A welcome surprise was Im sang-Soo's South Korean remake The Housemaid, a taut, stylish thriller about a fetching naive housemaid (Jeon Do-Youn) in a wealthy household who gets involved with her handsome Master of the Universe boss (Lee Jung-Jae)--with disastrous results.
This is not your typical slow-moving Cannes treacle. And according to Time Out Chicago critic Ben Kenigsberg, who watched the original film on Mubi (who cares what the site is called if it works well?), the new version of the 60s classic turns the woman from a scheming vixen who holds the family for ransom when she gets pregnant, to a victim of the family who is dead-set on revenge. The movie falls solidly into Hitchcock/Losey suspense territory, where a vulnerable woman is in terrible danger. It's intense, well-written, well-acted by a gorgeous cast and elegantly designed and directed. The film also boasts a slam-bang shocker ending and coda that have sparked heated debate. This could be picked up by a stateside distributor; it's nasty, sexy and deliciously disturbing.
One theme in the Cannes selection this year: suicide. Hideo "The Ring" Nakata's Chatroom (in Un Certain Regard) is a British-backed internet thriller starring Aaron Johnson as a creepily disturbed cyber-punk who messes with fragile minds online. He gets a kick out of driving mentally unstable folks to commit suicide. It's based on a play, which helps to explain the oddly stagy handling of the Internet --the ensemble act out their online texting together, on-set. I didn't buy it--why go backwards when a movie like Tron is coming up? While this unpleasant little film never gels, it's enough of a youth-appeal genre piece that it may find buyers.
There was a mad melee outside the press conference; if I had been more patient, it turns out I could have gotten in. Instead I quaffed my first coffee in two days in the press room and settled in to write my review with a clear view of the video monitor for the press conference. After filing my story, I dragged my old Premiere colleague, Rachel Abramowitz (who is covering Cannes for the last time for the LAT, because she has sold a pilot to FX) over to the Abu Dhabi tent in the international village for a yummy mideast lunch of hummus, tabouli and baba ganoush. Abu Dhabi is serious about not only luring film productions (their infrastructure can handle one picture at a time), but have a $1 billion production fund that is financing movies at Participant Media, National Geographic Films, Parkes/MacDonald Productions and Hyde Park Entertainment. Films include Bollywood's My Name is Khan, The Crazies, Furry Vengeance and Peter Weir’s upcoming The Way Back, Doug Liman’s Fair Game, and Jodie Foster’s The Beaver.
They are also supporting their local filmmaking community. Today Imagenation Abu Dhabi (launched in 2008 as a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Media Company) announced the start of production this fall of their first Emirati film project, Nawaf Al-Janahi's coming-of-age story called Sea Shadow. Al-Janahi, 33, directed and produced The Circle, which premiered at the Gulf Film Festival in 2009.
After an interview poolside at the Majestic with indie distrib Phase 4, I did what I used to do before I had a BlackBerry--I buttonholed people and booked meetings with them. Then I picked up my badge at the American Pavilion, where Columbia professor Ira Deutchman was hanging with some of the dozen film students he brought to Cannes, and walked down the quay to the Toronto Film Festival party, where I made some more dates. (Former SKE president Bingham Ray is another major indie talent networking in Cannes. Is he talking to Apparition's Bill Pohlad now that Bob Berney is gone?)