Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cannes Closing Film

Faye Dunaway Featured on 2011 Poster
French Writer / Director Christophe Honoré's film, Les Bien-aimés (The Beloved), will be screened on the Closing Night of the 64th Cannes Film Festival, Sunday May 22, 2011, following the closing night ceremony. At the ceremony before the screening, Robert De Niro and his jury will present the Festival awards.

This is not the first time at Cannes for Honoré. His first film in competition at the Festival was Les chansons d’amour (Love Songs) in 2007, for which he won Best Director. LOVE SONGS was nominated for a Palm d'Or.

This year, he returns for another walk on the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals accompanied by the French film pedigree of cinematographer Rémy Chevrin, composer Alex Beaupin, actors Catherine Deneuve, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroiani, Milos Forman, Louis Garrel, Michel Delpech and Paul Schneider.

In case you do not known, actress Chiara Mastroiani, also in LOVE SONGS, is the daughter of the late Italian actor, Marcello Mastroianni and actress Catherine Deneuve. 

Les Bien-aimés, filmed mainly in Canada, is set in the Prague of the sixties, London of the eighties, the world of 9/11/2001, and Paris of today. It is described as a singular, melancholy and romantic work of art. Prior to production, Honoré stated his attempt with the film was to contrast the 60s, those years of love and revolution and sexual liberation, with the 90s, the era permeated with the ominous threat of AIDS and an overall fear of commitment.

THE BELOVED, a dramatic musical, is an overt homage to Jacques Demy, especially his film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964, one of my all-time favorites. Demy, who was married to French actress Agnés Varda, was born in France in 1931, and died in Paris in 1990 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

With this movie, Honoré, one of the world’s most talented and original young filmmakers of his generation, befittingly closes this 64th Festival de Cannes. Les Bien-aimés, recently out of post production, is screening out of competition, and no release dates have been set.

The Festival opens May 11. To access Official Site in English, click the title of this post.

Friday, April 22, 2011

64th Cannes Festival Salutes Bollywood

Festival Official Selections announced. Click title of this post.

Bollywood - The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, is the title of a feature documentary  produced by Shekhar Kapoor exclusively for the Festival de Cannes. It will be screened out of competition during the 64th Festival that runs from 11 to 22 May.
It all began with a conversation with Shekhar Kapoor, a member of  the Cannes Jury in 2010. Why not make a film that brings together the most beautiful moments in the history of Indian musical films, with all their moving pageantry and dance? A few months later, there was Bollywood, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

It is a swirling and poignant montage in which Shekhar Kapoor, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
 Jeff Zimbalist pay tribute to this cinema genre that has contributed to establishing India’s identity in the eyes of the world and to making Mumbaione of the world capitals of film history.

Love Bollywood movies or hate them, be warned that Bollywood can be addictive. One thing for sure, anyone who watches a Bollywood movie and has no reaction, good or bad, has one foot in the grave. The movies are lively and fun. A cultural icon or not, that’s Bollywood, spawned in Mumbai, India!

Bollywood - The Greatest Love Story Ever Told - (India, 2011, 81 minutes).

For the 64th Cannes official selections and other information, click the title of this post.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bernardo Bertolucci to Receive Honorary Palme d'Or at Cannes

Beginning this year and onward, the organizers of the Festival de Cannes will award an annual Honorary Palme d'Or, which will be presented during the Opening Ceremony of the 64th International Festival de Cannes. This recognition will be given to an important filmmaker, whose work is authoritative but who never received a Palme d'Or.

In the recent past, Woody Allen, in 2002, or Clint Eastwood in 2009, were awarded this distinction by President Gilles Jacob, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Festival de Cannes. Now, it will become an annual tradition that will take place during the opening ceremony of the 64th Annual Festival and for festivals to come.

This year, the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci will receive this honor, and it is fitting that Robert De Niro, Chair of the Jury, will be there when it is presented. De Niro was one of the actors in Bertolucci's Novecento (1976). The opening ceremony will be held May 11th and the festival will run through May 22nd.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mimi Recommends: Water for Elephants

In the 1930s, a young Veterinary Medicine student, Jacob Jankowski, (Robert Pattinson, Twlight), abandons his studies when his parents are killed. It is the time of the Great Depression when traveling circuses were popular and abundant. Therefore, penniless and distraught, Jacob hits the road and takes a job caring for animals with a third-rate traveling circus.

Jacob falls in love with Marlena Rosenbluth, the beautiful young equestrian star of the Benzini Brothers’ Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Oscar* winner, Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) brings Marlena to life. She is the wife of August (Christoph Waltz), the head trainer at the circus.

Christoph Waltz is the Oscar-winning Australian actor who played the monstrous Nazi in Inglourious Basterds. He accepted the role of August when actor Sean Penn dropped out.

Because it is the time of the Great Depression,  everyone at Benzini Brothers feels lucky to have a job. Marlena, a waif of the Depression, considers she is doubly lucky because she is also married. That is, until she begins to fall in love with Jacob.

It does not take long before Jacob also falls in love with her. The love triangle further complicates both their lives. Meanwhile, Jacob, who is of Polish descent, has another love, Rosie, an elephant from Poland. Because Rosie understands Polish and he can speak it, they form a special bond.

If video embed doesn't work, use this link:

Water for Elephants is based on the historical novel of the same title by Canadian Author Sara Gruen, now a dual U.S. citizen. Her first novel, Riding Lessons (2004) was a hit and so was the sequel, Flying Changes (2005). Water for Elephants (2006) topped the NY Times Best-Seller list and sold four million copies. Her latest, The Ape House, was published in 2010.

The screenplay adaptation was written by Academy Award nominee Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King, 1981). Among his other screenplay adaptations, is that of the Robert James Waller novel for the beloved novel, and oscar-winning 1995 movie, The Bridges of Madison County.  

Water for Elephants, the movie, will premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles Thursday, April 14th. It is scheduled to open in the U.S. Friday, April 22nd.

The director was the popular Austrian music video director Francis Lawrence, who has directed videos for artists such as Britney Spears, Will Smith, Sarah McLachlan, and Aerosmith. He made his feature film directorial debut with I am Legend, starring Will Smith (2007).

A stellar list of credits include Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain, Babel, 21 Grams); Original Music by composer James Newton Howard (also known as James Howard Newton, Sixth Sense, The Fugitive); Production Designer Jack Fisk, or Fiske (There Will Be Blood, Mulholland Drive); Editor Allen Edward Bell (The Green Mile, (500) Days of Summer, A Few Good Men).

There is a plethora of other movie professionals in the cast and crew. Among the myriad professionals there is venerated actor Hal Holbrook who portrays Old Jacob and helps narrate the story. Tai, a female Asian elephant plays Rosie, the Benzini Brother's “Great White Hope” for a successful season. Warning, she may steal your heart.

Special Effects are by Crazy Horse Effects. Other production companies are Fox 2000 Pictures, 3 Arts Entertainment and Flashpoint Entertainment. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation is the main distributor.

Everything about this movie portends a successful run, plus awards at the end of the year. I recommend it, hoping it will not turn out to be only a short-lived 'Tourist'. That I doubt.

        *Oscar is registered by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Here Comes the Cannes Film Festival 2011

2011 Cannes Festival Poster
Faye Dunaway photographed by Jerry Schatzberg in 1970

Robert De Nero, Jury President

The 64th International Film Festival of Cannes will open May 11th and run through the 22nd. Cannes isn’t the oldest festival - that honor goes to Venice - but it is one of, if not the most, influential film festivals in the world.

The opening night ceremonies May 11th, presided over by Inglourious Basterds star Melanie Laurent, will feature the world premiere of Woody Allen’s latest, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, a romantic comedy (romcom), which will simultaneously open in theatres all over France. Allen, after romanticizing New York, Barcelona and London, moves on to Paris, which is already considered the most romantic city in the Western World.

For MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Allen has assembled a stellar international cast consisting of: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard (French, portrayed Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose), Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody (mother is 
Hungarian photographer Sylvia Plach; The Pianist), Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (Italo-French, and she is First Lady of France), Gad Elmaleh (Moroccan comedian) and Léa Seydoux (France, Inglourious Basterds). Sony Pictures has acquired the movie.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is officially a Spanish production, and no word yet if it will be in competition at Cannes. Usually, Allen’s films that have a festival premiere do not compete.

If embed doesn't work, click this link to watch trailer:

American actor/producer Robert De Niro will serve as President of the Jury at Cannes. As such he will preside over the main competition which awards the top prize, Palm d'Or (Golden Palm), to the Best Feature Film at the festival and other jury awards.

In issuing the invitation, the organizers stated they are also paying a tribute to the co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2011. Robert De Niro, well known for his love of New York, co-founded Manhattan’s Tribeca Film Center in 1989, the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, which has a sister festival in Doha.

Doha (DOUGH-ha) is the capital of the Emirate of Qatar (KAH-tar), but Qatar is not a member of the United Arab Emirates. It is, however, a member of The Arab League, the same Arab League that recently approved the no-fly policy for Libya. Doha’s sister city in the U.S. is Houston, Texas, and Doha will host the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2022.

Michel Gondry will preside over the Short Film and Cinefondation jury. One can hardly get more French than Gondry, who was born in Versailles, France. He won an Oscar for co-writing the screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which he also directed. Currently, his latest directorial effort, THE GREEN HORNET, released January 14, 2011, has grossed over $200 million world wide as this goes to press.

The Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica is president of the Un Certain Regard jury at the Festival. Every year, Un Certain Regard, alongside the Competition, presents around twenty films from countries the world over. The 2010 Prix Un Certain Regard Prix (Prize) was awarded to Korean director Hong Sang Soo (alternate name: Sang-Su Hong), for Ha Ha Ha.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Jean-Paul Belmondo Pictures    French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo will be honored on Tuesday, May 17, with a special evening held in his honor. He will walk the red carpet surrounded by friends and admirers and attend the première of Vincent Perrot and Jeff Domenech’s documentary, Belmondo, The Career. The screening will be followed by a dinner and party. Belmondo, from the late 1950s, worked with many of the world’s finest directors including: Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, François Truffaut, Claude Lelouch, Alain Resnais, Vittorio De Sica and Alberto Lattuada.

To access the Festival’s official Web site in various languages, click the title of this post. Then, select the language you want. Detailed information on all the films in the Official Selection, the Juries and certain events, will be available online one week prior to the opening of the Festival.

The Official Festival Press conference for the 64th Cannes International Film Festival will be held on April 14th. The 2011 press kit containing lists of the Juries and the films selected will be available to download after that date. There will be more information on all this in next weekend’s blog post.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Revisiting THE RAINS CAME - 1939

Tyrone Power and Myrna Loy
Loy and George Brent

Maria Ouspenskya
Jane Darwall

Henry Travers

Click the title of this post to watch a video. I watched this movie, one of my favorite old movies, a couple of nights ago. It is THE RAINS CAME (1939, Black and White). I streamed it from Netflix, and it is also available on DVD.

The story is based on the novel of the same title by Louis Bromfield, published in 1937. The movie is set in India when the world is on the brink of World War II but doesn't know it. India is still a British colony, and genteel times are still in vogue. The movie is tainted with certain Hollywood stereotypes at the time of 1939, but the movie stars, all dead now, plus the cinematography and the special effects at the time it was made, make it so very special.

THE RAINS CAME, produced by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Clarence Brown, stars Myrna Loy, Tyrone Power, George Brent, Brenda Joyce, Nigel Bruce, Marjorie Rambeau, Jane Darwall, Henry Travers, H.B. Warner and Maria Ouspenskya. All were in the 20th Century Fox actors stable, and all were well-known stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The movie won an Oscar for its special effects and, again, for the time in which the movie was made, they are spectacular. The story was somewhat ahead of its time, too.

The spoiled wife, Lady Edwina Esketh (Loy), of an older British diplomat, Lord Albert Esketh (Bruce), assigned to the Province of Ranchipur, India, falls in love with a handsome, much-younger Indian doctor, Major Rama Safti (Power). Sparks fly between them. Well, they fly as much as the the Motion Picture censorship code (Hays Code), enacted in 1930, would allow.

Rama comes to love Edwina, and it is okay because by this time her husband has been killed. Meanwhile, a young woman, Fern Simon (Joyce), sets her cap for Tom Ransome (Brent), a British artist/businessman, and friend of Rama.

Turns out that Major Rama Safti has been a favorite for a long time of the Maharajah (W.H. Warner) and his Maharani, played by the wonderful Russian character actress Maria Ouspenskya. The Maharajah and the Maharani have a mission for Rama. They are concerned that Edwina could hinder that mission.

Edwina had some kind of previous affair with Tom, but it is okay, too, because they, Edwina and Tom, broke up a long time ago. They still care for each other but only as friends. Spoiler Alert: Edwina and Rama's love remains unrequited because of tragedy. How it comes about says volumes about the societal mores of the time.

Anyone hankering to see a movie the way they used to make them, when men were dapper and perfect gentlemen; women were beautiful graceful nymphs, while their demeanor demanded utmost respect; this movie is for you, especially if you are a woman.

RAINS is set in India but it was filmed in Malibu Canyon outside Los Angeles. Oh, the magic of the movies.

When I taught part time and did graduate study at the USC School of Cinema, the cinema books and the professors stated that Orson Welles, when directing CITIZEN KANE (1942), was the first director to us "deep focus" and show ceilings in the rooms. I didn't quite believe it. I was sure I had seen both somewhere before.

When I saw THE RAINS CAME for the second time, I marveled at the clarity of the deep focus, and that ceilings were shown in some of the rooms. I cannot say that director Clarence Brown was the first to use these techniques in RAINS, because both movies were in production about the same time, but I can say that Welles probably was not the first.

There were others at the time doing the same thing, but it was the way Welles used both the deep focus and ceilings that set CITIZEN KANE apart, and why today it is still on so many lists of top-ten-movies-of-all-time.

THE RAINS CAME was released in the same time frame as THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND, both in color, a rarity at the time, but as with OZ, mostly in color. Because of that, RAINS got little press and hardly made a ripple in the history of cinema. Walt Disney's FANTASIA, also in color, was released a year later.

Someone was aware of the problem with the release of RAINS because it was remade by 20th Century Fox in color (1955) as THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR, with Lana Turner, Richard Burton, Fred MacMurray, Joan Caulfield, Michael Rennie and Eugenie Leontovich. This version had a big budget and was filmed in Lahore, Pakistan.

All of the original movie is pretty much there, especially the earthquake and the flood. It, too, was nominated for a special effects Oscar, but did not win. Color did not help in that department. I still like the original better, even with its stereotypes and hokeyness, which now makes the original more fun to watch.

By the way, I did meet Orson Welles at the original Universal Studios production complex, not one of their fantasy playgrounds. I had barely arrived at USC and one of my new fellow students took me there to one of those screenings that are followed by Q and A with someone involved in the production. Then, afterward, one shakes hands with the celebrity of the evening and moves right along to the exit.

I was so in awe to be in the same room as Orson Welles, that I did not remember the movie they screened, or who else was there. I still don't. It was like meeting Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas. I simply got lost in their eyes.

Later, when I was teaching a German film summer seminar in Germany, I learned that director Leni Riefenstahl said the same thing about her first meeting with Adolf Hitler. Oh, my.

Next up: Here Comes Cannes!