And on the fifth day of the Cannes Film Festival, it snowed (actually, part of a promotion for Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey, due out in November). Meanwhile, Rachel Weisz walked the red carpet and talked about her role as a fourth century astronomer, and Lars Von Trier's Antichrist provoked both boos and applause.
Key Screenings. Out of Competition: Alejandro Amenabar's Egyptian historical epic Agora (with the aforementioned Rachel Weisz). Press screening: Lars Von Trier's polarizing Antichrist. Competition: Johnny To's Vengeance (with Johnny Hallyday as a French chef with a murderous past), Brillante Mendoza's crime-themed drama Kinatay. Robert Guediguian's tale of Nazi resistance during World War II, The Army of Crime. Un Certain Regard: Pavel Lounguine's Russian historical drama Tzar. Directors' Fortnight: Denis Villeneuve's school shooting recreation Polytechnique, Riad Sattouf's teen coming of age flick Les Beaux Gosses.
Films Sold. The festival is a great time to conclude and/or announce distribution deals. indieWIRE brings word that Regent Releasing / Here Media have acquired Lucia Puenzo's The Fish Child and Eran Merav's Zion and His Brother. The former, from the director of XXY, tells of a romance between an upper-class teenage girl in Argentina who falls in love with her family's 20-year-old Paraguayan maid. The latter, from a debut director, is a coming-of-age drama about two brothers, "set in a gritty neighborhood in Haifa, Israel." Look for both films in theaters early next year.
Thomas Balmes' doc Baby(ies) is still in post-production, but Focus Features has seen enough; they picked up US and other rights to the film in a deal announced today. They plan a release in 2010. The film "simultaneously follows four babies, in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco, and Tokyo, respectively, from birth to first steps," according to indieWIRE.
After the jump: The critics divide on Antichrist.p>
Choice Review Quotes. At IFC's The Daily, David Hudson collected the first handful of reviews for Antichrist, which run the gamut from Awesome to Awful. The "awful" are more fun to quote, so we're start with a couple
"Loaded with a big trunkful of crazy... Ingmar Bergman meets Saw." -- Elizabeth Renzetti, Globe and Mail.
"Easily one of the biggest debacles in Cannes Film Festival history and the complete meltdown of a major film artist. ... One of the most absurdly heavy-handed and over-the-top calamities I've ever seen in my life."-- Jeff Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere. His assessment, by the way, has inspired many to declare that the film has now become a must-see, since anything that drives Jeff crazy ....
And now we move on to a few newer reviews:
"Lars von Trier cuts a big fat art-film fart. ... This may prove a great date movie for pain-is-pleasure couples." -- Todd McCarthy, Variety.
Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE, while noting the body mutilation, explicit sexuality, gore, and the director's questionable attitude towards women, writes: "One can't deny the film's continuing primal power. ... You got to take the brilliance with the pathologies."
"it's one hell of an exhilarating experience watching this. My gut feeling coming out of it is that I actually liked it, screwed up or not." -- Alex Billington, First Showing.
"Digesting the Cannes buzz from afar, many must be wondering: Beyond the grotesque imagery, is it any good Gripped by the calculation of the design, I think I loved it, but might have been blindsighted by the sheer audacity of its twisted conception. Like many audience members from tonight's crowd, I need to let it sit for awhile - in my nightmares, most likely." -- Eric Kohn, The Wrap.
"... Goes beyond malevolence into the monstrous. Never before have a man and woman inflicted more pain upon each other in a movie. We looked in disbelief. There were piteous groans. Sometimes a voice would cry out, 'No!' At certain moments there was nervous laughter. When it was all over, we staggered up the aisles. Manohla Dargis, the merry film critic of The New York Times, could be heard singing 'That's Entertainment!'" -- Roger Ebert.