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Cannes 2008: Joyeux Anniversaire à la Quinzaine 

Theo Angelopoulos, Cristi Puiu and others remember the Cannes alterna-fest

Wednesday, May 14 2008
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On the occasion of the 40th edition of the Directors’ Fortnight, L.A. Weekly asked several Fortnight alumni about their memories of the Cannes alterna-festival.

Helen Grigoriadou

Fortnight artistic director Olivier Père

May 2004. Cannes Film Festival, France. In the middle of a great number of theater seats, surrounded by a mass of people, I was unaware of what was being celebrated. Seconds into the end credits of Los Muertos, a brilliant light illuminated where I was supposed to be sitting, but because screenings make me nervous, I had slipped out a few minutes after the start of the film. I went outside to get some air and to have a smoke. Then I entered again, from the rear of the theater. Ducking amidst the shadows, I could see the public applauding and searching for the person responsible for the film. Olivier Père was doing the same. Meanwhile, I felt the great joy of having finished a film. I celebrated and felt at home, comfortable. I knew that this was probably the perfect place for my films. For various reasons, I could never distance myself from the Quinzaine, and today I am but a few days from returning to its anniversary. Today, it is my turn to applaud.

—A two-time Directors’ Fortnight veteran (Los Muertos [2004], Fantasma [2006]), Argentinean director Lisandro Alonso returns to the Quinzaine this year with his latest feature, Liverpool.

click to enlarge HELEN GRIGORIADOU - Fortnight artistic - director Olivier Père
  • Helen Grigoriadou
  • Fortnight artistic director Olivier Père

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I have very many memories of the Quinzaine. Those were years when it seemed something new was in the works, something different. Both in cinema and in life. I remember the intense atmosphere and the endless discussions that went on until daybreak. Films, friendships, dreams. All those who at that time and in the years to come charted new territory in cinema went through the Quinzaine. In those days, the Cannes Film Festival was the Quinzaine.

Greek director Theo Angelopoulos premiered Days of 36 (1972) and The Travelling Players (1975) at the Directors’ Fortnight. He has since been featured five times in the Cannes competition, winning the Palme d’Or for Eternity and a Day (1998).

 

What a great honor to have been in this part of Cannes, with my hero Robert Bresson. I got a rave review, I think, by Louis Marcorelles in Le Monde — and praise by Jacques Rivette and Chris Marker, both of whom I admired. I so loved this event but had not a penny to attend. Nor did I realize the extent of the honor and its importance!

­—American director Stanton Kaye’s film Brandy in the Wilderness was included in the program of the first Directors’ Fortnight, in 1969.

 

Here in Romania, there was this commission — the National Center for Cinema — which decided that my film was not to be released because of the filthy language. When Marie-Pierre Macia selected the film for the Quinzaine, all these guys on the commission said to themselves, ‘Well, maybe it’s not such a bad film.’ For Romania, it was a good thing to have a film in Cannes. It didn’t matter which section. Ultimately, the film still had a terrible release in Romania. But by that time, it had already been screened in Cannes, and that was the most important thing. I didn’t get any prizes or anything, but I came home with two very good reviews, one by Frederic Strauss in Telerama and one by Vincent Ostria in Les Inrockuptibles. Those were my prizes. It was hard to get to Cannes. We didn’t have any money. We stayed — me and Razvan Radulescu, the screenwriter, and the young actors from the film — in Golfe Juan, 10 minutes by train. I had the feeling of being a student again.

Romanian director Cristi Puiu’s debut feature, Stuff and Dough, premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight in 2001. In 2005, his second feature, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, screened in Cannes’ Official Selection, where it won the Un Certain Regard prize.

 

There may have been a listing of films, but I remember word-of-mouth. They were films dehors, outside the system. That gave them cachet. Many were forgettable. I think Susan Sontag had a film shown. She was enthralled by movies, but who wasn’t? I once heard her tell a large audience that if Richard Wagner were born today, he would become a film director, the complete art. My movie was based on a short story written by Irwin Shaw, which was itself based on a summer experience of George Plimpton, John Marquand and a girl I never met, named Bea Dabney. It was highly praised but flopped when released. Stanley Donen admired it and offered me the chance to direct a movie he would produce, but I declined. It hadn’t all been what I’d imagined, and I didn’t go on.

American author James Salter’s only film as director, Three, screened at the first edition of the Directors’ Fortnight, in 1969.

 

Seeing a film in the Directors’ Fortnight is like tasting an incredible wine Robert Parker has no idea about. Showing my films in the Directors’ Fortnight is an honor and a relief. I know the audience is hoping to see a film, a new one, a special one, and not just with famous actors — even though my film this year has quite a few. Celebrity and the marketplace are not the reasons for the choices of Olivier Père, nor were they for Pierre-Henri Deleau. These choices are very personal, aware of the different paths that filmmakers all over the world are designing.

French documentary filmmaker Claire Simon premiered her first two narrative features (Sinon, Oui [1997], Ça Brûle [2006]) at the Directors’ Fortnight. She returns this year with her third, Les Bureaux de Dieu.

 

I started my career with the Quinzaine. It showed my first feature, The Structure of Crystal. I wasn’t allowed by the Polish communist authorities to be present in person. However, for a young filmmaker, it was a real help. The Quinzaine is a marvelous showcase.

Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi’s The Structure of Crystal screened at the 1970 edition of the Directors’ Fortnight. He has since been featured three times in the Cannes competition, winning a Jury Prize in 1980 for The Constant Factor.

Reach the writer at sfoundas@villagevoice.com

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