Sunday, April 26, 2009

Here Comes Cannes

The world-renown Cannes Film Festival will open in Cannes, France, 13 May, and run through 24 May 2009, 16 days away at the time of this post. This year is the 62nd edition. Gilles Jacob is president.

Significant Festival history will be made beginning on opening day with the computer-generated animated movie UP (Disney-Pixar, directed by Peter Docter), opening the Festival with its international premiere. This is the first time an animated movie has opened the Cannes Festival, and UP is not just any animated movie, it is in digital 3-D. The top prize is the Golden Palm (Palm d'Or). It could make more Festival history if UP won it, but UP is screening out of competition. The movie is scheduled to release in the U.S. 29 May.

French actress Isabelle Huppert is the jury president at this year's Festival. Only three other women have helmed the panel in the six decades of the Festival. The other women so honored: Liv Ullmann, Jeanne Moreau and Fran├žoise Sagan.

The director lineup in the main competition of 20 strong films will include directors Quentin Tarantino (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), Ang Lee (TALKING WOODSTOCK), Pedro Almodovar (BROKEN EMBRACES), Jane Campion (BRIGHT STAR) [won as director of THE PIANO, the first woman to win the Golden Palm for directing], Ken Loach (LOOKING FOR ERIC), and Lars von Trier (ANTICHRIST).

Asian films are strong this year. Chinese movies joining Ang Lee's, are Hong Kong director Johnny To's VENGENCE, Park Chan-wook's (THIRST), and Ye Lou's and SPRING FEVER.

One of the Festivals' special screenings will be for HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR by French director Alain Resnais, one of the outstanding French New Wave directors. This year, the Festival commemorates the 50-year anniversary of the film's first screening at Cannes, and Resnais (86) brings his latest film, WILD GRASSES, to Cannes. Two of his fellow countrymen will join him to represent France, Jacques Audiard (A PROPHET) and Xavier Giannoli (IN THE BEGINNING).

Another showcase will be the last film performance of Heath Ledger in the Terry Gilliam fantasy THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS. Ledger died mid-shoot last year and his part was completed by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell. Ledger was awarded a posthumous Oscar® this year for his supporting-actor performance as The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT.

One of the biggest galas associated with the festival, is actually a benefit gala held outside the main Festival, but in conjunction with it - - the annual European fundraiser sponsored by the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR). American actress Sharon Stone will host it again on 21 May. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton and the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Carine Roitfeld, Michelle Yeoh and Donatella Versace will be among 800 personalities attending.

This year for the first time, the benefit gala will be held at a Riviera palace, the Eden Roc, at Cap d'Antibes. Singer Annie Lennox will give a special performance. Last year's event raised $10 million.

The closing night film is Dutch-born, now French director, Jan Kounen's COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY, screening out of competition. I shall be following the Festival from now until it closes 24 May.

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