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Cannes Line-Up 2009
Posted on Thursday April 23, 2009, 14:42 by Damon Wise

Who cares about Cannes? Well, I do. Perhaps too much. When the festival announces its line-up, I often have a sense of disappointment before it's even begun. In the weeks prior, there's always lots of mad speculation about the films that could, should and will be there, so that when they're not, I get a totally unfair feeling of anticlimax. Today, for example, I'm already wondering why the Coens' A Serious Man isn't going, or, more strangely, Steven Soderbergh's The Informant, which I know the director wrapped and edited before Christmas. Personally, I was sure that Werner Herzog's hotly anticipated (but only by me) Bad Lieutenant remake would be there, but, no, it's not.

The other reason I get a tinge of disappointment is that certain films are so assured of a slot, it barely feels like news. Into this category fall the likes of Lars Von Trier's arthouse horror flick Antichrist, which has been mooted for a Competition slot since the dawn of time, Ken Loach's football-based drama Looking For Eric (the French just LOVE their Ken Loach), and Pedro Almodovar's tribute to film noir and filmmaking Broken Embraces. All this is without even mentioning, of course, our old friend Quentin Tarantino's hotly anticipated WW2 epic film Inglourious Basterds, which he announced would be ready in time for this year's Cannes several days before the last one was even over. An amazing achievement, given that it only wrapped in Feb.

Now that I've had chance to think about the Competition line-up, I think I'm starting to like it. I usually pick three must-sees – and by that, I mean I will actually kill you if you dare get in my way – and this year's three are looking to be Inglourious Basterds, Antichrist and Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock, which I've deliberately read very little about. Then there are the second-tier must-see films, the ones I really do want to see, but don't mind waiting between three and 24 hours for if I absolutely have to. You see, there's a hideous lack of etiquette on the Croisette, and sometimes it's much nicer to avoid the bunfight and catch the film at a less busy screening room that isn't, as QT might say, all assholes and elbows. Into this category, I'm putting Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus, Alejandro Amenabar's Agora, Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void, Park Chan-Wook's Thirst, Bong Joon-Ho's Mother, Michel Gondry's L'Epine Dans Le Coeur and Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell, which I've seen, and very much enjoyed, but wouldn't mind seeing again in its full, bells-and-whistles, finished form.

It's too early to say just yet how the festival will pan out – Critics Week and Director's Fortnight have yet to unveil their lists, and often feature some gems – but the thing that leaps out right now is that running times are starting to creep back up. Tarantino's film we knew would be an epic (2hrs 40 is currently the estimated duration), and Gaspar Noe has clearly given in to pressure to cut his own masterwork down to 2hr 30 from a rumoured 3hrs plus, but who would ever expect a 2hr film from the usually sprightly Ken Loach? I also see that the festival is being kinder to genre than usual, allowing Von Trier's existential horror piece and Park Chan-Wook's vampire thriller to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with such traditional festival fare as Jane Campion's Bright Star, which sees her back to working with low-key talent, and Michael Haneke's The White Band, another departure for the usually austere Austrian, in that it's a WW1-time school drama rather than some punishing nonsense about a piano teacher cutting her bits off (oh, by the way, Isabelle Huppert's head of the jury, so expect this to win something). I also salute Cannes for continuing to back Johnnie To, even though his film's have never really caught on in the west. I'm actually quite keen to his new film Vengeance since it has Johnny Hallyday in it; I'm the only non-Franc̹ais who likes the old rocker.

But whatever you think, there's a lot of cinema in the world, and it's tough to please everybody all the time. In light of that, I think Cannes has made some interesting choices this year, and as for the mysteries lurking in the Un Certain Regard section, I like that even more. Last year, I didn't know I was going to like James Toback's portrait of boxer Mike Tyson, hate Abel Ferrara's Chelsea Hotel doc, and thoroughly enjoy a little film from somewhere called Hollywood, titled Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. You may have heard of it. I think that's why I like Cannes most of all: it surprises you...

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1 punchdrunk
Posted on Thursday April 23, 2009, 20:40
ooooo Sorry Damo you lost me at liking 'INDY Jones & the kingdom of the crystal skulls' but fortunately it was at the end of the piece :P

I agree that It's strange some of the regulars are not showing up, but then again they seem to be the type who whould not show up because people expect to show up, then brag in interviews about how unpredictable they are, which would be a predictable thing for them to do...

2 richCie
Posted on Friday April 24, 2009, 15:38
yeh hang on Damo, you liked Indy? not sure if i should pay attention to your recommendations anymore :S mind you i'd already decided i wanted to see most of them so i suppose you're forgiven.
i hadnt expected A Serious Man to be there, hadn't heard anything bout it being wrapped or anything like that - is it? have i missed something? i'm looking forward to that in any case, Coens are certainly back on form lately.
damn i wish i could go to Cannes, i had festivals like this, you always see all these films that sound excellent but which you know won't surface on our screens for god knows how long. there's still a fair few that showed at LFF that i'm still waiting for, really must start going to festivals...

3 Acho
Posted on Friday April 24, 2009, 22:22
Good to see Damo sticking to his guns on liking Indy 4 - he was the one who gave it the 4 star review last year!

I'm actually kind of impressed that Tarantino has Inglourious Basterds all ready for this Cannes. It was quite the ambitious statement from him last year, and to turn the film around (including writing it!) in a relatively short space of time is no small achievement. Especially as it's not exactly some little indie drama, with a 20 day shooting schedule. I hope it holds up now.

I'm quite looking forward to Taking Woodstock myself. Ang Lee seems to flit from genre to genre with ease, so it'll be interesting to see how this turns out. And I like Demetri Martin too.

Beyond that, there are a few other titles on the line up that I'm looking forward to, and for the others, I await reports on this blog and further afield. It's all so new and exciting!

And Richie, festival going is a must! Great way to combine a holiday and (potentially) quality film viewing. I'll refrain from plugging my current one here though....!

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