By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire May 18, 2010 at 4:27AM
May 18, 2010: Cannes, France -- The 63rd Cannes Film Festival opened with Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood" and hit its midpoint with Jean-Luc Godard's "Film Socialisme." At a festival honoring auteurs, it was surprising that neither man was on hand to bask in their spotlight.
Godard and Scott's absence was a rare occurrence at an event that so reveres its filmmakers. For proof of Cannes' emphasis, look no further than the massive billboard hanging for two weeks on the front of the Palais de Festivals. On a simple blue background, in white type, are listed the names of each of the directors with work screening in this year's Official Selection. Apichatpong Weerasathakul and Lodge Kerrigan alongside Manoel de Oliveira. Lucy Walker and Jia Zhangke listed with Olivier Assayas.
In Cannes, the filmmakers themselves are the main event.
And so it was appropriate that on the festival's sixth day here in France, Cannes stoked debate about its filmmakers and their latest works. The conflicting opinions offered just the sort of energy that makes the Cannes fest such an exciting annual experience.
With six days down and six days to go here in Cannes, Jean-Luc Godard's "Film Socialisme," Alejandro Gonzalez-Innaritu's "Biutiful," both of which debuted last night, and Abbas Kiarostami "Copie Conforme" (The Certified Copy), debuting tonight, have sparked heated exchanges both in person and online.
Journo Brawl! 'Biutiful' vs. 'Certified Copy' was the headline from USA Today this morning, noting that the two films have, "triggered violent slapfighting among the journalists here to share the experience of Cannes with movie-lovers reading from afar" and imagining a physical fight in the Cannes festival's press lounge.
Heated conversations about festival films is something that had been lacking here in Cannes until the festival hit its halfway mark. Up to that point, journalists seemed rather uninspired by the Cannes selections and there weren't many passionate post-screening sessions.
Cannes' second half promises to deliver plenty of fodder for conversation, not to mention deals for some of the more buzzed about festival entries.
Kiarostami "The Certified Copy," which will have its gala debut tonight in France, drew a surprising loud pair of boos from one viewer at its screening last night. Today,the filmmaker threw press the for a loop when he announced the possible release of imprisoned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. A press conference attendee challenged the statement and indieWIRE reported that Panahi's detention has been extended and he would decide to undergo a hunger strike. Those close to the situation here in Cannes are monitoring the situation now, so all eyes will be on tonight's premiere for updates.
Meanwhile, Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells called out indieWIRE for alleged coverage of Alejandro Gonzalez-Innaritu's "Biutiful" with a headline that taunted, Indiewire Trying to Bully Biutiful Fans?. He dissed the fact that our criticWIRE poll is lead by films other than "Biutiful." Wells called the movie, "an immensely sad and highly poetic little film that needs all the intelligent support it can get. And yet certain dweeb types have, it seems, gotten together and decided to diminish it." Yet, he didn't mention indieWIRE's negative review of the film by Eric Kohn.
Meanwhile, Godard stirred the festival when he opted out of Cannes and skipped a post-screening press conference.
I was leaving the theater after the film's first screening when I caught up with a leading American film critic who was gasping loudly about the film. "Really? Really? Really?" the critic exclaimed. As we walked to the press conference room we passed another critic who was being interviewed on camera about the movie.
"When I began as a film critic, Jean-Luc Godard was widely thought to have reinvented the cinema with 'Breathless' (1960)," Roger Ebert wrote yesterday about the film, "Now he is almost 80 and has made what is said to be his last film, and he's still at the job, reinventing. If only he had stopped while he was ahead."
Like it or hate it, there's no question that in Cannes, the filmmaker can still draw thousands of people to his work on his name alone. "It is doubtful that anyone else could have made this film and found an audience for it," Ebert added.
"Such are the complicated pleasures of Mr. Godard's work," elaborated Manohla Dargis in her own blog post writing yesterday about the film, "However private, even hermetic, his film language can be, these are works that by virtue of that language's density, as well as the films' visual beauty and intellectual riddles, invite you in (or turn you off)."
Looking back at the first half, Mike Leigh's latest drama about British life, "Another Year," and Charles Ferguson's provocative doc look at the economic crisis,"Inside Job," are leading our criticWIRE poll surveying Cannes critics and bloggers on the films in the festival.
Into the second half of Cannes today, it's likely that a few upcoming festival films will also stoke debate and discussion in the coming days.
The roster for part two follows:
Day Seven: Tuesday, May 18
"Des Hommes et de Dieux, directed by Xavier Beauvois
"Copie Conforme" (The Certified Copy), directed by Abbas Kiarostami
"Tamara Drewe," directed by Stephen Frears (out of competition)
"The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu,," directed by Andrei Ujică (out of competition)
Day Twelve: Sunday, May 23
"The Tree," directed by Julie Bertucelli
(closing film, out of competition)
PREVIOUS WEEKLY COLUMNS:
04.15.10: Cannes Roster Reveals Great Divide | 04.12.10: (Re) Introducing Eric Kohn | 04.05.10: I want it, but what do I *do* with it?? | 03.29.10: “Breaking Upwards”. Breaking even? | 03.17.10: 5 Hot Topics at #SXSW | 03.03.10: The *new* Miramax | 03.01.10: Megabucks v. Made on a Shoestring or “Avatar” v. “Hurt Locker” | 02.10.10: Before Berlin Begins, The Ten Best from Sundance 2010 | 01.11.10: The Doctor Is In | 12.21.09: New Year, New Model | 12.14.09: Tracking the Critics | 12.07.09: The Future of Festivals? |11.30.09: Paris, City of Cinema (or, In Bed with Agnes) | 11.23.09: Frederick Wiseman = The Greatest | 11.16.09: For The Love of Movies | 11.09.09: Building Buzz | 11.02.09: I want it like I wrote it. | 10.26.09: “Precious,” $1 Million or $100 Million? | 10.12.09: Critics (still) Matter | 10.05.09: Is There a Doctor in the House? | 09.28.09: The Indie Summit | 09.21.09: The Oscar Marathon | 09.14.09: DIY v. DIWO | 09.08.09: SPC v. IFC | 08.30.09: Saving Cinema | 08.23.09: Nadie Sabe Nada | 08.16.09: Movies, Now More Than Ever | 08.09.09: It Came From The 80s