BBC TwoNewsnight Review
Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 17:39 UK

Chaos reigns in credit crunch Cannes

By Kirsty Wark
BBC Newsnight Review, Cannes

We made an early start on Cannes preparation, catching two of the Palme D'Or contenders at London screenings - Ken Loach's Looking for Eric, and Jane Campion's Bright Star.

Kirsty investigates if the economic downturn is taking the fizz out of the festival

These two films and a host of others have made this year's Cannes Film Festival one of the most hotly anticipated for years.

What we did not know in advance was whether the economic downturn would take its toll on the usual festival hoards. But it sure has. The queues at screenings are shorter, and the scrum outside the Palais not so intense.

However, the onsite security is such that to get from the screening of The Prophet in time to join another queue for Taking Woodstock we had to race around the Palais' labyrinthine corridors as if we were in a scene from a very bad film.

Low key attempt

In Jacques Audiard's prison-gangster drama The Prophet, there were outstanding performances from Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup as the the young Arab inmate Malik, and the Corsican prison Godfather, Caesar.

Quentin Tarantino
Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds is a highlight of Cannes' second week

It would be hard to beat the 1970 Oscar-winning documentary Woodstock, and in fact there have been remarkably few attempts to capture that ultimate hippy era moment.

Ang Lee's film Taking Woodstock makes a rather low key attempt to recreate the hard-headed business acumen which allowed Woodstock to happen, and the emotion and chaos of the festival itself.

It does include a "far out" depiction of an acid trip, involving a cameo by Paul Dano who was fantastic as the son in Little Miss Sunshine.

Important question

Willem Dafoe is one of my all-time favourite actors. He usually picks his films pretty carefully. So I suppose he was seduced into appearing alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg in Antichrist by the prospect of working with Lars Von Trier once more.

The film is a horror-fest of genital mutilation, sickening violence, animatronics and witchcraft. Nicole Kidman once asked Lars von Trier: "Why are you so evil to women?" Good question. He should be asked it repeatedly.

Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona is in town for Ken Loach's Looking for Eric

The Danish director says he wrote and filmed Antichrist while he was depressed:

"The script was finished and filmed without much enthusiasm," he said. However the auteur director goes on to tell us it is the most important film of his career. It'll be fascinating to see what our panel make of it.

Antichrist made me look forward even more to Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces. The advance brochure itself is beautifully constructed, and the arrival of Penelope Cruz, and of Brad Pitt for Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, will amp up the glamour and star quotient radically.

There are some very good reasons why it's been missing until now. Several of the films feature very talented, but relatively unknown actors - such as Ben Whishaw in Bright Star.

Film pitch

We found the credit crunch, or rather it found us, when producer Tony Fitzmaurice pitched his comedy about financial hardship, Charlie Noades RIP, written by his brother Neil (from Phoenix Nights) while we were having a coffee at the British Film Council pavilion.

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg add some glitz

Last year for me the highlight of Cannes was Steve McQueen's extraordinary film Hunger. I've seen one stand out contender so far. But it's only Monday.

It's going to be a fierce battle this year. The knives are out - literally. There's gore galore, in The Prophet, Antichrist, and the Chinese film Spring Fever, and the promise of more to come in Tarantino's offering.

And just a footnote about the enduring allure of Cannes. Tarantino shot and edited his World War II epic as fast as he could to get it to Cannes, such is his love of the festival.

Maybe he will be a second time winner...

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