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May 19, 2004 2:00 AM
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DISPATCH FROM CANNES: Festival Waits for Delayed Wong Kar Wai Film and Moore Anticipates U.S. Deal f

DISPATCH FROM CANNES: Festival Waits for Delayed Wong Kar Wai Film and Moore Anticipates U.S. Deal for "Fahrenheit"

by Eugene Hernandez









Michael Moore talks about his new film, "Fahrenheit 9/11", during a session with journalists on Wednesday at the Majestic Hotel in Cannes. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE.

Conspicuously absent on the Croisette this year is director Wong Kar Wai whose latest film "2046" is apparently not quite finished. The movie had been set to debut for press early tomorrow morning here in Cannes. That showing, and other daytime screenings of the highly anticipated movie, have been canceled because the filmmaker has not yet delivered the movie. The director has been working down to the wire to finish the movie, with subtitle work being completed now in Paris and a print said to be arriving at the festival sometime on Thursday. The evening gala competition premiere is expected to happen as scheduled but the delay has hampered buyers plans to see the movie, not to mention the large gathering of media that have been anxiously awaiting "2046" as one of the most anticipated films in Cannes.

"Due to a delay in receiving the film '2046' by Wong Kar Wai it has been necessary to modify the schedule," the festival said in a statement posted on walls through the Palais des Festivals. "The Cannes Film Festival and the producers of the film apologize for any inconvenience caused by this change."

The press conference with Wong has been moved to Friday and the director's sales team at Fortissimo assured that press and buyers screenings will be scheduled for Friday. At press time there were unconfirmed rumors of a Midnight showing of the movie being in the works.

Michael Moore on Fame and His New Film

"I didn't set out to be a celebrity," explained Michael Moore yesterday during a lunchtime interview at the Majestic Hotel here in Cannes. The director, who has drawn large crowds everywhere here, sat down with a group of journalists to talk about his new film.

"I have never really been comfortable with being well-known," continued Moore, "I've felt that a little bit of me goes a long way -- I don't want to dominate the subject matter." In the case of his new film, Moore has almost removed his image entirely from the picture. While his narration drives the film, he is hardly seen on screen. "I think that subject matter and the individuals in the film didn't need help from me," he added. "On a personal level, I just don't like looking at myself," Moore laughed, adding that in the editing room a posted sign read, "When in doubt, cut me out."

Continuing, Moore said, "I don't want this character of Michael Moore to be the focus, I want Lila Lipscomb to be the focus," he added, referring to the emotional interview with the mother of a killed soldier that he presents in the film's climax. He added, "And I have no problem with letting Bush drive the humor."

Moore's new film, which will clearly stir controversy and partisan sentiments when it finally finds a release in the U.S., is a powerful piece of filmmaking from a passionate director. The film begins with a look back at the 2000 presidential election followed by protests on Inauguration Day. It explores links between the Bush administration and the Bin Laden family as well as the Bush family's longtime association with top Saudi Arabian royals. After exploring failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, Moore takes viewers back to Flint to witness a shocking attempt by U.S. military recruiters to lure African-Americans to become soldiers. The aforementioned interview with Lipscomb, including her reading a final letter from her son that damns the Bush administration is shattering. Monday's gala audience gave the film a 20 minute ovation that Cannes festival organizers said surpassed any such reaction in the history of the festival. Few have criticized the movie, although U.S. trade reviews were lukewarm. Mainstream press reaction has been positive.

"This is a movie about the four years of Bush," explained Moore, "It begins with the first act of immorality; the reason it begins there is that it all rots from there." He added, "If you allow someone to steal your White House, to steal an election, what else will these people do? Thus begins the decline from that moment in Florida to the lie after lie after lie to manipulate the people, all for their own gain and their own friends' gain."

Moore explained that he plans to add two more pieces of footage to the film before it is released. While he would not characterize the scenes, he said that it is "something that nobody else has."

Distribution Prospects

"There won't be an announcement today, there won't be an announcement tomorrow," Moore said about a possible deal for North American distribution of the film. "(There is) nothing even close to happening," Moore added, saying that negotiations between Miramax and Disney are still pending, then he and Harvey Weinstein will make a decision about the release of the movie, still pegged for this summer in the United States. The final decision will revolve around the control of the release by he and Weinstein, Moore said, explaining, "So that as many Americans can see the film and see it this summer." He added that an October DVD release is a key goal.

Moore explained that among the companies in contention, and those he'd like to ultimately work with, are Focus Features, Newmarket Films, and Lions Gate, which is run by John Feltheimer, an exec who was involved with Moore's "TV Nation" series. THINKFilm, headed by Jeff Sackman who took on the releases of "Dogma" and "O" while at Lions Gate, is also understood to be in contention for the chance to release the movie, although Moore did not mention the company by name.

When asked whether he can imagine this new film being distributed by a major studio, Moore said plainly, "I don't mean to sound pessimistic, I wouldn't rule it out," but he added, "I've burned too bridges, four are left." He was referring to Disney with this new film and FOX, owner of the network that aired "TV Nation" after he moved it from NBC. At this rate, Moore joked, "I've got another good 13-14 years of so of filmmaking left."

"Its been two weeks since the (New York) Times article," continued Moore, "Everybody wrote that week, 'he'll have a distribution deal'... here I am two weeks later..."

Early Screenings & Disney

Moore, who showed the film to public audiences in Michigan in March and April, said those early test screenings may have actually sparked Disney's concerns. The director said he drew audiences to showings of his movie without telling them in advance that they would be seeing the new film. He said Wednesday that the reactions from those showings were overwhelmingly positive. Moore reported the news of the ovations to the studio and then Disney had an exec take a look at the movie, he said. Disney then decided that it was too hot to handle, concluding that it might affect the outcome of the election and telling Miramax that it could not release the picture, Moore said. "I had an early sense that this would resonate with an audience."

Moore added that he didn't want his first screening of the finished movie to take place outside the country, so one week ago he showed the film to a group of families of both 9/11 victims and those killed in Iraq. "I thought that this particular film should be seen by families of lost loved ones," he explained.

The filmmaker continued to criticize Disney's decision, citing its syndicating radio programs by conservative commentators Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and noting that televangelist Pat Robertson's program is aired by the Disney-owned Family Channel.

Does Moore Make Docs?

"I make movies," Moore said plainly, when asked how he answers critics that say his films are not documentaries. "I don't write non-fiction books," he continued, referring to his successful career as an author. "I don't call it non-fiction, I call it a book."

When asked about the spate of politically-minded and anti-corporate documentaries coming to theaters this year, among them "Super Size Me," "The Corporation," "Control Room," "The Hunting of the President," "The Yes Men" and others, Moore concluded, "If I had a dream years ago it was that I wouldn't be alone and that other people would start doing this -- it is really our moment."

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