JWR Articles: Commentary - Palm Springs International Film Festival - Preview (Featured performers: Samuel L. Jackson, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bruno Ganz, Robert Stadlober) - January 2, 2005

Palm Springs International Film Festival - Preview

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Something for all

The 2005 edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival has a fascinating line-up of nearly 200 films for all tastes, starting with Thomas Carter’s Coach Carter (Opening Night, January 6, with the film’s star Samuel L. Jackson set to receive this year’s “Career Achievement Award for Acting” at the January 8 Awards Gala) and bringing the final curtain down on January 16 with the hugely popular Ladies in Lavender (starring veterans Judi Dench and Maggie Smith as two sisters whose lives are forever changed when a stranger unexpectedly rolls up on their Cornish beach).

In the International Galas section, dating dilemmas come to the fore with John L’Ecuyer’s Prom Queen where Aaron Ashmore portrays Marc Hall, a small-town gay teen who upsets the Catholic school board by inviting his boyfriend to the biggest social event of his life. Based on incidents that took place in Canada in 2002, the film also features the irrepressible Scott Thompson (Kids in the Hall—still in syndication) and Fiona Reid (My Big Fat Greek Wedding). In Laurent Tirard’s The Story of My Life (France),dating problems surface when an autobiography ghostwriter Raphael (Edouard Baer) discovers that his college sweetheart Claire (Alice Taglioni) is dating his current subject: soccer superstar Kevin (Clovis Cornillac)—everyone’s trying to score.

A U.S./Canada co-production, The Last Mogul: Life and Times of Lew Wasserman, “a sympathetic portrait of a king-maker in a bygone age,” according to director Barry Avrich is included in the Special Presentations, as is Marco Kreuzpaintner’s Summer Storm (Germany), where a coming-of-age story is set against the backdrop of a rowing competition and features Robert Stadlober in the lead role.

The Foreign Language Oscar® Submissions category is a cornucopia of styles, scripts and stars. Calorie counters won’t want to miss Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me—the fat food, er, fast food exposé that sent McDonald’s into carb denial. History buffs can look forward to Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall(Germany), where Bruno Ganz portrays Hitler during his last fortnight on the planet. Another side of this story is the subject matter of Christian Bauer’s The Ritchie Boys (Germany/Canada), which chronicles the training in Camp Ritchie, Maryland and European deployment of German-Jewish refugees who came to the U.S. to escape Nazism only to assist in its downfall.

Those with a musical bent can choose from Christophe Barratier’s The Chorus (France) and witness post-WW II delinquents turn their lives around through four-part harmony or savour a completely different type of sound in Itthisoontorn Vichailak’s The Overture (Thailand) in which renowned musician Luang Praditphairoh’s artistry with traditional Thai music is celebrated.

Romantics need look no further than Saw Teong Hin’s epic rendering of the love between fifteenth century mythological figures Princess Gusti Dumillah and warrior Hang Tuah. Puteri Gunung Ledang (Princess of Mount Ledang) (Malaysia, a.k.a. A Legendary Love) will have its North American première.

Walter Salles’ hit Motorcycle Diaries (USA/Argentina, Chile, Peru) anchors the Cine Latino section. Other entrées include Sergio Cabrera’s adaptation of Santiago Gamboa’s novel The Art of Losing (Columbia/Spain) and Lúcia Murat’s award winning (Best Latin Movie at the Rio International Film Festival, 2004) Almost Brothers (Brazil), which examines all manner of issues from race relations to freedom fighters to the CIA’s role in the 1960s politics of Brazil.

Those who feel that others control their lives should take in Anders Rønnow Klarlund’s Strings (Denmark/Sweden; UK; Norway); marionettes are the actors in this philosophical study from the World Cinema Now offerings as is My Stepbrother Frankenstein (Russia): Valery Todorovsky’s fascinating look at a one-eyed war veteran’s adjustment to his family once peace arrives. A transsexual kick boxer (the true story of Parinya Charoenphol, known as Nong Thoom) is the material for Ekachai Uekrongtham’s first feature, Beautiful Boxer (Thailand), where the ring is filled with athleticism, moral courage and lip gloss.

Non-Fiction Features take in-depth looks at both George Bushes thanks to William Karel’s The World According to Bush (France/Belgium, Switzerland), seniors on stage (hello there Palms Springs Follies) via Lilo Mangelsdorff’s Ladies and Gentlemen Over 65 (Germany), and Tibetan life through François Prévost and Hugo Latulippe’s Canada/Tibet National Film Board production, What Remains of Us.

Problems with a prostitute light the storyline for Daniel Roby’s U.S. première of White Skin (Canada), but those pale in comparison with horror-master Takashi Shimizu’s Marebito (Japan – a remake of The Grudge), featuring a robotic monster that prowls beneath the streets of Tokyo—both films from the aptly named Super-Charged Cinema category.

With this much depth and variety, 2005 promises to be an exceptional year for Sonny Bono’s ambitious brainchild. JWR

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