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Cannes: The Night Before

by Anne Thompson
May 12, 2009 4:28 AM
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One tried-and-true Cannes ritual is the Tuesday night dinner at La Pizza. With many travelers admonished by their bosses to watch their expenses this year, La Pizza is a relatively inexpensive option. Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells rounded up a gaggle of writers, some print (like The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday) and online (MSN and AMC's James Rocchi) as well as IndieWire stalwarts Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks. Julian Sancton will be blogging Cannes for the first time for VanityFair.com. Lionsgate, Fox Searchlight and Jere Hausfater were in the house, as well as the Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League.

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This IndieWire Cannes photo of Pedro Almodovar and muse Penelope Cruz dates back to Volver in 2006. They'll be back this year with Broken Embraces, which was one of the most eagerly anticipated films among our group. (Sony Pictures Classics has got it.) Others are Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, of which a few minutes of footage was screened in Berlin. (One acquisition exec called it "a psychological thriller with supernatural edge." Another said it was "bonkers." And another used "artsy.") Bond girl Eva Green was not willing to take on the racy material; Charlotte Gainsbourg took the job opposite Willem Dafoe.

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In the case of Antichrist, the market screening is taking place AFTER the press and public screenings, while there is an early market screening of the Alejandro Amenabar film Agora, starring Rachel Weisz as an astronomer in Egypt under Roman rule. She and her disciples are "fighting to save the wisdom of the ancient world," according to one press description. She has two men in love with her (Oscar Isaac and Max Minghella). This I've got to see. Apparently early footage and a script did not lure overseas buyers, but everyone's eager to see the end results.

The buyers are none too pleased that seller Pathe is reporting that Bob Berney's new distribution outfit is finalizing a deal for North America to release Jane Campion's Bright Star, starring Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne to Ben Wishaw's John Keats. (UPDATE: Pathe officially announced this Wednesday.) Berney is expected to make several announcements at the festival, but he and his primary financeer Bill Pohlad (who may be adding Summit International's Runaways to the Berney combine) need to finalize a name first.

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The buyers have already seen Terry Gilliam's Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. It's apparently quite gorgeous to look at, with some ardent fans, but one exec called it "soulless." Remember, these are buyers looking for commercial product, not critics. This is why I argue that distribs are more likely to forgive competition entries at Cannes, which tend to be arty, after all, after they are explained and praised by critics. Johnny Depp Reads has posted some early Parnassus pics.

IndieWire has posted their schedule of American Pavilion panels (programmed by The Circuit's Mike Jones). How telling that thriving online trade IndieWire is the news outlet willing and able to sponsor the American Pavilion this year. They post a speech by Cannes president Gilles Jacob, who has published a memoir, Life Goes By in a Dream.

The NYT rounds up the Cannes auteurs--and gore. And FirstShowing's Alex Billington spent his day shooting the Cannes billboards.

[A selection of my own Cannes first-day photos is on the jump.]

The Brit acquisitions exec on the plane was reading an ecologically correct mini-script, printed on both sides. My taxi driver from Nice was tres beau, non? The Rue d'Antibes will be crowded with people tomorrow. Harrison Ford is hawking Hamilton watches. Anges & Demons opens May 13 here. And soon there will be many French beauties like this one walking the Croisette.

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