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Tuesday 29 May
Empire's Video Blog #10

Monday 28 May
Empire's Video Blog #9

Sunday 27 May
Damon's Diary: And The Winners Are...


As the 60th Cannes film festival came to a close there were people walking, dazed, in the streets. This year, there were so many good films to see, so many people to meet, it seemed there were at least five solid contenders for the Palme D'Or and in the space of four consecutive days we swapped pleasantries with Ethan Coen, Angelina Jolie, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. That night we also bumped into Jeremy Piven, who would like it known to Mr Guy Ritchie that he's still very interested in working with him, especially (look away everyone who isn't Guy Ritchie) That Script You Sent Him. However, for all the booze imbibed and the parties, Cannes is ultimately about the films, and this year's selection was a blinder. In fact, it's entirely possible that films will continue to emerge from the festival throughout this year and next, much in the way that overlooked marvels leave Sundance: under the radar. Into this category we'll put The Band's Visit, which screened in the Un Certain Regard and told the deadpan tale of an Egyptian police band stranded in an Israeli village, and Inside (showing in Critics' Week), a tense bloody shocker that left Empire's features editor a gibbering wreck.

After such a busy and impressive week, the awards show itself, on Sunday night, was quite a surprise, a barely controlled TV special which began with the most disastrous pairing of presenters (small bespectacled oriental man, tall amazonian woman) since The Krankies. However, whoever they were and the French don't translate they had good news for the British production Control, the touching and very human story of the life and death of the former singer with Joy Division, Ian Curtis. Control's director, rock snapper Anton Corbijn, didn't win the Camera D'Or but at least he got a special mention, a close-up on the TV screen and an offer from the Weinstein Company for the North American rights. After that, the awards splintered off in various directions, reflecting the stong nature of the selection, with acting awards (male) for Russia's The Banishment and (female) for Korea's Secret Sunshine (Angelina Jolie's showpiece, A Mighty Heart, unspooled out of competition and was therefore ineligible).

Still, as nice as those Jury Prizes and Special Mentions are, there's only one award people really care about, and that's the Palme D'Or. By the final Sunday afternoon there are usually so few people around it's pretty easy to work out why a well-known face would stick around for the closing ceremony, and even as we walked into the Salle Debussy to watch a live feed we'd heard that director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly) was still kicking around, while the Coens were already back in New York. A big close-up of Gus Van Sant (Paranoid Park) during the telecast also set our minds whirring. As it was, the big prizes were spread very deservingly.

Schnabel, a big, blustering bear of a man who wouldn't leave the stage, won Best Director for his affecting and beautifully acted true story of a man left paralysed by a stroke. Van Sant won a special made-up prize, both for the wonderful skater-juve dream-poem Paranoid Park and his entire career, and the Grand Prix most unexpectedly went to Japan's, er, stately' death drama The Mourning Forest. OK, we'll admit it: we didn't see that one.

So the big prize? Well, nowt for the Coens, who were the biggest hitters at the festival and perhaps too obvious to win. Instead, the jury, headed by UK's Stephen Frears, made exactly the right choice, dropping da bomb on Cristian Miungiu's terrific Four Months, Three Weeks And Two Days. Known on the Croisette as "The Romanian abortion drama" (because that's what it was), this sealed the rise of Romanian film in recent months, following the success of The Death Of Mr Lazarescu two years ago and making a double whammy for the land of stray dogs Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin' had posthumously won Best Film in the Un Certain Regard section the day before. The story of two girls trying to procure an abortion under Ceaucescu's reign in 1987, 4...3...2... is serious without being stony and features two stupendous performances. Like the Dardennes brothers' Palme D'Or winner L'Enfant (but better), this handsomely made and passionate film fully deserved a) its reputation (unusually for a Palme D'Or winner, it screened in the first week of the festival) and b) its prize, which was announced by Frears, a normally scruffy bastard who, for once, had made a bit of effort on the tux front. "I'm told by you people who come here every year that this has been a terrific festival," Frears deadpanned. "On behalf of the jury, I'd like to say that the films have been a pleasure to watch."

A fitting salute to arguably the best festival in recent memory, and a tempting taste hopefully of things to come.


Saturday 26 May
Picture Of The Day

Eva Mendes and the We Own The Night Photocall.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


The Golden Compass Premiere


Empire's Video Blog #8

Friday 25 May
Picture Of The Day

Matt Damon, George Clooney and Brad Pitt at the Ocean's Thirteen premiere.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


Empire's Video Blog #7

Thursday 24 May
Empire's Video Blog #6


Picture Of The Day

The Ocean's Thirteen photocall: (L-R) Matt Damon, Ellen Barkin, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, Scott Caan, George Clooney, Elliot Gould and Don Cheadle.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


Michael Moore's Sicko Trailer


Wednesday 23 May
Picture Of The Day

The girls of Death Proof - Rose McGowan, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


Empire's Video Blog #5

Tuesday 22 May
Empire's Video Blog #4


Picture Of The Day

Tarantino with his Death Proof laydeez.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


Damon's Diary: First Look at Tarantino's Death Proof


Last night we sat down for perhaps our most anticipated movie of the festival, even though we'd (arguably) seen it before and read the full script before Christmas. That film was Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, taken out of its cosy Grindhouse home and shown here in its full two-hour format, complete with a new French title: Boulevard De La Mort! After the debacle following the double bill's release in the US we must admit to feeling slightly nervous, after all, Cannes was where QT's rise to cult status started (with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction), and we couldn't help feeling he was heading for a fall by insisting on a Competition slot, in the hope of securing a rare Palme D'Or double whammy.

We needn't have worried. Those who saw the "Joseph Brenner & Associates" redux cut will see that all the scenes that seemed to be missing really do exist and have been slotted back in accordingly principally with Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell), the psycho fall guy who gets his kicks by running purty ladies off the road and into their graves. In its finished form, Death Proof still retains some of the Grindhouse trimmings: there are blips and scratches, and there's even an entire sequence in black and white, but far from being distracting, these details become integral to the atmosphere Death Proof is a teasing film from back in the day but made now, causing a neat disjunction between the conventions of the story and the modernity of its characters (with the exception of Mike, of course, but we'll come to that later).

Much has been made here at least of this being Tarantino's most linear film yet, which is true ish. Death Proof is a film of two halves, but it's by no means a portmanteau. Half of the fun is in Tarantino's manipulation of our expectations; from the title alone and the lurid poster ("These 8 Women Are About To Meet 1 Diabolical Man!"), we're expecting something dark, so, Tarantino's own slasher-movie talk notwithstanding, its tempting to read this solely as a serial-killer flick. But like Jaws, Death Proof is a film about anticipation, and after a menacing Jack Nitzsche-scored credit sequence the film takes its time getting these girls done with. The flavour here is female, as Austin DJ Jungle Julia (Syndey Poitier) reunites her girl posse and celebrates her birthday with a night on the town. Mike is circling them but Tarantino takes his time, and the film really benefits from more time with Vanessa Ferlito as Arlene, the typical last girl standing' from slasher lore. It's only Arlene that gets the measure of Mike's madness, but in true grindhouse style her gorgeous foreboding all but flies out of the window when the film suddenly lurches from horror pic to sleazerama, with a great barroom lap dance that leaves audiences and Mike alike grinning from ear to ear.

We'll skip what Mike gets up to later: suffice to say that Mr Icy Hot is nice, not, but the real revelation of the new, long version is what happens in the second half. Although some of the controversial lengthy dialogue scenes remain untouched, Tarantino has reinstated scenes that introduce a second girl group and takes more time establishing Mike's interest in the new arrivals, which adds a whole new dynamic, like a purring engine, revving quietly while the director indulges his trademark love of dialogue. Two other elements have been added here: more screentime for Abernathy (Rosario Dawson) and, later, in the film's powerhouse home run, Kim (Tracie Thoms), with scenes that round out their characters so much, by the time they and their stuntgirl friend Zoe (Zoe Bell "as herself") become a Switchblade Sisters/Truckstop Women-style rampage of revenge, the previously rushed transition suddenly seems scarily plausible.

Full plaudits go here, of course, to Kurt Russell, who motors through the film with a deceptively subtle brilliance, portraying Mike as, alternately, a dope, nice guy, a washed-up hasbeen, a cool guy and a pussy like Javier Bardem in the Coens' No Country For Old Men, this is about to become one of the definitive movie crazies. But however attached we get to Stuntman Mike, Tarantino's not allowing us to get too close, and with the final, euphoric ending he subverts the slasher-flick formula with a bravura climax that sent the Cannes audience whooping and clapping into the night. OK, one person booed, some older people moaned, and a woman from Turkey didn't get it AT ALL. But Death Proof is the film it set out to be, the film Tarantino had in his mind on the day we watched him shoot it. This is seriously entertaining American filmmaking in its prime and most definitely not the only-half-serious pastiche it could have been. There's no seatbelt, nor airbag, no nuthin', this is just Tarantino driving wildly under the influence. Just hang on and take the ride.


A Mighty Heart Trailer



The Golden Compass Photocall

Casino Royale stars Eva Green and Daniel Craig reunite for The Golden Compass.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


A Mighty Heart Premiere

Monday 21 May
Picture Of The Day

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrive at The Mighty Heart photocall.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


Empire's Video Blog #3


Damon's Diary: Gus Vant Sant's Paranoid Park, Angelina in A Mighty Heart and Leo's The Eleventh Hour


Apologies for the brief hiatus in normal service but you probably wouldn't have been too interested in Sunday's events, which largely revolved around a lot of corporate stuff, some promo reels and confidences we can't break or else we'd have to kill you. However, we've since saddled up the movie horse and climbed back on, so it's time for a brief round-up of the festival buzz.

Aside from the Coens' No Country For Old Men, the big story is the Romanian film Four Months, Three Weeks And Two Days, a dazzling but grim abortion drama that has been described as an eastern European Vera Drake, without the endless cups of tea. In other strands, we're hearing excellent things about The Band's Visit, a laconic, Jarmusch-esque comedy, and The Orphanage, a Spanish chiller produced by Guillermo Del Toro.

In fact, we're hearing (and seeing) a lot of good movies, which, believe us, is so often not the case in Cannes. Today was a cracking double bill, starting with the 8.30am screening of Gus Van Sant's latest, Paranoid Park.

Cast via myspace and starring a cast of unknowns, this adaptation of Blake Nelson's novel is just beautiful. If you don't like Van Sant, hated Last Days and thought Elephant was a crock, save your money for Pirates 3. That's not a sniffy, condescending remark, just a way of saying that Van Sant has a singular eye, and if you don't like it (note: 'like', not 'get') you won't enjoy it. However, to his fans, and they aren't legion it must be said, Paranoid Park is a lyrical wonder, shot by genius DoP Chris Doyle in Portland, Oregon. The story is slight but its impact profound: a young skater is implicated in the murder of a security guard at a nearby train depot. Echoing Elephant's hallucinatory repetition, and filled with roving shots of gnarly, carving skater dudes, the film soon reveals itself as a modest but elegant meditation on guilt and loneliness. If Larry Clark was less of a perv and more of a Catholic priest, he might make something as thoughtful and lovely as this.

Going straight out to come back in, we found ourselves sitting in exactly the same seats for Michael Winterbottom's new film, A Mighty Heart, a true-story-slash-biopic set in Pakistan and starring some American bird called Angelina Jolie. Filmed on the hoof in India, but shot so stunningly you'd swear they'd closed down the whole country for the shoot, the film tells the story of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal writer who was kidnapped by jihadists, on suspicion of being a CIA and Mossad operative, then viciously beheaded in the first of many militant video statements issued in the wake of 9/11. Jolie plays his widow, Mariane, but she isn't always the focus, sometimes sliding into the background whenever Winterbottom's film morphs into United 93-type reconstruction. Anyone who doubts her acting talent will be hard pushed to find fault with her performance here; the French accent and (controversial) dusky looks are very convincing indeed, but if there's a fault to be found it's perhaps that the film lacks a little in subtext. Then again, it seems churlish to say that: Winterbottom finds terrific flavour in the backstreets, and there's a poignant sense of camaraderie to counter the cruelty.

Anyone expecting something explicitly political from the defiantly left-wing Winterbottom might be surprised at the film's sensitivity and its refusal to paint an easy picture of the situation in Pakistan. But if it's unsubtle politics you're looking for, head straight to Leonardo DiCaprio's The Eleventh Hour, a choppy, noisy, moany film that bashes you over the head for 90 minutes while not actually telling you much. Where An Inconvenient Truth was a paternal, authoritative seminar from an avuncular former Vice President, The Eleventh Hour is a hectoring, sometimes shrill sermon that goes on off so many tangents it's hard to see who it's aimed at. DiCaprio's fans won't have much use for its advice on how to build an eco-friendly high-rise, "sustainable" isn't a word that's likely to be in their lexicon, and after seeing so many memorable performances recently, during his infrequent to-camera monologues they're more likely be reminded of an aircraft safety video than his brilliant work in The Departed or Blood Diamond. Still, it was an aberration. Showing out of competition, The Eleventh Hour was simply a blot on an otherwise clear landscape: as everyone agrees, although interviews and press conferences are getting harder to get (and sometimes even sit through, this really has to be the strongest Cannes in a long, long, long time.


U2 3D Screening and Trailer

Click here to watch the trailer.


Michael Moore at the Sicko Screening

Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


Leonardo DiCaprio at the 11th Hour Photocall

Sunday 20 May
Picture Of The Day

Kelly MacDonald with No Country For Old Men co-stars, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem..
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


No Country For Old Men Party

Saturday 19 May
Picture Of The Day

Snoop Dogg, or is that P. Hutton, arrives in Cannes.
Photo credit: Alphafrance


Damon's Diary: Coens' No Country For Old Men and Moore's Sicko


Well, it got to day three and suddenly things started looking up. After a day of interviews and popping into industry cocktail parties for things we actually can't remember, the big treat of the day was always going to be the Coen brothers' latest, No Country For Old Men. And the good news is that, after the poorly received Intolerable Cruelty and the even more poorly executed remake of The Ladykillers, the Minneapolis mavericks have finally found their mojo. To put it (blood) simple: No Country For Old Men is terrific, not simply a return to form but a return to roots, a tense, funny thriller that recalls not only their genre-bending debut but the wicked mischief of Fargo and the internecine vagaries of Miller's Crossing. Though it's based on Cormac McCarthy's novel, the Coens have taken his bloody neo-western and made it their own. Much like David Fincher's Zodiac, this is a complex narrative, threading three characters, a bag of cash and a lot of violence. Framing the movie is Ed Tom (Tommy Lee Jones), a grizzled lawman who's finding himself out of synch in a world where good manners are a thing of the past and casual crime is on the rise. Next we meet Moss (Josh Brolin), a hunter who literally takes his eye off the game when stumbling on a crime scene. There are bodies everywhere but the killer is mortally wounded and Moss finds him dead under a tree clutching $2 million in $100 bills. Moss soon learns that a professional killer is on his tail, and so he sends his wife Carla Jean (Kelly MacDonald) off to stay with her sick mother. But what Moss doesn't know is that this hitman is a very different kind of killer, a psychopath who, as Austin Powers might say, murders for shits and giggles, baby.

Brolin is pretty amazing as the gnomic Moss, but as the cold-blooded Chighur, Javier Bardem is fan-fucking-tastic. If you think you've seen what he can do in the likes of Live Flesh, Before Night Falls and The Sea Inside, just wait till you see what he does here, sporting a tasty pudding-bowl haircut and lugging a metal canister with a sinister purpose that soon becomes horribly clear. It's a plain enough trajectory but Joel Coen directs with a pure visual genius echoed by Carter Burwell's ambient non-soundtrack, which lends the film an eerie sense of calm. A calm that can, and will, be shattered in the most shocking and unexpected ways. Drenched in blood and featuring gory scenes that will tax even some of the hardest stomachs, No Country For Old Men is a film so good it really hasn't sunk in yet: in years to come people will look back and say, oh man, why don't they make 'em like THIS any more?

And, hey, there's even more good news. Arriving cloak-and-dagger style from a secret location, Michael Moore's new documentary Sicko unspooled to a VERY warm reception. Kicking off with the obligatory swipe at Bush, Sicko is a more mellow film than we're used to seeing from the less-lardy-than-usual firebrand. Perhaps a little too obvious targeted at a domestic audience (Moore says "we" a lot when he means "we Americans"), it offers his take on the American healthcare system and how lives and limbs are being lost in pursuit of profit. Less hectoring than his usual style, Moore's film really swings into focus during a conversation with Tony Benn, who talks about the two means of control that a government has at its disposal: fear and demoralization. It doesn't take a genius to work out that both these subjects have been tackled before, and Sicko is the film that truly reveals Moore as an auteur, binding these two issues together to question the Bush administration on moral grounds as well as political. The final stunt is pure Moore rounding up some heroes from Ground Zero, the filmmakers takes them to Guantanamo Bay, where members of Al Qaeda are receiving the kind of medical treatment that most Americans can't afford. Moore's laconic plea for "no more or less than the evildoers are receiving" will go down in cinema history as one of his most effective gestures, tying up the government in its own red tape. Interestingly, Moore seemed very subdued at the press conference and was not relishing the results of an official investigation into his trip to Camp X-Ray, which resulted in a diversion to Havana, Cuba, still very much a no-go area for US citizens. He has ten days to respond to the White House's questions, and that time expires on Tuesday night. He's at the festival for a while yet, so we'll keep you posted as to whether the 2004 Palme D'Or winner is likely join Paris Hilton in jail...


We Own The Night Trailer and Pictures


Friday 18 May
Empire's Video Blog #2
Check out part two of Empire's Cannes Chronicles. It's a touch on the long side but bear with it, we've got Seinfeld flying, the gory details on the Long Good Friday remake and, as a bonus, Chris gets mugged at the end!


Picture Of The Day

Actress Bai Ling promoting her new film Shanghai Baby attracting the Cannes press.
Photo credit: People Image/Alpha


Damon's Diary: Anton Corbijn's Control, Grindhouse and Sicko


"Tell me about Macclesfield..." It's not a sentence you'd normally hear in Cannes but it's a measure of Anton Corbijn's directing debut Control that this crisp, black-and-white biopic of the late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis managed to transport us from the sunny, summery south of France to the bleak perma-winter of the north-west of England. Resting on a superb performance by newcomer Sam Riley, Control is an astonishing achievement given that Curtis's story was somewhat covered in Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People and fully deserves its prestigious slot as the opening film in the Directors Fortnight strand.

Better known as the photographer whose monochrome portraits captured not only the young Joy Division but perhaps more famously the rising Depeche Mode, Corbijn has switched to the moving image with surprising dexterity.

Surprising in that, although the images are as clean, composed and beautiful as anything he's done in static form, Corbijn has completely nailed the dry Mancunian wit that surrounded the city's music scene from the outset. Often portrayed as a troubled, depressive loner, Curtis is shown here as just a lonely boy whose success and talent outstripped his ambitions, trapped in a marriage that he embarked on too young but couldn't bring himself to end.

Though the film painstakingly re-enacts the band's rise to cult success, Control isn't simply a dolled-up rockumentary; the final half of its two-hour running time is largely given over to not-so-bizarre love triangle the singer found himself in after falling in love with a Belgian music fan while away on tour.

Now, if only the after party had been as enjoyable. Miles down the Croisette, in the little-used Palm Beach club, it was one of the festival's hottest tickets, with rumoured appearances by Bono, New Order and Madonna.

They were going to 'jam', we heard, but did they fuck. Instead, a few random liggers assembled to glare at the empty VIP area while dancing to the most atrocious music you and I are ever likely to hear. Poor Ian Curtis died this very day (May 18), 27 years ago, and was thus spared the horrors of what has become known as The 80s Disco. We were hoping to hear some cool guitar music, and instead we got Dire fucking Straits. Ian, man, forgive them. They knew not what they did.

Still, enough griping. Much better was a chic little cocktail soiree that Harvey Weinstein threw to show us that the movie mogul is still very much in the game, having given over much of the last 12 months to dabbling in other businesses, including the fashion trade. Reading from a set of prepared notes that he soon abandoned, Weinstein kicked off with his thoughts on Grindhouse, full admitting that "we fell on our asses big time". Speaking candidly, he revealed that he was always against the idea of a double bill but respected Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's wishes (as well he might, since the directors pretty much founded Dimension Films and Miramax respectively). However, he maintained that The Weinstein Company is still committed to the idea of grindhouse with a small g, having bought a back catalogue of schlocky movies to release under the banner. He also claimed that the although the two films, Planet Terror and Death Proof, would be released separately, the fake trailers by Edgar Wright, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie would be appended in slightly longer form to the upcoming stand-alone release of Rodriguez's blood-spattered zombie flick.

Weinstein was most jazzed, though, by his upcoming rumble with the US government, who are currently investigating Michael Moore's TWC-produced healthcare doc Sicko, in particular the final 20 minutes, in which Moore takes some 9/11 workers to Cuba for treatment. Turning the tables under the Freedom Of Information Act, Weinstein is forcing the government to reveal the circumstances leading up to the investigation, which is making a lot of important people Not Very Happy. In fact, so severe is the threat that Moore faces a possible 10 years in jail and the film itself could be impounded, which is why the print is currently under lock and key well outside of US jurisdiction. Weinstein refused to be drawn on its exact whereabouts, though he did remind us that the US was the country that couldn't find those pesky weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "I could probably tell you which country it's in, and they still wouldn't find it," he joked.

If only all press calls were like this, and not like the boring audience with Wong Kar-Wai this morning, in which the gnomic director, Jude Law and Norah Jones gathered to discuss things like "the process" and other nonsense. Nodding off during long-winded questions about nothing in particular, we perked up only when a foreign journalist told Law he looked like famous Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (bet he's never heard THAT one before!) and another made an even more bizarre comparison, prompting Law to announce, "I'm too handsome to play the Pope!" That was it, really. Oh, we learned Norah Jones bought a guitar during the shoot but was too busy to play it. And then we found her pink Gucci sunglasses, which we dutifully handed in. Really, it was that eventful a morning...


Zodiac Screening

Thursday 17 May
Empire's Video Blog #1
Empire's Chris Hewitt and Damon Wise hit the Croisette for the first of our series of Cannes video blogs. Enjoy!


Picture Of The Day

Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld at a photocall for film Bee Movie.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang/Alpha


Zodiac Photocall


Damon's Diary: My Blueberry Nights First Reaction


The 60th Cannes film festival got off to an intriguing start last night with the world premiere of Wong Kar-Wai's first English-language film My Blueberry Nights. Two years back, Wong made movie history by turning up a day late with his film 2046, a film that was so close-to-the-wire it was practically dripping wet as it ran through the projector. This year, festival-goers were concerned to see that Wong had the opening slot and predicted similar last-minute nonsense as the notorious perfectionist raced to meet his deadline. My Blueberry Nights, however, not only arrived in a finished print, complete with credits, it also seemed strangely formulaic for such a maverick director known for re-editing his movies even after release. Boldly for a foray into foreign language, Wong's film also boasts the acting debut of singer/songwriter Norah Jones, who plays Elizabeth, a woman who stumbles on a New York diner run by the Mancunian Jeremy (Jude Law) while looking for her prodigal lover. Elizabeth doesn't realize that her new friend is falling in love with her, and to recover from her broken heart she embarks on a trip across America, first finding work in Memphis and then moving on to Vegas. For the last ten years Wong has been an established Cannes staple festival president Gilles Jacob has named him one of Cannes' five favourite directors and for admirers of his dreamy, neon-drenched style, My Blueberry Nights is definitely the work of the auteur behind such wonders as Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love.

However, for the first 20 minutes at least, My Blueberry Nights wavers on the borders of self-parody. Filmed on location, it evokes a gorgeous, hallucinatory (and largely twilight) world, but where Wong's dialogue once seemed so cute and rarefied in Cantonese, it now seems a little on the clichd side. Similarly, Law and Jones don't quite muster up the screen chemistry that made Wong's Hong Kong hits so adorable, and the offbeat detail that once worked so perfectly (in one scene, Jones and Law both sport bloody noses) comes across as contrived.

That's the beginning, however, and the minute Elizabeth begins her American odyssey the film starts to pick up speed. First port of call is Memphis, where Elizabeth takes two jobs (one in a caf, one in a bar) to earn money to buy a car. Fittingly for a Wong Kar-Wai movie, the bar is where the action is, chiefly a love-soaked, cuckolded cop (David Strathairn) whose young hellcat wife refuses to reconcile with him. Strathairn's performance is remarkable and injects the film with some much-needed human blood, with Rachel Weisz on good form as the troubled ex who can't handle a man who wants more than she can ever give him.


This, though, is just a warm-up to the film's main attraction: Natalie Portman as a Vegas card-sharp who enlists Elizabeth's friendship and takes her on a road trip to find more money that will keep her in business as a gambler. Portman has shown her natural talent in films as diverse and good/not good as Garden State and Closer, but here she really shows a new side to her abilities, playing the hard-bitten, careworn Lady Luck with genuine balls and an unexpected frailty. It's a shame, then, that the film never quite plays up to its players: Wong shoots and directs his cast with an understated sensitivity, but the story itself never quite marshals all the moments he gathers on screen. Still, as opening films go, this is one of Cannes' better choices, a striking, recognizably individual offering from an artist whose work offers everything that typifies the spirit of the auteur style, thought and through-lines. Die-hard fans might be disappointed but newcomers may be converted, and the back catalogue is there on DVD for both sets to go back to. And really that's what film festival are all about: the nexus of the old and new. Shame there wasn't a dog flying a plane in it, though.

Wednesday 16 May
Picture Of The Day

Jude Law arrives at the famous 'Martinez' Hotel.
Photo credit: PHOTOPQR/NICE MATIN/F. BAILLE


My Blueberry Nights Photocall


Cannes Jury Photocall

(L-R) Orhan Pamuk, Marco Bellocchio, Abderrahmane Sissako, Toni Collette, Maria de Medeiros, Stephen Frears, president of the jury, Sarah Polley, Maggie Cheung and Michel Piccoli.
Photo credit: Karwai Tang / Alpha


My Blueberry Nights Trailer

As the French Riviera prepares for the annual invasion of moviemakers, studio-shakers and probably the odd troublemaker, the films vying for a coveted gong at this year's Cannes Festival are beginning their campaigns today, as the sojourn by the sea beings its 2007 celebration.

One such movie is Wong Kar Wai's first English-speaking feature My Blueberry Nights, which has already been given the hallowed task of opening the proceedings later tonight. With an all star cast that includes Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Tim Roth, Norah Jones and David Strathairn, interest in the Chinese director's (and former Cannes Jury President) latest offering is extremely high. So with just hours to go before the film officially premieres, you can now watch the trailer online by clicking here. And remember to stay tuned to Empire for up to the minute news from the world's biggest film festival.


Click here to watch the trailer.


Exclusive Brothers Bloom Pictures


Damon's Diary: Your Guide To This Year's Festival


You wouldn't think it to look at it but the Cannes film festival is about to hit 60. Still the world-class movie event of the year, balancing serious art with berserk glamour, superstar frocks and oceans of free booze, Cannes is the only place you can actually rub shoulders with Arnold Schwarzenegger, feel clever for watching a three-hour Iranian road movie with French-only subtitles and steal a poster for a film with a dog flying a plane on it all within a square mile of the town's shimmering seafront.

This year the organisers are taking the bold step of opening with the new film by Wong Kar-Wei, the Hong Kong maverick whose last film, 2046, turned up a full day late for its festival debut. This year, however, Wong's film is firmly in the can, starring Norah Jones as a woman on an odyssey across America, visiting New York, Memphis and Vegas. Wong's first film in English, it boasts a terrific supporting cast Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, David Strathairn and Natalie Portman and promises just the right mix of star wattage, intelligence and mood to set the festival on its course.

The Competition will be interesting this year. As far back as December, while the film was still shooting, Quentin Tarantino told us of his intention to put Death Proof, the full version of his half of the Grindhouse double-bill he co-created with Robert Rodriguez, into the official selection. Although we've seen and approved of Grindhouse, and also read the original script, we've yet to see the full version of Death Proof, complete with its missing lapdance scene. Also interesting will be the Coen brothers' 'comeback' of sorts: their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country For Old Men, a violent western saga starring Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones.

The American side of things is backed up by David Fincher's criminally underrated Zodiac, a loose, open-ended serial-killer drama that flopped in the US but looks likely to galvanise European audiences with its atmospheric restaging of a crime spree that gripped the west coast. And although his style has become increasingly less American in recent years, there's also Paranoid Park, the latest from Gus Van Sant. A murder story set in high school, it stars an all-new cast (recruited from MySpace) and features prominent skateboarding and any more than that we just don't know at this stage.

Which is the beauty of Cannes most of the films opening here are world premieres, and as well as the obvious commercial highlights, there are unexpected goodies from all over the world. Van Sant, for example, will be competing against The Man From London by Bela Tarr, the Hungarian director whose drawn-out style inspired Van Sant's Gerry and, latterly, his rock movie Last Days. This is Tarr's first time in the big league, and the same goes for Russia's Andrei Zvyagintsev, whose sophomore film The Banishment will pique the curiosity of fans of his excellent 2003 debut The Return. And speaking of curiosity, it'll definitely be interesting to see if Mexico's Carlos Reygadas is intending to top his last Cannes competition entry, the sexually explicit Battle In Heaven (2005), with Silent Light, a hot-blooded tale of infidelity and guilt.

All this and we haven't even scratched the surface: elsewhere, Cannes features the latest upset from Bush-basher Michael Moore (Sicko), Leonardo DiCaprio's attempt to follow Al Gore into the political movie arean (The Eleventh Hour) and, of all things a screwball comedy from Abel Ferrara, director of The Driller Killer (Go-Go Tales). And in other strands, there's Gael Garcia Bernal's directing debut (Deficit), Anton Corbijnb's biopic of Joy Division's Ian Curtis (Control), and a gory-looking thriller with a blood-spattered Beatrice Dalle (Inside) to be going on with. All these movies and many more will come under Empire's scrutiny between tomorrow and next Saturday (May 26) when the festival officially ends. Keep checking the website for news, reviews, clips, insight and gossip. And remember, all you aspiring filmmakers, that although we've got appointments with Clooney, Scorsese, Angelina and Tarantino to keep, if your little British movie has a dog flying a plane in it we're there.


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