Cannes 2003 Diary Day 3: "Capturing" More Distribution; The Latest Films From Ruiz and Wenders; and a Packed House for "The Matrix Reloaded"
by Stephen Garrett
On the first full day of the Cannes market, Fortissimo Film Sales reported intense interest in their acclaimed documentary, "Capturing the Friedmans," which nabbed the Grand Jury prize at Sundance last January. Already the film has sold to Hamish McAlpine's Metro Tartan for U.K. distribution and San Fu Malta's A-Films for the Benelux (Magnolia will release it in the U.S. later this month). "'Capturing the Friedmans' is one of the most extraordinary films I have seen this or any other year," said McAlpine in a prepared statement.
Alliance Atlantis has some business of its own to talk about, as it acquired all international rights for Critics Week entry "Milwaukee, Minnesota." The quirky comedy about ice fishermen, which stars Troy Garity, Bruce Dern, and Randy Quaid, receives its worldwide premiere here in Cannes on Saturday. They also announced the acquisition of international rights to two other movies: Ian Iqbal Rashid's comedy "That Touch of Pink" (currently in production) and "Chemins de traverse," another road movie from Manuel Poirer, whose delightful 1997 debut, "Western," won the Prix du Jury at Cannes.
Cannes' official competition got off to a peculiar and somewhat whimsical start Thursday with the premiere of Raoul Ruiz's "That Day," a dark comedy about an escaped killer from an insane asylum who is used as a pawn for eliminating the members of a rich family -- and who in the process befriends the patriarch's beautiful but mentally disturbed daughter. Rife with surreal flourishes, bloody murders, and wink-wink farcical humor, "That Day" is more enjoyable and accessible than many of Ruiz's recent films, but ultimately amounts to nothing but a superficial treat.
One of the first true pleasures of the festival is Wim Wenders' "The Soul of a Man," a beautiful and touching tribute to blues musicians Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson, and J.B. Lenoir that masterfully integrates dramatic recreations of '20s and '30s events (shot in silent-film, hand-crank style) with archival footage, new interviews, and exclusive homage performances by artists as disparate as Alvin Youngblood Hart, Cassandra Wilson, Bonnie Raitt, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Beck, and Lou Reed. The documentary is the first in a seven-part series called "The Blues," which features films by Mike Figgis, Charles Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Marc Levin, Richard Pearce and Martin Scorsese (who also executive produced the series) and will air on TV in the U.S. this fall.
Meanwhile, Hollywood made its splash into this year's Cannes festivities with the Warner Bros. summer juggernaut "The Matrix Reloaded." A packed house of 2,000 moviegoers were strangely subdued during the admittedly numbing action scenes, though there was a healthy chortle when the film's new nemesis, the French-accented Merovingien, illustrated his preference for cursing (at length) in the Gallic tongue.
Afterwards, at the film's press conference, many journalists were disappointed (though hardly surprised) that the famously reclusive and press-averse Wachowski brothers were no-shows. (Not that there would have been room for them anyway: more than a dozen people, including all the film's stars as well as the costume designer, set designer and special-effects supervisor filled out the extra-long dais.). "The brothers would have loved to be with us," said producer Joel Silver with a straight face. "But they are buried in finishing the next picture and we just hope they get the next film done in time for its November release." As for his reaction to the critics' somewhat tepid reception of the film, Silver shrugged it off and said, "It's the shock of the new."
Robbed of the film's writer-directors, journalists fell back on less philosophical questions -- such as the cast's opinion of its stunningly cooler-than-thou wardrobe. "Larry Wachowski said that the whole idea behind the clothes we wear is that it's armor," said Laurence Fishburne, himself electrically decked out in a bright purple suit, orange shirt, and striped tie. Hugo Weaving, wearing a black leather jacket, gave his own assessment: "It's effected my wardrobe because I never get to wear leather and that's why I'm wearing it today." Monica Bellucci bemoaned the fact that her tight-fitting, low-cut white dress was more appropriate for a cocktail party than for kung-fu fighting. "I couldn't jump around like the rest of them," she said. "But with my high heels, I'm still deadly."