By Ioan Lazar in Cannes
The first week of the Cannes Festival is usually rather quiescent, defined by the calm before great confrontations, a time for surveying the various film categories all revolving around the inaugural film showcased at Palais.
Yet this 67th edition opened with Grace de Monaco disputed by the main character’s successors and headlining Nicole Kidman, which made it a not exactly under-the-radar event. The following day added fuel to the fire by the Out of Competition presentation of a film many have described as outrageous, not only because it draws its inspiration from a real-life scandal of galactic proportions which happened to be set off during the Cannes Festival three years ago on May 14, 2011, when IMF President Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested, The political, financial, and sexual turmoil set in motion at the time has now been replaced by a true media storm generated by the special launch of the new production. Due to or in spite of the public’s wishes, Welcome to New York did not make it into any category. Perhaps the reason for its exclusion was the rather raw method of processing the content, or simply its shocking release. The film could finally be watched late Saturday (8.30 p.m.) in four of the Le Star Cinema halls. The moment had been long awaited, particularly considering only the privileged had had access to a preview in New York (namely several Hollywood Reporter and Variety reporters) and Paris.
Saturday’s screening was attended by Gerard Depardieu (himself characterized by some as a scandalous figure given his fiscal self-exiles), director Abel Ferrara (in worsening shape), and representatives of the powerful film distribution company Wild Bunch (in a hard-to-put-out conflict with French co-producer Vincent Maraval, in turn threatened by DSK’s ex-wives). In fact, the first public screening coincided with the film’s release on VOD (video on demand online, price EUR 7).
The biting remarks came as no surprise. The scope of reproaches addressed in the context of loud background noise ranged from scenes resembling bad pornography (Nouvel Observateur) to the film’s pretense to greatness, when in actuality, it turned out to be plainly disturbing (Le Monde). Shockwaves intensified as Depardieu appeared naked on the screen.
This typhoon of criticism toned down eventually, but the main salient topics advertised by the other competitors did not stray far from gossip about a potentate rapist. Penalizing parents’ mistakes in keeping watch over their children in Captives, Canadian Atom Egoyan painted us the picture of pedophilia in a Nordic winter landscape and a climate of voyeurism and fear. Along the same, albeit more gentle, lines, Saint Laurent (directed by Bertrand Bonello) offered us a similar insight into life behind closed doors, despite the retro cultural background of the ‘70s (the age of Russian Ballet) when the leading character and painter started gaining recognition.
A detail worth mentioning is that both the spectators and film industry professionals huddled outside the screening venue and were willing to wait hours on end in order to see (or not) Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep (3 hours and 16 minutes’ long, this edition’s longest film screened once only). The film is in the running for a grand prize or even Palme d’Or. Things settled down on Sunday, as usual, with one notable event, The Homesman by Tommy Lee Jones.
Week two is off to a promising start. Monday’s headliners include Foxcatcher by Benett Miller and Maps of the Stars by David Cronenberg. Tuesday, May 20, is dedicated to the Dardenne brothers featuring with Two Days, One Night.
Strauss-Kahn to sue Cannes director over ‘defamatory’ film
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is to sue US film director Abel Ferrara for defamation over a movie allegedly based on the ex-IMF chief’s sex scandal, BBC reports “My client finds the film’s accusations of rape intolerable,” his lawyer said. His laywer, Jean Veil, said the former IMF boss would take legal action for “defamation over the accusations of rape and the insinuations made throughout the movie”. He added that Mr Strauss-Kahn was “disgusted and frightened” by the film. “The prosecutor in New York cleared him of all charges [and] he has a right to oblivion like everyone else,” Veil told French radio station Europe 1 on Monday. The lawyer also alleged that Welcome to New York carried “anti-Semitic” overtones.
Romanian girl starring in Italian film competing in Cannes
The 2014 Cannes Film Festival scheduled the official premiere of a new Italian film ‘Le Meraviglie’ (The Wonders) on Sunday; a 14-year old Romanian actress was the star of the story of Umbria (central Italy) beekeepers’ life, included in the official selection of the competition. Maria Alexandra Lungu had the part of Gelsomina and was joined on the set by the famous actress and model Monica Belucci.