects have moved on several levels and because of that buyers were hungry and they moved early."
"We've had a flying start principally because we brought three new, very commercial projects to the market," he continued, noting such films as Jan de Bont's "Stopping Power" with John Cusask, Simon Crane's "The Killer's Game," and Darren Star's "The Frog King" with Joseph Gordon-Leavitt. The latter has "Sex and the City" creator Star intending to make "the definitive Manhattan high-life movie," using landmark city locations and a script by Bret Easton Ellis, whom he called the, "legendary chronicler of Manhattan life."
But, perhaps of greatest interest to buyers is, from the director of "Borat," the "Untitled Larry Charles Project," a new movie about religion that is narrated and presented by Bill Maher. Saying that anticipation for the movie is "sky high," Ford added that he will show buyers about 10 minutes of raw footage during a Friday afternoon screening. He also said that while the film is still in post-production, Friday's screening would answer key questions buyers had about a director's statement that was presented in Berlin.
Calling the movie a comedic (and sure to be controversial) look at the major religious institutions of the world, Ford cautioned that it will be "incendiary" in its look at such topics as abortion, gay rights, women's issues, and suicide bombers. Concluding he smiled, "In the words of Larry Charles, its pan-offensive." [Eugene Hernandez]
Seinfeld Buzzes Through Cannes
Large-scale promotional stunts have become a Cannes tradition. Last year, Dreamworks showed off clips of "Dreamgirls" and paraded its stars on the beach and that worked a long way in creating buzz that lasted all the way through to its December release. Thursday afternoon, Dreamworks was at it again, promoting Jerry Seinfeld's upcoming animated film, "Bee Movie."
The event started at the Miramar hotel with Seinfeld, Chris Rock (who voiced a character in the film), and Jeffrey Katzenberg introducing a series of clips from the films. Some were still in storybook stages, but most of it was the finished product. Seinfeld and Rock answered some questions from the press, requesting the reporters leave the comedy to them after two consecutive failed attempts at "bee puns." They then assured us that the "best was yet to come" and asked everyone to go across the street to the beach.
In the bring sunlight outside, with crowds gathering on the Croisette, a giant wire suddenly came down from an eight-story building across the street and Seinfeld appeared at the top of it wearing a giant bee suit. Rock stood on the beach and asked a Seinfeld why he was attempting this: "You know, a lot of people just go on talk shows and tell jokes. You do have jokes, don't you?" Seinfeld replied: "This is my biggest one," and then plunged through the sky.
The other notable promotional event takes place next week, when New Line unveils scenes from their $150 million fantasy epic "His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass." "Bee Movie" will be released in North America this November. [Peter Knegt]
THE PARTY CIRCUIT: "Blueberry Bash"
Mixed reactions to Wong Kar Wai's Cannes competition entry "My Blueberry Nights" (recently covered in iW), which opened the Festival on Thursday night, didn't dampen the spirits at a massive bash created in the style of the film. Staged in nearby Le Cannet, guests were shuttled from the Palais by bus and arrived to find silver Airstream trailers stocked with Americana edibles, from mini hot dogs and donuts to hand dipped scoops of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. And of course, flowing alcohol-based libations. Colorful mood lighting in the vein of Wong's signature mise en scene filled the cavernous space, which included large video screens beaming images from the VIP area, from shots of partiers downing drinks to live clips of WKW embracing well-wishers.
Trade reviews that hit the Croisette this morning were in line with buzz at the party. Calling it a movie more for younger fans of Norah Jones than Wong Kar Wai aficionados, Variety branded it "a trifle," while Screen International said, "Striking moments and strong performances are the compensations in a film that is likely to receive a decidely cool critical reception. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter praised Jones, calling the film, "a highly watchable acting debut."
Finally, though, notices for the party itself were solid. It ranked highly among the lavish studio-backed bashes of recent years. For those keeping track, our favorite Cannes party of the young century remains last year's beachside celebration for "Marie Antoinette" (filled with pink champagne, an abundance of food, and a massive fireworks display). Others worth mentioning were the terrific Cannes opening night bash for Almodovar's "Bad Education" back in 2004 and the villa party celebrating Ozon's "The Swimming Pool" the previous year. Of course, we're always hoping the next party will top the list! [Eugene Hernandez]
PAVILION PROFILE: Promoting Home-grown Films, Hong Kong Carves its Niche
Cannes's opening day was a flurry of excitement, and the Hong Kong Pavilion was equally giddy with one of their very own directors, Wong Kar wai, a festival favorite, opening this year's 60th edition with his new film, "My Blueberry Nights."
Initially arriving in 1999, Hong Kong has since worked to establish itself in the Cannes market. In 2001, they took the next step by raising their own tent lining the seaside along with the other dozens of white peaked pavilions -- perhaps appropriately, they're situated right next to China. Senior Services Promotion Manager of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Sophia Chong, says, "[The Pavilion] gives Hong Kong companies the opportunity to meet with overseas counterparts and build relations with the international media."
For the past six years, Hong Kong has announced its presence via their annual evening gala. Organizers utilize this networking event to focus specifically on trade and image promotion. This year, the Hong Kong Pavilion will pay tribute to the festival's 60th anniversary by "Celebrating Cannes" as their theme. To help promote the Hong Kong film industry, Henry Tang, Financial Secretary of the HKSAR and Fred Lam of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council will be on hand to officiate the inauguration ceremony along with Cannes President Gilles Jacob. Afterwards, they will attend the annual gala with Wong Kar wai, actress Maggie Cheung ("Hero") and "Triangle" (Cannes official selection) co-directors Johnnie To, Tsui Hark, and Ringo Lam.
Representatives of 14 Hong Kong film companies are taking part in the festival this year, and the former British colony also has ten films in the market hoping to lure buyers. Lawrence Yau, Head of Media and Public Affairs at TDC commented that there are two types of films from Hong Kong: traditional action and niche movies. Market screenings are being arranged to promote a number of these movies at Cannes, including "A Battle of Wits," "Curiosity Kills the Cat," "Eye in the Sky," "Flash Point," "Getting Home," "The Haunted School," "Invisible Target," "The Postmodern Life of My Aunt," "The Pye-Dog" and "Twins Mission."
Whatever their number of films or companies, it is obvious that Hong Kong cinema is one to be recognized as their presence continues to grow in Cannes and in the international market. [Ashley Adams]
The latest from the 2007 Festival de Cannes is available anytime in indieWIRE's special section.