Moore trouble brewing at Cannes

Moore trouble brewing at Cannes, by Stephanie Bunbury - 12th May 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Michael Moore's battle with Disney has film festival goers hot under the collar, writes Stephanie Bunbury in Cannes.

There is nothing that tarty old Cannes loves more than a fight. Even before tonight's opening gala, the 57th Cannes Film Festival, which runs until May 23, is up to its bejewelled neck in delicious controversy. For this, thank Michael Moore.

Moore, the polemicist behind Bowling for Columbine, has spent the last week fighting Disney and, so far, winning every round. Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, about George Bush, the Bin Laden family and their collective dirty deeds, was made under the auspices of Miramax, a Disney subsidiary, but Disney is refusing to distribute it. Moore says that this is an issue of free speech, since its refusal may mean it is never seen in America.

This is unlikely, as several distributors are vying for it, but Fahrenheit 9/11 is a cause celebre at a film festival where 4000 journalists are champing at the bit for any story with a bit more substance than the latest celebrity frock. In a delicious twist, the Disney PRs are bleating that Moore is - well, heavens - trying to whip up publicity.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is just one of several hot tickets in Cannes's strongest official line-up in years. The festival has to find a tricky balance between "buzz" films, high glamour, serious art and the very new. This is never easy, but last year's festival was generally regarded as the worst in living memory. Gilles Jacob, its ageing and gnomic president, appeared to have stacked the main competition with old Frenchmen. You couldn't help but suspect that they had claimed their places on the strength of going to the same tailor.

This year, by contrast, the most noticeable old French bloke on the program is an undisputed maestro: Jean-Luc Godard, in Cannes with a film about war called Notre Musique. No one will complain about that. He is joined at the auteur end of proceedings by Michelangelo Antonioni, 92, the author of a new short film about the restoration of his namesake's statue of Moses.

The films that are really getting the film buffs twitchy with anticipation, however, are Walter Central Station Salles's filmed version of The Motorcycle Diaries, with sultry Latino Gael Garcia Bernal as Che Guevara, and Niels Mueller's The Assassination of Richard Nixon, which stars Sean Penn as a disillusioned American dreamer who decides to hijack a plane. Penn's co-star Naomi Watts will not be the only Australian with a high Cannes profile - Geoffrey Rush steps on to the red carpet for the Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Most significantly, an Australian feature has been selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. Cate Shortland, who has already made some excellent shorts and spent four years directing The Secret Life of Us, will be on the Croisette with her uncompromising, first feature, Somersault, the story of a teenage runaway.

Finally, the official competition reflects the vitality of East Asian cinema with new films from Wong Kar-wai, (2046, Hong Kong) Oshii Mamoru (Innocence, Japan) and Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Korea) in competition and a rollicking genre film, Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers, showing outside competition in a special screening. Zhang Yimou's Chinese swashbucklers will give the flabby Kill Bill 2, also showing in Cannes in honour of jury president Quentin Tarantino, a run for its money.

And Cannes, as we know, loves a fight.


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The Sydney Morning Herald

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Cannes Film Festival

Michael Moore official website


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