Saturday, 19 May 2007


This is the chronicle of a long-lived love story, that between the Cannes Film Festival and controversial documentary director Michael Moore. Today at the Press preview Moore's new film Sicko (see previous post on the film) triggered a long applause on the foreground of its ending titles rolling on screen. Since Bowling for Columbine (which was the first non-fiction film screened at the Festival in 40-plus years) Cannes has been Moore's best stage, and Moore has used it to full advantage, moving his circus of controversy and commotion all the way to the French Riviera. Already in 2004 Fahrenheit 9/11 shook the jury led by Tarantino that year, who decided to award the Golden Palm to the film (only another documentary in the history of the Festival ever got so far, it was The Silent World by the famed French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau and a young Louis Malle), and it generated an unprecedented trail of political commotion for its release right before the U.S. 2004 elections. Three years later, Moore arrives to Cannes with an army of lawyers fully armed for the battle. In the press conference the Canadian director announced that he was forced to bring in Cannes a copy of the film, fearing that the original (which is hidden in a safe place) would be confiscated by American authorities, and continued to say that on Tuesday he might be arrested, because "that is the deadline for the ultimatum the Bush administration declared" for his entering Cuba without permission.

With Sicko the director touches the delicate note of privatised Health Care System in the United States (the HMO is a powerful political lobby in U.S.) and it gives it the Michael Moore treatment, that is to say he puts in the picture a few willingly provocative twists and turns, that this time are summarised in a trip to Cuba to supply the needed medical treatments to those 9/11 volunteers, who saw the HMOs denying them cures to their serious illnesses caused by the toxic wastes of Ground Zero. The aim was to bring the 9/11 heroes to the American territory of Guantanamo to have them get the same excellent care and treatments Guantanamo terrorists get; not succeeding in his effort, Moore got side-tracked into going to a Cuban public hospital, where (arguably, i dare say) the care is shown to be of better standards than the American one. In one precise blow Moore did what Moore is best at: igniting the fuse of controversy.

On the critics' side, besides any comments on the merits of the film and the obvious political battles, one must note that Moore does not get much sympathy from the very non-fiction community he belongs to, many directors (among which the founding fathers of non-fiction filmmaking) feel outraged by his improper use of the non-fiction tools to push his own personal goals and political ideas. A few indicators of this tendency are to be found in Moore's habit to always appear in his own work (in fact he even figures in all of his film posters) as main carrier of the narrative, interviewer and voice-over, which defies all laws of good non-fiction practice. Cannes might love "troublemaker" Moore, but his informed peers are critical of his "un-orthodox" methods; besides, I dare any journalist, on and off La Croisette, to not have doubt that bringing up the story of the Governmental treats almost 20 days after the letter informing Moore of the investigation was issued, might be a smart "publicity" stunt to promote the film among distributors and avoid it to be confiscated (just like it happened with Fahrenheit 9/11).

Forgetting all comments and doubts, the truth of the matter is that Michael Moore is an awfully good filmmaker, who's able to twist and bend the boundaries of documentary to his own will. Even though criticism is correct in ditching his work as one-sided, nevertheless watching his films is still a good (and effective) cinematic experience. All is left to do is to wait and see if also Sicko will make it to the Cinemas.

related links: Moore's website - CNN article praising Sicko - Entertainment Weekly interview on Sicko - video interview to Jacques Cousteau in Cannes 1956

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Wednesday, 16 May 2007


In a matter of minutes the 60th Cannes Film Festival will open its doors, the film to mark this moment is My Bluberry Nights by Wong Kar-Way, the Hong Kong director we discovered in Locarno in 1994 where he got nominated for Chung Hing sam lam, re-discovered with Happy Together, loved with In the Mood for Love and declared a master with 2046.

My Bluberry Nights is his first "american" film, it features a prestigious and refined cast (Jude Law, Tim Roth, Rachel Weisz e Natalie Portman), it marks the film debut of talented singer Norah Jones, and promises all the stylistic trademarks and ambience for which the director got his way right into the high ranking positions of best filmmakers worldwide. The plot is the simplest known to man: the film is a delicate road-movie narrating the story of a young girl, Elizabeth, who hits the road after breaking up with her boyfriend, starting a journey of self-discovery; along the way she will meet surreal characters who will help her in the quest.

Only suspicion on the work is the daring choice of the director to cut his "marriage" with Christopher Doyle – supreme master among DOPs, without any dubt one of the best ever – who lended his eye to Kar-Way's visions in 8 films (from Days of being wild to La mano, episode of the collective Eros), a strong and succesful collaboration reminisent of these such as Bergman/Nykvist, Spielberg/Kaminski. For both My Bluberry Nights and The Lady from Shanghai (Kar-Way's next made-in-USA film, a remake of the 1947 Orson Welles' film by the same name.) photography has been put in the hands of Darius Khondji a gifted french-iranian DOP who signed the infernal tones of Se7en and The Ninth Gate.

Here is My Blueberry Night's TRAILER

Following the videos of the trailers for In the Mood for Love and Days of being wild:

related links: interview to Kar-Wai on My Blueberry NightsChris Doyle video on cinematography

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...Although it sounds like the name of some religious icon of the Cinematic era, the title actually describes the way the Pop star was seen in London in the past few days. Madonna is busy on the set of her first movie as director Filth and Wisdom, a 30 minutes short said to be a sexually charged comedy with religious undertones, rumored to be inspired by the life of Mrs. Ciccone-Ritchie herself. The film is planned to be wrapped in July (probably before Madonna's appearance at the Live Earth Concert on the 7th of July) and people close to the star declared it is expected to do brilliantly on the Festivals circuits.

It's no news that Madonna is fatally attracted to filmmaking, it has been crystal clear since day one (remember Desperately Seeking Susan? a pleasant little film dated 1985 that incredibly earned a Golden Globe Nomination and a Bafta Award to Rosanna Arquette for best performance!), actress on set and lawfully wedded partner of actors and directors of the likes of Sean Penn and Guy Ritchie off-set, the multi-talented queen of pop hasn't just had a fascination with the silver screen, but in her career she has collected a record of 88 soundtracks, 22 roles as actress and 10 as producer. Now she steps on the director's chair and however strange it might sound at first, it seems to be nothing more than the obvious development. More so considering the fact that the ex- material girl has got two more projects as producer: the horror film Digger by John A. Gallagher and This is America by Larry Charles (director of the recent Borat film). Both titles are produced under the wing of Maverick Red, the company that Madonna runs together with the Israeli Guy Oseary

I guess that all is left to say is: the proof of the pudding is in the eating...

Following is the trailer of Desperately Seeking Susan and an old(ish) interview in which Madonna "challenges" a young Italian MTV type of guy of great beauty and scarce insight (this goes straight in the category: How not, ever, conduct an interview!)

related links: Madonna's official website - Maverick label - The Daily Mirror - article on Digger - Borat

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Tuesday, 15 May 2007


Do you know that weird feeling of "gee I wish I would have thought of this myself"? Well, that's exactly how I felt reading the article And Cannes created woman on the online version of The Independent. How could I not have thoutgh about posting something on the subject on our very own women-in-film oriented blog? I wonder what possesed me. However, thank God our very thoughtful friends at the British paper were sharp enough to point out that nothing better than the long line up of female stars on "La Croisette" summarises the 60 years of history of the father of all glamour struck Film Festivals.

As the Cannes Film Festival starts tomorrow and I will be en-route to this next two weeks Cinema's belly botton, after reading the piece I went on a web-hunt for video/photo material on the subject, just to lift some dust off my Cannes' conscious self, and I was quite surprise to find out that there is not much of a web-trace of those glamorous haydays on the French Riviera. Just some pictures and a handful of videos (some of which I link in this post). Regardless the scarsity of images, looking at the fading portraits of graceful figures flirting with the camera, the legions of photographers following them with their beautiful old paparazzi-style cameras (just like those in La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini) and the famous Bardot bikini stunt that granted moral appropiate status to bikinis throughout the world, was a bit of a spoiler for my trip to this year's 2007 it just cannot work the same way! And I wonder: has Cinema lost its power to make the world dream?

Here it's how it used to be, and a glimpse of Juliette Binoche steeling airtime at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival where she was for her lead role in André Téchiné's Rendez-vous:

The 60th Cannes Film Festival runs from 16th to 27th of May.

related links: Cannes' video Archive - The Independent

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Monday, 14 May 2007

Bush vs. Michael Moore part 2: Sicko violated U.S. trade embargo on Cuba

Not yet released and already the new Michael Moore documentary stirs controversy. The canadian filmmaker, known for Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 (which sequel is in pre-production) is the object of a U.S. federal investigation on infringement of the Cuban trade embargo, In March Moore took 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba for a segment in his upcoming health-care documentary. Allegedly the workers were given medical treatment in Cuba to demonstrate how they were neglected by the american health-care/health insurance institutions. Traveling to Cuba turns out to be a crime according to American laws. [Which is fair enough, but then why Spielberg and Charlize Theron were allowed what they deny to Moore?]

Sicko – this is the title of the film, not a reference to Moore's addiction to generate commotion around his work – features a dissection of the U.S. health-care system; the film was inspired by a segment on Moore's TV show The Awful Truth, in which he staged a mock funeral outside a health-maintenance organization that had declined a pancreas transplant for a diabetic man. At last September's Toronto International Film Festival, Moore previewed footage shot for Sicko, presenting stories of personal health-care nightmares. One scene showed a woman who was denied payment for an ambulance ride after a head-on collision because it was not pre-approved.

Moore labels the investigation as an abuse motivated by political agenda: I believe that the decision to conduct this investigation represents the latest example of the Bush Administration abusing the federal government for raw, crass, political purposes.

The timing of the investigation is reminiscent of the firestorm that preceded the Cannes debut of Fahrenheit 9/11, which won the festival's top prize in 2004. The Walt Disney Co. refused to let subsidiary Miramax release the film because of its political content, prompting Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein to release Fahrenheit 9/11 on their own. The Weinsteins later left Miramax to form the Weinstein Co., which is releasing Sicko.

Sicko premieres May 19 at the Cannes Film Festival and debuts in U.S. theaters June 29.

Here is what CNN and ABC news have to say on the matter:

related links: Michael Moore's website - video: The Awful Truth (mock funeral)

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Tuesday, 8 May 2007


WOMEN IN FILM, the leading nonprofit for women in the global entertainment industry, is bringing scripts and short films made by 40+ women to Hollywood's attention by mean of a competition; if your are interested just follow the link by clicking on the logo on the left. The deadline for entries is June 1, 2007. Good luck!

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Monday, 7 May 2007


As the seasonal celebrations of the 7th Art are en route to Cannes, we like to stop along the way to dedicate a minute of our thoughts to Hollywood's hey-days legend Rita Hayworth, who passed away exactly 20 years ago. Italian Satellite channel Studio Universal (channel 320) devotes to the late actress a cycle of 3 films and a documentary, starting tonight with You'll Never Get Rich (1941) by Sidney Lanfield.

Margarita Carmen Cansino, started her career in 1933 as a dancer. Success strucks in 1941 with You'll Never Get Rich, where she stars cheek-to-cheek with Fred Astaire, and in Strawberry Blond by Raoul Walsh, co-starring with James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.

Beautiful beyond belief, Hayworth was the perfect incarnation of Gilda by Charles Vidor, the role of a every sense of the word, since she got so close to her on-screen persona to never again being able to walk away from it. Rita is often quoted to have said "Every man I have ever known has fallen in love with Gilda and awakened with me." The quote mirrors the dramatic turns her life took, afflicted as it was by unhappy marriages (Hayworth went in by the church aisle and out by the court door five times, two of which with Orson Welles and Prince Aly Khan, son of the Aga Khan), depression, addiction and, later on, alzheimer that ultimately sealed her fate with death in 1987, at the age of 68. But even the devastating disease, which left her completely helpless, did not tarnish the glorious image of Rita Hayworth, the ever shining film star, the universal symbol of sensualty beaming from the silver screen.

Enjoy the beautiful dance scene with Fred Astaire that made Rita Hayworth a star:

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BETWEEN SORROW AND JOY: "We Are Together" wins Tribeca's Audience Award

Between sorrow an joy, We Are Together (Thina Simunye) by british director Paul Taylor goes right to one's heart...and wins the 2007 Cadillac Award at Tribeca Film Festival. Paul Taylor and producer Teddy Leifer will dedicate the $25,000 cash prize to school fees for the Agape children through their RISE Foundation.

Filmed over three years by Paul Taylor and his crew, We Are Together (Thina Simunye) tells the story of a very special choir, that of the Agape Orphanage in KwaZulu Natal, a home for children, many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. The film is a heartfelt story about sorrow, joy and the strength of the human spirit, or as the director puts it: also sums up this duality between sorrow and joy, and the capacity of the human spirit to deal with suffering with humor, dignity and strength...

"Singing makes me think of my home because that was where I learnt to sing," states Slindile Moya – a young 12 year old girl in South Africa. She lives at the Agape Orphanage and together with the other children from the orphanage form a choir which becomes their greatest source of comfort and hope. Meanwhile Slindile makes regular visits to her former home, where her parents taught her to sing as a child, and where her brother Sifiso is now unwell. It's unclear what is wrong with him, but Slindile's worst fears are confirmed by the hospice. He has HIV. Sifiso must face the inevitable, but the family still has the strength to sing. Back at the orphanage, despite the hardship the children have been through, they too continue to sing, which takes them on a journey they could only dream of. For children like Slindile and her friends at Agape, life has not been easy, but their voices continue to ring loud and clear. As they come to terms with a series of painful setbacks, including the loss of loved ones to AIDS, their spirit stays strong and their singing takes them to places they have never been before.

Filmmaker Paul Taylor spent three months in KwaZulu Natal (South Africa) in 2003 volunteering at the Agape Orphanage. He was profoundly affected by his experiences there, the children’s personalities and, in particular, their beautiful singing. He returned with Teddy Leifer (producer) and Pauline von Moltke (associate producer) to make a film and help facilitate the production of the CD that would eventually bring the children to the attention of the world. We Are Together (Thina Simunye) has been more than three years in the making and has involved editors Masahiro Hirakubo (Eragon, Trainspotting, The Beach, A Life Less Ordinary) and composer Dario Marianelli (Pride & Prejudice, Shooting Dogs, V for Vendetta).

We Are Together had its world premiere at the 2006 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) where it won two prizes: First Appearance Award and the prestigious Audience Award, receiving the highest score in the festival’s history. It has now played in four festivals and won five awards.
Worldwide theatrical rights for the film are currently available and profits from the documentary will be donated to benefit The Agape Orphanage and other HIV/AIDS projects.

We Are Together is directed by Paul Taylor and written by Slindile Moya and Paul Taylor. It is produced by Teddy Leifer and Paul Taylor, with Annie Roney and Pauline Von Moltke as associate producers and Leigh Blake, Sheila Nevins and Jess Search executive producers. The film is a Rise Films Production in association with The Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation and HBO Documentary Films.

related links: keep a child alive - tribeca film festival - help the Agape Orphanage children

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Tuesday, 1 May 2007

TCM celebrates Katharine Hepburn's 100th anniversary of birth

On May 12, Katharine Hepburn would have turned 100 years old, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) celebrates her anniversary of birth devoting 3 days and 27 films to the late "First Lady of Cinema".

Kate – as friends called her – cut her teeth in acting starting off the Theatre stages of New York. A Bill of Divorcement by George Cukor, who casted her against the advice of producer David O. Selznick, marked her grand entreé to Cinema, leading to a trail of successes (Little Women by George Cukor) and awards (Morning Glory by Lowell Sherman earned her the fisrt oscar)

Independent and outspoken, playing strong independent women with minds of their own, Hepburn epitomized the woman of the new era, becoming an icon of femminism all over the world. Proverbial was her refusal to play the "Hollywood Game", always wearing slacks (way before it became fashionable) and no makeup, never posing for pictures or giving interviews. her attitude towards the press and even fans was edgy, so much so that people started deserting her films. in 1938, she (along with Fred Astaire, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, and others) was voted "box office poison" in a poll taken by motion picture exhibitors. With a serie of flops Hepburn set sails back to Broadway to star in The Philadelphia Story (1938), and was rewarded with a smash. She quickly bought the film rights, and so was able to negotiate her way back to Hollywood on her own terms, including her choice of director and co-stars. The film version of The Philadelphia Story (1940) by George Cukor, was a box-office hit, and Hepburn, who won her third Oscar nomination for the film, was bankable again.

Katharine Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96, following after 38 years her life-long partner Spencer Tracy.

Hepburn figures in Martin Scorsese's 2004 biopic of Howard Hughes, The Aviator, she was portrayed by Cate Blanchett, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.

related links: New York Times article

The Philadelphia Story by George Cukor - starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart

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