Monday, May 18, 2009

Cannes '09: Festival notes part 3

It's a massacre
At least until Lars von Triers' Antichrist screened later on Sunday, Filipino director Brillante Mendoza's Kinatay looked to be one of the most heavily criticized films at Cannes. After the Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert trashed Kinatay, Jay Weissberg from Variety piled on, calling it "an unpleasant journey into a brutal heart of darkness". Ebert's counterpart at Windy City rival the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips blogged "here is a filmmaker heading in the wrong direction." The Hollywood Reporter's Maggie Lee was more positive, but acknowledged its brutal nature will limit the film's commercial prospects. "This full-on experience of forced voyeurism is certain to incite strong (most probably offended) responses." Not that Mendoza will care much about that. Screen Daily's Mike Goodridge was also less harsh in criticizing Kinatay, which means "slaughtered", "butchered" or "massacred" in Tagalog. "Well-made by Mendoza and more coherent than last year’s Serbis, it will nevertheless be hard for even the most adventurous arthouse audiences to stomach." IFC's David Hudson rounds up more reviews of Kinatay. Update: The Southeast Asian Film Studies Institute has more too, as does Something to Sing About.

Gangster movies
"People in the Philippines see this as a form of entertainment but I wanted them to understand this is not just entertainment but it exists," Brillante Mendoza tells Deutsche Presse-Agentur in an interview about Kinatay. It's contrasted with other violent movies at Cannes this year, including Hong Kong director Johnnie To's gangland drama Vengeance starring French icon Johnny Hallyday, as well as Park Chan-wook's vampire flick Thirst and Quentin Tarantino's WWII romp Inglourious Basterds. Agence France-Presse has more from the Asian contingent, including To and South Korea's Bong Joon-ho, who's competing with Mother.

Killer looks
But just because you're in a gritty, down-and-dirty movie, doesn't mean you can't look glamorous. So check out Kinatay star Maria Isabel Lopez, who turned out on the Cannes red carpet in a slinky red evening gown. Her co-star Mercedes Cabral opted for the more-traditional Filipina puffy-sleeve look. Cute. Lead actor Coco Martin and director Brillante Mendoza looked mean in black suits. Also turning up in a tux for the official screening of Kinatay was Quentin Tarantino, who's long professed his appreciation of Filipino cult cinema.

Where's the somtum?
The Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee is blogging from Cannes, and on Sunday he hit the annual party at the Thai Pavilion, put on by the Ministry of Culture. Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch was there, as was a camera crew from TV Thai and a horde of hungry people. According to Kong, it's darn near impossible to find decent Thai food in Cannes. Aside from the food, Kong writes, "the purpose of the reception, I think, was to promote Thailand as a destination for location shooting, and perhaps to promote Thai movies as well. It wasn’t all that clear to be honest." A Thai filmmaker is in the Official Selection this year -- Pen-ek Ratanaruang, competing in the Un Certain Regard program with his thriller Nymph (Nang Mai) -- but Sunday's party didn't really seem to be celebrating that, Kong says. It's not the first time the Thai government has not bothered to cheer for its own side. Apichatpong Weerasethakul received neither government support nor acknowledgment when his Tropical Malady won a jury prize in the Palme d'Or competition in 2004. Nor do I recollect Apichatpong being lauded by Thai officials in 2002 when Blissfully Yours won the Un Certain Regard. Pen-ek is due to arrive in Cannes on Monday. Perhaps the ministry will throw another party in Pen-ek's honor, but I'd be surprised if they did.

French hop on Ong-Bak 2
Screen Daily's Liz Shackleton has news from the Cannes Film Market, where Sahamongkol Film International made deals to sell Ong-Bak 2 to Luc Besson's EuropaCorp for France and Aurum in Spain. Klockworx also recently re-signed for the rights in Japan after they backed out last year when it became apparent that Ong-Bak 2 wasn't really a sequel to the first Ong-Bak. It was EuropaCorp that bought the rights to the the first Ong-Bak, then edited it and put a hip-hop score behind it -- because everyone knows that martial arts and hip-hop are a great combination. That version was then picked up by Fox which then sent it to Magnolia for release in North America. Thankfully Magnolia/Magnet has already acquired Ong-Bak 2, so hopefully no hip-hop for North American audiences. For that fun mix, you'll have to wait for Sahamongkol's upcoming title for Chocolate star Jeeja/Jija Yanin, Raging Phoenix.

(Photo by AP/Francois Mori via Yahoo! News)

1 comment:

  1. "People in the Philippines see this as a form of entertainment but I wanted them to understand this is not just entertainment but it exists,"

    Dear Lord, is this guy patronizingly dumb, or WHAT ?!?

    Wow. Such a powerful insight. I certainly wouldn't have thought of such a thing, passing through the bailwicks of actual gangs every time I walk out of the house.

    Roll call then. What are the usual titles of ' gangster/slasher flicks ?' The Maggie De la Riva STORY. The Vizconde Massacre. Kuratong Baleleng Gang. Mostly based on real notorious names, of real notorious people, and/or real notorious gangs, chronicling real notorious stories. And often upended by the word ‘ story’. As if to imply it’s TRUE STORY.

    These are stuff everybody else deals with in their daily lives, read in the headlines, and watch religiously in the news. OF COURSE they think it exists.

    But you wouldn’t know this, checking out the selections at the multiplexes. BECAUSE ALL THESE FILMS HAVE DISAPPEARED.

    Shows what happens when the elite systematically takes cinema away from most people, while shutting them out from the reality of their lives ( like they have done to, say human rights, and politics ), and when the elitist evidently has NO IDEA WHAT HE’S DAMN TALKING ABOUT.

    < Oh, and ' entertainment ' ? Well, between you, and them, Mr. Mendoza, most Pinoys realize at least that there's some STORY in there, that there's CHARACTERS and personages, and there's INSIGHT to be had. That these gangster things involve ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS, and are not just moving reflection of your contempt towards the poor that rests and resides outside your fricking window ! I mean, the audience got STANDARDS. >



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