Cannes' late lineup causes headaches

'Everything's late this year,' says one producer

CANNES -- Cannes has introduced a new genre to this year's festival: the grumble flick.

The lateness in announcing the full lineup has caused multiple problems for producers, distributors, publicists, party organizers and media outlets alike.

"Everything's late this year. We didn't find out when our film was screening until just last week, which meant we had to rush like hell to arrange things -- flights, hotels, the party, everything," said the producer of one Competition film.

"They were late because they were very hesitant on some films," one French industry insider said. "As far as I can see, they could have replied very quickly on most submissions."

Ironically, the first suspicion that things were running late came from the festival office itself, when the intial date for the lineup announcement of April 17 was pushed back a week. Festival de Cannes general delegate Thierry Fremaux denied that the revised date of April 23 was later than usual, pointing out it was exactly in line with the timing in previous years. The difference this year was that neither the opener, Fernando Meirelles' "Blindness," nor the closing film, Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened," were announced six days after.

The last-minute scheduling of "Blindness" was, at best, a double-edged honor for the movie's French distributor Pathe.

"We were told of its inclusion just a week before people were due to travel," a Pathe insider said. "It's ridiculous and has been a logistical nightmare. We've really had to scramble to organize things. I have no idea why it took them so long to decide to invite us to open the festival."

Several observers suggested festival organizers were holding out for a different movie to open but plumped for "Blindness" when it became clear the alternative wasn't going to be ready. The filmmakers have been working "night and day" to get the film ready for Cannes.

Levinson's closing-night offering is a recut version of the film that played to a tepid reception at Sundance. "We liked what we saw," Fremaux said. Its star Robert de Niro personally intervened to ease the movie's passage onto the Croisette.

The inclusion of Clint Eastwood's "Changeling" also caused headaches for Universal. "We were looking forward to Cannes with no movies to worry about," one Universal source said. "Clint telephoned the festival organizers himself and told us it was going to Cannes." Eastwood's move means the picture will screen months before its scheduled international rollout.

This year also has seen several top directors going to the wire to finish their films in time. In addition to Meirelles, both Eastwood and Wim Wenders were still in post on their films the week before the festival started, and Steven Soderbergh's 268-minute two-part "Che" was still a work in progress at press time ahead of its screening on May 21, when it will unspool with a short intermission.

Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.