Dispatch From Europe: Robert Redford on Europe & Politics; Box- Office & Festival Updates
by Wendy Mitchell
Robert Redford on A Transformational Trip to Europe
Last week, Robert Redford was in the Czech Republic to attend the 40th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Redford, amiable and decked out in a SAG Indie baseball cap, spoke to journalists about his fondness for the Czech Republic and also how his life changed after he first visited Europe decades ago.
Redford was persuaded to attend the festival in this sleepy Czech spa town by his good buddy Madeleine Albright. He also was anxious to spend some time with former Czech President Vaclav Havel. "I've been interested in him because of his role as an artist and as the kind of activist who stood up for Human Rights," Redford said of Havel. "I've wanted to come to Prague for a long time. I'm very interested in European history. When I was 18, I came to Europe and I traveled 'on the bum.' I couldn't get to Prague in 1957 but I did spend a year and a half in Europe. It really created my world view." Redford even remembered being a witness to the Hungarian revolution, and helping refugees across the Danube.
The Sundance founder turned his attention to American politics as well. When asked about his criticism of Ronald Reagan, Redford said, "I don't think he was a good president, but no one is worse than President Bush and his administration on the environment." He also drew comparisons between Watergate, captured so memorably in his film "All the President's Men," and the current administration. "I waited for 30 years and watched very similar patterns repeat themselves," he said, joking that all the American journalists wanted to ask him recently about was the revelation that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. "Isn't the larger part looking at today and seeing if there are larger similarities? Where is the press on that? No, they just wanted to know what I thought about Deep Throat."
Redford spoke about how the film business has evolved during the past few decades as well. "The film business has changed a lot.It's all about following the youth market. You see more movies like cartoons," he said. "The business has become more celebrity-oriented, and more shallow. I'm interested in different kinds of films." Happily for long-term fans of his work, Redford did note that he is talking to Paul Newman about working together again on an unspecified project.
Asked about the Czech "womens," he joked, "I could have answered that better many years ago." But as far as local libations go, Redford was very passionate: I love Czech beer, I've had it for many years." He keeps Pilsner Urquell in his fridge at home, if you're wondering.
Films To Watch at The European Box Office
French film "Les Poupees Russes" (Russian Dolls) from Cedric Klapisch via Mars Distribution, is in the top five of this week's total European box-office, beating out the likes of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "Sin City" (The "L'Auberge Espagnole" sequel has grossed more than 11 million Euros so far.)
Among other indie films playing in Europe, Hong Kong hit "Kung Fu Hustle" is faring comparatively better in Europe than it is in the States -- it has made the equivalent of ?13.9 million in the U.S., compared with a rather impressive ?8.1 million in 10 European markets. German-made Hitler drama "Untergang" (Downfall) has now made more than 11 times its U.S. gross in Europe.
Likewise, Woody Allen's "Melinda and Melinda" has followed Allen's recent pattern of performing better overseas -- that film's European grosses are well over double its U.S. performance. Allen, too, seems taken with Europe -- his London-set "Match Point" fared well in Cannes, and he's shooting his next project this summer in London as well.
As for local hits in Europe that haven't come out Stateside, Swedish film "Sa Som I Himmelen" (As it is in Heaven) has made more than ?13 million, Spain's "Crimen Ferpecto" has cleared ?6 million, and Italy's "Quo Vadis, Baby?" has made more than ?1.6 million.
Another film to watch is Pathe's horror hit "The Descent," which came in third at the U.K. box office its first weekend, behind only "War of the Worlds" and "Batman Begins." Neil Marshall's second feature has drawn rave reviews as one of the best British horror films in recent years. It tells the story of six female friends on a caving trip that goes horribly wrong.
The Cambridge Film Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, with an event continuing through Sunday. The London bombings last week didn't spell disaster for the festival, evidently, with only one major cancellation -- Thomas Vinterberg decided to take his wife and two small children back home to Denmark rather than present "Dear Wendy" in person. But plenty of notable names did make it to Cambridge, including Peter Greenaway, John Sayles, Nicolas Winding Refn, Hany Abu-Assad ("Paradise Now"), and German director Monika Treut. The festival will close on Sunday with a surprise screening followed by the closing night film, the U.K. premiere of Paul Haggis' "Crash." There's no word yet on the surprise pick, but past unveilings have included "9 Songs" and "The Pirates of the Caribbean."
Down in London, the National Film Theatre is planning a new five-day event "focusing on the convergence of visuals and music." The Optronica series, running July 20-24, will feature live DJ/VJ sets, outdoor audiovisual shows, and a presentation of DJ Spooky's "Rebirth of a Nation" on an IMAX screen. Notable participants include Warp artists Plaid, ex-Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos, and the collective Addictive TV. The NFT will also screen music videos, audiovisual work, and experimental animations.