The yacht rentals and high-end Hotel du Cap parties will be scarcer this year, and those who attend the world’s premier annual film festival for social reasons more than cinematic ones may actually notice the recessionary drop in the glitz.
Everyone else will be too frantic, sleep-deprived and cinematically consumed to notice.
For 12 days every year on the Riviera, the global film world’s denizens converge for the glorious pile-up that is the Cannes Film Festival. This year’s festival begins Wednesday.
This year’s 20 titles in the main competition include works by old masters, including 86-year-old Alain Resnais; the latest Pedro Almodovar/Penelope Cruz collaboration; and the newest ode to humanity’s darkest impulses courtesy of Michael Haneke, who brought the world “Cache.”
Quentin Tarantino, who owes this festival a lot — when “Pulp Fiction” won the top prize, the Palme d’Or, his life was changed forever — returns with the World War II adventure “Inglourious Basterds,” a loose remake of the 1978 Italian film.
What does this have to do with eyeballs in America?
A lot. The Cannes success stories become the art-house and specialty offerings a few months or a year later in the United States. Sometimes the winner of the Palme d’Or ends up doing well everywhere; sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes, as with the case of the recent Oscar winner “The Lives of Others,” a film that didn’t make the cut for serious awards consideration ends up being discovered in the Cannes marketplace and goes on to gross millions worldwide.
“It’s the world’s biggest marketplace of new movies,” says Barbara Scharres, programming director of the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Beyond the 20 titles competing for the Palme d’Or, thousands more are scheduled for an official debut as part of one of several juried sidebars (the new Francis Coppola film, “Tetro,” dominates the Directors’ Fortnight slate) or the market, where the Estonian film representative can be found alongside the delegation from Turkey, or Iceland.
An annual visitor since 1989, the Siskel programming director keeps an eye open for prospects suited to the Siskel calendar in the coming year and beyond, for its annual European Union festival (next one: March 2010) and the fall 2010 festival of new Iranian cinema.
She’s there as a fan as well as a connoisseur. “Hong Kong cinema is close to my heart,” she says, “and I’m particularly looking forward to the new Johnnie To film ‘Vengeance.’” (They’re all about vengeance, but this one’s called “Vengeance.”) From the director Park Chan-wook comes “Thirst,” about a monk who turns into a vampire after a botched medical experiment. New works from Jane Campion (“The Piano”) and Andrea Arnold (who made the superb thriller “Red Road”) also will receive their world premieres in Cannes.
Like Scharres, Milos Stehlik and Michael Kutza — founders, respectively, of Facets Cinematheque and the Chicago International Film Festival — travel each year to Cannes looking for titles to present here in Chicago under their respective banners. William Schopf of the film distribution company Music Box Films goes to Cannes with a different mission: He’s looking for titles to acquire for English-language release, with the hope of landing next year’s art-house success story.
Music Box certainly found last year’s: “Tell No One,” acquired for North American distribution by Schopf and company, became the most popular 2008 foreignlanguage title in the United States.
“I see Cannes as two different worlds,” Schopf says.
“There’s the stars walking the red carpet. And then there’s the hard work of the marketplace — trying to figure out what’s available, what might play in your territory, and what we can grab before Sony Pictures Classics does.”
For the full Cannes lineup, go to festival-cannes.com.
IN COMPETITION AT FESTIVAL DE CANNES
“Bright Star,” Australia-U.K., Jane Campion
“Spring Fever,” Hong Kong-France, Lou Ye
“Antichrist,” Denmark-Germany-France-Sweden-Italy, Lars von Trier
“Enter the Void,” France-Germany, Gaspar Noe
“Face,” Taiwan-France-Belgium-Netherlands, Tsai Ming-liang
“Wild Grass,” France, Alain Resnais
“In the Beginning,” France, Xavier Giannoli
“A Prophet,” France, Jacques Audiard
“The White Ribbon,” Germany-Austria-France-Italy, Michael Haneke
“Vengeance,” Hong Kong, Johnnie To
“The Time That Remains,” France-Belgium-Italy-U.K., Elia Suleiman
“Vincere,” Italy, Marco Bellocchio
“Kinatay,” France-Philippines, Brillante Mendoza
“Thirst,” South Korea, Park Chan-wook
“Broken Embraces,” Spain, Pedro Almodvar
“Fish Tank,” U.K., Andrea Arnold
“Map of the Sounds of Tokyo,” Spain, Isabel Coixet
“Looking for Eric,” U.K.-France-Italy-Belgium-Spain, Ken Loach
“Inglourious Basterds,” U.S.-Germany, Quentin Tarantino
“Taking Woodstock,” U.S., Ang Lee