Feels like Euro trashed


CANNES -- The movies selected In Competition at this year's Festival de Cannes make for depressing reading for the old countries of Europe if you discount French efforts, which has home-field advantage when it comes to selection.

There isn't a movie from British shores making the journey for a slot and no titles from Spain and Italy, either. And the one German title is a co-production with Turkey, with 60% of the dialogue in Fatih Akin's "The Edge of Heaven" in Turkish.

There is an Austrian film this year, just to ensure envious German eyes, with Ulrich Seidl's "Import/Export" carrying Austrian hopes.

But as long as business is good, Germans aren't too bothered about the lack of Competition entries.

"Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 'The Lives of Others' had its premiere at the market in Cannes last year and went on to conquer the world and win the Oscar," says Christian Dorsch, managing director of export agency German Films. "The sale of German films is booming worldwide and German directors are getting recognition, whether or not that gets reflected in the Cannes lineup."

The absent U.K. -- which provided last year's Palme d'Or winner Ken Loach and Jury Prize winner Andrea Arnold's "Red Road" -- only has Brit director Michael Winterbottom flying the flag in an Out Of Competition slot in the main section with "A Mighty Heart."

No one from across the English Channel is panicking, though.

Pathe U.K. managing director Cameron McCracken, whose company produces movies at home and in France, puts it down partly to a mix of coincidence and the cyclical nature of filmmaking. "Many of Cannes' favorite European filmmakers simply don't have films that are ready. There are sudden flourishes of talent that occur in some parts of the world, while in others strong voices appear to wane. There's no nation with a monopoly on talent."

And U.K. Film Council chief executive John Woodward points out U.K. output is all over the Marche du Film.

"I don't think anyone should lose sleep about this year," he says.

Italy's love affair with Cannes is on hold this year. Director Nanni Moretti, a veteran of more than five previous Competition slots and a winner once, warns against judging the state of the industry on what is where in Cannes.

"It's a great honor to be nominated, of course, but there are great many wonderful films from Italy and in the world that are never nominated, and that doesn't mean they aren't being made," Moretti says. "We had two last year (including Moretti's "The Cayman") and none this year, and perhaps one or two next year."

Director Daniele Luchetti, who made the lineup in 1991 and has a film in Un Certain Regard this year, says: "Cannes is the place where there is an intersection between films and an international public, and it's a shame no Italian films will be there."

Spanish producers have regularly complained about feeling slighted by Cannes' festival selection committee. Producers regularly complain that, with the exception of Pedro Almodovar, the French festival overlooks Spanish cinema.

"I'm accustomed to seeing Spain passed over by Cannes," said Antonio Saura, head of Madrid-based production house Zebra. "It is unfair to dismiss an entire industry just because it's not from a country that's in the papers every day."

It's Eastern Europe that is making a comeback In Competition.

Five films are in after long years when directors from behind the old Iron Curtain rarely got a seat at film's big banquet.

Festival de Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux says it's all about maturing filmmaking.
"For a few years now, we've seen Eastern European cinema coming back," Fremaux says. "The Un Certain Regard selections are witness to that. Today, this cinema has reached maturity and thus ended up In Competition."

"In the past, these (Eastern) countries were very well represented. When the (Berlin) wall fell, they disappeared. Now they're back. This is good news. As for traditional Europe, England won the Palme d'Or last year and will come back very quickly. Who can doubt that?"

Two-time Palme d'Or winner Emir Kusturica (Serbia) brings his latest film, "Promise Me This." And St. Petersburg-based art-house Russian director Alexander Sokurov's "Alexandra" marks his fifth Cannes entry since 1999.

A relative newcomer, Hungarian director Bela Tarr, whose challenging black and white film "The Werckmeister Harmonies" was in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar in 2000, contributes "The Man from London" to this year's Competition.

The two other entries from the region are from relatively fresh young talent: Romanian director Cristian Mungiu brings "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." And Siberian-born Andrei Zvyagintsev -- whose first film "The Return" picked up Venice's Golden Lion in 2003 -- makes his Cannes debut with his second film, "The Banishment."

But to attribute this year's Eastern Europe showing to the strength of films from the region -- or any other region this year -- would be a mistake, Berlin-based film critic Jorg Taszman says.
Taszman, who writes for the Die Welt newspaper and grew up in Paris, suggests Cannes is innately conservative and tends to go for established names.

"There is a tradition at Cannes that from Eastern Europe they take only the so-called masters. Cannes is not very good at discovering new talent. Of course, you find Sokurov here -- once Cannes grabs someone they keep him," Taszman said, adding that the idea is "once you are in the league you stay in the league."

Scott Roxborough, Pamela Rolfe, Rebecca Leffler and Eric Lyman contributed to this report.
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