Sunday 22 April 2012

Spotlight On Cannes 2012 Part 1 - Who Is Missing

The Cannes film festival this year will be of particular significance to me as this will be my first visit since 1998! Ironically this is also going to be the first visit of Thomas "Festen" Vinterberg since 1998 and I could have done without him coming back. But I digress. The line-up was announced a few days ago and I have obviously taken an even closer interest than usual. But before going into the details of the films that will be there, let's have a look at those films that were rumoured to be in but did not make the line-up.

Once the initial excitement of the line-up evaporates, you tend to remember all the titles that were rumoured to make it but did not. First of all, Prometheus. I was alone in predicting that it would come to La Croisette and it turned out that everybody else was right. I still cannot understand it, it is certainly the most anticipated blockbuster of the summer, with a respected director which is unusual for the genre, and Cannes loves to bring in a couple of blockbusters every year, to attract some media attention and to balance out a selection which contains so many small, arthouse films. Surely its absence has nothing to do with the film's quality, after all, they did select Mission to Mars, Pirates of the Caribbean 4 and even Madagascar 3 this year. The only reason I can think of is that the festival did not fit in Fox Studio's carefully orchestrated marketing plan for whatever reason. Strange also that Madagascar 3 was picked over Men In Black 3, which would have offered a starrier premiere also. Actually what are on earth are they doing showing Madagascar 3 in the first place?

Also missing, Terrence Malick's new film, which surprises just about nobody. Although when I saw new film, the man has got four on the go at the moment, so we might end up having them all in Cannes in 2015. Hell, wait a few more years and Cannes might decide to have a selection only made of Malick's film in 2019.

More disappointing is the exclusion of Park Chan Wook first forey into the English language with Stoker (penned by Mr Prison Break, Wentworth Miller) whose glam cast (Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver, Mia Wasikowska...) would have made for a great red carpet premiere. The South Korean director, one of my favourites, is no stranger to Cannes, having already won the Grand Prix in 2004 for Oldboy and the Special Jury Prize in 2009 for Thirst. Either the film is not finished or (gasp), it was not deemed good enough. The studio might have decided to keep it for the autumn double bill of Toronto/Venice although its horror genre makes it a less likely oscar bait.

Another less than surprising absence is Wong Kar Wai with The Grandmasters, the story of martial art masters Ip-Man. The Chinese director is another one who likes to take his time, with his latest film already rumoured to be in the selection... last year! The story also goes that Wong Kar Wai handed over the reel of 2046 a mere few hours before its Cannes screening. The film has a release date planned in December in China, so again it might be a case of the film not being finished yet.

The Savages by Oliver Stone seemed like a fairly safe bet. The combination of a starry cast (John Travolta and Uma Thurman who would have made for a great appearance in La Croisette 18 years after the Palme winning Pulp Fiction but also Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively...) and a well liked director (although when was the last time Oliver Stone made a good film?), plus a release date moved to the summer, yet it just did not happen.

Strangely enough, Woody Allen will not be showing From Rome With Love. Having his films in the selection had become a bit of a tradition again after a long absence, and Midnight in Paris was a triumphant opening film last year, on the way to becoming its most successful film ever. But From Rome With Love had its premiere in Italy instead (to some rather unkind reviews), a few days ago, and opened in cinemas there also. This alone does not disqualify it (films that have been released in a maximum of two countries are still eligible for the selection) but another premiere so soon would not have had the same impact, and Cannes is not used to playing second fiddle.

So this is what is missing. But fear not, the festival has a very exciting line-up, and I shall put the spotlight on a few titles in my next post.

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