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Overview of films at 63rd Cannes

There was a protest today about the Algerian movie, and the French people are concerned how this piece of history might reflect its point of view.  Passing through Paris there was news of a protest in the city which greatly effected traffic.  

Last Monday meetings and flights were cancelled again for those flying in and out of Heathrow and Rotterdam, with renewed concern because of volcanic ash.  None of this stopped the artists, and producers from coming to Cannes to continue their work, and to meet.

The whole feeling here is less about the stars, and more about the quality of the films, and the important stories they tell.  Early stories of Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, and Oliver Stone's, Money Never Sleeps, which makes a comment of the world shock of international markets, collapsing because of bad loans for housing, and banks and the economy being effected by a few greedy people who found a way for personal gain, without thinking of the world they might be leaving their grandchildren.

Doug Liman's Fair Game tackles the Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame story, a husband and wife who found themselves in the middle of a government's decision to invade Iraq, and how this impacts their personal lives and integrity, as well as the fate of nations.  Ken Loach also tells his Iraq story with the Irish Road. There is a type of purging on the beach,

Javier Bardem stars as a man helping immigrants and profiting as he is dying in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu'sBiutiful. Watching this film you often feel like Javier's character as he is continuously pissing blood. The film is set in a Barcelona that a tourist will never see, and the underbelly of a city where Chinese workers live as slaves, and others from Senegal risk their lives each day to send money back to their families who are starving in their own countries.  Somewhere, somehow there must be a balance. Unfortunately it is not in this film as there is no relief for anyone. Good intentions are rewarded with misery or death and a father's desperate search for someone to care for his children is thwarted. Betrayal is the operative word in this movie.

And then there is Woody Allen with You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, who casts Sir Anthony Hopkins as a businessman at the end of his life against the backdrop of modern London where he is fighting for immortality by marrying a very young body of a woman who he had met paying for her services.  His ex-wife has been seeing psychiatrists to no avail and their daughter sets her up with a psychic she personally believes is a charlatan.  It seems she believes there is life for her again, and as she believes she will meet a new mate, she does.  This is not Woody Allen at his best but it is enjoyable and that is something that can't be said for many of the films in the competition.

Steven Frears tackles a story from a novel, Tamara Drewe set in the English countryside, where a young beautiful woman returns, after her mother has passed away, and left her the house. Across the road is the home of a famous commercial writer whose wife runs a retreat for other writers in search of their muse.  It is amusing and one of the few comedies I have seen at the festival. The audience I saw it with was very appreciative.

One of my personal favorites was Mike Leigh's new film Another Year. Leigh deals with the aging process and London, but instead of archetypes that Woody Allen portrays, in a Tall Dark Stranger, these characters seem like real people you might know. The story is woven around one happy couple who have traveled in the 60's , and continue to grow together as they work, cook and garden. They  look forward to their son finding love.  He finds a woman like his mother, who nurtures and helps others, they provide this in their extended friendships as well.  There is something very sweet and human, and real about this film, which is refreshing. Year after year Mike Leigh can be counted on to bring human warmth to Cannes and once again he succeeds as a seasoned auteur.

The Premiere of the Russian film, Burnt by the Sun, Part II, flashes back to the original and picks up the story 6 years later as the German Army invades Russia.  It was amazing to see  Actor, Writer, Director, Producer,  Nikita Mikhalkov with his daughter who was a small child in the original, all grown up and so beautiful as an adult. He won the Best Foreign Language Film Academy award for his original. The story traces Kotov's character who was sent to prison, and has lost track of his family and believes they are dead. Unknown to him they are both alive and his daughter's continues to search for him.  The battle scenes are extremely realistic with one of 240 6 foot tall young recruits more accustomed to parading around the Kremlin joining a ragtag company of deserters and criminals preparing makeshift trenches to slow the advancing Germans. The soldiers are mercilessly trampled by German tanks in their first combat. This scene was striking in it's content and cinematography.  There were also numerous scenes of cruelty by the advancing Nazi forces in their treatment of civilians. Stalin was not spared in this film. He was often portrayed as out of touch and more concerned with petty issues while his country and its people were being devastated. But there was a theme of faith prevalent throughout the film even in the worst of circumstances.  This is powerful as it contrasts the spirit of the youthful pioneer adhering to Stalin's ideals with the simple faith of people in a time of crisis. The film ends with a striking scene of the daughter on a devasted battlefield and the title end of part 1. We were told by a Russian sales agent that the final installment is finished and will be released next year. The version shown in Cannes had between 30-40 minutes cut from its running time it was just released in Russia amid much controversy.

There were few comedies on the Croissete, other than Woody Allen.

The Israeli government has announced that they are interested in now funding comedies.  They too are seeking to create a new vision for their industry, rather than continue telling the same sad war stories.  As filmmakers we have the opportunity to share our vision, poetry history and the future, it is an awesome experience, taking it all in. After the events of the last few years adding some more comedies to the mix should appeal to audiences that have suffered through wars, economic meltdowns, increased unemployment and now volcanoes.

Marla Lewin


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