The Hollywood Reporter
By Sheri Linden, Sept 16, 2005
Bottom line: Impressively realized on all levels, this transgender spin on the road trip boasts an extraordinary central performance.On the big screen, "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman often has been relegated to the supporting category of friend/sister/neighbor. With the poignant and often deliriously funny road-trip feature "Transamerica," she steps into the challenging lead role of a solitary, preoperative transsexual and delivers an extraordinary portrait. The film marks an auspicious debut for writer-director Duncan Tucker, whose fresh, character-driven story-telling should make this December release from the Weinstein Co. an art house favorite.
Whatever it says about the zeitgeist, the theme of unexpected fatherhood has informed the work of a number of filmmakers this year, among them Jim Jarmusch ("Broken Flowers"), Wim Wenders ("Don't Come Knocking") and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne ("L'Enfant"). In this case, the reluctant but curious dad who learns he has a son happens to be a woman in tasteful pastels. The transgender spin avoids gimmickry thanks to Tucker's deft touch and the subtle work of Huffman and the rest of the pitch-perfect cast, especially Kevin Zegers as the lost-and-found offspring.
Gender politics is an element of the film but by no means its subject. Tucker's concerns are loneliness, emotional honesty and the simple need for human kindness. Bree, nee Stanley (Huffman), is self-contained in her little Los Angeles bungalow, and her closest friend is her compassionate therapist, Margaret (Elizabeth Pena). A week before the ultimate surgical step in her gender transformation, she receives a phone call from a 17-year-old New York inmate who claims to be Stanley's son. Single-minded in her countdown to the operating room, Bree dismisses the unwanted disruption, but Margaret refuses to OK the medical procedure until Bree goes to New York to address the matter.
Bree bails out the brooding Toby (Zegers) but hasn't the nerve to divulge why she's there and plays along when he assumes she's a church missionary. A photograph confirms that the boy, a good-looking street hustler who ran away from home after his mother died, is the product of a college coupling, and a sense of responsibility takes hold of Bree. Instead of flying home, she buys a chartreuse station wagon to drive Toby cross-country to Los Angeles, where he expects to find his father living large and hopes to break into movies -- of the San Fernando Valley sort.
Bree maintains her "deep stealth" (living as a genetic female), keeping two secrets from Toby -- her biological history and his. She's a fascinating character, and Huffman brilliantly embodies the complex layers of self-awareness and denial in this prim yet gutsy individual, who each day must paint on a face and put on a voice to become more truly herself. Self-consciousness is a constant, as the film powerfully demonstrates when a child's innocent but discerning question plunges Bree into despair.
As a boy who considers sex his chief talent, Zegers (of the "Air Bud" films and last year's "Dawn of the Dead" remake) conveys Toby's essential sweetness and hunger for real affection, making him much more than just a vain or damaged kid.
Instead of settling into quirky odd-couple shtick, the film is full of unexpected turns, with every character the duo encounters surprising and well observed, from a free-spirited hitcher (Grant Monohon) to a New Mexico rancher (Graham Greene) who gallantly comes to Bree's assistance, more than a bit smitten.
Tucker's astute script and direction weave laugh-out-loud humor into his characters' longing for acceptance, particularly when their journey takes them to the Phoenix McMansion of Bree's family -- whose kitsch collectibles, part of Mark White's excellent production design, supply one of the funniest moments in the film. You don't have to be a transsexual to understand the way Bree's parents (Fionnula Flanagan and Burt Young) and sister (Carrie Preston) feed her self-doubt. But even the wonderful Flanagan's turquoise-bedecked, monstrously materialistic Elizabeth is afforded her humanity because Duncan lets emotions unfold instead of merely scoring points and moving on.
David Mansfield's Americana-tinged score underlines the optimism and the plaintiveness of a journey that's memorably captured in director of photography Stephen Kazmierski's sensitive camerawork.
The Weinstein Co. Belladonna Prods. production Credits:Screenwriter-director: Duncan TuckerProducers: Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Sebastian Dungan Executive producer: William H. Macy Director of photography: Stephen Kazmierski Production designer: Mark White Music: David Mansfield Costume designer: Danny Glicker Editor: Pam Wise Cast: Bree: Felicity Huffman Toby: Kevin Zegers Elizabeth: Fionnula Flanagan Margaret: Elizabeth Pena Calvin: Graham Greene Murray: Burt Young Sydney: Carrie Preston Arletty: Venida Evans Hitchhiker: Grant Monohon Running time -- 103 minutes No MPAA rating
© 2005 VNU eMedia Inc. All rights reserved.
TRANSAMERICA REVIEW: VARIETY.COM
By EDDIE COCKRELL
Mon., Feb. 21, 2005, 1:46pm PT
A Belladonna production. Produced by Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Sebastian Dungan. Executive producer, William H. Macy. Directed, written by Duncan Tucker.
Bree - Felicity Huffman Toby - Kevin Zegers Elizabeth - Fionnula Flanagan Margaret - Elizabeth Pena Calvin - Graham Greene Murray - Burt Young Sydney - Carrie Preston
"Sideways" turns inside out in "Transamerica." Laugh-out-loud funny, tartly off-color and ultimately touching, this road movie involving the cross-country adventures of a persnickety transsexual, and the runaway street hustler son whose existence is news to her, reps a triumphantly genre-bending big-screen bow for writer-director Duncan Tucker. An adventurous U.S. distrib willing to put marketing muscle behind an outspoken comedy, one that feels like vintage John Waters scripted by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, could reap controversy of the former's works and approach kudos-driven B.O. of the latters.' Internationally, it should travel well beyond niche fests to develop crossover appeal in theatrical and homevid.
On the verge of qualifying for the surgery that will complete her transformation from Stanley to Sabrina Claire Osborne, primly wry Bree (Felicity Huffman) is given one last hurdle by therapist Margaret (Elizabeth Pena): She must spring Toby (Kevin Zegers), a previously unknown son from a long-ago hetero encounter, from detention on charges ranging from street-hustling to "shoplifting a frog."
Sullen Toby believes Bree to be a Christian missionary, and has no clue that she's a he, or that he's her/his son. On these terms, they head from New York to Los Angeles by car, Bree to have her operation and Toby to pursue stardom in the porn industry.
Thinking she'll ditch the boy with a stepfather in Kentucky, Bree is shocked to learn that Toby's reason for escaping involved parental abuse. In Dallas, the pair stumble upon a cozy suburban coffee klatsch of the "gender gifted" in various stages of transformation. When their car is stolen in New Mexico by an open-minded but larcenous hitchhiker, they thumb a ride with affable Calvin Two Goats (Graham Greene). On the way to Phoenix, the courtly cowboy becomes quietly smitten with the increasingly disheveled Bree.
Pic kicks into high gear at about the hour mark, as Bree reluctantly knocks on the door of her disapproving upscale parents Elizabeth and Murray (Fionnula Flanagan, Burt Young), and rehabbing younger sister Sydney (Carrie Preston). "We all look much happier than we are," Sydney announces to shocked restaurant patrons as the supremely dysfunctional family ventures out to dine. By the end, however, they've made peace with each other as both relatives and individuals.
The principal keys to Tucker's success are casting and tone. Thesps by and large play it straight, allowing humanity to survive the shock value of an episodic script inspired by helmer's experience with transsexuals and runaways. This is typified by the most eye-opening sequence, in which Toby glimpses Bree relieving herself by the side of the road and realizes what's going on.
As with "The Crying Game" and "Boogie Nights," any resulting controversy will be for all the wrong reasons. In a bizarre resume twist, this is the second film, after P.T. Anderson's "Boogie," to involve both a prosthetic male member and William H. Macy, who serves as exec producer here and is married to Huffman.
In a far cry from her current gig on tube hit "Desperate Housewives," Huffman is spectacular as the complex Bree, at once proud and terrified of how she is, who she wants to be, and what she must endure to get there. Zegers, from recent "Dawn of the Dead" remake, finds multiple dimensions in pic's potentially most clich?d character, while Flanagan steals her scenes as a flustered red-stater whose maternal instinct finally trumps her blind prejudice.
Discreetly strong tech contributions are led by Mark White's spot-on production design, which conveys the cluttered conservative charm of mid-America on a series of locations in New York State and Arizona. David Mansfield's fine score is supplemented by a clutch of diverse tunes ranging from Chopin to The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Camera (color, Super 16mm-to-35mm), Stephen Kazmierski; editor, Pam Wise; music, David Mansfield; music supervisor, Doug Bernheim; production designer, Mark White; costume designer, Danny Glicker; sound (Dolby Digital), Griffin Richardson; supervising sound editor, Lou Bertini; associate producer, Lucy Cooper; assistant director, Urs Hirschbiegel; casting, Eve Battaglia. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005. Running time: 103 MINS.
© 2005 Reed Business Information
PICKING CANNES PIX: VARIETY.COM
By Todd McCarthy, Derek Elley
March 29, 1999
With less than a month to go before the final lineup will be announced, the Cannes Film Festival has locked in only a handful of titles for its upcoming edition, May 12-23. New films by such key international directors as Nikita Mikhalkov, Leos Carax, Takeshi Kitano, Zhang Yimou, Pedro Almodovar, Arturo Ripstein and Marco Bellocchio will be featured on the Croisette, while many other pictures are poised for consideration or are not yet finished. Facing a deadline of April 22, when the complete program will be revealed at a Paris press conference, fest topper Gilles Jacob is said to be "way behind" in firming up a list and is watching several films per day in an effort to cover all his bases.
Hottest rumor a week ago was that the most eagerly anticipated film of the year, George Lucas' "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace," would make its international debut on closing night, but 20th Century Fox has scotched that report. Lucas and the distrib want the space epic to be perceived as "a people's film" unmarked by any festival affiliation.
Amiel isn't closer
Fox also denied that Jon Amiel's "Entrapment," starring Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ving Rhames, would be the closer, although the romantic suspenser looks headed for the Riviera in a different slot. Pic is set to open in the U.S. on April 30.
Carax's French drama "Pola X," starring Catherine Deneuve and Katerina Golubeva, is scheduled to bow in France on May 12, and is therefore likely to either kick off the 52nd edition of the Cote d'Azur event or play the second day.
Among the films definitely headed for the Competition is Mikhalkov's historical romantic drama "The Barber of Siberia," starring Julia Ormond and Richard Harris. English-lingo epic, in which the director portrays 19th century Czar Aleksandr III, has received a mixed reaction in Russia since its Feb. 20 premiere, although a different cut is reportedly being prepared for international consumption.
Sure shots to show
Other sure titles include Kitano's "Kikujiro's Summer," a road movie in which the Japanese actor-director plays a veteran yakuza and helps a young boy look for his father; Mexican vet Arturo Ripstein's "No One Writes to the Colonel," an adaptation of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novella with Salma Hayek and Marisa Paredes; Italian vet Bellocchio's "The Nanny," from a Pirandello story, starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi; and Zhang Yimou's "Not One Less," set in a country school in China.
Among the other leading contenders for the Competition are Atom Egoyan's thriller "Felicia's Journey," based on a William Trevor novel; Alan Parker's adaptation of Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" with Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle; Anthony Minghella's adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett; Kevin Smith's "Dogma" with Ben Affleck; Aleksandr Sokhurov's "Moloch," about Hitler and Eva Braun; Patricia Rozema's adaptation of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park," featuring Embeth Davidtz; and Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog" with Isaach de Bankole, Forest Whitaker, Damon Whitaker and Paul Diomede.
Probably Ang Lee
Also looking like strong possibilities are Diane Kurys' "Children of the Century" toplining Juliette Binoche; Valeri Pichul's "Sky in Diamonds," about a boy born on the centenary of Chekhov's birth; "La vie de Jesus" director Bruno Dumont's "Humanity"; Ang Lee's Civil War drama "Ride with the Devil"; Chen Kuo-fu's "The Personals" from Taiwan; and Giuseppe Tornatore's "The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean," depending upon whether the director and Fine Line can agree on a cut.
Among films being considered for the Official Selection are: Roman Polanski's thriller "The Ninth Gate," toplining Johnny Depp, Lena Olin, Frank Langella, James Russo and Emmanuelle Seigner; Steven Soderbergh's "The Limey," starring Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda; Bruno Nuytten's "Passionment"; John Sayles' "Limbo," with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Casey Siemaszko and Kris Kristofferson; Wayne Wang's "Anywhere but Here," a drama about a mother and daughter starting a new life in Beverly Hills, with Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman and Hart Bochner; Tim Robbins' "The Cradle Will Rock," the story of Orson Welles' staging of the populist musical; and Scott Hicks' "Snow Falling on Cedars" with Ethan Hawke.
Likely to be listed
Other likely entrants are Istvan Szabo's "A Taste of Sunshine," the saga of three generations of a Hungarian Jewish family featuring Ralph Fiennes and William Hurt; Michael Winterbottom's "Old New Borrowed Blue," a romantic comedy set in Northern Ireland with Christopher Eccleston and Fionnula Flanagan; Michael Cacoyannis' "The Cherry Orchard"; Raul Ruiz's "Time Regained"; Rashid Benhadj's "Mirka," a drama toplining Gerard Depardieu and Vanessa Redgrave; cinematographer Christopher Doyle's directorial debut "Away With Words"; and U.K. director Lynne Ramsey's "Rat Catcher."
Almodovar's latest, "All About My Mother," looks headed for an Out-of-Competition unspooling, while two films appear to be locked for the Un Certain Regard sidebar ? Wang Xiaoshuai's "Vietnam Girl" from China and "Criminal Lovers" from "Sitcom" helmer Francois Ozon.
Status of Chen Kaige's "Assassin" remains to be seen, as the director is recutting the film after poor receptions in Japan and in its mainland China preem late last year. Mike Leigh's Gilbert and Sullivan biopic "Topsy Turvy" will reportedly not be ready in time for the fest, while the widely talked-about "Notting Hill," starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, also will not be turning up on the Croisette, as the producers reportedly feel the film doesn't need the fest hoopla to give it a good launch.
(Adam Dawtrey, Benedict Carver, Chris Petrikin, John Hopewell, David Rooney and Liza Foreman contributed to this report.)
Copyright 1998 Variety, Inc.
TUMBLEWEEDS REVIEW: VARIETY.COM
By Glenn Lovell, 1/27/99
Produced by Greg O'Connor. Executive producers, Ted Demme, Joel Stillerman, Greg O'Connor, Gavin O'Connor, Thmomas J. Mangan IV. Directed by Garvin O'Connor. Screenplay by Gavin O'Connor, Angela Shelton from a story by Angela Shelton.
Mary Jo Walker - Janet McTeer Ava Walker - Kimberly J. Brown Jack Ranson - Gavin O'Connor Dan Miller - Jay O'Sanders Ginger - Lois Smith Laurie Pendleton - Lolloman Mr. Cummings - Michael J. Pollard Vertis Dewey - Noah Emmerich Zoe Broussard - Ashley Buccille Adam Riley - Cody McMains
In rough outline, Gavin O'Connor's "Tumbleweeds" sounds like very familiar terrain: the road pic/coming-of-age number in which an unlucky-in-love mother and precocious child bond through adversity. Haven't Scorsese's "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and Michael Caton's "This Boy's Life" gone this route before? Yes, but that shouldn't hurt this exuberant indie's chances at b.o. Powered by uncommon rapport between its femme leads and helmer's roughhewned sensibility, pic has what it takes to becomes the year's first heartfelt sleeper.
Set mostly in San Diego and taken from an autobiographical story by Angela Shelton (credited as co-scenarist), pic also has topnotch production values and a strong supporting cast going for it. Helmer O'Connor, who appears in a key supporting role, can be likened to John Sayles. Only O'Connor's approach is decidedly more viewer-friendly, making him a stronger bet for mainstream acceptance.
Janet McTeer and Kimberly J. Brown topline as, respectively, oft-wed Mary Jo Walker and her 12-year-old daughter, Ava (named for the movie star), who knows Mom like a book. When things turn sour in an abusive relationship, Mary Jo yells, "Pack your things ? we're movin'!" and lights out for another state and another former beau. Said scenario plays out in opening scene, with Mary Jo and Ava skipping town for, first, Missouri, and then San Diego. In transit, they meet "Marlboro Man" trucker Jack (O'Connor).
And so stage is set for yet another start, with new job, new school, new best friends. In a twist on the formula, Ava has a remarkably easy time fitting in, even winning a lead in the school play. Perpetually horny Mom doesn't fare as well: She runs afoul of her weirdo boss (Michael J. Pollard) and shacks up with Jack, who turns out to be just as controlling and moody as her ex.
Throughout this familiar-sounding meller, O'Connor and his cast zig when you expect them, per the formula, to zag. Unlike characters in, say, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" Ava is not only smart but well-adjusted and Jack, though mean-spirited, makes a stab at domesticity.
Brit legit star McTeer, in her U.S. screen debut, is a revelation as happily uncouth good-ol'-gal who, despite lousy judgment, dearly loves her daughter. Brown, already a TV-stage vet, plays Eva as both naturally curious-about-sex adolescent and disapproving parent figure. Rapport between the two, during up times and down, is something special to behold. In one especially moving scene, Mary Jo cradles her devastated child, and O'Connor wisely lets his camera run.
Lois Smith appears as a secretary friend who unwittingly encourages Mary Jo's worst habits, and Jay O. Sanders is the nice-guy at the office who helps her break her destructive wed-and-run pattern by proffering something new: friendship. Ashley Buccille and Cody McMains are charming without working at it as Ava's drama-class friend and her first boyfriend.
Shot on the run in 24 days, pic seldom betrays its meager budget. Dan Stoloff's lensing furthers gritty, blue-collar tone, and David Mansfield's country-rock music underscores pic's feisty, stand-your-ground theme.
Camera (color, Fotokem), Dan Stoloff; editor, John Gilroy; sound (Dolby), Chen Harpaz; music, David Mansfield; production designer, Bruce Eric Holtshousen; costume designer, Mimi Maxmen; casting, Todd Thaler. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (dramatic competition), Jan. 24, 1999. Running time: 104 min.
HOLLYWOOD HOT IN 51st CANNES LINEUP
By Michael Williams and Derek Elley
Friday April 24 9:07 AM EDT
PARIS (Variety) - Hordes of stars like Sharon Stone, John Travolta and Bruce Willis will descend on the 51st Cannes Film Festival next month to promote a healthy number of U.S. films in competition and in the sidebars.
Organizers unveiled the lineup Thursday, and festival chief Gilles Jacob was clearly upbeat about the selection, admitting that he would have liked this year's crop to have been available last year. The festival runs May 13-24.
He said there had been a "real explosion" this year both in terms of "the remarkable increase in the number of films which were proposed to us and in their quality."
Referring to the annual debate about whether the Hollywood studios are either snubbing or being snubbed by Cannes, he noted, "If there are few Hollywood films then we are being snubbed. If there are many then it's a Hollywood invasion." He said that this year's crop struck a healthy balance.
For the first time since 1994, the festival opens and closes with U.S. studio productions: Universal's "Primary Colors" and Sony's "Godzilla," both out of competition.
Otherwise, Britain has a quartet of official entries, Latin America will be there in force, Denmark is sending a pair of cutting-edge offerings, Iran is sending a picture from an 18-year-old helmer, while Germany, despite its thriving film biz, will have a sparse presence this year. Officially flying the Stars and Stripes in competition are Terry Gilliam's adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson druggie tome "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (Universal), starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro; John Turturro's 19th century erotic farce "Illuminata" starring Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Ben Gazzara and Turturro, and Hal Hartley's working class black comedy "Henry Fool."
Star-gazers will have plenty to watch on the Croisette this year with a combo of top local and international names already signed up for the trip to the Cote d'Azur.
The U.S. contingent includes Travolta, Willis, Depp, Turturro, Walken, Robert Duvall, Janet Leigh, Harvey Keitel, Matt Dillon, Andie MacDowell, Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and Cameron Diaz.
From the U.K., Ewan McGregor, John Hurt, Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave and Kristin Scott-Thomas will be among the attendees, while the Gallic presence will include Gerard Depardieu, Sophie Marceau, Jeanne Moreau, Carole Bouquet, Fanny Ardant, Daniel Auteuil and Michel Blanc.
The sidebars and out-of-competition entries yield an equally eclectic mix of U.S. offerings.
Fox Searchlight has Stanley Tucci's screwball comedy "The Impostors," featuring Tucci, Oliver Platt, Isabella Rossellini, Campbell Scott, Tony Shalhoub, Lili Taylor and Steve Buscemi, set for a Midnight Screening in Un Certain Regard.
MGM is linked to U.S. director Todd Haynes' competition runner, the glam rock "Velvet Goldmine," with McGregor, Jonathan Rhys-Myers and Christian Bale, via its London-based Goldwyn Films. (Miramax has U.S. rights.) Warner Bros. has an out-of-competition entry with a special screening of Roland Joffe's comic thriller "Goodbye, Lover," with Patricia Arquette, Dermot Mulroney, Ellen DeGeneres, Mary Louis Parker and Don Johnson. Universal is out of competition with John Landis' "Blues Brothers 2000" and, via its October Films subsidiary, in Un Certain Regard sidebar with Duvall's "The Apostle." In addition, Universal is bringing the recently assembled director's cut of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," which will be screened with stars Heston and Leigh attending.
Meanwhile, the WB banner will fly in competition in the form of the Warners co-financed "La Classe de Neige," a mystery thriller from French director Claude Miller.
The longest film in the official selection, and also the least heralded, is the three-hour U.S. indie drama "Island, Alicia," by first-time New York director Ken Yunome.
French-funded films have historically been prominent among competition entries from international directors such as Mike Leigh, Nick Cassavetes, Robert Altman and Jane Campion, and this year is no exception. Jacob described U.S. helmer Lodge Kerrigan's "Claire Dolan" as an American film, although it was entirely financed by Paris-based MK2.
More than last year, many Cannes favorites are back on the Croisette, including Greek director Theo Angelopoulos with "An Eternity and a Day," Ken Loach via the Glasgow-set romancer "My Name is Joe," Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-hsien with the bordello-set costumer "The Flowers of Shanghai," John Boorman with his black-&-white biopic of Dublin outlaw Martin Cahill, "The General," Nanni Moretti with his political reverie "Aprile," Lars Von Trier with "Idiots," a black comedy about intelligent people who pretend to be idiots, and Patrice Chereau with "Ceux qui M'aiment predront le Train," a meeting-of-old-friends drama starring Jean-Hugues Anglade, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Charles Berling and Vincent Perez.
Although a sizable number of touted Brit pictures did not make it into the official selection, the four chosen show a broad diversity. Edgier fare is present in experimental director John Maybury's portrait of late gay painter Francis Bacon, "Love is the Devil," while veteran producer Jeremy Thomas makes his debut directing appearance with rural-set drama of a young boy's emotional regeneration, "All the Little Animals," starring John Hurt.
While the U.S. presence in the official selection remains numerically on a par with last year, edgy U.S. indie productions are less in evidence this time around, particularly in sidebar Un Certain Regard. The Out of Competition section, so often a stalking ground for U.S. indie fare, is dominated by tried-and-tested Cannes names such as Roland Joffe ("Goodbye, Lover"), 1997 Palme d'Or co-winner Shohei Imamura (the comedy "Kanzo Sensei"), Carlos Saura (the dance drama "Tango") and Portuguese nonagenarian Manoel de Oliveira ("Inquietude").
Also turning up as a midnighter is Aussie director Alex Proyas' futuristic "Dark City."
Jacob said this year's selection begins to reflect the new dynamism in Latin American production. In the competition, Argentina and Brazil are represented by Hector Babenco's autobiographical "Foolish Heart" and Colombia by poet-filmer Victor Gaviria's 1996 production "The Rose Seller." In Un Certain Regard, Mexican veteran Arturo Ripstein weighs in with the sex-and-religion shocker "Divine."
Considering its current renaissance, German cinema hardly made the cut in the official selection, with Angela Schanelec's "Places in Cities," a drama about a pregnant 19-year-old, the sole national representative. The only other movie with German funding attached is the Latvian co-production "The Shoe," a first dramatic feature by Laila Pakalnina, whose shorts, "The Postwoman" and "The Ferry," were seen in Un Certain Regard two years ago.
Asian directors continue to have their place at Cannes, although their numbers are slightly down, due largely to the fact that they have become much sought after by other festival programmers around the world. With no films from China or Hong Kong, Taiwan carries the burden of Chinese representation, with Hou's "The Flowers of Shanghai" and Tsai's semi-musical two-hander "The Hole." Indonesian helmer Garin Nugroho (like Tsai, a former Berlin favorite) makes the leap to the Riviera with "Leaf on a Pillow," as does South Korea's Hong Sang-soo, director of last year's "The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well," with "The Power of Kangwon Province."
First-timers in competition include Italy's Roberto Benigni with the Miramax re-edit of "Life is Beautiful," a World War II concentration camp drama, Gallic debut director Erick Zonca with "La Vie Revee des Anges," and Taiwan's Tsai. Cannes will also welcome its youngest-ever director in the official selection, as 18-year old Iranian Samirah Makhmalbaf, daughter of celebrated helmer Mohsen Makhmalbaf, has her debut picture "The Apple" in Un Certain Regard.
As usual in the run-up to the festival, a handful of expected pictures failed to make the cut, largely because they weren't finished in time. That was the case with Andre Techine's Juliette Binoche-starrer "Alice and Martin" and Emir Kusturica's "Black Cat, White Cat." Jacob noted that Kusturica, who now enjoys French citizenship, "may well be a three-time Palme D'Or winner, but not this year."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Monday, March 9, 1998
Loudon Wainwright III: Recounting Angst and Joy in a Melodic life Crisis
By Ann Powers
NEW YORK -- Midway through Loudon Wainwright III's show on Friday night at the Bottom Line, he hit an apex of self-awareness. Wainwright, the singer and songwriter, was performing "Livin' Alone," a diary of bachelor life after yet another botched relationship. Amusing details did not lessen the tension built up by his frantic guitar strumming and wiry vocals.
"You're 51 now," he muttered, almost as an afterthought. He repeated the phrase, as if waking up to the inconceivable. Finally, he screamed out, facing the awful truth: "You're 51 now, and you're livin' alone!"
The moment, perfectly balanced between hilarity and torment, is the kind that has made Wainwright one of the baby boom's most honest character witnesses. "I guess that I'm just aging like the finest wines and cheeses," he sang, and his set bore a pungent complexity that reinforced the metaphor. Some songs went straight for the funny bone, while others were purely poignant. But the best blended both elements to express the trickiest emotion: ambivalence.
The doubtfulness of middle age has deepened Wainwright's perspective. He has always relished disrupting folk music's liberal pieties, and on Friday, he covered his usual territory of crumbling families, cheap affairs and existential dread, emphasizing cuts from his newest album, "Little Ship" (Virgin).
"Bein' a Dad" parodied deadbeat tendencies, while "So Damn Happy" waxed blithely about breaking a woman's heart. But with every cruel sentiment Wainwright expressed, he managed to slip in a hint of its opposite.
The mark of a great comic is this awareness of life's wondrous precariousness. Like his kindred spirit, Woody Allen, Wainwright finds theatricality in the mundane: the awkward phone call between ex-spouses, a nervous trip to the doctor. Borrowing from vaudeville and musical comedy, playing the ukulele and banjo as well as guitar, he depicted life as a chronic case of performance anxiety.
A duet with the dusky-voiced chanteuse Syd Straw on "Your Mother and I," in which divorcing parents try to explain themselves to their child, exemplified the inner isolation that intimacy cannot erase. Such songs explore how everyone writes his own little scripts, and relationships demand learning each other's lines.
Michael Hurley, who opened the show, presented a far mellower image of middle age. Hurley plucked his weathered banjo in a slow, rickety style and crooned in a raw yodel that dipped to a growl. He was as folksy as Wainwright was urbane, but hardly simplistic.
Whether weaving a yarn about a mysterious hog or comparing the human heart to a mechanic's toolbox, Hurley created elaborate vistas in a musical version of outsider art. The versatile instrumentalist David Mansfield accompanied both performers, artfully traveling the distance between city angst and country bliss.
THE NEW YORKER
February 9, 1998
Funny Coincidence Dept.
By Mark Singer
(Duvall said after screening "The Apostle" for Bill & Hillary at the White House)...
..."I didn't look over at them while the film was running. They were kind of sunk back in their chairs, but someone told me they were holding hands and moving their feet in rhythm with the music. The President said afterward that he really responded to the music; he's been to so many of these churches in the South."
LATINO FILM FESTIVAL DEBUTS
By Leonard Klady
Monday October 6 8:25 AM EDT
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - The first Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival opens Wednesday with the U.S. premiere of "Who the Hell Is Juliette?"
Based on a true story, the Mexican film chronicles a Cuban teen-ager's and a Mexican model's search for their respective fathers. Carlos Marcovich made his feature directing debut on the project.
An ambitious five-day event, the festival features more than 50 contemporary and classic films produced in the U.S. and South and Central America. Edward James Olmos launched the venture, and serves as artistic director. Screenings are at Universal City Cinemas and Universal Studios.
Despite the strong Hispanic presence in the United States, Latin cinema has had no more than token support commercially. For decades, films from Mexico played in specialized movie houses in L.A., New York and other enclaves in Texas, Florida and the Southwest. An occasional film would cross over into arthouse exhibition, most notably "Like Water for Chocolate" and Argentina's "The Official Story" -- the only South American film to win the Oscar in the foreign-language category. However, the rich tradition of movies from Brazil, Argentina and Chile and emerging work from Peru and Venezuela was largely unknown.
Thursday's screening schedule includes programs of recent features from Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and Chile. Among the selections are past Oscar submissions La Frontera (Chile) and Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman (Mexico), and recent successes on the festival circuit, including Moebeus (Argentina) and Historias de Futbol (Chile).
Friday's focus is on shorts, documentaries and a 10th anniversary screening of La Bamba.
Closing day features Mexican classics from Luis Bunuel, two of the great Cuban films -- "Memories of Underdevelopment" and "Lucia" -- and the closing night premiere of Arturo Ripstein's "Deep Crimson."
For more information, call (213) 852-1525.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
FILM FESTIVAL PLANS ALMODOVAR PREMIERE
NEW YORK -- The New York Film Festival, which opens Sept. 26 at Avery Fisher Hall with Ang Lee's "Ice Storm," has announced that it will end its 35th annual presentation on Oct. 12 with the world premiere of Pedro Almodovar's "Live Flesh." A thriller set in Madrid, the film involves the police, a diplomat's daughter and the ghosts of Franco's rule.
The festival, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, will offer 28 films from 18 countries and will have as its centerpiece "The Sweet Hereafter," directed by Atom Egoyan. The film stars Ian Holm as a lawyer investigating a schoolbus crash in British Columbia that results in the death of children. "The Sweet Hereafter" won the Grand Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival in May. It will be shown Oct. 4 and 5 in Alice Tully Hall.
In what it calls a "special sidebar event" at Avery Fisher Hall on Sept. 29, the festival will present the world premiere of the Museum of Modern Art's restoration of D.W. Griffith's "Orphans of the Storm," including the original score by William Frederick Peters and Louis F. Gottschalk. The score will be performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic under Gillian Anderson. "Marcello Mastroianni, I Remember, Yes I Remember," a documentary by Anna Maria Tato, his longtime companion, will be shown at Avery Fisher Hall on Sept. 29. The actor died in December at the age of 72.
Jim Jarmusch's documentary on Neil Young, "Year of the Horse," and Lars von Trier's "Kingdom Part II" will be shown on Oct. 4 and 12, respectively, at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the special-event program.
Among the countries represented by festival offerings are Iran, Egypt, Russia, Mexico, Japan and France. "Taste of Cherry," by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year and focuses on a man contemplating suicide as he drives around the outskirts of Teheran. From Egypt, "Destiny," directed by Youssef Chahine, takes place in the 12th century and concerns the conflict between intellectual exploration and religious orthodoxy.
Russia's Aleksandr Sokurov paints a picture of abandonment and grief in "Mother and Son." The Mexican entry, "Deep Crimson," directed by Arturo Ripstein, is a psychological drama about a seducer and his victims. In "Hana-Bi," the multi-talented Japanese performer and writer Takeshi Kitano stars in his own film about a former detective who embarks on a wild scheme to make amends for a crippling injury to his partner. Bruno Dumont's "Vie de Jesus," which won the Jean Vigo Prize for best first film, follows the fortunes of unemployed youths in northern France.
The American contingent includes "Telling Lies in America," directed by Gus Ferland, written by Joe Eszterhas and starring Kevin Bacon, Brad Renfro, Maximilian Schell and Calista Flockhart in a story about an immigrant teen-ager learning the ropes from dubious sources in 1960s Cleveland. Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights" concerns sexual and other excesses among teen-agers in Southern California during the 1970s and early 80s. Mark Wahlberg stars. "The Apostle," written, directed and financed by Robert Duvall, also stars Duvall as a preacher on the run from the law. The cast includes Farrah Fawcett, Miranda Richardson and Billy Bob Thornton.
A new adaptation of Henry James's "Washington Square," directed by Agnieszka Holland, stars Albert Finney as the unbending patriarch of James's stifling household and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the daughter whose bleak victory ends the story.
A documentary entry is "Public Housing," Frederick Wiseman's portrait of life in a housing development in Chicago.
The box office for the festival, which is being sponsored for the second year by Grand Marnier, will open on Sept. 7 at noon at Alice Tully Hall. Information: (212) 875-5050.
"The Apostle E. F." Accepted In Competition At Toronto Film Festival
Robert Duvall's film, "The Apostle E. F." has been accepted by the 1997 Toronto Film Festival. The film will screen on Saturday, September 6, at 7:30 PM. It is his second directorial outing, the first being "Angelo, My Love".
Mexico's Ripstein Wins Best Film Award
At Havana Festival
Friday December 13 4:37 PM EST
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuter) - Mexican director Arturo Ripstein won the award for best feature film at the annual Havana Latin American film festival Friday for his "Deep Crimson" (Profundo Carmesi), a favorite from the start.
Second prize went to Peru's Francisco Lombardi for "Under the Skin" (Bajo la Piel), while Brazilian Rosemberg Cariry took third place with "Corisco and Dada" (Corisco e Dada).
The awards ceremony was to be held later Friday, capping the 10-day festival.
"Deep Crimson," a dramatic portrayal of love, crime and violence, also won Ripstein the best director prize. And the film, popular with both critics and the public, picked up a third award, for music, for David Mansfield.
The best actor award went to Cassiano Carneiro of Brazil for his role in "Who killed Pixote" (Quen matou Pixote), while the best actress prize went to Argentina's Norma Alejandro for her role as a middle-aged woman discovering love in "Autumn Sun" (Sol de Otono).
Augusto Cababa and Lombardi also won the best screenplay award for "Under the Skin," a thriller set in northern Peru.
Britain's Ken Loach won in the category of best foreign film on a Latin American theme for his "Carla's Song" (La Cancion de Carla), about the civil war in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Cuba, which did not enter a feature film for the festival, won first prize in the documentary category for Rigoberto Lopez Pego's work on Cuban music, "I am, from son to salsa" (Yo soy, del son a la salsa).
THE 53RD VENICE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS
Saturday, September 7, 1996
The Jury of the 53rd Venice International Film Festival, composed of Roman Polanski (Presidente), Paul Auster, Souleymane Cissé, Callisto Cosulich, Anjelica Huston, Miriam Mafai, Mirial Sen, Antonio Skàrmeta and Hülya Ucansu, have viewed all 17 films in competition, and have reached the following decisions:
Golden Lion: "Michael Collins", Neil Jordan (Ireland)
Special Jury Gran Prix: "Brigands", Otar Iosseliani (Georgia/France)
Coppa Volpi for Best Actress: Victoire Thivisol, "Ponette" (France)
Coppa Volpi for Best Actor: Liam Neeson, "Michael Collins"
Coppa Volpi for Best Supporting Actor: Chris Penn, "The Funeral" (U. S.)
Osella d'Oro for screenplay: Paz Alicia Garciadiego, "Deep Crimson" (Mexico)
Osella d'Oro for art direction: Marisa Pecanins, Monica Chirinos, "Deep Crimson"
Osella d'Oro for music: David Mansfield, "Deep Crimson"
Gold Medal of the President of the Senate of Italian Republic: "Carla's Song", Ken Loach (Britain)