Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez moderated a panel discussion late this afternoon at the American Pavillion called “It’s a Mad New Media World.” The topic, as you might imagine, was the whole internet journalism-slash-dying old journalism magilla. It went on for a little over an hour, and I’ve got the whole thing recorded right here. There’s no identifying the voices but the two video clips coalesce in certain sections.
The panelists were James Rocchi (MSN Movies and AMCtv.com — glasses, pork-pie hat), The Wrap editor Sharon Waxman (short blond hair), L.A. Times industry reporter John Horn (follically challenged, strong jawline), Variety columnist Anne Thompson (glasses, short brown hair), and Spoutblog’s Karina Longworth (glasses, medium-length black hair).
I’d take a stab at summing up the highlights but it’s 10:50 pm and I’m about to get kicked out of the Orange wifi cafe so that’s all she wrote until I get home later tonight. The first clip contains sum-up remarks everyone was asked to give at the very end about how things will shape up over the next two or three years. The second clip contains some sharp debate here and there.
The Weinstein Co. invited a few journalists up to Gray Albion Hotel rooftop suite early this evening to watch a rehearsal reel from Rob Marshall‘s Nine (Weinstein Co., 11.25) as well as the recently released trailer. If you’ve seen the latter you know it’s got that old Rob Marshall/Chicago schwing blended with a jaded erotic male menopause Euro-vibe. It’s a pretty safe bet. People eat this shit up. Even I’m willing to.
The idea is lure the viewer into a moody adult fantasia trip about Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day Lewis) who’s in creative trouble as he prepares a film called Italia. Blocked, midlife crisis, who am I?, great to be rich, love my car, cruising the Italian coast, sensual delights at every turn, I’ll find my way, etc.
The other idea, of course, is to make Nine into an Oscar-competing superhit which will make enough dough to restore the Weinstein Co. to firmer financial footing than it has known over the last three or four years. It’s Harvey Weinstein’s ticket back to the bigtime. By all appearances and indications it looks like a hummer.
Obviously shot with the required sultry attractiveness by Dion Beebe and based, of course, on Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston’s 1982 Broadway musical, Nine is essentially based (as the play was) on Federico Fellini‘s 8 1/2 (’63).
Call it “Daniel Day looking for inspiration and spending a lot of time with several alluring women” — his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard) mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz), a muse (Nicole Kidman), a pal and confidante (Judi Dench), his mother (Sophia Loren), a journalist (Kate Hudson) and a prostitute named Saraghina (Stacy Ferguson).
I loved that the rehearsal reel contains some black-and-white footage, which of course harkens back to the Fellini film. The film was shot in London and various Italian locales, including Rome.
Alejandro Amenabar‘s Agora, which I caught late yesterday morning, is a visually ravishing, intelligently scripted historical parable about the evils of religious extremism. And I don’t mean the kind that existed in 4th century Alexandria, which is when and where this $65 million dollar epic is set. I mean the evils of the present-day Taliban and the Neocon-aligned Christian right, and the way Agora metaphorically exposes these movements for what they are.
As Adam Curtis‘s The Power of Nightmares sagely explained, these two extremist faiths are similar in their loathing for liberalism and militant yearning to turn back the clock and to above all hold high the flag of religious purity. The 9/11 attacks kicked off their holy war against each other — a war that fortified their positions in their respective cultures during the Bush years.
And now comes Agora, dramatizing how purist zealotry among 4th Century Christians led to the persecuting of Jew and pagans, to the sacking and burning of the great library of Alexandria, and to the murder of Hypatia (Rachel Weisz), the first widely-noted female scholar who taught philosophy, astronomy and mathematics. (Note to whiners: Noting a well documented event that happened 1600 years ago can’t be called a spoiler.)
Amenabar’s film, an English-language Spanish production that was shot in and around Malta, seems to me like the most thoughtful and intellectually-talky big-screen epic ever made, although there’s a fair amount of strife and sword-stabbing and mob violence all through it. The intense conflicts, exacting and cultured dialogue, dashing visual energy and top-notch performances from Weisz, Max Minghella, Oscar Isaac, Rupert Evans, Ashraf Barhom, Rupert Evans and Michael Lonsdale make Agora more than gripping for its entire 141 minutes. I was surprised, really, that it moved as fast as it did.
Some are calling it too talky or insufficiently emotional, whcih translates into the imprecise term known as “boring.” It isn’t that, trust me, although I admit it’s hard to imagine the U.S. fans of sludge entertainment being keen to see it. You need to be keyed into what it’s saying about our world and to be rooting against the bad guys (i.e., old-time Christians) to really get into it, I suppose, although the high-quality sheen is unmistakable in every department. It’s well worth it for the CG alone.
This morning’s screening of Ken Loach‘s Looking for Eric, a mildly engaging well-made film about a British middle-aged postal worker and soccer fan that isn’t likely to see U.S. distribution, reminded me of the difficulty I’ve had in the past in deciphering rural British, Irish and Scottish accents in films. The Manchester accents in Loach’s drama make the dialogue (in the early portions at least) nearly impossible to understand. The obvious remedy would be subtitles. I’m a huge fan, for example, of Paul Greengrass‘s Bloody Sunday, but I never really understood what was being said all around until the subtitled DVD came out.
Polite but mild applause greeted the Antichrist team — director Lars Von Trier, stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg — as they walked into the Salle de Presse at 12:35 pm, or about 75 minutes ago. But then someone yelled “boo!” Dafoe and Von Trier, as you can see, chuckled at this. And then once the photos had been taken and everyone was settled, Daly Mail columnist Baz Bamigboye asked the first question, which was fairly hostile.
“Why did you make this movie?” he said, clearly outraged. Von Trier, Dafoe and Gainsbourg all gave Bamnibgoye, who was standing on the right side of the room, quizzical “what’s up with this guy?” looks. “I don’t feel I have to explain myself,” Von Trier said. “Yes, you do!,” Bamigboye sternly replied. “Yes, you do. You’ve come here to Cannes, the festival; has chosen it, we’ve all seen it…and I think you have an obligation to explain why you made it.” Von Trier again demurred, sidestepped, shook it off.
That was the only confrontational moment. All questions in all press conferences tend to be asked in an extra-polite, deferential, obliquely phrased vein, and this one was no exception. There was some humorous quips from Von Trier (“I am the world’s best director”), some laughter from the crowd, and very little in the way of soul-baring. Dafoe said Von Trier was “a great director” and was quickly corrected by Von Trier saying “the greatest” (or words to that effect).
If you hadn’t seen Antichrist you would have had the impression from the questions and answers that it was, all right, shocking or challenging and yes, clearly disliked in some quarters, but a film that could or should be regarded with perhaps a certain whimsy or even (with an accommodating pro-Lars attitude) as a harmless cinematic diversion — a “dream,” a work of pure imagination.
The Disney team has invited journos to watch footage of Robert Zemeckis’ and Jim Carrey’s A Christmas Carol at noon today. I wasn’t invited but wouldn’t be attending anyway due to the Lars von Trier/Antichrist press conference, which is where I’m filing from (standing in front of the dais) and which is just about to start.
Kinatay director Brilliante Mendoza and his cast at press conference a day or two ago.
A bright, blunt-spoken Croatian distributor I know was sizing up the festival at Saturday night’s Taking Woodstock party. “Nothing…nothing has really turned anyone’s head here,” he said. He was speaking generally and a bit cynically, of course. But I agree with him, then and now.
No film shown at the festival so far has homered or even tripled. Some sevens and eights by the sights of certain critics and buyers but no nines and definitely no tens. No film overwhelmingly leads as a likely Palme d’Or winner. No film shown here seems destined to open in the States to huge commercial or critical acclaim. No film has attracted undiluted affection or excitement.
Besides Up, I mean. But that’s not really a Cannes film, or rather the kind of film that I associate with the particular specialness of this festival.
The good news is that Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon is being screened on Wednesday night so at least I’ll have a shot at that before leaving on Thursday.