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Cinema Chat: The Cannes Film Festival Begins And The Marvel Universe Set To Unleash 'Black Widow'

Michigan Theater
The Michigan Theater

July rolls on with some new and classic films to choose from at local movie houses. WEMU's David Fair connects with Michigan Theater Foundation executive director Russ Collins to discuss new cinematic offerings and the latest film industry news.



As the festival kicked off during a most unusual year, filmmakers and industry insiders mulled about the future of the business.


“We are here.” Those three simple words might have sounded matter-of-fact at an earlier edition of the Cannes Film Festival. But when artistic director Thierry Fremaux used them to greet a roomful of filmmakers, actors, and others from the international film community at a dinner on the opening night of the festival, they were met with sustained applause. Much of the festival’s jury, this year headed by Spike Lee, circulated the room, from Maggie Gyllenhaal to director Mati Diop, gearing up for 10 days of a three-film-per-day regimen that would culminate in their deliberation. For many, the gathering was an opportunity to speak about the past as much as the future, as they unpacked at the strange ride of the past year and change.



This year’s festival comes with some serious caveats. With the pandemic still raging across the globe, major territories like China and South America held off on attending due to extreme quarantine restrictions on both sides. Yet to some extent, the first major event of the 74th edition felt like an immediate return to normalcy. The festival kicked off Tuesday with a screening of documentary essayist Mark Cousin’s “The Story of Film: The New Generation” (which acknowledges the pandemic’s impact on viewer habits) followed by the world premiere of Leos Carax’s unconventional Adam Driver rock opera “Annette.” The screening of “Annette” was preceded by the usual red-carpet fanfare, with Spike Lee adorned in a blinding pink Louis Vuitton suit as he opened the proceedings during an elegant opening ceremony from the stage of the Lumiere Theatre, where he was flanked by honoree Jodie Foster (speaking flawless French as she recalled her first time at Cannes with “Taxi Driver”), Pedro Almodovar, and previous Palme d’Or winner Bong Joon Ho. Their union onstage didn’t exactly prove that the movies had fully recovered so much as that, despite the anxiety about the future and production slowdowns, they were always there. “Maybe the festival had a break, but cinema never stopped,” Bong, who finished his most recent screenplay in January, told the audience in Korean.


As usual the crowd at Cannes seem keen on assembling to argue about the nature of an art form always defined by its unsteady relationship to commerce. Film festivals remain an insular platform for cinema that may or not succeed with wider audiences. At the same time, the global success of Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” following its Cannes launch in 2019 initially created speculation that the festival might continue to catapult international filmmaking talent to global recognition, and that cliffhanger dangled over the strange year to come. Yet even if the bulk of the movies at Cannes fail to become crossover hits, the festival’s purpose extends beyond that metric. Unlike the United States, festivals like Cannes are financed by government funds and exist in part as a kind of cultural imperative to keep cinema alive. That concept may have sounded precious in pre-COVID times, but it’s an essential one now.




AN ACCLAIMED FILM FROM SUNDANCE 2020. Based on true love, this decades spanning romance begins in Mexico between an aspiring chef (Armando Espitia) and a teacher (Christian Vázquez). Their lives restart in incredible ways as societal pressure propels them to embark on a treacherous journey to NYC with dreams, hopes, and memories in tow. Directed by Heidi Ewing (Farmington Hills native [Jesus Camp, Detropia]), from a screenplay by Ewing and Alan Page Arriaga.


In Marvel Studios' action-packed spy thriller, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger.

It is an American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, it is the 24th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Cate Shortland (Australian writer and director best known for "Somersault," "Lore," and "Berlin Syndrome") from a screenplay by Eric Pearson. Stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow alongside Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Rachel Weisz. Set after "Captain America: Civil War" (2016), the film sees Romanoff on the run and forced to confront her past.

Scarlett Johansson has been cast in the role for several MCU films beginning with "Iron Man 2" (2010). Work began in late 2017, and director Cate Shortland was hired in 2018. Filming took place from May to October 2019 in Norway, Budapest, Morocco, Pinewood Studios in England, and in Atlanta and Macon, Georgia. It is the first film in Phase Four of the MCU and was delayed three times from an original May 2020 release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain" -- OPENS FRIDAY, JULY 16 AT THE STATE

It's not where you go. It's what you leave behind.... Chef, writer, adventurer, provocateur: Anthony Bourdainlived his life unabashedly. This film is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef became a world-renowned cultural icon. From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville ("20 Feet From Stardom," "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"), this unflinching look at Bourdain reverberates with his presence, in his own voice and in the way he indelibly impacted the world around him. 




 CINEMA CLASSICS – Sundays & Tuesdays 

NT Live: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" -- THURSDAY, JULY 22 AT THE MICHIGAN

One-Night Event! Captured live from the National Theatre in London, this critically acclaimed production directed by Marianne Elliot ("Angels in America," 'War Horse") has astonished audiences around the world and has received seven Olivier and five Tony Awards®. Christopher, fifteen years old, stands beside Mrs. Shears’ dead dog. It has been speared with a garden fork, it is seven minutes after midnight, and Christopher is under suspicion. He records each fact in the book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington. He has an extraordinary brain, exceptional at math, while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life.


"Summer of Soul (Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)"

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture, and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just 100 miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten—until now. The film shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie WonderNina SimoneSly & the Family StoneGladys Knight & the PipsThe Staples SingersMahalia JacksonB.B. KingThe 5th Dimension, and more.

"In the Heights" 

This is an upcoming American musical drama film directed by Jon M. Chu from a screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes. It is based on the stage musical of Lin-Manuel Miranda. The film stars Anthony RamosCorey HawkinsLeslie GraceMelissa BarreraOlga MeredizDaphne Rubin-VegaGregory Diaz IV, and Jimmy Smits.

Lights up on Washington Heights... The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

"The Truffle Hunters"

Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle—which to date has resisted all of modern science's efforts at cultivation. They're guided by a secret culture and training passed down through generations, as well as by the noses of their cherished and expertly-trained dogs. They live a simpler, slower way of life, in harmony with their loyal animals and their picture-perfect land, seemingly straight out of a fairy tale. They're untethered to cell phone screens or the Internet, opting instead to make their food and drink by hand and prioritizing in-person connections and community.

The demand for white truffles increases year after year, even as the supply decreases. As a result of climate change, deforestation, and the lack of young people taking up the mantle, the truffle hunters' secrets are more coveted than ever. However, as it soon becomes clear, these aging men may just hold something much more valuable than even this prized delicacy: the secret to a rich and meaningful life.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

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