By Indiewire | Indiewire May 21, 2004 at 2:00AM
DISPATCH FROM CANNES: Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" Back in Cannes Spotlight with Wellspring Deal, "2046" Debuts, and More
by Eugene Hernandez
Vincent Gallo's 2003 Cannes competition entry "The Brown Bunny" has secured a North American distribution deal. Wellspring will release the film theatrically in the U.S. in August, after closing a deal for all North American rights to the film.
When it screened in competition last year, Gallo's film was widely criticized by the press, who booed the movie loudly at showings here one year ago. At the time, Gallo became an infamous figure in Cannes, engaging in an ongoing sparring match in the media as critics continued to assault his film, some calling it the worst movie ever to screen in competition at Cannes. After showing the two-hour rough cut of the movie here in Cannes last year, Gallo debuted the completed, shorter version of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival and later won the FIPRESCI International Critic Prize at the Viennale.
Gallo, who spoke with indieWIRE by phone to talk about the deal, reiterated that the film was still in a rough-cut form when it played in Cannes last year, but noted that the new cut (at 92 minutes) is essentially the same. "Having to go to Cannes with an unfinished rough cut might have worked, but the company Wild Bunch in France -- I didn't have a good relationship with them -- and the financiers were [in] way over their head," Gallo said Thursday, adding that the cut that screened in Cannes was finished in late March, but that he kept working on the movie in the weeks before the festival. "The final edit was done almost before I went to Cannes," he said. "The worst misconception was that there was more than one cut of the film. There was only the rough pass that I agreed to show in Cannes so that I could buy the six months to finish the film, there is only one real version of the film." He continued, "I really made exactly the movie that I was always going to make... [the rough cut] is not tailored for any reason."
"They would have booed the same way (if they saw) the finished version of the film in Cannes," Gallo said, "I don't prefer the rougher cut but I had good feeling about it (at the time), enough to show it even though it was incomplete. I didn't feel it was that far off from where I was going. That's the only misconception."
Wellspring, in Cannes with Jonathan Caouette's "Tarnation," will release "The Brown Bunny" on August 27, at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema in New York and the arthouse circuit's Nuart Theater in L.A. The company is planning a rollout from there and a video/DVD release in the spring of 2005. The company's head of acquisitions Marie Therese Guirgis and head of theatrical distribution Ryan Werner negotiated the deal with Gallo on behalf of Kinetique, Inc.
"Vincent Gallo has made a hauntingly beautiful film with one of the frankest portrayals of sex that I have ever seen in the cinema and a truly magnificent and fearless performance by the most interesting actress in American Cinema -- Chloë Sevigny," said Werner in a statement. "Like all great art, we expect it to be hotly debated and discussed for many years to come. It is the rare film that I think will grow in esteem over time and serve as an inspiration to young filmmakers around the world."
"I am not an artist," said Vincent Gallo during the conversation with indieWIRE. "I don't feel entitled to make people go through the most subtle, extreme interpretations of my work -- it's for a broader group of people," Gallo said. Continuing he added, "I am not a film-festival filmmaker and I don't relate to other filmmakers and I don't relate to cinema and certainly don't like the nature of a film festival, the pretension of a film festival -- I am not a filmmaker and I am making what I think is an entertaining movie."
Reflecting on his experience here last year, Gallo said, "When I went to Cannes I was so shaken up not by the audience reaction, or Roger Ebert, I was shaken up by a few very small personal things." He cited the breakdown of some close friendships within the business as especially sad and said he was upset at being misquoted in Screen International, in an article that reported that he had apologized for making "The Brown Bunny."
"On a personal note, I felt more unloved, or unliked, I felt more alone and more shaken up by the people that were around me," he said. "I used to be very friendly with the press, after (that) I just felt like my public life is now over, I'll never have a public life again and I definitely don't have any friend in the movie business. I had gone from a kid to an adult in some way."
"I wasn't shocked by the reaction, no one is going to like me easily, he continued. "I realized at that time that I had no support from anyone. It's a feeling I know well anyway, that's the way I live my life."
"I spent so much time on the film, l feel like the film is the best thing that I have ever done," Gallo added. "I had 100 percent creative control of the film, and the finished film is exactly the one that I wanted to make -- people may not like it, but I like it."
"2046" Makes Cannes Debut
Wong Kar Wai's latest, "2046," made its anticipated debut here in Cannes on Thursday night, screening for the first time in two large, packed showings at the Palais des Festivals. Initial reactions seem mixed here on the Croisette. Wong was last in Cannes in 2000 with the universally praised and Cannes award-winning "In the Mood for Love."
Its rare to have a film in Cannes debut at a red carpet Lumiere theater screening concurrent with press seeing it at the same time in the adjacent Debussy theater. In this case both screenings let out at almost the same time, mixing the black-tie guests with exiting journalists and facilitating a lot of chatter about the new film. Audience reaction in the gala screening was marked by applause for the filmmaker, according to a sampling of attendees, but the film did not receive the sort of massive ovation that competition films like "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Shrek 2," or "The Motorcycle Diaries" have received here in Cannes. One gala attendee called the reaction "understated," while another called it "polite."
Over in the packed Debussy (where indieWIRE saw the film), critics applauded briefly at the conclusion of the film. After that showing, many discussed and debated the film in the lobby, citing its beauty, but characterizing it as confusing and unfinished.
In the film, Wong regular Tony Leung stars as a writer who is telling the story of a mysterious train that can travel to 2046. As we learn more about this unique locomotive of the future, we also discover the checkered past of the author, who has left a trail of broken hearts back in the late 1960s. Cinematically stunning, the film itself, like the train, remained a bit of a mystery for many of those quickly polled after the film's first showing.
Sony Classics Gets Jaoui Film
Agnes Jaoui's Cannes competition film, "Look At Me" (Comme Une Image), has been nabbed by Sony Pictures Classics, according to trade reports here in Cannes today. The company, which also acquired Zhang Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers" earlier this week, made a deal for the U.S. and Latin American rights to the movie, according the morning papers. StudioCanal has sold many territorial rights to the film this week here in Cannes.
Inside sources told indieWIRE that Sony Classics is also close to a deal for Daniel Harris' "Imaginary Heroes," which is screening here in the Cannes Market. That film stars Emile Hirsch and Sigourney Weaver.
Palm Makes Another Deal
Chris Blackwell's Palm Pictures has announced another deal here in Cannes, the company will produce "Kool Herc's Breakbeat," a new film written by Paul Hirsch and to be produced with Sunmin Park from Maxmedia. The company described the film as "the Indiana Jones of Hip Hop with an inspirational Karate Kid type of story at its core." In a statement, Palm's David Koh said, "We just loved the script and the nature and tone of the story and feel it can be quite a mainstream movie and is about the roots of the culture of hip hop. We look forward to working with Paul Hirsch and Maxmedia to develop and produce the project."
TLA Gets Two More
TLA Releasing has nabbed Pieter Kuijpers' Dutch crime drama "Van God Los" (The Godforsaken) and David Mackenzie's Scottish comic mystery "The Last Wilderness" for the company's International Film Festival DVD/VHS series. The deals mark the third and fourth sealed by TLA here in Cannes.