Wrap it up, we'll take it: Cannes is over; the releases are just beginning. Sheila Johnston on the films British viewers will get to see
Friday 27 May 1994
Tarantino's first film, Reservoir Dogs, is still playing in cinemas, and has so far been refused a video certificate, as has True Romance (scripted by Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott). Pulp Fiction has its queasy moments, too: in one choice scene, John Travolta shakes Uma Thurman out of a heroin overdose by driving a huge syringe of adrenalin through her heart. But the distributors trust that there will be no objections from the British Board of Film Classification.
One notable business deal in Cannes was the merger of two leading independent distributor- exhibitors, Mayfair and Artificial Eye. It gives the new company control over 10 arthouse London cinemas, including the Lumiere and the Curzon group, plus considerable buying clout, and it returned accordingly with a bulging bag of new titles. Among them are Alan Rudolph's Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle, a surprisingly melancholy portrait of the Algonquin set, and Nanni Moretti's Caro Diario (Dear Diary), an intimate personal journal which, with great charm and wit, leads you straight to the heart of Moretti's eccentric, tragicomic private world: much praised, it won the prize for Best Director.
The jury's most unpopular, indeed disgraceful decision was to snub Red, the superb new (and, he claims, last) film from Krzysztof Kieslowski, which topped all the international critics' polls but didn't nail a single gong. Red is the third and best instalment of Kieslowski's Three Colours trilogy: Blue has already played in Britain, White, the second part, opens on 10 June and Red finally arrives in November.
Artificial Eye also acquired Exotica by the Canadian-Armenian director Atom Egoyan (an admirable film which I found frosty, but which won the Critics' Prize), Barnabo of the Mountains, a rather dull Italian piece about a gamekeeper, and Hal Hartley's Amateur - a droll, surreal underworld 'dramedy' starring Isabelle Huppert as an ex-nun turned pornographic novelist.
Zhang Yimou's To Live, which won the Grand Jury and Best Actor prizes, opens in the autumn. So confident are its distributors, Electric Pictures, they have also bought Zhang's next film, Shanghai Triad, which was being hyped on the Croisette by a giant opium pipe, but which has not yet gone into production. The ICA will show Faust by the Czech master- animator Jan Svankmajer, an intriguing but uneven blend of bizarre model animation and more prosaic live action.
The Coen brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy is pencilled in for November, while the historical drama La Reine Margot (Jury Prize plus a deserved Best Actress award for Virna Lisi as Catherine de Medici) opens on 2 September. The closing film, John Waters' Serial Mom, arrives on 10 June.
Also imminent: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Jungle, a slice of spirited Australian camp featuring Terence Stamp in drag, and, again from Oz, Muriel's Wedding, a brash, crowd-pleasing comedy about an ugly-duckling suburbanite who gets a life.
In the Director's Fortnight, The Bandit Queen won nothing, but did earn enthusiastic reviews for its angry account of Phoolan Devi, one of India's most notorious folk heroines. Married off and raped by her husband while still a child, and terribly abused by men of higher castes, she retaliated by joining a band of vengeful outlaws. The sensational true-life subject is likely to cause a stir in India, and here among the Anglo- Asian community, although its handling, by the director Shekhar Kapur, is a little sprawling and undisciplined.
Also heading our way: the Scottish psycho-thriller Shallow Grave, in which three self-centred yuppies stumble upon a corpse and a suitcase full of loot. They decide not to report the murder, but remorse and greed propel them into self-inflicted and bloody retribution. This smart but (dare one say?) shallow film was liked for its stylish direction, by Danny Boyle - shame about the acting and script. 'Style' is the watchword of the new generation of British film-makers. When the British cinema finally dies, 'style' will be written on its tombstone.
Our last, and positively final, Cannes footnote is a small insight into the travails of a British director invited to the fest: Paul Unwin, whose first short film, Syrup, played in competition, found little evidence of the big spend. Parties? Dinners? Someone to meet him at the airport? 'Not at all' he says without resentment. 'We were very much the small-film boys. It never crossed our minds that we had any status at all.'
But back in Blighty, a mysterious phone call last Thursday advised Unwin to keep Monday (prize-giving day) free in his diary. Then silence, until noon on Monday, when he was told to hop on the first flight to Nice. Not being John Travolta and therefore the owner of a pilot's licence and private jet, Unwin hot-footed it to Heathrow, found his flight full and went home for a consolatory cup of tea. And then it turned out that Syrup hadn't even got the Palme d'Or (it won the Jury Prize for short film). But brilliant careers have been launched on as little (Jane Campion, for example), and, Unwin says, there can be nothing to beat the thrill of hearing 2,000 people cheer your movie. Vivement Cannes '95]
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