By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 14, 2009 at 9:50AM
What a difference casting makes. Thursday's competition film from Andrea Arnold, her second feature Fish Tank, features a break-out performance from Irish actor Michael Fassbender, who made a mark as a starving IRA prisoner in Hunger, and who also stars in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. Often shirtless in Fish Tank, Fassbender had women buzzing after the picture. The movie played well for critics but will likely be a hurry-up-and-wait buy for an IFC, Magnolia or Sony Classics.
Francis Ford Coppola made the right call allowing his semi-autobiographical tale of two brothers Tetro to be shown as the Directors Fortnight opener. Coppola considers the elegant black-and-white drama, which was filmed in Argentina with color flashbacks, to be a small, personal independent film, and told the audience at a Q & A that he felt more comfortable, once there were no competition slots available, with the Fortnight berth. Coppola may wind up releasing the film himself. His script is impressive, but the film suffers from a sprawling polyglot ensemble ranging from Spain's Maribel Verdu and Carmen Maura and Austrian Klaus Maria Brandauer to Americans Vincent Gallo and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, who don't seem to belong in the same movie, much less the same family. I saw Gallo, who had a rough time at Cannes 2003 debuting his unfinished Brown Bunny, flirting with a girl in the lobby of the Carlton Wednesday, but he didn't turn up to Thursday's morning Q & A, to Coppola's annoyance. THR's Gregg Kilday interviews Coppola, while Variety features Lars Von Trier.
UPDATE: Jeff Wells shot video of Coppola after the nighttime showing:
Many folks report that the fest is slimmed down this year. Everyone seems to have trimmed their sales so that those who are here are focused on the job at hand. Extraneous expenses are out. Cannes vet Rex Weiner, who has worked both sides of the street as trade journo, filmmaker and publicist, writes up his insider take on the current state of covering Cannes for the Huffington Post. While the two trades both have a toned down presence on the Croisette, they are not slacking in their coverage. It's smart to save on importing expensive personnel by doing the production back in L.A.
Day Three Preview:
Friday brings the first showing of Jane Campion's Bright Star, which Bob Berney and Bill Pohlad are distributing stateside in September. I remember talking to Campion in 1993, the year she won the Palme d'Or for The Piano.
Martin Scorsese is coming to town to introduce a restored Technicolor print of the late Michael Powell's The Red Shoes, which was shot by recently deceased cinematographer Jack Cardiff. He will also pay tribute to Roger Ebert at 2:30 PM at a dedication of The Roger Ebert Conference Center at the American Pavilion. Ebert hasn't been able to fly to the Croisette for several years and promised me he would attend this year. Glad he could make it. He's at his usual digs at the Splendid, where I caught a gaggle of critics hanging out before dinner (from left Derek Elley, Todd McCarthy, Pierre Rissient, David Stratton). Jim Hoberman and Manohla Dargis joined them as well. Cannes more than any other festival truly grants critics ultimate status, which is in short supply these days. That's assuming the critic's outlet passes muster--the fest unaccountably refused Karina Longworth of Spoutblog a credential. Cannes press attache Christine Aimee told me her blog had too little traffic. People ask me whether they should blog to help hang on to their jobs‚Äîthe answer is yes‚Äî but I also say, blog only if you want to and like to. Some people--Longworth for one-- are better at it than others. There's a lot to be said for slow and thoughtful analysis. It's just that fewer people are willing to pay for it these days.