Cannes Dispatch: Less Is More

Bright star

Here are the headlines from Cannes 2009:

  • The crowds are smaller and glummer–even smaller and glummer than last year–but movie producers are telling themselves that’s a good thing.
  • Jane Campion has a new movie about John Keats called Bright Star. This is good news.
  • Cristian Mungiu does not have a new movie ready, which is bad news. He’s there anyway.
  • Pedro Almodóvar has a new movie, Broken Embraces, starring Penelope Cruz. This isn’t news at all, given his prolific output lately, but it’s something to look forward to.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds continues its slow march to American theaters, which may or may not be a good thing–or both at the same time.
  • Francis Ford Coppola has a new movie, called Tetro in case you care, and it promises to be just as mediocre as his last half-dozen films. 
  • Lou Ye’s latest film Spring Fever demonstrates, yet again, that China is determined to produce beautiful films even as it stinks up the skies. 

A note about the first item: After last summer’s purge of specialty divisions (Warner Independent Pictures, New Line Cinema and Paramount Vantage were shut down by their parent companies, and New Yorker Films was sold to pay its parent’s debts), followed by the worldwide recession, the hedge
fund money has dried up, and so has funding for the art-house projects
that used to clog up screens each fall. Producers overestimated the audiences for
these films and ignored the limited number of screens available to them. Consequently, it took huge investments in marketing just
for a film to get noticed. Thus the films that do make it to the screen, the thinking now goes, have a better
chance of succeeding: with reduced marketing costs and less competition
for their exclusive audiences, they can recover their costs more
quickly.

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