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Of course, people still do stop by The Grand each night on their way home, and if the films this year aren't exactly blowing people away, the consensus is that the film market is going gangbusters. "Sundance proved there was still a market for the smaller films," one financing agent told me. "This year Cannes is demonstrating that the studios still want to buy too." He continued, "The studios are making the tentpole movies -- Thor and the like -- and acquiring the rest. And because films like Black Swan, True Grit and The Social Network did well last year, they're looking back and saying, 'we need some more of those.' Studio executives have short memories."
So, while people debate the Terrence Malick and Lynn Ramsay films, the sales companies are experiencing brisk sales in the low-to-middle end (meaning under $50 million or so) of the studio business -- films like Rian Johnson's new Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis. The production only recently wrapped, shooting two weeks in China in order to qualify as a Chinese co-production, and it was sold by FilmNation to Sony. (See my interview with FilmNation's Glen Basner posted at the start of the festival.)
Cannes traditionally slots some of its heavy-hitters for the end. Quite a few Palme d'Or winners have screened on the final day; this year that slot goes to the Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Almodovar has yet to screen, and by the time you read this the Lars von Trier will have unspooled. (Yes, throughout this piece I'm employing the pretentious practice of referring to films by their directors' names.) The buzz so far? The film that seems to have delighted both audiences and critics is Aki Kaurismaki's immigration comedy, Le Havre. Joseph Cedar's Footnote, a sly Israeli comedy/drama about philology and father-son rivalry, was an early favorite. Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist, an almost-silent film shot in the old 1.33 aspect ratio, is also a crowd pleaser even if the hardcore critics aren't quite as enthusiastic. Among the American independents, Liza Johnson's adroit debut feature, The Return, has impressed with its cool portrait of a returning female soldier who becomes unmoored from the elements of her former life. (Read my interview with Johnson here.)
I'll write a bit more about the films on the blog, along with a couple of other reports, including one looking at filmmakers who have come to Cannes not for a premiering film but to participate in one of the festival's many other programs and activities. If you're here in Cannes and want to send me a comment on your experience, you can always drop a line at editor.filmmakermagazine AT gmail.com.
See you next week.
P.S. We've published two pieces online recently you should check out if you haven't. One is filmmaker Eric Samulski's piece on building your own film school. The second is Nicholas Rombes witty argument that Paranormal Activity 2 is actually a piece of experimental cinema. INDEPENDENT FILM WEEK - NO BORDERS AND SPOTLIGHT ON DOCUMENTARIES DEADLINES RAPIDLY APPROACHING IFPís Independent Film Week is the oldest and largest forum in the U.S. for the discovery of new projects in development and new voices on the independent film scene. The No Borders International Co-Production Market (Deadline to Apply: Friday, May 20) is a meetings-driven forum connecting producers with new narrative screenplays with key industry executives, financiers, partners, and producers interested in identifying projects with which to become involved. Recent projects that have made great strides in their journey from script to screen by participating in No Borders include Gun Hill Road, Incendies, Howl, Maria Full of Grace, Cold Souls, and Me and You and Everyone We Know. Applications are also being accepted for Spotlight on Documentaries (Deadline: May 25), for U.S. filmmakers with projects in production or post-production seeking financing partners, broadcast/distribution opportunities, and festival invitations. Apply Today.
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BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO By Michael Tully
The knowledge that Jessica Oreck is an entomologist at the Museum of Natural History in New York City who has never previously made a film might cause one to worry that Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo will be an unavoidably stiff and grueling piece of video academia. Worry not, skeptic. Oreckís wildly precocious exploration of Japanís ongoing fascination with, and connection to, insects just so happens to be one of the more exhilarating new documentaries of 2009. This is a shining example of when a filmmakerís innocence has resulted in something much more vibrant and alive than it otherwise might have been coming from an experienced veteran. read more MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Fresh off its opening night premiere at Cannes, Woody Allen's latest is a whimsically nostalgic tale that highlights the magic of the City of Light and our yearning for the past. Midnight in Paris follows Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter, who travels to Paris with his fiancee (Rachel McAdams) and while there discovers a supernatural gateway into the city's vibrant past. Sporting wonderful supporting performances from Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates, Alison Pill, and Adrien Brody, Midnight is Allen's best film since Vicky Cristina Barcelona. This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay speaks with director Liza Johnson about her Cannes entry, The Return (pictured left); Slated creates an online film finance marketplace; and Eric Samulski's tells us about creating your own film school.
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THE MICROBUDGET CONVERSATION: ART & POVERTY″ By John Yost
This week I leave you in the capable hands of our editor Scott Macaulay. One of the exciting aspects of this gig is learning from a fella like Scott. A producer of some of my favorite indie films, he has been a great mentor and producer of this column. I asked him to just go nuts and write what was on his mind. Voila! read more
Arizona Underground Film Festival
Regular Deadline: May 20
WAB Deadline: July 21
Festival Dates: September 17 - 24
Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival
Regular Deadline: May 21
WAB Deadline: July 1
Festival Dates: September 29 - October 2
Metropolitan Film Festival of New York
Extended Deadline: May 24
WAB Deadline: June 8
Festival Dates: July 30