Monday, May 4, 2009

Cannes '09

By common consensus, the Cannes Film Festival is the granddaddy of all film festivals. It’s where everyone who is anyone in the film industry gathers to celebrate the best in the year’s upcoming films.

This year’s festival features some of the most celebrated filmmakers in the business today, not the least of whom is Quentin Tarantino, whose entry this year, the WWII epic Inglorious Basterds, looks more like Kill Bill than Saving Private Ryan. Brad Pitt stars as Aldo Raine, a redneck American soldier who brings together a team of eight Jewish Americans to hunt down and kill Nazis. Their story intersects with that of Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young Jewish girl on the run from the Nazis. The supporting cast includes Eli Roth, The Office’s B.J. Novak, Samuel L. Jackson and Mike Myers. If Tarantino’s past filmography is any indication, Inglorious Basterds will be an over-the-top, rough and tumble delight for film geeks and mainstream audiences alike.

Ken Loach is no stranger to Cannes. In 2006, his The Wind That Shakes the Barley was awarded the festival’s most prestigious prize, the Palme d’Or. He’s looking to nab the award again this year with Looking For Eric, the tale of a troubled soccer fan who receives some life help from his idle, the famed French soccer player Eric Cantona. Although the plot sounds a bit high-concept, director Loach is known for his realism and natural characters. If anyone can ground the film in reality, it’s him.

One filmmaker who never shies away from controversy is the Danish auteur Lars Von Trier, and controversy is just what he seems to be intent on stirring up with Antichrist, a psychological horror film about a couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) who retreat into a cabin in the woods, only to find it is possessed by Satan. The sexually explicit film is, like all of Von Trier’s earlier efforts, not for the weak of heart, but with a mystifying trailer and two great actors in the lead roles, it’s assured to be a rewarding experience.

Speaking of challenging directors, Michael Haneke’s new film The White Ribbon, about the influence of fascism on the school system and the other way around in 1913 Germany, is sure to cause some gasps. Haneke’s filmography reads like a list of films that would be banned from the local theater: Funny Games, The Piano Teacher and Benny’s Video, just to name a few. Haneke’s films are, however, very rewarding in the long run. The White Ribbon doesn’t look any different.

It isn’t all sex and Nazis at Cannes however; Pixar’s latest effort Up, about an old codger who ties balloons to his home and floats off into a world of adventure, is sure to be an audience favorite. The film, Pixar’s first in 3-D, opens the festival on May 13th , proving there’s a little something for everyone at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

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