5 items from 2007
More Toronto fest news
TORONTO -- Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired North American rights to Claude Lelouch's new thriller "Roman de gare". The film premiered at the Festival de Cannes earlier this year and was released last month in France, where it became a box office success.
Lelouch wrote, directed and produced the thriller, while Jean Paul de Vidas executive produced.
The move is the one of the first big acquisitions since Goldwyn and its distribution arm IDP split from its alliance with Roadside Attractions in May.
Goldwyn is eying a release scheduled for first quarter 2008.
"I feel that 'Roman de gare' is perhaps my best picture, so, I could not be more thrilled that Samuel Goldwyn Films is releasing it in the U.S.," Lelouch said. "It's a wonderful deluxe boutique shop for quality movies and I couldn't think of a better distribution team."
Telluride Film Festival
TELLURIDE -- Again fearlessly navigating those perilous waters known as family dynamics, filmmaker Noah Baumbach has followed up his acclaimed 2005 breakthrough The Squid and the Whale with another wryly observed, giddily cringe-inducing, bracingly original winner.
Where the previous film took its cue from Baumbach's own upbringing, Margot at the Wedding probes the terminally dysfunctional relationship between two sisters, played, without a safety net, by Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
The two actresses do some of their best work here, while Baumbach gives further evidence as having one of the most original-and affecting comic sensibilities in the business.
In the wake of its Telluride and upcoming Toronto Festival screenings, the Paramount Vantage release should gain some serious awards season traction ahead of its late fall arrival in theaters.
From the title to some of the plotting, there are affectionate nods in the direction of Eric Rohmer's Pauline at the Beach to be found here, but the tone is unmistakably Baumbach's own.
Kidman's Margot Zeller is an outspoken New York-based short story writer traveling with her newly adolescent son, Claude (Zane Pais) back to her old family home, where her estranged sister Pauline (Leigh) is about to be married.
Never one to mince words, Margot makes it very clear to anyone who'll listen that she doesn't approve of Pauline's fiance, Malcolm (a very amusing Jack Black), an aspiring musician and artist who seems intent on making a career out of unemployment.
Although technically more of a free spirit, Pauline proves to be as weighted down by all the family baggage as Margot, and their proximity in the same geographical space can lead to no good.
In short order, the pair succeeds in playing everyone off of each other, and by the time the dust clears, there's a tangled mess of busted relationships and exposed secrets left behind.
But in spite of all the ugly chaos, at the end of the day, family is still family and Margot at the Wedding manages to conclude with a faint glimmer of something resembling guarded optimism.
While many maintain there's truth in comedy, writer-director Baumbach operates under the contention that there's comedy in truth. No matter how horrible or painful life can get, he realizes there's often an absurdist twinge of irony lurking in the sidelines.
Brilliantly assisting him in bringing it all to the forefront are Kidman and, especially Leigh, who render brittle, hilarious yet moving performances.
Kidman's never better than when she plays darker types, like in To Die For or The Others, and in Margot she has found a character that gives her permission to let unapologetically loose while still retaining some of that trademark vulnerability.
Leigh, meanwhile, gives one of the best, and certainly most intriguingly complex performances of her career, as Pauline, a perennially lost soul who, despite all the friction still idealizes her sister as a potential best friend.
Together, the two egg each other on to delicious heights, and the rest of the cast gives them the appropriate space while still turning in their own, astute performances.
Black, while recruited for comic relief purposes, nevertheless puts his own, unique spin on Baumbach's dialogue, while Pais as Margot's in-the-throes-of-puberty son gets alienated awkwardness down effectively.
Behind the scenes, director of photography Harris Savides lends the autumnal Eastern seaboard location a slightly grainy, home movie feel, neatly signaling the less-than-idyllic events to come.
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
Director-writer: Noah Baumbach
Producer: Scott Rudin
Director ofphotography: Harris Savides
Production designer: Anne Ross
Co-producer: M. Blair Breard
Costume designer: Ann Roth
Editor: Carol Littleton
Margot: Nicole Kidman
Pauline: Jennifer Jason Leigh
Claude: Zane Pais
Malcolm: Jack Black
Jim: John Turturro
Ingrid: Flora Cross
Dick: Ciaran Hinds
MPAA rating: R, running time100minutes
As he did with his previous feature, The Matador, writer-director Richard Shepard assembles all the elements for a dark suspense comedy only to lose his way in a surfeit of plot mechanics and unlikely behavior. There's a potentially funny political story in The Hunting Party about war criminals that the United Nations, NATO and the U.S. all say they want to find but really don't. Unfortunately, Shepard's approach takes the movie into Jason Bourne territory and away from the black comedy he seemingly wants to make, making the film fall between the cracks in terms of boxoffice appeal.
Richard Gere and Terrence Howard make an excellent pair of conflict journalists who get off on the adrenaline rush of war zones. And Jesse Eisenberg of The Squid and the Whale comes along as a very young stooge/sidekick. The secondary characters, a few based on real-life hard cases in Bosnia and Serbia, are nothing if not colorful. Meanwhile, the production takes terrific advantage of the war-torn city of Sarajevo and the middle-of-nowhere look of the treacherous mountains nearby, where a war criminal can easily hide. So the movie's surfaces are wickedly alive, giving MGM and the Weinstein Co. plenty to market.
Gere and Howard play the aptly named Hunt and Duck, a TV news reporter and cameraman, respectively, who have dashed through the world's worst war zones, from Somalia to El Salvador. Hunt is forever on the hunt for hot action footage, while cameraman Duck must duck all the bullets and explosions coming at him as a consequence. Then, in Bosnia, in a village brutally ravaged by ethnic cleansing, Hunt suffers an on-camera meltdown during a live feed on network television.
Five years later, Duck, on a quickie assignment to Sarajevo with anchor Franklin Harris (James Brolin), meets up with Hunt, reduced to peddling stories to whomever will buy. Hunt dangles a major exclusive in front of Duck: He knows where a Bosnian Serb war criminal known as the Fox is hiding. Eventually, Duck bites, so along with rookie reporter Benjamin (Eisenberg), the son of a network exec, the three go on a Fox hunt.
And here is where the story goes astray. On a mountain road in a stolen vehicle, Hunt makes it clear that he aims not to interview the Fox but to capture him. With suspense music worthy of the next James Bond film to encourage them, the trio assume the guise of CIA agents and eventually start to believe in that identity. But unlike a Bond or Bourne movie, which slams from A to B to C to D, this hunting party goes from A to B and back to A again. Wild goose chases and dead ends introduce a host of rustic villains but serve only to alert the Fox to their presence. And would these war vets be foolish enough to talk loudly in restaurants about their plans so that all may hear?
Shepard insists that the quest is personal for Hunt. The Fox's men murdered his pregnant girlfriend in that village, and he means to "wipe that smile off his face." Which is OK if that's the story you want to tell, but there goes any comedy. The movie is now a revenge melodrama filled with lame comedic moments that work against the suspense. Shepard actually does a good job of pumping up these suspense sequences, yet the repeated 11th hour rescues stretch credibility beyond the breaking point.
There is credibility, though, in Gere's burned-out case, who looks haggard even after a good night's sleep and maintains a simmering frenzy that borders on true insanity. Howard, on the other hand, looks too well rested, having traded war zones for a cushy job in New York. Back in Bosnia, he comes alive again. Eisenberg gets a few laughs as a scared Harvard grad over his head in the real world, but the film goes to that well once too often.
The Weinstein Co. presentsa QED International/Intermedia production
Screenwriter-director: Richard Shepard
Based on an article by: Scott Anderson
Director of photography: David Tattersall
Production designer: Jan Roelfs
Music: Rolfe Kent
Costume designer: Beatrix Pasztor
Editor: Carole Kravetz-Aykanian
Duck: Terrence Howard
Benjamin: Jesse Eisenberg
Fox: Ljubomir Kerekes
Magda: Kristina Krepela
Mirjana: Diane Kruger
Duck's Girlfriend: Joy Bryant
Running time -- 104 minutes
MPAA rating: R
A tribute to actor Daniel Day-Lewis, new documentaries from Barbet Schroeder, Werner Herzog and Kevin Macdonald, a spotlight on such Israeli films as The Band's Visit and Jellyfish and a restoration of King Vidor's classic silent film The Big Parade are all part of the jampacked program that will greet cineastes making the pilgrimage this weekend to the 34th annual Telluride Film Festival.
The high-altitude, informal, equalitarian festival, which runs today through Monday, has undergone change at the top: Bill and Stella Pence, who co-founded the fest in 1974 with Tom Luddy and the late James Card, announced their resignation last year and will not participate in this year's gathering. Longtime Telluride participant Gary Meyer has joined Luddy as co-director.
But festivalgoers aren't likely to see changes because of the transition. "Emotionally, it was very different," Luddy said. "I kept thinking about 33 years of having constant conversations with my partner and friend Bill Pence, but Gary Meyer is also an old friend. Bill and I both identified Gary as really the one and only candidate to replace Bill when that day would come," Luddy added, noting of the partial changing of the guard that "it was pretty smooth, very harmonious and very efficient."
As usual, there will be first looks at Hollywood product that could well figure in the fall's awards race. The lineup includes Sean Penn's Into the Wild, an adaptation of Jon Krakauer's account of a fateful trip into the Alaskan wilderness, which will be released by Paramount Vantage; Noah Baumbach, in his first film since The Squid and the Whale, looks at two contentious sisters (Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh) in Paramount Vantage's Margot at the Wedding; Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan study I'm Not There, from the Weinstein Co.; and Allison Eastwood, making her directorial debut with the family drama Rails and Ties, starring Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden, from Warner Independent Pictures.
There also is a strong selection of titles that earned critical applause at May's Festival de Cannes. "Cannes had a very strong year", Luddy said. "Normally, we try to show a number of films from Cannes, but I think we're showing many more than usual, and I think we could have included a lot more."
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release Richard Kelly's long-awaited Southland Tales in U.S. theaters on Nov. 9, 2007, in partnership with Destination Films and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group. Since the appearance of a work-in-progress print at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, Kelly has been working on the movie, including adding a significant amount of visual effects. "The time and additional visual effects that were added have allowed me to achieve my original vision for 'Southland Tales, ' " said Kelly, who will be appearing at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss the film. "The fans' response has been overwhelming and I anticipate that moviegoers will respond enthusiastically." Samuel Goldwyn, which distributed the Oscar-nominated The Squid and the Whale, currently has Goya's Ghosts in theatres. »
5 items from 2007
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