Deauville fest: strong movies, weak star power

7th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

DEAUVILLE, France, Sept 7 (AFP) - Plenty of independent talent, just not enough star power: that's the verdict of critics attending this year's Deauville film festival, an annual showcase of upcoming Hollywood releases that takes place in this chic French seaside resort town.

DEAUVILLE, France, Sept 7 (AFP) - Plenty of independent talent, just not enough star power: that's the verdict of critics attending this year's Deauville film festival, an annual showcase of upcoming Hollywood releases that takes place in this chic French seaside resort town.

The problem? The bigger, more prestigious Venice International Film Festival running at the same time. That event drains the big names and big movies of the US cinema industry, leaving just a few to make the trek to Deauville.

For movie reviewers at the 10-day French festival that wraps up Sunday, it is perplexing. And this year has dimmer star wattage than usual.

"It doesn't even compare -- it's really a desert" in terms of celebrities, said one veteran attendee, Marianne Gray, a correspondent for Britain's Evening Standard newspaper and the vice-president of the film section of the British Critics' Circle.

"The interviews are not good, it's quite hard," she said, adding that it was a shame because the organisation and smaller size of Deauville were conducive to more personal interactions with directors and actors -- when they show.

"Deauville's much more civilised than Venice," she said.

Not that the French event has been entirely orphaned. Big films such as 'Cinderella Man', starring Russell Crowe, and 'Elizabethtown', with Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst were screened (though only after first appearing at Venice).

And Dunst and 'Cinderella Man' director, Ron Howard, did appear to answer reporters' questions, as did Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr., both of whom turned out for their latest movie, 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang', and Pierce Brosnan for his film 'The Matador'.

But Venice got Crowe. And George Clooney and other A-listers. And first dibs on Howard and Dunst.

"I understand it: between here and an all-expenses stay in Venice, I know what I'd take if I were a star," Audrey Zeppegno, a reviewer for the French movie site cinemovies.fr, said before the start of one film.

"Each year there's fewer and fewer stars at Deauville," she said.

One of the organisers, who declined to give her name, admitted that Venice was "overshadowing" Deauville, but said the critics overstated the dearth of "talent" to talk to.

"They say that every year," she said.

She stressed, though, that the French side was working harder than ever to ensure US stars continued to come to Normandy.

"The glamour is an important part of the festival," particularly in attracting media attention to the films, she said.

Critics agreed, but said Deauville would do better to focus more on its strength, which is in presenting smaller, independent US films, rather than going after the big fish also sought after by Venice.

Simply changing the French festival's dates, they observed, is not an option, squeezed as it is between the major North American festivals of Sundance and Toronto.

"There is one way to ensure Deauville doesn't fade away, and that's to concentrate on the independent section -- then the journalists will come back," said Richard Mowe, a reviewer with Britain's The Scotsman newspaper who is also with the UK French Film Festival.

For the jury president, French director Alain Corneau, the non-studio product offered at Deauville was especially appealing.

He singled out, by way of example, 'Broken Flowers', a comedy starring Bill Murray and directed by Jim Jarmusch, whom Corneau described as "the prince of independent cinema".

But neither Murray nor Jarmusch were present in Deauville to talk about the movie, which premiered at the Cannes film festival in May.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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