Sunday, Apr 27, 2003
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By Gautaman Bhaskaran
With celebrities, journalists, movie-lovers and plain hangers-on from all over the world crossing one another's paths during the Festival, fears of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) finding the right ambience to thrive and spread are real.
But the Festival's Managing Director, Veronique Cayla, did not appear to be overtly perturbed over the perceived threat. She told a recent press conference in Paris that ``we are in close contact with the French Health Ministry, and we will follow whatever recommendations they make''.
Knowing the French medical fraternity, aggressive that it is in its preventive efforts, one may be reasonably certain that its suggestions can be tough. Big contingents from the so-called SARS-hit regions will be at Cannes, and there has not yet been any indication that they may be asked to stay away.
In the meantime, it is business as usual in the Paris headquarters of the Festival, where the Artistic Director, Thierry Fremaux, said that they had a difficult year. ``It is getting harder and harder, because movies arrive late, from everywhere''.
In all, 908 features and over 1,500 shorts were submitted for possible inclusion in this Festival. Although the total number was up by 10 per cent over last year's submission, fewer features 30 less than last time came in this summer.
At the end of the arguably tough, though sometimes strange, selection process, 52 full-length films are in, across the various sections: Competition, Out of Competition, Special Shows and A Certain Regard.
These, according to Fremaux, ``will be a mix of comedy (we need a large dose of this especially this year, given the Iraq war and SARS) and tragedy a couple of pure comedies, movies that are radical aesthetically, and films that are very serious and sombre''.
The man behind last year's shock entry, Gaspard Noe's ``Irreversible'' (with a long and brutal rape scene), Fremaux hinted of another jolt this May: Lars von Trier's competing ``Dogville''.
A renowned helmer, his some-years-old ``Breaking the Waves'' is considered an all-time high in cinema.
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