To Each His Own Cinema

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CANNES -- The great fun of "To Each His Own Cinema" (Chacun Son Cinema) is to see exactly how each of the filmmakers involved chooses to "own" his cinema. This anthology film was commissioned by the Festival de Cannes on its 60th anniversary as a tribute to the magic of the movie house. Festival president Gilles Jacob asked 35 directors from five continents and 25 countries to make 33 films lasting three minutes each. No more. (If you are doing the math, brothers Ethan & Joel Coen and Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne count as two directors each.)

It may take more than 35 lawyers to figure out how to get this film distributed to cinemas around the globe, but the film truly deserves a wide audience. It speaks to the communal experience of watching movies and dreaming in the dark. If ever a film demonstrates the love of movies across all cultures, this is the one.

You can quarrel with Jacob's choices. How in this day in age can you justify only one female director? And how can you not ask at least one filmmaker from the country making the most films annually, India, not to contribute?

The problem here is that Jacob went with Cannes favorites rather than reaching out to a wider, more populist demographic. So the shorts tend toward the arty and in a few -- fortunately, only a few -- cases self-indulgent.

The theme that dominates many shorts is the actual experience of the movie house, be in Raymond Depardon's "Open Air Theater" at the University of Alexandria or a home-made video theater in the heart of the Congo in Wim Wenders' "War in Peace," where after decades of war everyone watches a war movie. Malfunctioning projectors prove to be a common experience in films such as Takeshi Katano's dryly amusing "One Fine Day" or Chen Kaige's wonderful "Village," where young boys figure out how to hook the projector to their bicycles so they can laugh at Charlie Chaplin.

Problems or disputes inside theaters prove another common theme in Ken Loach's "Happy Ending," where a father and son cannot decide which movie to see while holding up the ticket line, and Bille August's "The Last Dating Game," where a young man's translation of the dialogue for his Moslem date irritates a group of men. Roman Polanski pushes over a fine joke in "Cinema Erotique" during a showing of that old soft-core sex film "Emmanuelle."

Two of the more deeply effecting are Hou Hsiao Hsien's "Electric Princess Picture Palace," a tribute to an old movie house, and Abbas Kiarostami's "Where Is My Romeo?" which captures the emotions of women watching the final tragic moments of Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet." Nanni Moretti's "Diary of a Moviegoer" pays tribute to the eternal movie fan.

The film collectively is dedicated to Fellini, and indeed, two films pay tribute directly or indirectly to the Italian master. Andrei Konchalovsky's "In the Dark" watches people watching "8 1⁄2." Theo Angelopoulos' "Three Minutes," starring Jeanne Moreau, is actually a tribute to Marcello Mastroianni, but how can you separate the actor from his greatest muse and director?

Some filmmakers are unable to resist paying homage to themselves. Youssef Chahine's "47 Years Later" concerns his winning an award at Cannes 47 years after his second film was ignored. Claude Lelouch in "Cinema Around the Corner" pays tribute to his movie education from when he was in his mother's womb to his international hit, "A Man and a Woman."

Others can't resist being their squirrelly selves with surrealism (Raoul Ruiz), oddness (Jane Campion), pretension (Michael Cimino), artiness (Wong Kar Wai) and political grandstanding (Amos Gitai).

There is something darkly amusing about Lars Von Trier's act of revenge, "Occupations," in which a film critic gets savagely murdered in a cinema. And what is one to make of David Cronenberg's "At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World, in the Last Cinema in the World," which is exactly that, with the director playing the title character?

It is a lighter amusement that Santa Monica's Aero Theater, now a second home to the American Cinematheque, appears prominently in two shorts, Cimino's "No Translation Needed" and the Coen brothers' "World Cinema," which honors the globalization of the moviegoing experience.

Walter Salles' "8,944 km from Cannes" pays tribute to the festival itself with a lively musical number performed in front of an aging village movie house. This proved the most popular short of the collection at the initial press screening. Finally, it's grand to see the ageless Manoel De Oliveira up to his wry old tricks in "The Meeting." How fitting that the 98-year-old De Oliveira contributed a piece. After all, he was born not long after the first nickelodeon opened.

TO EACH HIS OWN CINEMA
Credits:
Directors: Theo Angelopoulos, Olivier Assayas, Bille August, Jane Campion, Youssef Chahine, Chen Kaige, Michael Cimino, Ethan & Joel Coen, David Cronenberg, Jean Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Manoel De Oliveira, Raymond Depardon, Atom Egoyan, Amos Gitai, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Aki Kaurismaki, Abbas Kiarostami, Takeshi Kitano, Andrei Konchalovsky, Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, Nanni Moretti, Roman Polanski, Raul Ruiz, Walter Salles, Elia Suleiman, Tsai Ming-Liang, Gus Van Sant, Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders, Wong Kar Wai, Zhang Yimou
Conceived and created by: Gilles Jacob
Running time -- 118 minutes
No MPAA rating

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