Cannes got a dose of REAL movie star glamour over the past two days when the legendary Sophia Loren came to town for a special screening of her new film, The Human Voice Tuesday night at Salle du Soixantieme and a two hour “Master Class” at the Bunuel on Wednesday afternoon. The film, based on the Jean Cocteau play and basically a one woman show finding her running a gamut of emotions while on the phone, is a 25-minute short directed by son Edoardo Ponti that gives the 79-year-old actress one of her meatiest and most emotional roles in years, a real reminder that once a star, always a star. It preceded a stunning 50th anniversary 4K restoration premiere of 1964′s wonderful Marriage Italian Style, one 14 collaborations with director Vittorio De Sica and co-starring 12-time leading man Marcello Mastroianni. The film brought Loren her second (and last) Best Actress Oscar nomination, and it still holds up today. The audience gave her a 5-minute ovation at the end of the short , and again at the end of the feature, moving her, from my vantage point directly across the aisle, to tears. I asked her how she felt about watching the two performances — performed a half-century apart — and she had one word: …
Cannes Classics: Sophia Loren Guest Of Honor; Leone, De Sica, Hitchcock, Capra Films Among Restorations To Screen
The Cannes Film Festival is firming up plans for the 67th edition at a rapid clip this week, announcing jury members on Monday, followed by new Official Selection titles this morning and now the Cannes Classics sidebar lineup. Sophia Loren has been named the Cannes Classics guest of honor this year. Winner of the 1961 Best Actress prize in Cannes for Two Women, and president of the jury in 1966, Loren will give a Masterclass and attend the screening of her son Edoardo Ponti’s La Voce Umana in which she features. Also screening the same evening is Vittorio De Sica’s Marriage Italian Style. The decade-old Classics section is a showcase for restored and rediscovered versions of films that make up international cinema’s heritage. Screenings of each title are accompanied by the team responsible and, when possible, the original work’s director. There are 22 features and two documentaries which will screen in DCP 2K or DCP 4K. For the first time no 35mm print will be shown in the section, which Cannes notes comes with “regret for some or with celebration for others.” Following is the list of the films that make up Cannes Classics:
Italian newspapers today are quoting Sophia Loren as saying she is set to return to the silver screen in La Voce Umana (The Human Voice) based on French poet-writer Jean Cocteau’s one-person play first performed in 1930. The 78-year-old Oscar winner will be directed in the Italian language by her son Eduardo Ponti and begins the 3-week shoot this month in Rome, Naples and Ostia. Ponti is the son of movie producer Carlo Ponti and his latest short The Night Shift Belongs To The Stars screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. He previously directed Loren in his first feature film, 2002′s Cuori Estrani (Between Strangers).
Tuesday night is a big one for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They hold their annual election for president (expect current prexy Tom Sherak to be easily re-elected for his third and final one-year term) and they will choose the 2011 recipients of the Governors Awards, which will be some combination of Honorary Oscars, The Irving G. Thalberg Award and/or the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. At that meeting, Sherak could also tell the board who is going to produce the 84th Annual Academy Awards among the other things that may come up, including proposals to further regulate Oscar-season campaigning and parties (a move inspired by and initiated in part because of my Jan. 7 Deadline article on the issue, I am told by an Academy insider involved with the new proposals).
Even though recipients of last year’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards, (Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, Kevin Brownlow and Thalberg winner Francis Ford Coppola) weren’t announced until the last week in August a year ago, Sherak told me he is determined to get this done at the early August meeting this year in order to give Governors Awards producer Phil Robinson more time to put all the logistics of the event together; the ceremony is set for Saturday Nov. 12 and is not televised.
This all leads to the annual game of who will and who should get these prized awards, which were created in 2009 as their own separate show so more of them could be handed out and there would be more time to celebrate the careers of the recipients than during the time-crunched Oscar show. In the recent past, before the creation of the event, the Academy’s board had been limiting presentation of the Honorary awards to one per show. The Jean Hersholt Award to Jerry Lewis was the last given, on the (81st) Oscar telecast. Since then, they have handed out the maximum of four of these honors at each Governors Awards dinner. Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, cinematographer Gordon Willis and Thalberg winner John Calley received the inaugural awards.
In terms of who will win them this year, it’s anybody’s guess as each of the 43 Governors of every branch has an opportunity to put a name in contention if they wish and a simple majority is generally all that’s required to make someone a winner. It’s clear the Academy likes diversity, repping all corners of the motion picture arts and sciences, and it seems like they have been favoring people who are still active. Wallach may have been 95 when he finally got his Honorary Oscar last year, but he is also still working.
For years, every time the board set about voting for these honors some subtle (and not-so-subtle) lobbying would take place. Veteran stars like Glenn Ford and Richard Widmark were often mentioned but never got the call despite annual letters and pleas on their behalf. Doris Day’s name always comes up in speculation about Honorary Oscars, but it’s never happened and the reclusive 87-year-old star hasn’t made a film since 1968. Director Jules Dassin had his supporters at one time on the board but went to his grave without getting the big honor. On the other hand, a large profile piece on producer Dino De Laurentiis that was (coincidentally?) placed in the L.A. Times on the morning of the selections in 2000 certainly couldn’t have hurt his chances when he was voted the Thalberg later that day.
She won her first Oscar for 1961′s Two Women, the first performer to win for acting in a foreign language. Then in 1991, the Academy decided she needed another Oscar and gave her an Honorary Award. Apparently, still wanting to demonstrate their love, the Academy in association with Cinecitta Luce gave Loren another tribute Wednesday night in front of a packed house at their Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. Ostensibly in honor of the 50th anniversary of that first Oscar, the beautifully produced program covered her entire career through clips and reminiscences of friends and colleagues that was also significant for another reason: it also brought eight-time Oscar show M.C. Billy Crystal back into a hosting mode for the Academy, and to say he killed would be an understatement. Loren personally asked for Billy, whom she first met at that 1991 ceremony where she got that second Oscar.
After opening with a clip from 1964′s Marriage Italian Style, Crystal came out punching with a hilarious intro all in broken Italian. Then he praised the guest of honor (sitting in the front row next to son Edoardo Ponti). “Just thinking about her beauty can keep a traffic controller awake at night,” he joked. “Bin Laden’s last words were, ‘I can’t believe I am gonna miss Wednesday night!’ “Among his other bon mots: ”She could live next door to you and you would never know she was there, even if you were the Pakistani military.” Or: “Miss Loren and I had a hot affair for years. She didn’t know it of course … when I met her I was amazed she didn’t have a staple in the middle of her chest.”