Cannes Festivals News

Cannes 2008: The Winners

This is director Laurent Cantet with a group of Paris junior high school students after The Class won the Palme d’Or award last night at the 61st Cannes film festival.

Here are the winners in full:




> Official site of the festival
> Listen to the winners press conference
> Reviews of the festival from BBC News, Reuters, The Guardian and the New York Times

(Photo Credit: EPA/Guillaume Horcajuelo

Cannes Festivals News

Cannes 2008: The Class wins the Palme d’Or

The winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival is The Class (the French title is ‘Entre les Murs’).

In typical Cannes style, the favoured films (Waltz with Bashir, Che, Gomorrah) lost out to an underdog and this is also the first time since 1987 that a French film (Maurice Pialat’s Under the Sun of Satan, in case you were wondering) has won the top prize at Cannes.

Directed by Laurent Cantet, it is the story of a teacher in a tough Paris school based on an autobiographical novel by Francois Begaudeau (who plays himself in the film) about his life as a young teacher.

Sean Penn, as head of the nine-member jury, said:

It is an amazing, amazing film. It was our second unanimous decision.

Here are some critical reactions to the film, which screened quite late in the festival.

Justin Chang of Variety thought it was substantive and entertaining:

Talky in the best sense, the film exhilarates with its lively, authentic classroom banter while its emotional undercurrents build steadily but almost imperceptibly over a swift 129 minutes.

One of the most substantive and purely entertaining movies in competition at Cannes this year, it will further cement Cantet’s sterling reputation among discerning arthouse auds in France and overseas.

A.O. Scott of the New York Times praises the ‘freshness and precision’:

The film, Mr. Cantet’s fourth feature, concerns a young teacher dealing with a tough class in an urban high school.

It’s hardly a new idea for a movie — from “To Sir With Love” to “Dangerous Minds” and beyond, Hollywood has always had a soft spot for melodramas of pedagogical heroism — but Mr. Cantet attacks it with freshness and precision, and without a trace of sentimentality.

Mike Goodridge of Screen Daily says it offers a ‘rich microcosm’ of today’s French society:

The film focuses tightly on the dynamics and concerns of the classroom, never straying into details of the lives of kids or adults outside.

Yet even though it takes place entirely “entre les murs”, it offers a rich microcosm of today’s multi-ethnic French population and fascinating insights into the complicated dil emma s and misunderstandings which teaching – and indeed learning – can entail.

Geoff Andrew of Time Out thinks it is ‘engrossing’, ‘lucid’, ‘subtle’ and ‘thought provoking’:

Everything rings absolutely true in this film, and everything is utterly engrossing from start to finish, despite the apparent lack of a straightforward narrative during the first hour.

At the end, in a delightfully unexpected allusion to Plato’s ‘Republic’, the filmmakers drop a hint as to what they’ve been up to; there are no easy answers proffered to the various questions raised about education, schools and society, but the film makes for admirably lucid, subtle and thought-provoking drama throughout.

And the kids are terrific.

Artificial Eye have bought the UK rights to the film.

Here is the trailer (in French):

> Official site of the Cannes Film Festival
> BBC News report on the win
> Variety reports on the brisk sales of the film
> The Class at the IMDb
> Green Cine with the rest of the Cannes winners

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008: Palme d’Or Predictions

In just a couple of hours Sean Penn will announce which film has won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Red Carpet at the Palais

Predicting what will win is extremely difficult.

Not only do you have predict the tastes of the jury (not easy in itself) but you also have to factor in the various compromises amongst the different members as they settle upon a winner.

Penn in the opening press conference said:

When we select the Palme d’Or winner, I think we are going to feel very confident that the film-maker who made the film is very aware of the times in which he or she lives.

With that in mind, here is a run through of the contenders and why they may – or may not – win the big prize?

  • Adoration (Dir. Atom Egoyan): Although Atom Egoyan has done some remarkable work in the past (Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter), his last couple of films have struggled with audiences and critics. His latest didn’t exactly set Cannes alight and seems unlikely to have a chance.
  • Blindness (Dir. Fernando Meirelles): The opening night film was something of a downer and got mixed reactions, but critics praised the skill of Meirelles’ filmmaking and this has the vague whiff of a ‘compromise winner’ which could satisfy a divided jury.
  • Che (Dir. Steven Soderbergh): Although it seemed to split the critics, the biggest problem Steven Soderbergh’s epic Che Guevera project has is that it is actually two films. However, rumours from Cannes suggest that Penn favours this film, so it must be seen as a strong contender.
  • Delta (Dir. Kornel Mundruczo): Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo was according to one critic a ‘typical festival art film’ which may or may not help it. The lack of buzz would indicate it is out of the running.
  • The Class (Dir. Laurent Cantet): A French film winning the Palme d’Or is a rare sight and this tale of a high school teacher in a poor neighborhood could be an outside shot if the jury is inclined to go for a more low key approach.
  • 24 City (Dir. Zhangke Jia): This tale of economic change in China could be a dark horse and the recent tragic events in that country may give it a deeper resonance with the jury.
  • Gomorrah (Dir. Matteo Garrone): This dark and unflinching look at the Mafia in Naples, adapted from Roberto Saviano‘s bestselling book, has pleased many critics. A counterblast to traditional TV and movie representations of the Mafia, it might almost be seen as a metaphor for how the world currently being run. A very strong frontrunner.
  • Il Divo (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino): The other Italian entry, dealing with MP Giulio Andreotti, may struggle in the shadow of Gomorrah as it to deals with organized crime albeit from a much drier and different angle.
  • Changeling (or The Exchange) (Dir. Clint Eastwood): Eastwood’s tale of a mother (Angelina Jolie) losing her son amidst a sea of corruption in 1920’s LA got solid reviews and has to be a strong contender. In his opening press conference Penn agrily denied the possibility of favouritism towards his friend and former colleague saying all films would be judged equally. That actually makes me think it won’t win but if it did, given the confusion over the title, will anyone know what to call it?
  • Frontier Of Dawn (Dir. Philippe Garrel): Veteran Philippe Garrel’s film about an affair between a photographer and a beautiful woman didn’t go down too well with the critics, plus a lurch to the supernatural makes it a long shot for any prizes.
  • The Headless Woman (Dir. Lucrecia Martel): This tale from Argentina of a woman who thinks she has run something over has been dubbedby J. Hoberman “the Best Film in Competition Least Likely to Win a Prize.” Which is just one of many reasons why it probably won’t win.
  • Lorna’s Silence (Dir. Jean-Pierre Et Luc Dardenne): Although the Belgian duo are past winners at Cannes (in 1999 and 2005), their brand of gritty realism may be wearing thin. A third win would be a remarkable achievement but I can’t see it happening.
  • Lion’s Den (Dir. Pablo Trapero): This tale of a woman in an Argentine prison may not be in the running for the main prize but Martina Gusman scooping Best Actress is a possibility.
  • Linha De Passe (Dir. Walter Salles, Daniela Thomas): Although the praise was rather muted for this tale of a poor family in Sao Paolo it may find favour with some on the jury. Still an outside bet though.
  • My Magic (Dir. Eric Khoo): Singapore’s Eric Khoo is very much a director who operates on the arthouse circuit. The fact that this was only shown on a single afternoon screening on Friday would seem to suggest that this film – about the relationship between a drunken former magician and a 10-year-old boy – has no chance whatsoever of winning the Palme d’Or.
  • Palermo Shooting (Dir. Wim Wenders): Although he won in Paris, Texas back in 1984 and got Best Director for Wings of Desire in 1987, German director Wim Wenders has gone off the boil somewhat. Don’t Come Knocking back in 2005 signalled a new low for this once brilliant filmmaker and the lack of interest and buzz for this tale of a photographer in Sicily means it almost certainly won’t win.
  • Serbis (Dir. Brillante Mendoza): This tale of a struggling porn cinema in Manila had a few admirers but I would hazard a guess that it’s chances of any prizes tonight are limited.
  • Synecdoche, New York (Dir. Charlie Kaufman): Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut about a New York theatre director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) baffled a lot of critics. Although it has admirers it is hard seeing the jury giving it the big prize, even though it had the ‘lucky’ Friday slot and a strong pedigree.
  • Two Lovers (Dir. James Gray): An old fashioned tale of a Brooklyn man (Joaquin Phoenix) caught between two women (Gwyneth Paltrow and (Vinessa Shaw) this polarised critics and seems unlikely to scoop any prizes. But given the Cannes selectors persistence in inviting him back most years, who knows? A wildcard.
  • Three Monkeys (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan): A strong contender that played very well with some critics, this tale of a driver taking the rap for his well connected boss could find favour amongst some judges, but it looks like a sneaky dark horse.
  • A Christmas Tale (Dir. Arnaud Desplechin): Whilst this tale of French family reuniting over Christmas pleased quite a few critics, it doesn’t smack of the kind of film that is going to win this year. It looks as though the French will have to wait another year for a Palme d’Or winner.
  • Waltz With Bashir (Dir. Ari Folman): Perhaps the film of the festival amongst the cognoscenti on the Croisette, this animated tale of Ari Folman’s personal experiences as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War ticks all the boxes. Visually arresting, politically engaged and tipped by many to scoop the Palme d’Or. Whilst that doesn’t mean it will win, it is looking like the favourite.

My prediction to win?

Waltz with Bashir (although Gomorrah is a very close second).

* UPDATE *: The Class has won.

> Official site for the Cannes Film Festival and the full list of films competing in the official selection
> Past winners of the Palme d’Or

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008: Previous Winners of the Palme d’Or

Tomorrow night this year’s winner of the Palme d’Or will be announced at the Cannes Film Festival.

When the festival began in 1939 the top prize at the festival was known as the Grand Prix.

But in 1955 the Festival started to award the best film a golden palm, in tribute to the coat of arms of the City of Cannes.

Here is a list of winners since 1955:

1955 Marty (Dir. Delbert Mann)
1956 The Silent World (Dir. Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Louis Malle)
1957 Friendly Persuasion (Dir. William Wyler)
1958 The Cranes Are Flying (Dir. Mikhail Kalatozov)
1959 Black Orpheus (Dir. Marcel Camus)
1960 La dolce vita (Dir. Federico Fellini)
1961 The Long Absence (Dir. Henri Colpi) and Viridiana (Dir. Luis Buñuel)
1962 O Pagador de Promessas (Dir. Anselmo Duarte)
1963 The Leopard (Dir. Luchino Visconti)

From 1964 to 1974 the festival temporarily resumed awarding the Grand Prix, due to ‘copyright problems’  with the Palm:

1964 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Dir. Jacques Demy)
1965 The Knack …and How to Get It (Dir. Richard Lester)
1966 A Man and a Woman (Dir. Claude Lelouch) and The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (Dir. Pietro Germi)
1967 Blow-Up (Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni)
1968 Cancelled due to events of May 1968
1969 If…. (Dir. Lindsay Anderson)
1970 MASH (Dir. Robert Altman)
1971 The Go-Between (Dir. Joseph Losey)
1972 The Working Class Goes to Heaven (Dir. Elio Petri) and The Mattei Affair (Dir. Francesco Rosi)
1973 The Hireling (Dir. Alan Bridges) and Scarecrow (Dir. Jerry Schatzberg)
1974 The Conversation (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

From 1975 to the present, the award switched back to the Palme we all know and love:

1975 Chronicle of the Years of Fire (Dir. Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina)
1976 Taxi Driver (Dir. Martin Scorsese)
1977 Padre Padrone (Dir. Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani)
1978 The Tree of Wooden Clogs (Dir. Ermanno Olmi)
1979 Apocalypse Now (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola) and The Tin Drum (Dir. Volker Schlöndorff)
1980 All That Jazz (Dir. Bob Fosse) and Kagemusha (Dir. Akira Kurosawa)
1981 Man of Iron (Dir. Andrzej Wajda)
1982 Missing (Dir. Costa-Gavras) and The Way (Dir. Yılmaz Güney and Şerif Gören)
1983 The Ballad of Narayama (Dir. Shohei Imamura)
1984 Paris, Texas (Dir. Wim Wenders)
1985 When Father Was Away on Business (Dir Emir Kusturica)
1986 The Mission (Dir. Roland Joffé)
1987 Under the Sun of Satan (Dir. Maurice Pialat)
1988 Pelle the Conqueror (Dir. Bille August)
1989 sex, lies, and videotape (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)
1990 Wild at Heart (Dir. David Lynch)
1991 Barton Fink (Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)
1992 The Best Intentions (Dir. Bille August)
1993 Farewell My Concubine (Dir. Chen Kaige) and The Piano (Dir. Jane Campion)
1994 Pulp Fiction (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)
1995 Underground (Dir. Emir Kusturica)
1996 Secrets & Lies (Dir. Mike Leigh)
1997 Taste of Cherry (Dir. Abbas Kiarostami) and The Eel (Dir. Shohei Imamura)
1998 Eternity and a Day (Dir. Theo Angelopoulos)
1999 Rosetta (Dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)
2000 Dancer in the Dark (Dir. Lars von Trier)
2001 The Son’s Room (Dir. Nanni Moretti)
2002 The Pianist (Dir. Roman Polanski)
2003 Elephant (Dir. Gus Van Sant)
2004 Fahrenheit 9/11 (Dir. Michael Moore)
2005 The Child (Dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)
2006 The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Dir. Ken Loach)
2007 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Dir. Cristian Mungiu)
2008 The Class (Entre les Murs) (Dir. Laurent Cantet)

> Official site of the Cannes Film Festival
> IMDb section for the Palme d’Or Winners

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Synecdoche, New York

Charlie Kaufman is best known as the screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

His directorial debut is Synecdoche, New York and it screened today in competition at Cannes.

It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theatre director in Schenectady, New York who has to cope with his wife leaving him and a mysterious illness.

Worried about his life, he moves his theater company to a warehouse where he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York as part of his new play. Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton and Hope Davis co-star.

Here is a summary of the critical reaction:

Todd McCarthy of Variety praises it as ‘wildly ambitious’ and ‘overreaching‘:

Like an anxious artist afraid he may not get another chance, Charlie Kaufman tries to Say It All in his directorial debut, “Synecdoche, New York.”

A wildly ambitious and gravely serious contemplation of life, love, art, human decay and death, the film bears Kaufman’s scripting fingerprints in its structural trickery and multi-plane storytelling.

At its core a study of a theater director whose life goes off the rails into uncharted artistic territory, it’s the sort of work that on its face appears overreaching and isn’t entirely digestible on one viewing.

A.O. Scott of the New York Times enjoys the ideas, invention and humour of the film:

Mr. Kaufman, the wildly inventive screenwriter of ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, has, in his first film as a director, made those efforts look almost conventional.

Like his protagonist, a beleaguered theater director played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, he has created a seamless and complicated alternate reality, unsettling nearly every expectation a moviegoer might have about time, psychology and narrative structure.

But though the ideas that drive “Synecdoche, New York” are difficult and sometimes abstruse, the feelings it explores are clear and accessible.

These include the anxiety of artistic creation, the fear of love and the dread of its loss, and the desperate sense that your life is rushing by faster than you can make sense of it.

A sad story, yes, but fittingly for a movie bristling with paradoxes and conundrums, also extremely funny.

Allan Hunter of Screen Daily raves about the film’s ‘staggering imagination‘:

Charlie Kaufman is a past master of ingenious conceits and wild flights of fantasy as witnessed particularly in Being John Malkovich and Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

His talent has always been filtered through the vision of a sympathetic director but with Synecdoche, New York he assumes the director’s role for the first time.

The result is a film of staggering imagination, more daring in content than form as it explores the unbearable fragility of human existence and the sad inevitability of death.

James Rocchi of Cinematical thinks it is a ‘sprawling, messy work of inspired brilliance‘:

The directorial debut of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation), Synecdoche, New York is a sprawling, messy work of inspired brilliance and real humanity, a film that enthralls and affects even as it infuriates and confounds.

Synecdoche, New York is bolder and bigger and weirder than the movies that sprang from Kaufman’s scripts for Spike Jonze (Being John Malcovich, Adaptation) and Michel Gondry (Human Nature, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); it’s also colder and crueler than those films.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere says the film is a:

…semi-nourishing, semi-tortured Fellini-esque Chinese box mindfuck-dreamscape…

Anne Thompson of Variety reported recently that the fim screened for buyers earlier in the week:

Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and UTA decided to invite all the top buyers to an early Saturday market screening, well before all the critics and press would pass judgement.

If there was ever a movie perfect for Cannes it is this one, which is, according to those who have read the script and seen it, ambitious, arty and brilliant, if not entirely accessible.

This is the first one sheet poster:

Here are three clips from the film:

And finally the issue of how to actually pronounce the film’s title has been the subject of much speculation as this video from Variety’s Mike Jones suggests:

Apparently the first word of the title is pronounced “Syn-ECK-duh-kee”.

The film is probably going to get released in the US later this year.

> Watch the press conference at the official Cannes site
> Reuters report on the film from Cannes
> Synecdoche, New York at the IMDb

Cannes Festivals News

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Che (Guerilla / The Argentine)

Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious two film project about Che Guevera screened at Cannes last night as Guerilla and The Argentine were shown back-to-back in competition.

Would critics get cranky at sitting through 4 hours and 18 minutes of Che or could we see a repeat of 1989 when a young Soderbergh scooped the Palme d’Or for Sex, Lies and Videotape?

Just a quick note about the film – I doubt very much that it will be commercially released as a four hour double bill. Surely two separate movies released within a reasonable time frame is what’s going to happen.

Here is a summary of what the critics thought:

Todd McCarthy of Variety calls it ‘intricately ambitious’ but ‘defiantly nondramatic’:

No doubt it will be back to the drawings board for ‘Che’, Steven Soderbergh’s intricately ambitious, defiantly nondramatic four-hour, 18-minute presentation of scenes from the life of revolutionary icon Che Guevara.

If the director has gone out of his way to avoid the usual Hollywood biopic conventions, he has also withheld any suggestion of why the charismatic doctor, fighter, diplomat, diarist and intellectual theorist became and remains such a legendary figure; if anything, Che seems diminished by the way he’s portrayed here.

Neither half feels remotely like a satisfying stand-alone film, while the whole offers far too many aggravations for its paltry rewards.

Scattered partisans are likely to step forward, but the pic in its current form is a commercial impossibility.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere thinks differently, calling the two films ‘incandescent’ and ‘gripping’ :

The first half of Steven Soderbergh’s 268-minute Che Guevara epic is, for me, incandescent -a piece of full-on, you-are-there realism about the making of the Cuban revolution that I found utterly believable.

Not just “take it to the bank” gripping, but levitational – for someone like myself it’s a kind of perfect dream movie.

The second half of Che, also known as Guerilla, just got out about a half-hour ago, and equally delighted although it’s a different kind of film — tighter, darker (naturally, given the story). But I’ve been arguing with some colleagues who don’t like either film at all, or don’t think it’s commercial.

What does it say about people who see a film like this and go “meh” ? You can’t watch a live-wire film like Che and say “give me more.” It is what it is, and it gives you plenty. Take no notice of anyone who says it doesn’t.

James Rocchi of Cinematical is also a big fan, calling the two films ‘a rare pleasure’:

There will be arguments about the politics of the films; there will be discussions of whether or not the films have any emotional center; there will be questions of if, when the film gets some kind of U.S. distribution deal, exactly how they should be released — two films released staggered throughout the last half of the year or cut down to one three-hour film or shown as a long, big double bill that presents the separate films back-to-back.

I can’t predict how all of these questions and possibilities will play out, but I can say — and will say — what a rare pleasure it is to have a film (or films) that, in our box-office obsessed, event-movie, Oscar-craving age, is actually worth talking about on so many levels.

Allan Hunter of Screen Daily salutes an ‘absorbing, thoughtful marathon’:

It is hard to imagine another American director of his generation with the clout or all-round ability to pull off a two film, five hour portrait of revolutionary icon Ernesto Che Guevara.

His measured approach eschews grand, crowd-pleasing gestures or any temptation to adopt the sweep of a David Lean-style epic.

Instead, he has created an absorbing, thoughtful marathon in which the focus is firmly on the personalities and the political arguments that forged the revolutionary ideals of the 1950s and 1960s.

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian says it is ‘virile, muscular film-making’:

The Cannes film festival now has a serious contender for the Palme d’or. Steven Soderbergh’s four-and-a-half hour epic Che, about the revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, was virile, muscular film-making, with an effortlessly charismatic performance by Benicio del Toro in the lead role.

…Che was gigantic without being precisely monumental.

It is such big, bold, ambitious film-making: and yet I was baffled that Soderbergh fought shy of so many important things in Che’s personal life.

Of course, it could be that he avoided them to avoid vulgar speculation, and felt that the two spectacles of revolution incarnate were more compelling: a secular Passion play.

Whatever the reason, Che is never boring and often gripping.

Anne Thompson of Variety admires parts of the film(s) but questions Soderbergh’s decision to screen it at Cannes in it’s current form:

Benecio del Toro gives a great performance, but Soderbergh’s roving HD camera keeps its distance as Che trains guerillas in the jungle, leads his troops through various skirmishes and the takeover of Santa Clara, talks to TV interviewers and gives moving speeches at the U.N.

The movie is well made and watchable.

Soderbergh didn’t think he could finish the film in time for Cannes. Why don’t these guys ever learn? Remember Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, Wong Kar Wai’s 2046, Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny, and Edward Norton-starrer Down in the Valley?

DON’T TAKE AN UNFINISHED MOVIE TO CANNES!!!! Wait. Give the film the time you need.

The good news: there is plenty of fine material here to be edited into one releasable long dramatic feature and hopefully French producer/sales co. Wild Bunch, which paid for 75 % of the $61 million film, and Telecinco, which came up with 25%, will give the filmmaker the time he needs to find this promising film’s final form.

Jonathan Dean of Total Film says it is ‘superb’:

Che is superb, pretty much a masterpiece, by far Soderbergh’s best film, definitely the greatest of the festival so far and, incredibly, a film that despite being the best part of five hours, leaves you wanting much more.

Yeah. It is that good.

Pete Hammond writing for the LA Times says Del Toro ‘completely inhabits the role’ of Che:

Del Toro completely inhabits the role as you might expect. He was born to play Che.

But immediately afterward one distributor proudly related that he stayed awake thru the whole thing but told us it’s a very tough sell at that price.

‘Che’, if it indeed remains split into two parts, is a true marketing challenge for whoever picks up domestic rights and most of the buyers were there last night to check it out for the first time.

Award season chances clearly depend on critical reaction and how it is presented. Best shot would be for Del Toro who might stand a chance in the actor race depending on which of the two films they push. Overall at this juncture it could be a tough academy sell but the film itself may still be a work-in-progress.

Glenn Kenny of indieWIRE appears to be praises it’s ‘detachment’ and ‘intellectual curiosity’:

Che benefits greatly from certain Soderberghian qualities that don’t always serve his other films well, e.g., detachment, formalism, and intellectual curiosity.

Benicio del Toro, despite being ten real years older than anybody playing the part in any period should be, …works almost demonically at making Che’s appeal palpable. But his performance is just a remarkable cog in Soderbergh’s meticulous examination of process.

…critics of my acquaintance were arguing its merits and faults on the side streets of Cannes even as I dragged myself off to my residence here to write this up.

The film does not yet have a UK or US release date.

> Official link to the film at the Cannes festival site
> Watch the press conference with Steven Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro
> Find out more about Guerilla and The Argentine at Wikipedia

Cannes Festivals News

Cannes 2008: World Cinema Foundation

The World Cinema Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring neglected films from around the world.

Established by Martin Scorsese, it supports and encourages preservation efforts to save the worldwide patrimony of films, ensuring that they are preserved, seen and shared.

register now!

They announced today in Cannes that they are teaming up with the Ingmar Bergman Foundation for a joint project to preserve, restore and reveal rare behind-the-scenes footage from the Swedish director’s extensive personal archive.

Newly restored and never seen before footage of Bergman on the set of Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), was screened yesterday in front of the Cannes Classics presentation of the World Cinema Foundation’s restoration of Metin Erksan’s Turkish classic Susuz Yaz (1964).

The World Cinema Foundation is going to fund the restoration, editing and commentary of more than 14 hours of behind-the-scenes footage for a total of 18 Bergman titles, ranging from Sawdust and Tinsel in 1953 through The Seventh Seal, Persona, Cries and Whispers and After the Rehearsal in 1984.

The majority of the footage is of Ingmar Bergman at work, but also included are scenes of a more personal matter.

> For more information visit the official website of the World Cinema Foundation
> Cannes Film Festival
> The Ingmar Bergman Foundation
> Ingmar Bergman at the IMDb

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Changeling

Changeling is the latest film directed by Clint Eastwood to screen in competition at Cannes after previous efforts such as Mystic River (2003), White Hunter Black Heart (1990) and Pale Rider (1985).

Set in LA in 1928 and stars Angelina Jolie as a woman whose young son goes missing. When the child is found months later, she suspects it might not be him.

Clint was also president of the jury in 1994 when Pulp Fiction scooped the Palme d’Or. Can this film win the big prize?

Here is a summary of the critical reaction:

Todd McCarthy of Variety is highly impressed, says it is ‘far-reaching’ and ‘powerful’:

A thematic companion piece to “Mystic River” but more complex and far-reaching, “Changeling” impressively continues Clint Eastwood’s great run of ambitious late-career pictures.

Emotionally powerful and stylistically sure-handed, this true story-inspired drama begins small with the disappearance of a young boy, only to gradually fan out to become a comprehensive critique of the entire power structure of Los Angeles, circa 1928.

Graced by a top-notch performance from Angelina Jolie, the Universal release looks poised to do some serious business upon tentatively scheduled opening late in the year.

Mike Goodridge of Screen Daily says it is ‘beautifully produced’ and an early Oscar contender:

Beautifully produced and guided by Eastwood’s elegant, unostentatious hand, it also boasts a career-best performance by Angelina Jolie who has never been this compelling.

Like Mystic River in 2003, it should go all the way from the Palais to the Academy Awards next March.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter feels it is compelling and praises Jolie’s performance:

A true story that is as incredible as it is compelling, “Changeling” brushes away the romantic notion of a more innocent time to reveal a Los Angeles circa 1928 awash in corruption and steeped in a culture that treats women as hysterical and unreliable beings when they challenge male wisdom.

Jolie puts on a powerful emotional display as a tenacious woman who gathers strength from the forces that oppose her. She reminds us that there is nothing so fierce as a mother protecting her cub.

Richard Corliss of Time praises it as ‘taut, twisty and compelling’:

In that sense the movie is a companion piece to last year’s Cannes entry A Mighty Heart, in which Jolie played the wife of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl — except that Changeling is far more taut, twisty and compelling.

….The movie becomes an ensemble piece, with a dozen or so character actors carrying the storyline. In other words, Changeling is exactly as good as its makings.

By the end, with its purposeful accumulation of depravities, both individual and institutional, Eastwood’s non-style has paid off…

Kim Voynar of Cinematical thinks it is riveting and that Jolie excels:

Clint Eastwood’s Changeling (which may or may not be now known as The Exchange), is a riveting drama about a missing boy and the undying constancy of a mother’s love.

Angelina Jolie excels in a powerful performance as Christine Collins, whose nine-year-old son, Walter, disappeared in 1928.

Glenn Kenny of Some Came Running says it is a ‘strong’ and ‘angry’ picture:

The result is not as perfect a film as Eastwood has made, but it’s damn strong, both as a story and an exploration of the parent-child bond and a polemic.

Because despite the fact that it deals with the corruption and venality of a past era, Changeling is at times a very angry picture; Eastwood’s angriest, I think, since Unforgiven.

Incidentally, Andrew Hehir of Salon has posted some useful thoughts on the confusion surrounding the film’s actual title:

For weeks the film has been listed in official festival materials under the title “Changeling,” but a few days ago that title began to evaporate, almost as mysteriously as young Walter Collins does in the movie.

It screened on Tuesday morning in the Grand Théâtre Lumière under the French title “L’échange,” with no English translation given.

That means “the exchange” — there’s no clear French equivalent to the word “changeling” — and as the post-screening press conference was breaking up, host Henri Béhar said to Eastwood in tones of puzzlement, “We were all assured in writing that the title in English was now ‘The Exchange.'”

Breaking out one of his trademark sphinx-like smiles — the mouth smiles, but the eyes don’t — Eastwood replied, “It’s in writing, but is it the truth?”

We all laughed, he got up and left the room, and we were stuck with a movie with no name, made by the Man With No Name.

The IMDb lists it as Changeling and I’m sticking with that until it, er, changes…

> Changeling at the IMDb
> See Eastwood and Jolie at the press conference on the official Cannes site

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Two Lovers

Two Lovers is the latest film from director James Gray and it screened in competition yesterday.

It is a drama set in Brooklyn about a bachelor (Joaquin Phoenix) who is torn between two women (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw).

Here is a summary of the critical reaction:

Todd McCarthy of Variety says it is ‘involving’ and ‘touching’:

An involving, ultimately touching romantic drama about a young man’s struggle deciding between the two women in his life, ‘Two Lovers’ reps a welcome change of pace for director James Gray from his run of crime mellers.

Well acted by Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, this very New York tale is old-fashioned in good ways that have to do with solid storytelling, craftsmanship and emotional acuity.

Developing an audience will be another matter altogether; its central romantic dynamic would be entirely accessible to a mass audience, but pic’s smallish nature and lack of real B.O. names suggest that interest will need to be built among discerning viewers via fest exposure and critical support, leading into gradual platform release by a dedicated distrib.

Ray Bennett of The Hollywood Reporter predicts it will ‘please many’ and ‘may win awards’:

Shot, paced and scored like a 1950s kitchen-sink romance, the film spurns the school of Judd Apatow with a complete disdain for adolescent contrivance and stupid gags.

Boxoffice will depend on audiences in the “Grand Theft Auto” era deciding that the fate of three little people adds up to more than a hill of beans. Lacking a larger context such as a world war, odds are they won’t, but the film will please many and it may win awards.

Allan Hunter of Screen Daily is not too impressed, dubbing it ‘well crafted’ but ‘maudlin’:

Two Lovers is a maudlin, melancholic tug at the heartstrings that marks a welcome break from Gray’s preoccupation with crime and corruption.

It is well-crafted and ably acted but never especially moving and winds up feeling like something from the classier end of the American TV movie spectrum.

Neither eye-catching indie nor surefire blockbuster, it will struggle to find a comfortable commercial berth, leaving its future dependent on the drawing power of Gray regular Joaquin Phoenix.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere says it is ‘too earnest’ but ‘not half bad’:

…an attractively composed, persuasively acted but slightly too earnest and on-the-nose drama about romantic indecision.

But it’s not half bad — a little Marty-ish at times, maybe a bit too emphatic here and there, but nonetheless concise, reasonably well-ordered and, for the most part, emotionally restrained and therefore believable.

Glenn Kenny of Some Came Running was ‘frequently moved’:

Most of my U.S. colleagues here hated James Gray’s new film even more than they did last year’s booed-right-here We Own The Night, which I wasn’t too crazy about myself.

But I gotta give it up—as earnest and awkward as this loose rethink of Dostoevsky’s “White Nights” can get, it frequently moved me.

Anne Thomspson of Variety thinks it is a ‘gem’ :

Two Lovers played well not only for the black tie crowd at the Lumiere but for the U.S. buyers who haven’t been rocked by anything so far and have been looking bedraggled (by constant rain) and gloomy.

It’s specific to its New York borough locale. It features a vulnerable, touching performance by Joaquin Phoenix as an unhappy young man who is in love with a good girl beloved by his family (Shaw) and a bad girl (Paltrow) who dangles escape from his limited prospects.

It’s a gem.

The film hasn’t yet secured US distribution but that is likely to change in the next couple of days.

> Two Lovers at the official Cannes site
> James Gray at the IMDb

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence)

Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence) screened today in Cannes and is the latest film from Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

Le Silence de Lorna

It deals with a young Albanian woman living in Belgium who becomes an accomplice to a local mobster’s plan.

The Belgian duo have already won the Palme d’Or twice (with Rosetta in 1999 and L’Enfant in 2005) but what did critics make of their latest?

Here is a summary of reaction to the film, which is in competition:

Justin Chang of Variety praises the ‘immaculate construction’ and ‘fine lead performance’:

A resolutely naturalistic portrait of a young Albanian woman having second thoughts about a cold-blooded immigration scam, the film doesn’t pack the same cumulative wallop as the brothers’ earlier work, but its low-key artistry, immaculate construction and fine performance by relative newcomer Arta Dobroshi should rouse the usual fest acclaim and arthouse interest.

Mike Goodridge of Screen Daily says it starts well, but ultimately disappoints:

Fake marriages undertaken to get Belgian citizenship are the subject of the Dardenne brothers’ latest drama, which starts as rivetingly as any of their films and then, an hour in, spins into an unexpected and unsatisfying direction.

Set in the city of Liege, a far less gloomy location than the industrial grime of their hometown Seraing, the film will disappoint fans of their last few films, notably L’Enfant which won the Palme d’Or in 2005 and was a strong arthouse seller around the world.

Joanthan Romney of The Independent praises the ‘intensely gripping narrative’:

The story of a young Albanian woman married to a heroin addict in an effect to get Belgian citizenship, the film is the brothers’ usual blend of low-key realist cinematography and intensely gripping narrative.

Glenn Kenny of Some Came Running praises it as being ‘surprising’ and ‘deeply moving’:

Le Silence de Lorna is their followup to the 2006 Palme d’Or winner L’Enfant, and while I doubt that the Cannes prize is gonna go to this film (which IS, you know, “conscious of the world that we’re living in” and all, but in a way that’s likely too quiet to please self-righteous jury president Sean Penn), I think it’s every bit as nuanced, surprising, and deeply moving as that film.

Here is a clip from the film:

Lorna’s Silence will open in the UK on October 10th

> Le Silence de Lorna at the IMDb
> Watch the press conference The Dardenne Drothers gave earlier today

Cannes Festivals Images

Photos of the Cannes premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Here are some photos of the Cannes premiere of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.


Actors Cate Blanchett, Shia LaBeouf, Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, director Steven Spielberg and producer George Lucas attend the press call in the afternoon.

Producer George Lucas, director Steven Spielberg, actors Karen Allen, Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Cate Blanchett pose at the press call outside the Palais du Festivals.


Later the cast and filmmakers walk the red carpet outside the Palais.

Photographers taking photos that will be seen around the globe.

Cast and filmmakers line up with their partners on the red carpet.

Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett and Shia LaBeouf walk the red carpet.

Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Melody Hoffman, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford pose on the steps of the Palais des Festivals.

Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett and Brad Grey on the Palais steps.


The after party on the beach.

Brad Grey (CEO of Paramount Pictures), George Lucas (producer), Steven Spielberg (director) and Cate Blanchett (actress) at the after party.

Actors Shia LaBeouf, Harrison Ford and Karen Allen at the after party

Actress Karen Allen, director Steven Spielberg and actor Harrison Ford at the party

> Check out our countdown to the release of Indy 4
> See what the critical reaction was to the film in Cannes
> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the IMDb
> The – a terrific Indy fansite
> Lower res photos from Flickr

[Photos from Getty Images & WireImage © 2008 / Gareth Cattermole / Pascal Le Segretain / Sean Gallup / Dominique Charriau / Tony Barson]

Cannes Cinema Festivals News

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Earlier today, the world’s press in Cannes finally got to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Would it be a Da Vinci Code style descent into a snake pit of critical derision or would Indy triumph whilst the doubters melted away like the Nazis at the end of Raiders?

On the whole, the reaction coming out of Cannes seems to be positive with a few naysayers here and there.

Here is a summary of the critical reaction:

Anne Thompson of Variety sets the scene outside the screening and says the film is ‘good enough’ and ‘fun’:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had its world premiere at Cannes at 1 PM May 18; the press anxiously streamed into the Lumiere early, afraid they would be shut out–and many were.

There were whoos and whistles before the screening started. The movie unspooled without the usual Cannes logo. The first hour plays like gangbusters and is really fun.

Harrison Ford has Indy down, even as a grizzled “gramps” dealing affectionately with Shia LaBeouf as a 60s greaser with a pompadour.

The movie will do blockbuster boxoffice, and whatever critical brickbats are still to come…

Her Variety colleague Todd McCarthy says it ‘delivers the goods’:

One of the most eagerly and long-awaited series follow-ups in screen history delivers the goods — not those of the still first-rate original, 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but those of its uneven two successors.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” begins with an actual big bang, then gradually slides toward a ho-hum midsection before literally taking off for an uplifting finish.

Nineteen years after their last adventure, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford have no trouble getting back into the groove with a story and style very much in keeping with what has made the series so perennially popular. Few films have ever had such a high mass audience must-see factor, spelling giant May 22 openings worldwide and a rambunctious B.O. life all the way into the eventual “Indiana Jones” DVD four-pack.

Kim Voynar of Cinematical is also positive, saying it is ‘nicely satisfying’:

Indy 4 is a nicely satisfying continuation of the franchise, and will please most Indy fans.

Though the first act drags a bit, the latter two-thirds of the film pick up the pace, and the film is packed with all the familiar elements fans have come to expect from Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford is older, of course (aren’t we all), but still brings the role all the charm, daring and humor Indy should have.

However, her Cinematical colleague James Rocchi is very disappointed though, deeming it ‘self-conscious and self-satisfied’:

Loaded with moments referencing the earlier films and full of action sequences that don’t measure up to past highlights of the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crustal Skull feels simultaneously self-conscious and self-satisfied, as if a little warm glow of past glory will soothe our bumps and blows from the clumsiness of the script.

The action sequences are nothing to write home about, either; there’s nothing here with the inspired delight of the mine chase in Temple of Doom, or the sheer, guts-and-glory greatness of the truck chase in Raiders.

I think most of us want Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull to be good, which it, sadly, is not.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere is mostly admiring, saying he was ‘more than delighted at times’:

Sections of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are a great deal of fun.

I felt jazzed and charged during a good 60% or even 70% of it. I was more than delighted at times.

What a pleasure, I told myself over and over, to swim in a first-rate, big-budget action film that throws one expertly-crafted thrill after another at you, and with plotting that’s fairly easy to understand, dialogue that’s frequently witty and sharp, and performances — Harrison Ford, Shia LeBouf and Cate Blanchett’s, in particular — that are 90% pleasurable from start to finish.

I heard some guys say as they left the theatre, “It’s okay…it’s fine…it’s good enough.”

I talked to a guy who kind of wrinkled his face and went, “Not really…not for me.” But nobody hates it. It gave me no real pain, and a healthy amount of serious moviegoing pleasure. (Although I was, from time time, slightly bothered.) Fears of a DaVinci Code-styled beat-down were, it turns out, unfounded.

Allan Hunter of Screen Daily says ‘the old magic still works’:

The world can rest easy – the old magic still works in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

It may take some breathless, helter-skelter action to redeem the opening hour’s clunky storytelling, but the first Indy adventure in almost twenty years is like a fond reunion with an old friend and will not disappoint diehard fans or deter a new generation from embracing it as a summer blockbuster adventure ride.

This is money in the bank as far as exhibitors are concerned, but the relief of some critical support will do no harm to what is destined to stand as one of the year’s top moneymakers.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter feels it is ‘charmless’:

Director Steven Spielberg seems intent on celebrating his entire early career here.

Whatever the story there is, a vague journey to return a spectacular archeological find to its rightful home — an unusual goal of the old grave-robber, you must admit — gets swamped in a sea of stunts and CGI that are relentless as the scenes and character relationships are charmless.

Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running says it is the ‘most fun’ of the series since Raiders:

…the fourth Indy installment isn’t really an attempt to retroactively create a Spielberg omniverse.

But David Koepp’s script, from a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson and Herge and Edgar Rice Burroughs and Erik von Daniken and Carl Stephenson and…well, you get the idea…does tie together a good number of Spielbergian themes into an eventually pretty nifty package.

Yeah—this is, by my sights, the most fun and least irritating installment of the series since the first one.

Charles Ealy of the Austin Movie Blog says the film is ‘no Da Vinci Code’, likes the new characters and also describes the chaotic scramble of journalists getting into the screening :

There were plenty of justifiable reasons for such savagery toward “The Da Vinci Code.” There are few reasons for such a reaction to the new Indy.

The scene outside the Palais before the premiere was chaos. Dozens of journalists from top-flight publications — with the highest credentials possible for festival access — were shut out of the theater until just before the movie started. And many had to sit in uncomfortable, fold-down seats at the ends of the aisles.

Fans of the Indy series will enjoy the reunion of Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, as well as the introduction of Shia Labeouf.

Labeouf, who has stunts involving knives, vines, swords and motorcycles, is believable as the naive sidekick who is drawn into Indy’s wild world.

Cate Blanchett, as usual, is pitch-perfect as a villainous Soviet parapsychologist.

And to finish, just a quick note on a ‘review’ today published by John Harlow of The Sunday Times (be careful if you don’t want the plot ruined as there are spoilers there).

It is – as I understand it – the first newspaper review of the film, but did Paramount really give the exclusive first look to a UK newspaper (albeit a big one)?

David Poland has some thoughts on this over at The Hot Blog:

After the embarrassingly misreported story on how dangerous Cannes is to Indiana Jones yesterday, The Times Online today offers an alleged first newspaper review of the film… that is nothing close to being a review!!!

All they do is drop a few spoilers and indicate that they liked the movie more than the buzz… the buzz that didn’t much exist and that they propagated!!!

Really… there is nothing much to read here, especially if you don’t want to read spoilers, albeit fairly minor ones. There is nothing approaching a single graph of critical argument about the film… not even hack level criticism.

I just don’t get it. Isn’t The Times Of London supposed to be Traditional Media? Aren’t they supposed to act like adults?

My guess – just a guess – is that they feared printing a full review before the Cannes screening because they had made an agreement with Paramount in order to get early access to the movie.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has a gala premiere tonight and if you aren’t there you can follow the action via IFC’s Cannes webcam.

The film opens worldwide on Thursday.

> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the IMDb
> Have a look at our countdown to Indy 4 with various facts, pictures and videos
> Check out a video of the Indy 4 press conference over at Anne Thompson’s Variety blog and an interview with Karen Allen
> IFC’s Cannes webcam
> Official Indiana Jones site

Cannes Festivals

Countdown to Indy 4

Today sees the world premiere in Cannes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It is one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the summer and likely to be the highest grossing film at the box office this year.

I thought I’d post a few things in anticipation of the opening, ranging from images, videos and snippets of information related to the series.


George Lucas created the character of Indiana Jones as a homage to the 1930 serials and pulp magazines he used to watch as a kid, such as those by Republic Pictures and the Doc Savage series.

The serial of Zorro Rides Again was a particular touchstone:

But the movie started to become a reality when, in 1977, Lucas was on holiday in Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg. The director of Jaws told him that wanted to make a Bond film, but Cubby Broccoli (then producer of the franchise) had turned him down twice.

Lucas said that he had his own concept for a hero (then called ‘Indiana Smith’) along similar lines – an archaeologist and adventurer inspired by the serials and comics he – and Spielberg – had enjoyed as children.

The visual look of Indiana Jones was created by comic book artist Jim Steranko. Lucas suggested the flight jacket, the fedora (a nod to Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and a whip (reminiscent of Zorro’s weapon of choice).

The costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis admitted that Indy’s look was inspired by Charlton Heston’s character in the 1954 film Secret of the Incas:

Lawrence Kasdan was recruited to write the script on notes from Lucas and Philip Kaufman.

Indiana Jones was born, but who would play the role?

Harrison Ford had worked with Lucas on American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars (1977) but the original choice for the role was actually Tom Selleck, who had recently been cast in the TV series Magnum, PI.

However, Selleck couldn’t get out of his contract with Universal television and had to pass on the role.

Ford was then cast just three weeks before production began on Raiders of the Lost Ark in the summer of 1980.


The first film saw Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant in 1936. In his search he discovers the Nazis are also keen to find and harness the Ark for their own ends.

Assisted by an old girlfriend named Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) he ends up in Egypt, where a rival archealogist named Belloq (Paul Freeman) is helping the Nazis.

Production was based at Elstree Studios just outside of London and also shot in various locations around the world including La Rochelle (for the Nazi submarine base), Tunisia (for Egypt section ), Hawaii (for the opening jungle sequence) and the United States from June to September of 1980.

The film was a huge hit when it was released in June 1981 and became the biggest film of that year, eventually grossing $384 million worldwide.

It was also nominated for 8 Oscars (including Best Picture) and ended up winning for Sound, Editing, Art Direction and Visual Effects.

Here are some quick facts about Raiders:

  • The name Indiana Jones was inspired by the name of George Lucas’ dog Indiana and Steve McQueen’s eponymous character in the 1966 film Nevada Smith.
  • The opening shot of a mountain peak in the jungle is a reference to the the Paramount Pictures logo. Similar shots open the following two films.
  • Alfred Molina has a small role in the opening scene (‘throw me the idol!’) and it was his screen debut. On his first day of filming he was covered with tarantulas – it was not the last time he had trouble with spiders as many years later in 2004, he would star as Dr Octopus in Spider-Man 2.
  • The airplane Indy escapes on in the opening sequence has the number ‘OB-CPO’, which is a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO from Star Wars.
  • Toht, the sadistic Nazi interrogator (‘Good evening Frauline!’), was played by British actor Ronald Lacey. He also played the character of Harris in the TV series Porridge. There are two strange  coincidences involving Lacey and the film: he played The Bishop of Bath and Wells in an episode of Blackadder II in 1985 – a character who threatens people with a red hot poker. In Raiders, his character threatens Marion with a red hot poker in the opening scene. Also, Lacey starred in an episode of Magnum, PI in 1984 (The Case of the Red-Faced Thespian) – the very series that prevented Tom Selleck from starring as Indiana Jones.
  • The scene where Indy shoots a swordsman in the Cairo marketplace was scripted as a long fight, but Harrison Ford was suffering diarrhea at the time, and asked if it could be shortened. Spielberg joked that they could only do that if Indy pulled out his gun and just shot the guy. The scene worked so well that they kept it in.
  • An amateur shot-for-shot remake of Raiders was made by Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, who were children in Mississippi. Filmed over 7 years (1982-1989) it was known as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, it was rediscovered in 2003 and even acclaimed by  Spielberg himself, who said he was impressed with the “very loving and detailed tribute” and “appreciated the vast amounts of imagination and originality” of the film.


Given the huge success of the first film, a sequel was an inevitability. In 1982 Spielberg made E.T., which even outstripped Raiders to become the biggest grossing film of all time.

When he unveiled E.T. at Cannes that year he was interviewed by Wim Wenders about the future of cinema:

Despite the financial pressures on studios and filmmakers in the early 80s, Spielberg had already established himself as the most successful filmmaker of his generation.

Anticipation for his next film was huge and all the more so because it would be the follow up to Raiders, entitled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The film was technically a prequel as it is set in 1935, a year before the action in Raiders begins.

It opens with Indy in a Shanghai nightclub attempting to trade artifacts with a local gangster, only for it to go wrong. Indy escapes with the club’s singer, Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott (Kate Capshaw), with the help of a  young sidekick called Short Round.

They get on a cargo plane and after it crashes in the Himalayan mountains they bail out and end up in a village in India ravaged by evil forces nearby. The villagers persuade Indy to retrieve the Sankara Stone and the kidnapped children of the village who are held captive at nearby Pankot Palace.

The production was again based at Elstree Studios and location shooting was done in Sri Lanka. However filming was disrupted when Harrison Ford injured his back. Despite this setback, Spielberg found a way to shoot around it, with stuntman Vic Armstrong as a stand in.

Here is the original theatrical trailer:

It was released in May 1984 amidst a blizzard of hype and expectation as this report from Ted Koppel’s Nightline shows:

Although it was the third highest grossing film of that year (behind Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop), some were taken aback by the darkness of the story, which included human sacrifice and a distateful dinner table sequence.

Although it was rated PG, the violence on display led to the creation of the new PG-13 rating as the MPAA came up with a category that covered the area between the PG and R ratings.

Some facts about the Temple of Doom:

  • The title was originally Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death
  • This was the first sequel Spielberg had ever made – outside the Indy series, the only other sequel he directed was the Jurassic Park follow up, The Lost World.
  • The club at the beginning is called ‘Club Obi Wan’, another reference to Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • The scenes involving Indiana hiding behind a giant rolling gong, the mine cart chase sequence, and leaping out of an aeroplane in a rubber dinghy were in an early draft of Raiders and revisited for this film.
  • Indy’s associate in the opening night club scene is played by David Yip – best known to UK audiences for his role in the TV series The Chinese Detective.
  • Kate Capshaw would eventually become Steven Spielberg’s wife.
  • The footage of the giant bats in the jungle on they journey to Pankot Palace is footage from David Lean‘s The Bridge on the River Kwai (Spielberg is a huge fan of Lean)
  • When the two swordsmen attack Indy on the cliff and he reaches for his gun, the music references a similar scene from Raiders.


After the second Indiana Jones film, Spielberg ventured into more serious and literary subject matter, directing The Color Purple (1985) and Empire of the Sun (1987).

However in 1989 he reunited with Lucas and Ford for what everone expected to be the final chapter of the trilogy with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter Jeffrey Boam came up with a more humourous film that featured an extended prologue of the young Indy (played by River Phoenix), a story that saw him hunt down the Holy Grail and Sean Connery cast as his father.

It was shot in a variety of locations including Spain, London, Germany, Jordan, Venice and the US.

When it opened in May 1989 it broke box office records by grossing $50 million in a single week and was the second highest grossing film that year behind Tim Burton’s Batman.

Here is the original theatrical trailer:

Here are some facts about The Last Crusade:

  • The opening prologue with River Phoenix as the young Indy hiding in a circus train, shows how he learned to use a whip, scarred his chin and why he has a fear of snakes.
  • After the criticisms of Temple of Doom, Spielberg reportedly said he wanted to complete the trilogy for George and ‘to apologize for the second one’.
  • Tom Stoppard did an uncredited script polish and wrote the scenes in which Indy complains to his father about having abandoned him as a boy to go off on his own adventures.
  • Spielberg turned down Rain Man and Big to make this film.
  • There are many Bond connections in this film: the original James Bond (Sean Connery), a former Bond ally (John Rhys-Davies), a former Bond girl (Alison Doody), two former Bond commanding officers (Michael Byrne and Billy J. Mitchell), a former Bond nightclub owner (Vernon Dobtcheff), and three former Bond villains (Julian Glover, Stefan Kalipha and Pat Roach ).
  • The actor who plays Hitler in the book burning sequence is Michael Sheard. He also had a role as the U-boat Captain in Raiders and originally auditioned for the role of Gestapo agent Toht. He is known to UK audiences for playing the role of Mr Bronson in the TV series Grange Hill.
  • Even though he plays his father, Sean Connery is actually only 12 years older than Harrison Ford.
  • Michael Byrne played a Nazi opposite Harrison Ford in Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and in this film. Curiously, in both movies his character ends up in a vehicle falling off a cliff.

After the film’s release Spielberg reportedly said in an interview:

I built every clue into this movie I possible could think of to let George know that we should retire this guy’s number. I did all I could. But at the moment I think I’d like to quit.

At this point we all feel pretty much have a nice first, second and third act. Why go and create a forth act? We don’t need one.

However, rumours of another Indiana Jones film would surface from time to time over the next 15 years.


During the 90s Spielberg made some of his most successful (Jurassic Park) and personal (Schindler’s List) films, winning his first Oscar for the latter.

He also made Amistad, Saving Private Ryan (for which he won another Oscar), Artificial Intelligence: AI, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds and Munich.

Reports of another Indy movie persisted through the 90s but despite several attempts, none of the principals could agree on a script or story idea.

Amonsgst the roster of screenwriters hired to take a crack at a script were M. Night Shyamalan, Stephen Gaghan, Tom Stoppard and Frank Darabont.

Darabont had written several episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles tv series and between 2002 and 2004 wrote a script set in the 1950s, with surviving Nazis pursuing Jones.

Lucas rejected the draft despite Spielberg reportedly liking it. Jeff Nathanson was then hired in late 2004 to write a new draft, which was then passed over to David Koepp who is the credited writer for the new film (Lucas and Nathanson have story credit).

Finally in January 2007, Lucas and Spielberg announced that the fourth installment of Indiana Jones would definitely begin production that summer.

Shooting finally began on Indy 4 in New Mexico in June 2007 and the first image of Ford (taken by Spielberg) was officially released:

Footage of the first day’s filming in New Mexico was also released:

Shooting was mostly done in the US with some scenes shot in New Haven, Connecticut:

During Paramount Pictures’ presentation at Comic-Con in July, the audience got a special live video greeting from Hawaii as Steven Spielberg – along with Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Ray Winston – announced Karen Allen would be back as Marion Ravenwood:

Shooting then continued and on September 9th, Shia LaBeouf revealed (at the MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas) that the title would be:

Principal photography finished in October 2007 and this was the first trailer:

Yesterday in Cannes, the stars and Spielberg did a full day’s press at the Carlton Hotel and in the evening threw a small press cocktail party where the actors mingled with journalists.

According to Anne Thompson of Variety, producer Kathleen Kennedy explained why Spielberg wanted to do all the press before they had seen the film:

He really wants to try to preserve the experience for the audience, so they don’t know everything before they see the movie, like it was on the first three Raiders pics.

“If you learn everything, no one can get surprised anymore,” said Kennedy. “You can’t discover this movie until we let them discover it.”

Today, the film will get a world premiere at Cannes and on Thursday will be released worldwide.

> Official site for Indiana Jones
> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the IMDb
> The – a terrific Indy fansite
> Indy 4 reports in Cannes from Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere and Anne Thompson of Variety

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Linha de Passe

Linha de Passe is the new film from director Walter Salles (who made Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries) and screened in competition on Saturday.

Linha de Passe

Co-directed by Daniela Thomas it explores the the lives of four brothers in São Paulo struggling to find a better life.

** UPDATE 18/09/08: Listen to our interview with Walter Salles **

Here is a summary of the critical reaction from Cannes:

Todd McCarthy of Variety thinks it is engrossing, but not gripping:

Engrossing if not gripping effort possesses the quality and seriousness to make limited inroads on the international art circuit.

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter admires the film, especially the acting:

‘Linha de passe’ (a soccer term) has a great deal of strength and sincerity going for it, which should attract the kind of audiences who admired the sociological line of “Central Station.”

Hats off to the fine ensemble acting, which is never over-stated and renders each family member intensely individual.

Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily welcomes it as an alternative to recent Brazilian cinema:

Reunited with his co-director on 1996’s Foreign Land, Salles offers a well-knit multi-strander that vividly evokes the rigours of keeping body and soul together in Brazil’s biggest city, while offering a down-to-earth alternative to the more romantic and stylistically flashy films (City of God, Lower City, Berlin winner Elite Squad) with which Brazilian cinema has been identified lately.

Anthony Kaufman of indieWire has mixed feelings:

…an accomplished, though unremarkable competition film that never rises above its familiar tale of a poverty-stricken family.

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe admires the filmmaking but is taken aback by the bleakness of it:

An expertly filmed slice of Sao Paulo kitchen-sink realism, it tells of a family of poverty-stricken brothers who between them represent the many aspects of Brazil’s soul: soccer, sin, Jesus Christ, etc.

Also bleak, bleak, bleak. Salles can really make movies, and he just lovingly ground my face in this one.

Xan Brooks of The Guardian thinksit is a fine film (but had issues with the out-of-sync subtitles):

…the film marks a return to the soulful, socially conscious style he patented in Central Station, focusing on a trio of brothers hunting a route out of poverty, whether that be through football or gangsterism.

It’s a fine movie but the English subtitles keep slipping out of synch, so that they relate to action that’s already been and gone.

Eric Lavelee of IonCinema thinks it is a noteworthy drama:

A return to sources for Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas, this is a noteworthy drama without superficial story structures or overly complex characters.

> Linha de Passe at the IMDb
> Find out more about Walter Salles at Wikipedia

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen’s latest film Vicky Cristina Barcelona is having it’s out of competition premiere at Cannes tonight.

The film is about two young American women named Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) who come to Barcelona for a summer holiday only to get involved with a local painter (Javier Bardem) and his tempestuous wife (Penélope Cruz).

Todd McCarthy of Variety thinks it is sexy and funny:

‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ is a sexy, funny divertissement that passes as enjoyably as an idle summer’s afternoon in the titular Spanish city.

With Javier Bardem starring as a bohemian artist involved variously with Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Rebecca Hall, pic offers potent romantic fantasy elements for men and women and a cast that should produce the best commercial returns for a Woody Allen film since “Match Point.”

And, in the bargain, if Barcelona wants even more visitors than it already attracts, this film will supply them.

Richard Corliss of Time rates it as Woody’s most engaging since Crimes and Misdeameanors (which by my reckoning is high praise indeed):

It’s hard not to feel warmly toward Allen after VCB, his first vital movie since Match Point three years ago (we quickly throw the veil of oblivion over Scoop and Cassandra’s Dream), and maybe his most engaging large-scale effort since, let’s say, Crimes and Misdemeanors nearly 20 years ago.

It doesn’t percolate with the inventive comic situations or quotable one-liners of the films that established his meta-movie credentials, Annie Hall and Manhattan; but, like them, this one is about people whose jobs are incidental to their real vocations of falling in love and messing things up.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere was less impressed:

The only parts of Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona that feel truly alive and crackling are the Spanish-language scenes between Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz.

I never thought I’d see the day when one of the great comedy writers of the 20th Century would write unintentional howlers, but this happens every so often in VCB, and I was not happy to witness this.

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe enjoyed it, despite some reservations:

I think I enjoyed Woody Allen’s new movie, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” a lot more than I should have. Certainly more than the people who gave it scattered boos after its Out of Competition screening here last night.

…In other words, the movie’s inordinate, even ridiculous fun, despite an overly chatty narrative track (not sure by whom at this writing) that I wanted to slap down after about five minutes.

An even bigger problem is a persistent, obnoxious and thoroughly unwanted narration track that makes this story of overlapping, off-and-on love affairs in present-day Barcelona so on-the-nose and over-explained that I was feeling actively hostile less than 15 minutes in.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter was admiring, especially of the performances by Bardem and Cruz:

…the film belongs to Bardem and Cruz. This is a Spanish version of “Private Lives,” a couple that cannot live apart or together, whose love will always burst into fiery combat.

Their scenes are some of the funniest Allen has ever put on film, and the culmination of this love/hate tango is not to be missed.

A voice-over narration for once actually works, urging the story on and slipping us past talk of art and poetry.

Javier Auirresarobe’s cinematography and Alisa Lepselter’s editing are unusually sharp, even by Allen’s high standards.

Kim Voynar of Cinematical feels it is one of Allen’s best films in years:

Cruz turns in a performance that’s better, even, than her Oscar-nominated turn in Volver; her Maria Elena is on-the-edge crazy, but is also very funny and engaging.

Mike Goodridge of Screen Daily thinks its his best film since 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway:

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, his first of several Spanish ventures, is as close to consistently delightful as Allen has been able to deliver since 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway.

Given a dramatic boost by the vitality and charisma of Spanish superstars Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, this sunny romantic comedy could well be the director’s biggest audience-pleaser in years.

Allen has created one of his best works in years, a film that is funny, philosophical, and imaginatively explorative of the meaning of love and desire.

The film is going to be distributed in the US by The Weinstein Company and gets a release there on September 5th.

Here is the international trailer:

And here is Woody, Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz sitting down for the press conference:

> Vicky Cristina Barcelona at the IMDb
> Cinematical report on today’s press conference
> Stills from the film

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Un Conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale)

Un conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale) screened last night and is the latest film from director Arnaud Desplechin, who made Kings and Queen in 2004.

It is a drama about a dysfunctional family who gather together for the first time in years after a tragedy and stars Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric.

Here is a summary of critical reaction to the film:

Kim Voynar of Cinematical is impressed:

This could have been an emotionally wrenching film, but Desplechin keeps the tone light, infusing the drama with humor in the most unexpected places…

This kind of familial tale, interwoven with classic literary elements and philosophical questions, is something that Desplechin excels at, and A Christmas Tale is a perfect example of why both international and independent cinema — and a festival like Cannes, which showcases such films — are still important today.

I hope the film will secure distribution in the United States as well, so that American audiences might also get to appreciate its humor, beauty and depth.

Lisa Nesselson of Screen Daily is impressed by the cast as well as the craft of the film:

A beautifully-cast, tragic-comic ensemble piece in which an extended family gathers for the title holiday, Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale is an intricate, accomplished patchwork of sometimes nutty but always believable human behaviour.

Lengthy but never dull, this lively tale is sufficiently engrossing to interest even those who don’t usually go for Desplechin’s frank and discomfiting approach to interpersonal and intergenerational relationships.

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post is impressed by the performances:

Excellent performances, including Mathieu Almaric as the ne’er-do-well eldest son and Anne Cosigny as the uptight sister who banished him, will make “A Christmas Tale” a holiday treat when it gets released in the U.S. later this year.

Kenneth Turan of the LA Times is a huge fan of the film and even feels that this could be the first French entry in over 20 years to scoop the Palme d’Or:

It’s been more than 20 years since a hometown French film won the Palme d’Or at the Festival de Cannes, but there is definitely a strong contender in Arnaud Desplechin’s marvelous “A Christmas Tale,” which screened here Friday morning.

Desplechin has created a multigenerational drama around a gorgeously fractious family that comes together for a memorable Christmas week reunion, a film that critics here are comparing to a Gallic “Fanny and Alexander.

Unexpected but still made squarely in the French humanist tradition, this is a film you don’t want to see end, not because the people are so happy but because they are so human and so alive.

Derek Elley of Variety is more restrained and doubts it will do much business outside fo France:

Performances and direction, rather than the yards of inconclusive dialogue, are what keep Arnaud Desplechin’s ‘A Christmas Tale’ from curdling in its own juices.

Dysfunctional family ensembler, just about held in focus by Catherine Deneuve’s regal perf as a mother who’s been diagnosed with liver cancer, is more tolerable and less pretentious than some of Desplechin’s previous talkfests, like ‘How I Got Into an Argument’ or ‘In the Company of Men’, but beyond Gaul faces only minimal business from hardcore addicts of the helmer and gabby French cinema.

Ty Burr of The Boston Globe finds it very French and very funny:

…very French, very engrossing, often very funny, like a good, long novel you can’t put down.

One of the jokes is watching Almaric and his ‘Diving Bell’ co-star Anne Consigny as a brother and sister who detest each other; one of its joys is watching Deneuve play opposite her daughter Chiara Mastroianni — playing a daughter-in-law Denueve’s character doesn’t much like.

Mastroianni is looking more and more like her late father, and her performance is one of the many gems in this rambunctious, imperfect joy of a movie.

Fabien Lemercier of Cineuropa is impressed by many aspects of the film:

The film is as brilliant as it is cruel, and brings together the sweetness of intelligence and cinematic know-how with its characters’ overflowing bitterness.

Its explosive elegance is near perfect, yet it successfully manages to keep the audience at an emotional distance.

Andrew O’Hehir of Salon is another huge fan of the film:

If this is not the obvious masterpiece on first viewing that “Kings and Queen” was, I found “A Christmas Tale” a marvelously rich visual, intellectual and emotional experience, one that I expect will grow deeper with repeat viewings.

IFC have acquired the US distribution rights for the film.

Here is the trailer (in French):

> Un conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale) at the IMDb
> IHT article on the film
> Reuters report on Mathieu Amalric and the film

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Three Monkeys

One of the in competition films getting a lot of buzz over the last couple of days has been Three Monkeys (Uc Maymun) which had a gala screening tonight.

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (who made Uzak (Distant) in 2002 and Climates in 2006) it is a family drama about a politician (Ercan Kesal) who accidentally kills someone whilst out driving and manages to convince his lowly driver (Yavuz Bingol) to take the wrap.

The plot then thickens whilst the driver is in jail, with his wife (Hatice Aslan) and son (Ahmet Rifat Sungar) getting drawn into the web of deceit.

So far, the film has got several critics buzzing.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere thinks it is the first major film of the festival:

I was hooked from the get-go — gripped, fascinated. I was in a fairly excited state because I knew — I absolutely knew — I was seeing the first major film of the festival.

Three Monkeys is about focus and clarity in every sense of those terms, but it was mainly, for me, about stunning performances — minimalist acting that never pushes and begins and ends in the eyes who are quietly hurting every step of the way.

Geoff Andrew of Time Out urges people to see it:

This fifth feature is arguably the most ambitious film yet from the maker of ‘Uzak’ and ‘Climates’.

It has the dry humour, assured pacing, astute psychological insights and sharp sense of moral and dramatic irony that has been conspicuous in all his [Nuri Bilge Ceylan] work…

…if you thought Ceylan’s photographer’s eye produced stunning images in ‘Climates’, ‘Three Monkeys’ pushes the envelope still further. It’s been bought for the UK, so when it turns up, see it – and marvel!

Justin Chang of Variety is admiring, but has reservations about it’s commercial prospects:

Seeing, hearing and speaking no evil comes all too easily to the tortured trio in ‘Three Monkeys’, a powerfully bleak family drama that leaves its characters’ offenses largely offscreen but lingers with agonizing, drawn-out deliberation on the consequences.

But gripping as the film often is, its unrelenting doom and gloom offers fewer lasting rewards, making it unlikely to draw sizable arthouse crowds beyond the Turkish helmer’s fanbase.

Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune is bowled over by the film:

…’Three Monkeys’ offers the kind of artistry rare in contemporary cinema. Little details linger in the mind, such as a knife on a cutting board, tipping slightly in the breeze.

Ceylan gets wonderful suspense out of everyday things, such as a telltale cell phone ring-tone that wails to the tune of a vengeful Turkish pop ballad.

Most indelibly, the film’s brief but brilliant depictions of the dead son grip the audience like nothing else so far in this year’s Cannes festival.

Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily has one caveat in an otherwise admiring review:

The only cavil is that the pacing gets a little slack in the final stretches, and – while it’s the nature of a Ceylan film to be slow-burning – the smallest amount of trimming could well turn an exceptional film into a near-perfect one.

Charles Ealy of The Austin Movie Blog is engrossed:

Remarkably enough, I was engrossed by “The Three Monkeys” from the very beginning. It’s the best Ceylan film ever, not that such a comment will mean much to most people.

Ceylan’s cinematography is wonderful, once again.

Pyramide International, the sales company for the film, has already sold it to several territories including France, Italy, England and Ireland, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, Greece, India and Russia and the Baltic States.

Here is the trailer:

> Official site for Three Monkeys
> Find out more about Nuri Bilge Ceylan at Wikipedia

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Kung Fu Panda

Last night saw the out of competition premiere of Kung Fu Panda – the latest animated film from DreamWorks Animation.

After Jack Black posed yesterday for photographers alongside a bunch of pandas and inadvertantly confirmed that co-star Angelina Jolie was pregnant with twins, people finally got a look at the film.

Here is a summary of the critical reaction.

James Rocchi of Cinematical is impressed:

Dreamworks Animation’s latest effort may stick out a little on the Red Carpet at Cannes — where it’s screening out of competition — but it’s certainly a well-made kid’s film that earns high points for how directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne clearly crafted and contemplated its look and feel with ambition and style.

Richard Corliss of Time is also taken with the cartoon panda:

Today DreamWorks unveiled its latest ani-movie, Kung Fu Panda. As cunning visual art and ultra-satisfying entertainment, it proved an excellent choice.

…some sequences [are] so smartly thought out and spectacularly executed that they might have been designed by an ace stunt coordinator like Yuen Wo-ping.

Todd McCarthy of Variety is more circumspect:

How many underdog kidpic characters have been told “You just need to believe” in recent years? Whatever the ample number, add one more to the list with “Kung Fu Panda,” a nice looking but heavily formulaic DreamWorks animation entry.

It looks like this is going to do solid business when it opens in the US on June 6th and the UK on July 4th.

Here is the moment where Jack Black accidentally let slip Jolie was pregnant with twins whilst in an interview with Natalie Morales of the Today show:

> Kung Fu Panda at the IMDb
> Official site for Kung Fu Panda

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Waltz with Bashir

Waltz with Bashir is one of the films in competition getting some early buzz.

It is an animated film that documents the struggle of director Ari Folman to come to terms with the part he played in the first Lebanese war in 1982 and the massacre of Palestinian civilians in the West Beirut refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.

There will be comparisons with last year’s Persepolis, which used animation to deal with political memories, but Kim Voynar of Cinematical thinks that would be unwise:

Where Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (to which this film will be inevitably, if somewhat inaccurately, compared) used stark black-and-white animation based on Satrapi’s graphic novels to tell the history of one girl growing up during the Iranian revolution, Waltz with Bashir uses vivid, hand-drawn animation to bring to life interviews Folman conducted with friends who were involved in the Lebanese war in the early 1980s to bring to life harrowing memories of death, guilt and regret.

She goes on to praise the film and talk up its Oscar prospects:

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Waltz with Bashir show up on the slate at Telluride in September, and even less so to see it wind up with an Oscar nod come January.

Folman has made a beautiful, disturbing and deeply compelling film that documents the horrors to which he and his friends were witnesses, while offering hope that he and others might, some day, heal from the ravages of war.

Anne Thompson of Variety was similarly impressed. She calls it:

…an odd Israeli documentary that is gorgeously and effectively animated.

Like the stylized Persepolis, the animation makes palatable scenes that would otherwise be horrific: hallucinatory flashbacks of Israeli soldiers on various campaigns in Lebanon, all leading to one long repressed memory of witnessing a 1982 massacre by Christian militia of Palestinians.

The filmmaker makes a journey back into his mind by interviewing people who might remember what he has suppressed.

Very strong film. Some of the animated characters’ POV have a vidgame feel. Early distrib response is cautious. They’ll check reviews and see where it goes.

Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune was another struck by the film and feels it:

…made up for the arch inertia of the opening-night selection.

The collaborators work in a style of animation resembling the rotoscoping efforts of Richard Linklater (”Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly”), though none of the fluid, insinuating frames was actually rotoscoped.

…Folman’s story has a lot to say about how a miserable conflict haunts those who wage it.

Watch the trailer here:

Waltz With Bashir, the first official trailer

There is another montage here:

> Waltz with Bashir at the official Cannes site
> Quiet Earth with a preview of Waking with Bashir
> Official site for Waltz with Bashir

Cannes Events Festivals

Cannes 2008: Buzz Builders

At the American Pavilion in Cannes yesterday, there was a debate entitled Buzz Builders which dealt with movie journalism and the internet.

The AmPav

Alex Ben Block moderated a panel that included:

Here are a few key bits as relayed by Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere:

Poland said that the difference between print and online film writing is a “lack of editing” and seasoned judgment.

Both Hernandez and Jones mentioned the importance of judgment and “context” in the reporting of news stories.

Poland said later that an online hurdle thus far is that “there’s no money” in blogging for many if not most writers who toil in this medium. Or at least, “not enough to live on.”

And yet “having a seat at the table” is what everyone wants, he said, including the N.Y. Times.

But the bit that really struck me was when he quotes David Poland as saying:

….he “would be very surprised if The Hollywood Reporter is still [around] three years from now.” (I think he meant in its present form, but maybe not.)

Is this true?

Let’s for a second assume this isn’t a throwaway line about a traditional media outlet not adapting to the times.

Is the Hollywood Reporter really going the way of Premiere Magazine? Or is it perhaps adapting to some kind of web/print hybrid?

On a more pressing point, why don’t the American Pavilion or the organisers of the debate film this and put it up on the web? Why no live stream? Or YouTube video? Or some kind of transcript?

What is sometimes depressing – and indeed ironic – about these kinds of debate is that they suffer from the very problems they are discussing.

At a talk last year at the London Film Festival about the internet and film criticism, the moderator mused at one point that maybe the panel (which consisted of two national newspaper critics, plus two heads of content from MySpace and the BBC) should have included a blogger, as that’s what they were partly discussing.

Similarly here, with all the chat about the merits of blogger vs traditional media, we should be reminded that if it wasn’t for the efforts of Hollywood Elsewhere and a link from Spout Blog, then anyone outside of the American Pavilion probably wouldn’t know about this.

If the issues are important enough to debate at one of the key venues of the world’s biggest film festival, then why not disseminate it to the wider world via the web?

> Original report at Hollywood Elsewhere
> Official site of The American Pavilion

Cannes Festivals News

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Blindness

The opening film of this year’s festival was Blindness, directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) and starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.

Based on José Saramago’s 1995 novel it is about an epidemic of blindness in a modern city.

Here is a summary of some of the critical reaction:

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere is underwhelmed:

I respected Blindness — I certainly agree with what it’s saying — but it didn’t arouse me at all. Opening-night films at big festivals are often underwhelming on this or that level — bland, suckish, so-so.

I’m sorry to be saying what I’m saying as I worshipped Meirelles’ City of God and very much admired The Constant Gardener. But the truth is that Blindness is more than a bit of a flub.

For what it’s worth, the pacing, performances and tech credits are first-rate.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter feels lacks an element of surprise:

Blindness is provocative cinema. But it also is predictable cinema: It startles but does not surprise.

An appreciative critical response will be needed stateside for Miramax to market this Brazilian-Canadian-Uruguayan co-production.

Other territories may benefit from the casting of an array of international actors with some boxoffice draw.

Justin Chang of Variety has similarly mixed feelings:

Despite a characteristically strong performance by Julianne Moore as a lone figure who retains her eyesight, bearing sad but heroic witness to the horrors around her, Fernando Meirelles’ slickly crafted drama rarely achieves the visceral force, tragic scope and human resonance of Saramago’s prose.

Despite marquee names, mixed reviews might yield fewer eyes than desired for this international co-production.

Joe Utichi of IGN is also somewhat disappointed:

Ultimately, Blindness is a brave attempt from this ever-versatile director at creating an intelligent, original sci-fi thriller that, sadly, never quite comes together.

James Rocchi of Cinematical is more admiring:

But while Blindness can be faulted for many things, it also has to be respected for its ambition, craft, and effort;

Blindness shows us a world of wide-eyed sightlessness, and it does so through a fierce vision that only occasionally loses focus.

Xan Brooks of The Guardian is also more positive:

Blindness may well be the bleakest curtain raiser in the history of the festival, a nightmarish parable of the apocalypse, directed by the Brazilian film-maker Fernando Meirelles and just as impressive in its way as his career-making City of God.

It’s a devastating bit of work – a cold-eyed portrait of social meltdown that nonetheless shows how catastrophe can bring out the best in people as well as the worst.

I could have done without Danny Glover’s sage, hushed narration over every stray moment of quiet, but otherwise this was pretty much spot-on.

Sukhdev Sandhu of The Daily Telegraph feels the acting is strong, but not enough to redeem the overall film:

As always, it’s impossible to take one’s eyes off Moore who is so adept at playing roles in which her strength seems brittle, almost masochistic.

Alice Braga, a prostitute who is one of the inmates that Moore and Ruffalo befriend, is also a stand-out performer.

They do well to save a film that, in trying so hard to be faithful to the novel, falls prey to tone-deafness.

Did you see Blindness at Cannes? If so, then leave your thoughts below.

> Blindness at the IMDb
> Find out more about the novel at Wikipedia
> Anne Thomspon speaks to director Fernando Meirelles at Variety
> Will Lawrence also has a piece on Mereilles at the Telegraph

Amusing Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008: Kung Fu Panda launch at the Carlton

Now this is how to launch a DreamWorks animated film about kung fu pandas in Cannes.

Get Jack Black and about 40 people in panda costumes outside the Carlton Hotel:

Kung Fu Panda screens at the festival tomorrow (Thursday 15th) and opens in the US on June 6th and the UK on July 4th

> Official site for Kung Fu Panda
> Find out more about the film at Wikipedia

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008: Screening Schedule

For all those out at Cannes here is the schedule for all the major screenings for the next fortnight, which include those in and out of official competition.

Steps of the Red Carpet


19.15 Opening ceremony
23.30 BLINDNESS (1h58) Directed by Fernando Meirelles

8.30 – 16.30 LEONERA (1h53) Directed by Pablo Trapero
14.00 – 22.00 WALTZ WITH BASHIR (1h27) Directed by Ari Folman

FRI 16th MAY
8.30 – 14.30 – 19.00 UN CONTE DE NOËL (2h30) Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
12.00 – 22.30 ÜÇ MAYMUN (Les Trois Singes) (1h49) Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

SAT 17th MAY
8.30 – 22.00 LINHA DE PASSE (1h48) Directed by Walter Salles, Daniela Thomas
16.00 ER SHI SI CHENG JI (24 City) (1h52) Directed by Jia Zhangke

SUN 18th MAY
8.30 – 22.00 GOMORRA (2h15) Directed by Matteo Garrone
16.30 SERBIS (1h30) Directed by Brillante Mendoza

MON 19th MAY
9.00 – 13.00 – 19.00 LE SILENCE DE LORNA (1h45) Directed by Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne
22.00 TWO LOVERS (1h40) Directed by James Gray

TUE 20th MAY
8.30 – 12.00 – 19.30 CHANGELING (2h21) Directed by Clint Eastwood
16.00 DELTA (1h32) (Directed by Kornél Mundruczó)

WED 21st MAY
16.00 LA MUJER SIN CABEZA (1h27) Directed by Lucrecia Martel
18.30 CHE (4h28) Directed by Steven Soderbergh

THU 22nd MAY
8.30 – 14.30 – 19.30 LA FRONTIÈRE DE L’AUBE (1h46) Directed by Philippe Garrel
11.30 – 22.30 ADORATION (1h40) Directed by Atom Egoyan

FRI 23rd MAY
8:30 – 19.30 SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2h04) Directed by Charlie Kaufman
11.30 – 22.30 IL DIVO (1h50) Directed by Paolo Sorrentino
16.30 MY MAGIC (1h15) Directed by Eric Khoo

SAT 24th MAY
8.30 – 16.00 ENTRE LES MURS (2h08) Directed by Laurent Cantet
19.30 PALERMO SHOOTING (2h04) Directed by Wim Wenders

SUN 25th MAY
19.30 Closing ceremony
23.00 WHAT JUST HAPPENED? (1h46) Directed by Barry Levinson

Crowd gathers for Ocean's Thirteen premiere


THU 15th MAY
11.15 – 19.30 KUNG FU PANDA (1h35) Directed by Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

SAT 17th MAY
11.30 – 19.30 VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (1h36) Directed by Woody Allen
00.15 THE CHASER (2h03) Directed by Na Hong-jin

SUN 18th MAY
13.00 – 19.00 INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2h03) Directed by Steven Spielberg

MON 19th MAY

TUE 20th MAY
23.30 MARADONA BY KUSTURICA (1h30) Directed by Emir Kusturica

WED 21st MAY
23.45 SURVEILLANCE (1h38) Directed by Jennifer Lynch

SAT 24th MAY
11.30 – 22.30 THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD (2h00) Directed by Kim Jee-woon

> Download the official screenings schedule as a PDF file

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Preview: Films Out of Competition

The out of competition films screening at this year’s Cannes Film Festival include some of the more high profile premieres.

Red Carpet at the Palais


Here is a guide to the big films screening out of competition, which means they are not competing for the Palme d’Or and are basically ‘prestige’ premieres.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Dir. Steven Spielberg): The biggest major studio release of the year gets a high profile premiere, with Steven Spielberg bringing a film to the festival for the first time since The Color Purple in 1985.

All eyes around the world will eagerly be awaiting how this installment will fit in with the original trilogy. Plot details have been kept under wraps, but according to the offficial plot sypnopsis at the festival site it begins in 1957 at the height of the Cold War and involves Indy battling Russian agents as he searches for the Crystal Skull of Akator in Peru.

Harrison Ford returns as the famous archaeologist and the supporting cast includes Ray Winstone, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Karen Allen.

It is bound to be a huge hit worldwide, but the big question is whether or not it can please the older, more demading audiences that loved the original trilogy. All eyes will be on the reports coming out of the press screening which happens a few hours before the official premiere. (Screening: Sunday 18th May)

Kung Fu Panda (Dir. Mark Osborne and John Stevenson): The new animated film from DreamWorks Animation is about a panda (voiced by Jack Black) who learns martial arts to fight his enemies.

The film features a starry voice cast including the likes of Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie and
Lucy Liu. Cannes has often been a place for DreamWorks to launch their tentpole releases like Shrek or Over the Hedge and this is expected to do similar business.

Maradona (Dir. Emir Kusturica): A documentary about the extraordinary life of Diego Maradona – the legendary Argentine footballer.

If the quality is good, this looks set to get interest from the wider media though the fact that the IMDb lists it as a 2006 film may be a cuase for concern. (Screens: Tuesday 20th May)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Dir. Woody Allen): The latest Woody Allen film is about two young American women, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) who come to Barcelona for a summer holiday only to get invloved with a local painter (Javier Bardem).

Despite the fact that Allen’s recent films haven’t always even secured UK distribution, he is loved in France and the European setting of this film, as well as the solid cast, should ensure a lot of interest. (Screens: Saturday 17th May)

What Just Happened? (Dir. Barry Levinson): The closing night film is based on producer Art Linson’s memoir of the same name, this stars Robert De Niro as an ageing producer struggling to get his new moviein the crazy world of Hollywood.

Despite a solid cast with Bruce Willis and Sean Penn turning up in minor roles as themselves, this only seemed to get lukewarm reviews at Sundance back in January. That said the book it is based on is very funny indeed (especailly the chapter chrinicling the making of The Edge) so it could be a pleasant surprise. (Screens: Sunday 25th May)

Also screening out of competition are:

If you are in Cannes and get to see any of these films then you can leave comments below.

> Official site for the Cannes Film Festival
> Our guide to the history and significance of the festival from last year
> Download the official screenings schedule as a PDF file

Cannes Festivals

Cannes 2008 Preview: Films in Competition

The 2008 Cannes Film Festival kicks off tomorrow and here are my pick of the films to look out for in competition for the Palme d’Or.

Big sign on Le Palais


Blindness (Dir. Fernando Meirelles): An adaptation of José Saramago’s 1995 novel about about an epidemic of blindness in a modern city, it stars Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Gael García Bernal.

Hotly anticipated because it has an excellent cast, is based on a Nobel prize winning novel and is directed by the man who brought us City of God and The Constant Gardener. (Screens: Wednesday 14th May)

Un conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale) (Dir. Arnaud Desplechin): The latest film from the director of Kings and Queen is a family drama starring Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric.

The presence of a screen legend like Deneuve and the rising star of Amalric (who will be seen later this year as the new Bond villain in Quantum of Solace) will make this a high profile French entry. (Screens: Friday 16th May)

Linha de Passe (Dir. Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas): The new film from the director of The Motorcycle Diaries is about four brothers from a poor family in Sao Paolo struggling to find a better life.

Although 2005’s Dark Water was an unproductive attempt to bring his sensibility to a Hollywood film, Salles is always a director worth looking out for and this looks like a return to what he does best. (Screens: Saturday 17th May)

Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence) (Dir. Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne): The new film from the Belgian brothers is about a young Albanian woman living in Belgium who becomes an accomplice to a local mobster’s plan.

The Belgian duo have achieved the remarkable feat of winning the Palme d’Or twice (with Rosetta in 1999 and L’Enfant in 2005) so all eyes will be on whether this can match the heights of those films. (Screens: Monday 19th May)

Two Lovers (Dir. James Gray): Set in Brooklyn, this is a romantic drama about a bachelor (Joaquin Phoenix) who is torn between two women (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw).

Director James Gray is something of a favourite with Cannes, as he was here in competition just last year with We Own the Night. The star power of Phoenix, Paltrow and Isabella Rossellini should ensure interest in this one. (Screens: Monday 19th May)

Changeling (Dir: Clint Eastwood): The new film from Clint Eastwood is set in LA in 1928 and stars Angelina Jolie as a woman whose young son goes missing. When the child is found months later, she suspects it might not be him.

If Clint can deliver the goods you would have to say this is a hot favourite to snag the Palme d’Or – the veteran actor/director has long been a favourite at the festival (with films like Pale Rider, White Hunter Black Heart and Mystic River all playing in official competition) but has never won the big prize. The star power of Jolie in the lead role will also ensure huge press interest. (Screens: Tuesday 20th May)

Che (The Argentine / Guerrilla) (Dir: Steven Soderbergh): Possibly the most anticipated and ambitious film due to be shown at Cannes this year, director Steven Soderbergh will screen his two films about Che Guevera (played by Benicio del Toro) back-to-back.

The first one is called The Argentine and will focus on the Cuban revolution, as Fidel Castro, Guevara  and other revolutionaries topple the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The second film is called Guerrilla and focuses on the years after the Cuban revolution with Che’s trip to the UN in 1964, until his death in the Bolivian mountains in 1967. (Screens: Weds 21st May)

Adoration (Dir. Atom Egoyan): The new film from Canadian director Atom Egoyan is about a young man obsessed with the idea that he is the spawn of two historical figures.

It stars Devon Bostick, Rachel Blanchard and Scott Speedman. (Screens: Thursday 22nd May)

Synechdoche, New York (Dir. Charlie Kaufman): Another one of the most hotly anticipated films of the festival, this sees screenwriter Charlie Kaufman make his directorial debut.

It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theatre director in Schenectady, New York who has to cope with his wife leaving him and a mysterious illness. Worried about his life, he moves his theater company to a warehouse where he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York as part of his new play. Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton and Hope Davis co-star. (Screens: Friday 23rd May)

Palermo Shooting (Dir. Wim Wenders): The German veteran who won Best Director at Cannes in 1987 with Wings of Desire, returns with a new film about a German photographer (played by Campino) who comes to Palermo because he needs to escape his past.

Although Wenders’ output has been a little inconsistent of late (Don’t Come Knocking, which screened at the festival in 2005, was a huge disappointent) some will be keen to see if the magic of his earlier work can return. (Screens: Saturday 24th May)

The other films screening in competition are:

The jury at Cannes this year features:

It is notoriously hard to predict who will win the big prize but the major contenders would appear to be Blindness, Changeling, Che, Lorna’s Silence and Synechdoche, New York.

If you are at the festival or have any thoughts then do leave a comment below.

> Official site for the Cannes Film Festival and the full list of films competing in the official selection
> Our guide to the history and significance of the festival from last year
> See a past list of Palme d’Or winners at Wikipedia