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Say it in English: Boorman, Hartley, and Tucci at the Helm of Three Cannes Films Picked to Click

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire May 20, 1998 at 2:0AM

Say it in English: Boorman, Hartley, and Tucci at the Helm of Three Cannes Films Picked to Click
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Say it in English: Boorman, Hartley, and Tucci at the Helm of Three Cannes Films Picked to Click

by Anthony Kaufman




English-language films have the fortune of being just that -- more easily
marketable in North America for obvious reasons and considerably sought
out in the rest of the world because of their star status; a trio of
English-language films, all made by Cannes veterans, will likely go far:
John Boorman's "The General," Hal Hartley's "Henry Fool," and Stanley
Tucci's "The Imposters".


Veteran director, John Boorman is no stranger to Cannes. In 1970, he
received a directing award for "Leo the Last" and returned some years
later to screen "Excalibur." His latest contribution is the independently
financed "The General," a black and white, mostly biographical tale about a
legendary Irish criminal, Martin Cahill, who was murdered in 1994. The
story of Cahill "expressed one aspect of contemporary Ireland which is
criminality," said Boorman at a press conference. Caught in between an
increasingly armed police force, envious IRA members and militant
Loyalists, Cahill aka "The General" can be thought, said Boorman, as a
symbol of the contemporary confusion surrounding Ireland's political
and social identity. With a positive review from Moving Pictures
and other critics likely to follow suit, it is surprising that
this well shot, tightly plotted picture with name actor Jon Voight
appearing along with Boorman's own cache as a director, is the single
one of the three that does not have distribution. ("Henry Fool" will be
distributed in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics and "The Imposters" will
be screening in the Fall from Fox Searchlight.) Although "The General"
already has J & M Entertainment and a French distributor behind it, no
announcements of U.S. pick-ups have been heard. Yet.


For American audiences, one risk could be seen in the film's black and
white image. But for Boorman, the black and white stock intensifies
the story, suggesting "a kind of parallel world, but in some curious way
it seems more real." Boorman continued, "I didn't want to romanticize
and color tends to do that, it tends to prettify. I wanted to peel away
the skin which happens when you take the color away." The result of
Boorman's stylized world offers a clever counterpoint to the very human
and complex depiction of Cahill by rising Irish actor, Brendan Gleeson
(Paddy Breathnach's "I Went Down"). When Boorman was asked if
it is more difficult to make a picture today than in his earlier
movie-making days, he answered, "The more original the movie, the
harder it is to get made. Almost every, good, really terrific movie that
comes out has a history of rejection behind it."


Although Hal Hartley hasn't exactly been rejected by American audiences,
he is considerably more sought after in France, Germany and most of Europe
and this is perhaps gives credence to the fact that "Henry Fool" is Hartley's
second film to screen in the Main Competition at Cannes. His first was
"Simple Men" in 1992. This is also good reason for The Shooting Gallery's
International production arm to maintain international rights. Trade
reviews have been strong and the film will likely sustain Harley as a
mainstay for the international marketplace.


"Henry Fool" finds Simon Grim (debuting NY actor, James Urbaniak who
gives a brilliantly Hartleyian performance) on the brink of literary stardom
due to the encouragement and philosphies of an outsider who winds up
staying in his house, the eccentric and lewd Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan).
For Hartley, the film may be his most ambitious to date. Running at 141
minutes, with shifting sympathies and plotlines, the film also has a
sense of character that breaks out from the artifice of his previous works.
At a cocktail party preceding the film's evening screening, Urbaniak said,
"Hal's concerns as a director have a lot to do with composition and
where you are in space -- those sort of things are important to him and
that's the sort of direction he'll give you as opposed to the more
emotion-oriented direction that a so-called actor's director might give
you, but actually," continued Urbaniak, "the results can be just as, if not
more emotional, if you surrender yourself to the grid that Hal has
constructed." "Henry Fool" may be a strong critical contender for a Cannes
prize, but because of its older age on the festival circuit (having already
screened in Toronto among others) it may get passed over for something
more unique.


Stanley Tucci's "The Imposters" had its festival debut in the Un
Certain Regard section of the festival. Certainly, not as assured as his
previous "Big Night," "The Imposters" is a 1930's farce
with Tucci and costar Oliver Platt as struggling New York actors who
end up on a Marx Brothers-like ship of fools that includes Alfred Molina,
Steven Buscemi, Hope Davis, Lily Taylor, Campbell Scott and Isabella
Rosellini. "I think making movies is a very difficult thing, certainly in
today's climate, but it should be a very joyful thing," said Tucci between
smokes on a hefty cigar at the press conference. As an actor-turned-director,
Tucci has the unique opportunity of working with a close-knit group of
fellow actors. The experience is a fun one and it looks like it when you
watch the exuberant film. "What I try to do when we're putting the movie
together," said Tucci "is to go for who is absolutely right for the roles,
in this case, they were written for specific people and then to bring this
package to producers." With Fox Searchlight behind, this boatload of farce
will likely be traveling around the world real soon.