Cannes rumors: No Coens, but "Indy 4" and "Sex" likely

Now "Burn After Reading" probably won't premiere in France. Will Spielberg or Sarah Jessica claim opening night?

By Andrew O'Hehir

Executive Editor

Published March 20, 2008 10:50AM (EDT)

New Line Cinema

Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kim Cattrall in the movie "Sex and the City: The Movie."

Sure, it's only March, but with the big winter-spring festivals at Sundance, Berlin and South by Southwest already in the rear-view mirror, the film industry's undead cave dwellers are beginning to see the entire year's calendar come into focus. Sure, it's pointless and more than a little geeky, but what the heck -- it's not too early for a little Cannes gossip, is it?

Here's what we know for sure: nothing. Cannes head programmer Thierry Frémaux won't reveal his slate for two more weeks, and his subordinates are sworn to public silence. Last year many bloggers and trade magazines knowledgeably reported that Woody Allen's "Cassandra's Dream" would premiere at the Côte d'Azur fest, and of course it didn't. (In fairness, Allen evidently turned down Cannes' closing-night slot, which is somewhere between a booby prize and a black hole leading into a lifeless alternative dimension.)

Still, pride goeth etc., even if King James Bible quotations may be a bit grandiose when debunking idle showbiz gossip. It was widely and confidently reported in recent weeks that Joel and Ethan Coen's new screwball comedy, "Burn After Reading," would premiere at Cannes on May 14, which would make it the opening-night feature. Certainly the carefully managed Cannes-Toronto-New York festival trajectory of "No Country for Old Men" worked out to everyone's satisfaction, even if the Coens were denied the Palme d'Or (and quite rightly so, in my view) in favor of "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." This one sounds more commercial, frankly, and it's certainly got a dazzling cast: John Malkovich is an alcoholic CIA agent whose wife (Tilda Swinton) is sleeping with their Treasury-marshal best friend (George Clooney), with Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand in supporting roles. I haven't tried to add up the Oscars in that list; you do the math.

OK, but hold the phone! blogger Anne Thompson, a vastly more trustworthy source than most, now reports that "Burn After Reading" won't be finished in time for Cannes, and that Frémaux hasn't even seen it, in whatever shape it is at the moment. (Regardless of all this nonsense, we'll all get to see it when Focus Features opens it widely on Sept. 12.) So let's move onward to Cannes rumors 2 and 2A, both of them pretty noxious.

I sincerely hope this is the only time in this blog's history when I link to Fox News, whose Roger Friedman reported last month that Steven Spielberg's semi-anticipated "Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Kingdom of the Corridor of the Arthritic Celebrity" -- I may not have that title quite right yet -- would probably premiere at Cannes before its worldwide opening on May 22. You kind of have to read Friedman's piece to appreciate it; I can only hope he's performing a brilliant self-parody of the celebutainment journalist. He writes: "I'm told that Spielberg, perhaps producer George Lucas and stars Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Shia LeBeouf, Karen Allen and others would make the walk up the fabled red carpet at the Palais. Talk about sizzle! Sacre bleu!" True. I mean, come on: Karen Allen!

OK, enough pot vs. kettle snarkery. Friedman's probably right about this one. The timing's right, and the Cannes M.O. is to mix name-brand art house films, dark obscurities that only viewers as masochistic as I am will sit through, and red-carpet premieres of Hollywood's biggest and most irrelevant spectacles. So, yeah, Karen Allen, mesdames et messieurs, sur le tapis rouge. I strongly suspect "Indy 4" won't be the opening-night film, though; even by recent Cannes standards ("The Da Vinci Code," 2006) it's too lightweight of an opener. For whatever it's worth, IMDB currently lists the Spielberg movie as premiering at Cannes on May 18, which would be a Sunday-night centerpiece slot.

I wish I felt the same skepticism about the rumor recently floated by Hollywood Reporter blogger Steven Zeitchik to the effect that Michael Patrick King's likely-to-be-misbegotten "Sex and the City: The Movie" may wind up as opening-night fare at the Palais des Festivals. Unfortunately, it all fits: modest star power, wide international appeal and a certain vapid pretense at sophistication and cultural significance. (And I say these mean things as someone whose kid once played with Sarah Jessica Parker's kid at a Central Park playground. She was nice, too.)

Zeitchik points out that that would make three English-language Cannes openers in a row, which is admittedly improbable, but it does fit the festival's recent pattern of alternating art films and Hollywood product in the opening slot. (Last year it was Wong Kar-wai's "My Blueberry Nights," and in 2005 it was Dominik Moll's "Lemmings," little seen on this side of the Atlantic, or anywhere else.) Arguably "Sex and the City," even if it's a car wreck, will be a movie people actually want to see, unlike what Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw once dubbed "Cannes' long-running series of opening-night europudding clunkers," including Nikita Mikhalkov's 1998 "The Barber of Siberia," Roland Joffé's 2000 "Vatel" and Gérard Krawczyk's 2003 "Fanfan la Tulipe."

Other American films in the Cannes rumor mill have included Bryan Singer's forthcoming "Valkyrie," starring Tom Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg, the German officer who led a plot to assassinate Hitler; the Angelina Jolie action-adventure "Wanted," from Russian director Timur Bekmambetov; the Larry Charles-Bill Maher documentary "Religulous" (that's not a typo); and Charlie Kaufman's directing debut, "Synecdoche, New York," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton and Michelle Williams. Of course, if Frémaux and his staff do their work, those more or less hyped projects will be driven into the shadows by something from way off the map that you and I have never heard of.

I was going to lead from Cannes rumors into a topic based on tangible information, that being a sneak peek at program highlights for the Tribeca Film Festival, which kicks off in New York on April 23 (when we likely still won't have a Democratic nominee, dammit!) with the premiere of the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler comedy "Baby Mama." You think I'm kidding about that, and I'm not. That's the opening-night movie. Tribeca has announced its lineup, which kind of dampens the market for rampant speculation. And what the hell fun is that? I jest, mostly. More soon.

By Andrew O'Hehir

Andrew O'Hehir is executive editor of Salon.

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