Gautaman Bhaskaran
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Cannes 2008: The selection

Everybody loves to be at Cannes, arguably the queen of film festivals. Many try, some succeed and some fail. Those who try, try pretty hard. Nobody thought

Angelina Jolie in Changeling

Clint Eastwood would finish his movie, “Changeling”, in time for Cannes. He did complete, and he rushed in to do so, with star Angelina Jolie all willing and smiling. “Changeling” will compete with a host of others for the top Golden Palm, which, this time, will be given away by Robert de Niro, whose “Taxi Driver”, “Cape Fear” and “Godfather” continue to excite us till this day.

Steven Soderbergh is another helmer who raced against time to bring in his “Che”, a four-hour biopic on the Latin American revolutionary, Che Guevara”. I remember Soderbergh’s “Sex Lies and Videotape” that caused a stampede outside the Kolkata venue at the International Film Festival of India in the early 1990s. Since then he has given us a mixed bag of “Erin Brockovich”, “Traffic”, “Full Frontal” and “The Good German”.

Both Soderbergh and Eastwood are familiar faces on the Cannes Crioisette. Eastwood’s “Mystic River” and earlier “Unforgiven”, went well with critics and others. In fact, one of the best features of Cannes is its policy of getting big names into the Festival, followed by new comers and experimental movies. It is another thing that in name of experiment some rank bad cinema gets in. India’s “Devdas”, “The Brown Bunny” and Murali Nair are classic examples of what I would consider disasters.

What is even more unnerving is Cannes’ misses: We have never had an Adoor Gopalakrishnan work since 1982, when his “Elippathayam” (The Rat-Trap) played in A Certain Regard. There are many other examples, but an auteur like Adoor needs to be seen at Cannes. And what about other brights like Anurag Kashyap, Tanuja Chandra and Aparna Sen. And, men like Kerala’s T.V. Chandran too need a closer look.


Zero for India


Despite these Indian misses, Cannes this year has managed to rustle up a programme that is as good as the one we saw in 2002, which produced “City of God”, “The Pianist” and “About Schmidt”. Along with Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Atom Egoyan and Woody Allen, Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Brazil's Walter Salles, Germany's Wim Wenders and Hong Kong's Wong Kar Wai will be seen on the French Riviera. And Cannes knows all of them, indeed very well.

France will be in its usual strength. Catherine Deneuve and Arnaud Desplechin's family drama, "A Christmas Tale", will be one to look forward to. Director Philippe Garrel is in Competition for the first time in his 40-year-plus career. His "La Frontiere de l'aube" stars his son, Louis, along with Nathalie Baye's daughter, Laura Smet. A third French work in Competition, “Entre Les murs” by Laurent Cantet, has just been added.

“Two Lovers” by James Gray with Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow is another late addition in Competition.

Ceylan’s “Three Monkeys”, Egoyan’s “Adoration”, Ari Folman’s “Waltz With Bashir”, Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York”, Brillante Mendoza’s “Serbis” and Wim Wenders’ “Palermo Shooting” are some others in Competition picked from a huge mountain of 1692 DVDs.

Cannes will open on May 14 with Fernando Meirelles’ “Blindness”, shot partly in Toronto. We would have Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alice Braga, Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal gracing the Red Carpet, something everybody loves to do.

Barry Levinson’s “What Just Happened” will draw the curtain on May 25, with Bruce Willis, Robin Wright Penn, Sean Penn and Robert de Niro in attendance.

(Webposted April 30 2008)