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War of the Stars
by Mary Nyiri

Competition in Festival de Cannes 2005 brought back many famous directors, such as Atom Egoyan, Gus van Sant, Lars von Trier, David Cronenberg, Jim Jarmusch, and Wim Wenders, just to name a few. The members of the Competition Jury led by two-time Palme d’Or winner, director Emir Kusturica, included director Fatih Akin, director John Woo, actress Salma Hayek and writer Toni Morrison. Out of competition films offered the celebrity of Woody Allen, Shane Black and George Lucas. Catherine Deneuve held an acting master class. Although there was so much live star power, the real spectacle of the festival turned out to be total fantasy: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Star Wars stormtroopers lined the red carpet as George Lucas arrived with former and current cast members for the official screening at the Grand Théâtre Lumière.

The festival opened competition with Lemming by French director Dominik Moll (Intimacy). Moll uses the lemming as an omen that life is about to change for Alain Getty (Laurent Lucas) and his lovely wife Benedicte (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a perfect couple who just moved to a new city for Alain’s new job. The story begins quite humorously as Alain demonstrates his remote control flying web-cam which one can use to detect problems at home, such as a broken bathroom pipe, while still in the office. Afterwards, Alain invites his boss Andre (Richard Pollock) and his wife Alice (Charlotte Rampling) for dinner. The dinner is a disaster, ending when a very weird Alice throws a glass of wine in Andre’s face. Unpredictable, you never know what each character will do next, and there is a nerve-tingling sinister sense throughout. When the end finds Alain and Benedicte back in their ordinary lives, the puzzle of what they experienced remains, well, quite puzzling.

Examining relationships was a recurrent theme in competition films. Here is a sampling:

Kilometre Zero by Iraqi Kurdistan director Hiner Saleem. Saleem looks into how Kurds were treated under Saddam Hussein. He begins in 1988 with Ako (Nazmi Kirik), a husband and father who is forced to join Saddam Hussein’s army and is sent to the frontline of the Iran-Iraq War, where not only does he experience the realities of war but must suffer abuse because he is Kurdish. Ako is ordered to escort the corpse of a fellow soldier back to his family. Unfortunately, the driver is an anti-Kurd Arab. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the film is when the two decide they should talk about their differences, but then neither knows where to start. For much of the film, however, something was lost in translation.

Quando Sei Nato Non Puoi Piu Nasconderti (Once You’re Born You Can No Longer Hide), by Italian director Marco Tullio Giordana. Sandro (Matteo Gadola), a 12-year-old boy brought up in a well-off family, befriends two illegal Romanian immigrants who help rescue him from being lost at sea. Teenager Radu (Vlad Alexandru Toma) and his younger sister Alina (Ester Hazan) are not what they seem, and Sandro must learn the hard way about trust and honesty. The story begins beautifully but falters along the way as too many social issues are touched upon and left adrift.

Where the Truth Lies by Canadian director Atom Egoyan. Set in 1959, Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) are popular entertainers in America who break up at the height of their fame after the body of a beautiful woman is found dead in the bathtub of their hotel room. Neither is charged with a crime. The film uses flashbacks and a young reporter to solve the murder, or was it suicide? The over-dramatization along with constant jumping back and forth left me a bit dazed and disinterested in either truth or lies.

Broken Flowers by American director Jim Jarmusch. Bill Murray plays his character Don so straight that he is hilarious. Don is a successful retired businessman who is dumped by his latest lovely girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy). Sherry accuses Don of getting love letters when she finds a pink envelope addressed to him in the mail. The unsigned letter tells Don that his son may be trying to find him. The postmark is illegible. Don is unaware of having fathered any children in his promiscuous past. His crime novelist neighbor, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), is intrigued and asks Don to recall all the women he slept with during the crucial time. Don is not interested in pursing his son, but Winston organizes a cross-country trip anyway, coercing Don into visiting his former girlfriends. He advises Don to look for clues, like anything pink. Don reluctantly follows Winston’s plan and revisits his past, with his former flames played by Sharon Stone, Tilda Swinton, Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy. With a very appropriate ending, this film was nevertheless too short. It was awarded the Grand Prix.

L’Enfant (The Child) directed by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne won the Palm d’Or for best film. At eighteen Sonia (Déborah Francois) gives birth to Bruno’s (Jérémie Renier) baby, Jimmy. At twenty, Bruno brings in money with petty thievery. Bruno has no interest in their child until he realizes Jimmy’s financial value. He sells the baby to a hoodlum. Sonia turns catatonic upon learning Jimmy has been taken from her and for mixed reasons Bruno leaves to find the baby.

Films shown out of competition began with French favorite Woody Allen whose new film Match Point is old Allen in a new location, London. Allen looks at the British upper crust and what one man, tennis coach Chris (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), will do to maintain his hard-fought rise to the top. Chris plays hardball and with a little luck wins the match. The surprise ending is worth sitting through all the sets.

Some of the more interesting films of this category were documentaries, which included:

Crossing the Bridge – The Sound of Istanbul directed by German Fatih Akin. It is impossible to sit still through this entire musical homage to Istanbul. Alexander Hacke of the German avantgarde group Einstuerzende Neubauten discovers the different mixes, matches and original sounds of a city where East meets West. The music includes Turkish rock and hip-hop, plus traditional folk and pop from street players to famous old movie stars. Songs are interspersed with movie clips of celebrities like Orhan Gencebay and Muzeyyen Senar and discussions about the uniqueness of the beat and instruments. Akin entertaining-ly guides a very relaxed and at times invigorating musical tour with music that is sure to surprise you.

The Power of Nightmares, a BBC Films presentation of a BBC Production of a film by British director Adam Curtis. First shown as a three-part documentary on BBC television, this film seeks to explain how fear has come to dominate politics in America, Britain and around the world, and how much of that fear is based on illusion. It begins in 1949 with two men in America: Egyptian school inspector Sayyid Outb, whose ideas inspired 9/11 suicide pilots, and American political philosopher Leo Strauss, whose ideas influence the American neoconservative movement. Both men believed modern liberal freedoms were eroding society. As liberal dreams began to fail in the 1970s, the neoconservatives turned to Strauss’ ideas to reassert the great myth of America that it is the destiny of America to fight evil around the world. Islamists, based on Outb’s ideas, want to use Islam to control individualism in the Arab world. Curtis claims that both men thought individualism and personal freedoms were decadent and detrimental to the foundations of their respective societies. Their governments had promised to create a better world through optimistic dreams which failed, so governments became powerless, mere managers of public life. But politicians have found a new way to power and authority through their promise to protect the public from nightmares. Curtis challenges the mainstream belief in a well-organized international network of terrorists. His arguments are grounded in history lessons that are well worth reviewing.

Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream directed by Stuart Samuels. Going to the cinema at midnight became a cult event in 1970. This documentary amusingly presents the infectious rise of midnight madness with inside stories and other interesting little tidbits. Clips of some of the most outrageous moments are shown from El Topo (A. Jodorowsky), Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero), Pink Flamingos (John Waters), The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Richard O’Brien) and Eraserhead (David Lynch), along with entertaining interviews of many of the people who made the films and created the phenomenon. For the cult-conscious, twenty minutes of the sequel to Night of the Living Dead was screened at Cannes – at midnight, of course.

Journalists could also screen films from the Un Certain Regard program, which opened with Hwal (The Bow) directed by Kim Ki-duk. And, a new program began this year with its very own temporary theater, Tous Les Cinemas du Monde (Cinemas of the World). Each day films were featured from different countries: Morocco, South Africa, Mexico, Austria, Peru, Sri-Lanka and the Philippines. Finally, you could choose films from Cannes Classics or Courts Métrages (Short Films).

Festival de Cannes awards over 20,000 professional accreditations for the festival, which has a budget of ap-proximately EUR 20 million, half of which comes from public funding. Whether you are a film industry professional or just a movie buff, there are plenty of opportunities to see films and experience that special mystique, that je ne sais quoi of the world’s most famous film festival, where new stars are born or dreams of fame and fortune can die.