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Critics Week and Directors' Fortnight
Posted on Sunday April 26, 2009, 12:28 by Damon Wise

Just a quick note to comment on the line-ups of both Critics Week and Directors' Fortnight, both of which were announced earlier than I expected. To be honest, Critics Week has mostly been a mystery to me, since it showcases many unknown talents. When time is at a premium, it’s not always possible to spare the time to take a gamble in Cannes, and I hate walking out of a movie. (You’d be surprised how many people are happy to do so; I once saw a slightly older guy walk out of Mulholland Drive after less than half an hour, which made me wonder whether some of the people who attend this festival actually know anything about cinema at all.) This year’s Critics Week is another mysterious selection, then. I was hoping to see at least one British title in there, but it didn’t make the cut. Still, the selection is strong on films from Latin America, a pretty hot region of late, especially for – believe it or not – comedies (Tony Manero and Rudo Y Cursi are two of my recent favourites from the area). Something I’ll try to catch is Camilo Matiz's 1989, a Colombian feature starring my old friend Vincent Gallo. That’s “old friend” in the sense of “I think he hates me”, and it’s been that way ever since I helped to put him on the cover of the now-defunct Neon magazine in 1998 for his fantastic debut as director, Buffalo 66. I seem to remember that it was partly because the headline of the image – a picture of him with Christina Ricci – was not to his liking. “Beauty and the boast,” it said. “I’d rather be a beast than a boast,” he apparently fumed.

But I digress. Gallo has been quiet lately, and certainly hasn’t been in Cannes since The Brown Bunny, a very unfairly maligned film that bowed there in 2003. It was very fashionable, and practically compulsory, to hate that film, but even in its awkward and far too long original cut there were some rather beautiful moments. If you’ve never seen it, the 90-minute release version is much better, and if nothing else it will alert you to the melancholy stylings of Jackson C Frank, whose Milk And Honey scores this particular trailer. But let’s put The Brown Bunny behind us. As well as 1989, Gallo will presumably be in town to promote Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro, which he apparently filmed at the same time and which opens this year’s Directors' Fortnight. Coppola’s latest is a “personal and independent” study of two brothers who meet in Buenos Aires to discuss their difficult past, and I must admit I’m surprised to see its inclusion after the director’s somewhat disingenuous statement turning down an out-of-competition place in the official selection. He seemed to be suggesting that he wouldn’t be going to Cannes at all this year; instead, he’ll simply be just a little bit further down the road, presumably having been enticed by some slightly younger people. I’ll certainly look out for Tetro, but after Youth Without Youth I’m a little worried that Coppola is headed in precisely the opposite direction as his old friend George Lucas and I wish both of them would go back to the middle ground, where contemporary mainstream cinema needs them more.

Surprisingly, Coppola is the only big name in the Directors' Fortnight line-up (I thought Steven Soderbergh might crop up there with The Girlfriend Experience, or Jim Jarmusch, with The Limits Of Control), and, as with Critics Week, there are quite a few unknown quantities in the mix. One the few titles I’m even actually aware of is Denis Villeneuve’s Polytechnique, which has instantly made it onto my want-to-see list, being an Elephant-style study of a shocking campus massacre that happened 20 years ago this year in Montreal (there’s a good trailer here). And of the three USA titles there (Coppola's film’s pedigree is listed as Argentina, Spain and Italy), all come direct from Sundance in January. I missed but heard interesting things about Cherien Dabis' Amreeka, in which a divorced Palestinian woman emigrates to Illinois with her teenage son, but I am instantly forced to wonder why this worthy film has caught so many people’s attentions when the much more uncomfortable, and hence criminally neglected, Towelhead (directed by American Beauty writer Alan Ball and dealing with a Lebanese girl displaced to Texas) remains floating in the ether. I missed Humpday in Sundance too, because of its connection with the Duplass brothers, whose The Puffy Chair (an aquired taste) caused a diplomatic incident in the sitting room when I tried to show it to my girlfriend. Still, I’m hearing good things about this low-fi comedy, billed as the ultimate bromance, in which two straight friends drunkenly vow to make a gay porn film. The third is a film I have seen, and I’m just dying to see what Cannes makes of I Love You Phillip Morris (pictured), a sort of perverse Catch Me If You Can starring Jim Carrey as a gay con artist who falls in love with his cellmate (Ewan McGregor). In a festival that seems to be light on laughs, I think this very dark, and often jaw-dropping true story will be the source of many arguments as to whether it is or isn’t funny. Personally, I thought it was, but I’m getting ready for a lot of heated arguments with people saying otherwise.

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