Deals and Films Kick-Start Waning Days
by Anthony Kaufman
With just three full days left of Cannes '99 - and with many having given up on most of this year's crop -- a number of films have finally burst forth, reinvigorating what has been mostly a slack year for domestic sales. Paramount Classics officially announced the purchase of Rod Lurie's debut film "Deterrence," a psychological thriller set in the near future starring Kevin Pollak and Timothy Hutton, which is screening in the market here. Other acquisitions rumored to be in the works include Fine Line's purchase of Jasmin Dizdar's Un Certain Regard selection, "Beautiful People" (mentioned in yesterday's report), and two market pursuits: Trimark is looking at J & M Entertainment's "A Texas Funeral" and Sony Pictures Classics' is approaching Australian Pip Karmel's "Me Myself I" starring Rachel Griffiths.
Early in the week, it was reported that Miramax offered a bid on "My Myself I" before even seeing it. (Variety reported the deal near done on Wednesday, with a price tag of $1-2 million for North and South American rights, but reps from Sony Classics would not confirm the report). Another Aussie comedy, the quirky Critics Week selection "Siam Sunset" directed by John Polson, has been stirring up considerable attention all week, but sources say many U.S. distribs have already passed. Also mentioned among fest favorites is a strangely comic, black and white Belgian film, screening in the Directors Fortnight called "The Carriers are Waiting" by debuting helmer Benoit Mariage.
The biggest heat, however, looks to be generating from Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai," which screened to highly satisfied members of the press on Tuesday and an oversold crowd on Wednesday morning, where several U.S. and foreign distributors were turned away from the screening, among them reps from New Line, Sony Classics' head Michael Barker, and New Yorker Films' Susan Wrubel. The only English-language film without a U.S. distributor and a highly entertaining movie from the minimalist master Jarmusch, "Ghost Dog" will undoubtedly create a significant bout among distributors. And though the critics' reviews aren't in yet, discussion among journalists and critics puts the film in the running for an award at the end of the week. (For more on "Ghost," see indieWIRE's review.)
According to Screen International's critics poll, Pedro Almodovar and Atom Egoyan are also still contenders for top awards here at Cannes, but Jarmusch may be a player as well. Though there were many fans of Tim Robbins' populist recreation of artists and aristocrats in the 1930's omnibus comedy "The Cradle Will Rock," the reaction to the film has been extremely divided here, with some lauding it as an inspirational, honest, historical effort, while others calling it sentimental and caricatured.
In these final days of the festival, the competition only gets more fierce with Takeshi Kitano's "Kikujiro," David Lynch's "The Straight Story," Peter Greenaway's "8 and a Half Women," "Rosetta" directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne -- who made the critically acclaimed "La Promesse" -- and John Sayles' "Limbo."