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Asian Representation Weak at Cannes

2006/05/03 Source

By Gautaman Bhaskaran
Contributing Writer

Expected to be one of the most sought-after South Korean movies of the year, "The Host" by Bong Joon-ho, will be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, beginning May 17. A science-fiction thriller, "The Host" will figure in one of Cannes' most prestigious sidebars, Directors' Fortnight.

"The Host" tells of a mutant rising from the Han River in Seoul, a long-awaited sequel to Bong's "Memories of Murder".

"I am delighted to present this remarkable new work by one of the most gifted contemporary directors, which boasts spectacular qualities of the best fantasy cinema, treated with the directorial style, emotion, irony and political satire that we have come to expect from Bong Joon-ho", Olivier Pere, artistic director for Directors' Fortnight, said.

The 59th Cannes Film Festival has not "rounded up the usual suspects", to quote one of the immortal closing lines of "Casablanca", that went on to become part of cinema history, making icons of Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart, who played Louis Renault and Richard Blaine respectively in the 1942 classic.

Will this Festival on the exquisite French Riviera become as memorable? The simple answer is, that it can, given the fact that the undoubtedly world's best film fest is showing signs of a great renewal.

Of the 20 directors whose movies have been chosen to play in the festival's top slot, only one, Italy's Nanni Moretti has previously won the Palme d'Or, Cannes' top prize. That was in 2001 for "The Son's Room", in contrast to last year, where the competition was crowded with four previous Palm winners.

Moretti's "The Caiman" comes from an auteur known for his sparkling wit and humor, albeit presented with great restraint. In his latest rendering, Moretti gives us a political satire on Italy's former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

The other Italian work in competition is Paolo Sorrentino's "The Family Friend", about a usurer who worms his way into a family.

However, there are several old hands in the competition: Pedro Almodovar with his spectral Spanish family drama "Volver", starring Penelope Cruz; Aki Kaurismaki with the last part of his Finnish trilogy, "Lights in the Dusk"; and British director, Ken Loach with "The Wind That Shakes the Barley", about two brothers who join a guerrilla army in 1919 to battle British Black and Tan squads.

In the French contingent are two old Cannes hands out of the total three directors. Nicole Garcia's "According to Charlie" and Bruno Dumont's "Flanders", besides newcomer Xavier Giannoli's "When I Was a Singer". Garcia depicts seven people passing through an existential crisis, while Dumont captures the effect of a desert war on ordinary men and women.

Another facet of this year's great renewal is the abundance of the "rising generation", which includes American, Sofia Coppola with her modernist period drama "Marie-Antoinette", and Mexican auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, whose "Babel" stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

There is a strong Latino presence this year including such films as Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth", set against the backdrop of Franco's Spain, and "South on the March", a modern story of Portugal's poor.

Asia is really weak this year. There is nothing from India. In fact, there has been nothing since 2002, when Sanjay Leela Bhansali's " Devdas" was part of Cannes' "Special Screenings".

China is the dominant force from Asia, with an unprecedented two members on the jury _ president Wong Kar Wai and actress Ziyi Zhang _ and the only Asian Competition title, Lou Ye's tale of youthful discovery, "Summer Palace".

Elsewhere, China's Wang Chao has "Luxury Car" in the category of Un Certain Regard, Hong Kong director Johnnie To's "Election 2" and the sword epic "Guisi" from Taiwan's Su Chao-Pin will be shown.

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