What a difference a little bit of time and a new regime make… or do they? Earlier this year, Iran was mulling litigation over how it was portrayed in Ben Affleck’s Academy Award winner Argo, and it boycotted the 2012 Oscars in protest over the Innocence Of Muslims video that was made in the U.S. Now that a new government led by perceived political moderate Hassan Rouhani is in place, the Argo lawsuit has lost steam and Iran has entered Asghar Farhadi’s The Past as its Oscar candidate for 2013. Those and other recent moves had led some to wonder if a new era of tolerance for freedom of expression was afoot. But, in just the past day, it’s emerged that Manuscripts Don’t Burn director Mohammad Rasoulof had his passport confiscated on a recent return home to Iran, and is still blocked from leaving the country.
Does that mean that despite the possible thaw of relations between Iran and the rest of the free world, tolerance for freedom of expression at home hasn’t really budged? Folks I’ve spoken with agree that Iran’s reopening of the House of Cinema film guild in September, after a 20-month closure, gave rise to hope that banned filmmakers like Jafar Panahi might see their sentences eased. At the time, Deputy Culture Minister Hojatollah Ayoubi said, “When a cultural issue — like the one about the House of Cinema — becomes a political one, that is (because) the situation was not managed properly.” That makes this latest turn with Rasoulof even more “paradoxical” as one person put it to me today.
The submission of Farhadi’s The Past to the Oscar race even seemed to push against typical conservative mores. The choice wasn’t entirely unexpected — Farhadi’s A Separation won the Foreign Language prize in 2011 — but the movie was made in France with French coin and deals with moral issues and intimate relationships that might have once run afoul of state authorities. Instead, it reportedly rubbed some conservatives the wrong way, but only because they felt it wasn’t Iranian enough. READ MORE »
UPDATED: Egypt’s Winter Of Discontent has been selected by the Filmmakers Syndicate to compete for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar. Ibrahim El-Batout’s film screened in the Venice Horizons section in 2012 as well as at the … Read More »
Blue Is The Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adele – Chapitre 1 & 2) is only the second purely French film in this most French of festivals to win the Palme d’Or in the past 46 years. The film has had the … Read More »
Sony Pictures Classics has landed U.S. rights at Cannes to The Past (Le Passe), Iranian helmer Asghar Farhadi’s ambitious drama starring Oscar nominee … Read More »
The first purely American entry in the 2013 Cannes Film Festival competition (opening nighter The Great Gatsby was Out of Competition), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen‘s terrific Inside Llewyn Davis had its first press screening Saturday night to strong response and big buzz on the very rainy Croisette. This tale of a talented folk singer unable to balance art and commerce, and who never quite hits the big time in the late ’50s/early ’60s emerging folk scene, is pure Coen Brothers with a winning mixture of brilliantly observed comedy and darker moments that give it an edge most reminiscent of Coen movies like Barton Fink, which won the Palme d’Or on their first try at Cannes in 1991. Joel Coen also took the Director award that year and again for The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) among the seven previous times they have been in the Cannes competition. 1994′s The Hudsucker Proxy, 1996′s Fargo, 2000′s O Brother Where Art Thou, 2004′s The Ladykillers and 2007′s No Country For Old Men represent their other numerous chances to reap a second Palme d’Or since Barton Fink but none of them did the trick.
Judging from initial reaction, at least among the press, Inside Llewyn Davis probably makes them an early front-runner for that second Palme. We say early since the film doesn’t have its official black tie premiere at the Palais until Sunday night, only the fourth day of the competition. But with its superb acting including leading man Oscar Isaac as the morose but oddly engaging Llewyn and a great supporting cast including Carey Mulligan, John Goodman (just great), Justin Timberlake, Stark Sands and a scene-stealing cat (or cats? – you’ll see) among others, plus the Coens’ knack for catching this era in all its glory, I suspect this will remain a contender for the entire week of debuts to come. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Iranian-born director Asghar Farhadi won the Foreign Language Oscar for his 2011 film A Separation. Today, his French-language The Past was announced as part of the official Cannes Competition. The film also deals with the theme of separation: When Ahmad returns to … Read More »