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Items to Watch for at the Festivals in 2008

Items to Watch for at the Festivals in 2008

by Alex Deleon

  1. Harvey Milk by Gus Van Sant
  2. Tom Cruise as German Officer with Eye-patch
  3. Bollywood version of Casablanca
  4. A Polish version of Don Giovanni
  5. The Earth Stands Still Once Again ...

Macho actor Sean Penn (47) is set to play gay San Francisco mayor, Harvey Milk, who was murdered by a rabid gay-baiter in 1978 -- the assassin, by Matt Damon! The Milk affair has been milked nearly dry before in various documentaries, but this will be the first mainstream feature film treatment, with all the Hollywood pizzazz ...well, maybe not quite, as the directorial chores will be handled by off-beat, off-Hollywood director Gus Van Sant whose approach to film , while technically polished, is not exactly mainstream. We won't talk about Mr. Van Sant's own sexual orientation other than to observe that a wide gay streak, implicit or explicit, runs through nearly all of his films. His boys-in-the-shower film,”Elephant”, took home the grand prix, Palme d'or, at Cannes in 2003, and showed up at no less than 18 other film festivals in the subsequent twelve months. From the top-lining cast alone – Penn vs Damon, mano-a-mano -- the new Gus Van Sant opus looks like a sure winner as well.

In a rather amazing about-face to his image,Tom Cruise will soon be seen as WW II Wehrmacht officer Claus von Stauffenberg, who was the leader of the failed plot to kill Hitler at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia on July 20, 1944. Had the plot succeeded the entire history of World War II would have been drastically altered, and maybe a million people in the Nazi Death Camps saved from the gas chambers. A suitcase bomb placed by Stauffenber in a room where Hitler was holding forth actually went off, but the Fuhrer miraculously survived and all the plotters were brutally – summarily --executed.

Despite protests by certain German politicos, and members of the Stauffenberg family itself to the effect that a punky Hollywood actor and member of a weird cult like Scientology is hardly the proper choice to play an authentic German martyr like Claus von Stauffenberg, Mr. Cruise is not in the least intimidated, nor has he been deterred from his set course. In fact, with his considerable industry clout, he has even been able to obtain official permission to shoot on historical Berlin locations such as the old Nazi Ministry of Defense. Somebody up there must like him. The Film is being directed by Bryan Singer (”X-Men, 2000, and ”Superman Returns”, 2006) and co-stars Dutch actrice Carice van Houten, 31,who was absolutely astounding as the Jewish Heroine of Paul Verhoeven's ”Black Book” last year. In this one Carice plays the hero's wife, Nina von Stauffenberg. The van Houten-Cruise pairing itself should be something to watch – considering how much taller she is than him the sparks may fly.

By the way, the name of the picture is ”Valkyrie” -- as in ”Ride of the...” by Wagner, or as in ”Apocalypse Now” with Robert Duvall riding herd on the helicopter gunships ... In a production still from the picture Cruise is seen proudly sporting a black eye patch over his left orb and looking every inch (all five foot seven of them) a high ranking Werhrmacht officer with his high-peaked eagle bedecked officer's hat and trim grey Wehrmacht uniform. Rottsa Ruck, Tom – and Sieg Heil!

Play it again” --Who?

A Bollywood version of ”Casablanca” is now in the works in Mumbai (Bombay) where these amazing Indian dance-musical extravaganzas are regularly churned out. A few Indian modifications will, of course, be introduced. Instead of WW II and the Nazis, the bad guys will now be the Tamil Tigers, and the setting is the long-running civil war in Sri-Lanka (Ceylon) between the Tamils in the north and the Sinhalese in the south. Bogart and Bergman will become, respectively, Suresh Gopi (49),”Rick” , and Mandira Bedi (35),”Ilsa”.-- The big question is, how will ”Play it again Sam” come out in Hindi ...and will he be playing it on the piano or on the sitar?

Another weird shot out of the Twilight Zone is a remake of the 1952 Robert Wise Sci-fi classic,”The Day The Earth Stood Still”, already in the works. Keanu Reeves will reproduce the Michael Rennie role of ”Klaatu”, the Christ-like vistor from space who comes to earth in a flying saucer and tries to save the human race from atomic self-destructing. Since Reeves already looks a little extra-terrestial and has such spiffy sci-fi credentials as ”The Matrix” to his credit, he is probably not the worst choice imaginable for the part, although the big question here is, why fix something that isn't broken” -- which is to say, why bother making a ”re-make” of a film that's already perfect? Of course, from the long perspective of over half a century and the advances in space technology since the days when ”flying saucers” were the cutting edge, one can easily think of new variations on the theme -- like, maybe Klaatu's Robot could be played by Bill Gates ... „Klatu, barata niktu!” -- The re-maker behind the operation is Scott Derrickson, a director who seems to have a well honed taste for the supernatural with films like ”The Exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005) already in the bag, and a re-make of Hitchcock's ”The Birds” on tap. ( -- but again --”why bother?”).

Still in the planning stage, so it might take a while, is a Polish film version of the Mozart opera „Don Giovanni” to be directed by internationally active Opera conductor Marius Trelinski. Although Trelinski is now regarded as primarily a musical conductor, he does have three widely spaced films to his directorial credit, all of which featured prominent actors and were well received in Poland, to wit: ”Farewell to Autumn”, 1990, A Gentle Woman”, 1995, and ”The Egoists”, 2000. The proposed silver screen Don Giovanni will be updated to the present which is not unusual these days, as far as modernized operas are concerned. Of course if Amadeus woke up and saw Leoporello using a cell-phone he might drop dead again – but, then again -- he might like it! I saw a version of Lohengrin a few years ago in Oslo where much of the action was set in a contemporary trailer camp and the singers vocalized out of contempo sleeping bags. The normally restrained Norwegian audience cheered the singers but booed the sets. Different strokes ...


A final item. Moneybags Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of such box office blockbusters as”Lord of the Rings” and ”Kill Bill” (as well as well as such immense duds as ”The Aviator”) swears that he will put a bullet through his head if Cate Blanchett, 38, the star of his current big one ”Don't Look Back” , does not win the Best Actress Oscar for her ”pants role” interpretation of Bob Dylan in the picture. I have not had the pleasure yet, but the flick is already making the rounds of the festivals and is getting a lot of positive buzz. Aussie Cate already got a supporting actress Oscar for her slacksy-dapsy portrayal of Katherine Hepburn in ”The Aviator” (undeserved, if you please, in this viewer's humble opinion) and is currently just about the hottest actress in Holywood, so another one -- a best -- is not altogether out of the question. Personally, however (not that I have anything personal against Cate) I would like to see just about anybody else get it -- mainly because I would just love to see a fat-cat producer blow his brains out.

Alex, Lublin, Poland
Halloween night, 2007.

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THE FESTIVALS BLOG by Alex Deleon. Watch for festival coverage from the circuit.

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