Newcomers Among Limited List of Masters at Cannes '04
by Eugene Hernandez
A festival of first-timers is one trend worth noting at Cannes '04, not only filmmakers who will compete for the Palme d'Or for the first time, but debut directors making a first trip to the Croisette. Nine of the 18 films in competition are from filmmakers who will present a movie in Cannes for the first time. Twelve are in competition for the first time. However, Thierry Frémaux is quick to point out that established auteurs are returning (see related article with comments from Frémaux), including Emir Kusturica with "Life is a Miracle," Wong Kar-Wai with "2046," the Coen Brothers with "The Ladykillers," Michael Moore with "Fahrenheit 9-11," and Walter Salles with "The Motorcycle Diaries." Not to mention the opening night screening of Pedro Almodovar's "La Mala Educacion" (Bad Education), which marks the first time that a Spanish film will kick off the Festival de Cannes.
Among the most anticipated films of Cannes this year is Wong Kar-Wai's latest, "2046." The long-in-the-works projects features a stellar cast from Asia, including Tony Leung, Chiu-Wai, Chang Chen, Faye Wong, Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, Zkang Ziyi, Carina Lau Ka-ling, Kimura Takuya, and Bird Thingchai McIntyre. Wong, who wrote, directed, and produced the film, again collaborated with cinematographer Christopher Doyle. A description of the film cryptically says that Leung stars as a science fiction/action writer "who is looking forward towards 2046 or thinking back from 2046." It continues teasingly, "2046 is it only a number?"
Equally anticipated, and certainly much more controversial, is Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," a rare doc in competition. The film, on the heels of Moore's "Bowling for Columbine" which took Cannes by storm in 2002, explores the period before, during, and after 9/11. Moore recently told a crowd at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival that the movie also explores the relationship between the Bush and bin Laden families. Given its arrival as the Presidential campaign is heating up in the United States, the film will no doubt one of the hottest tickets among buyers and attending media.
Notably, only three French films made it into the slimmed down competition this year: Agnes Jaoui's "Comme Une Image," Olivier Assayas' "Clean," and "Exils" by Tony Gatlif. Narrative features from the U.S. are a pair of studio movies: the new sequel "Shrek 2" and the Joel & Ethan Coen's latest, "The Ladykillers," which has already opened stateside. "Shrek" is one of two animated entries in competition this year, the other being Oshii Mamoru's "Innnocence."
[See the complete list of films in competition.]
A number of first-time feature directors make of the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes this year. Among them is Shona Auerbach's "Dear Frankie," which Miramax will release in June. Niels Muellers' first feature, "The Assassination of Richard Nixon," was produced by Jason Kliot and Joana Vicente of Open City Films and features a cast that includes Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Don Cheadle. Other first films include Cate Shortland's "Somersault" from Australia, Laura Duthilleul's "Nelly," Yang Chao's "Passages," Antal Nimrod's "Kontroll," Gulshad Omarova's "Schizo," and Atiq Rahimi's "Terre et Cendres."
Ten short films from nine countries will screen in competition; two are from France. Set to show are Madeleine Andre's "Gerard Mon Amour" from France, Michele Cournoyer's "Accordeon" from Canada, Jonas Geirnaert's "Flatlife" from Belgium," Klaus Huettmann's "Der Schwimmer" from Germany, David Rittney's "Closer" from New Zealand, Catalin Mitulescu's "Trafic" from Romania, Michelange Quay's "L'Evangile du Cochon Créole," Rie Rasmussen's "Thinning the Herd" from Sweden, Erik Rocha's "Quimera" from Brazil, and Nicolas Salis' "La Derniere Minute" from France.
The festival's Critics Week and Director's Fortnight lineups have not been announced yet.
A number of special events are on tap for the event, including the return of "Europe Day" on May 18. The collaboration with the European Commission will welcome host Milos Forman for a day of meetings and discussions, with members of the press presenting a special award to a new European talent. Twenty-five culture ministers from across Europe have been invited to participate.
Filmmakers Wong Kar-Wai, Nanni Moretti, Oliver Stone, and Stephen Frears have been invited to deliver the cinema master class on the same day and Max Von Sydow will deliver the festival's first acting master class, while two days earlier will see an informal meeting among studio reps from around the world: Bollywood, Hollywood, China, and Europe. Piracy will be included in the topics of discussion.
A master class on music will be presented by Lalo Schifrin, he will also perform an evening concert during the festival, along with Andre Ceccarelli and Bruno Fontaine. Outdoor music will again be a highlight, with DJs mixing soundtrack scores as a lead-in to the evening Cinema on the Beach screenings and the Croisette will again feature classic cinema soundtracks for those making their way down the crowded walk; this year the tunes will be enhanced by light beams along the bay at night.
Cannes '04 will conclude with a re-vamped closing weekend. The closing-night film will be Irwin Winkler's "De-Lovely," a new MGM musical based on the life of Cole Porter starring Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, and Jonathan Pryce with music from Alanis Morissette, Robbie Williams, Lara Fabian, Natalie Cole, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, and Diana Krall. MGM will celebrate its 80-year history and welcome performers from the film at an awards-night party after the Cannes awards ceremony and a screening of the film. On Sunday, the festival will re-screen all of the films in the official selection and present an evening closing ceremony honoring the cast and crew of the winner of the Palme d'Or.