In the shadows of art, Cannes' market flourishes

The movie market at Cannes is such a dramatic sideshow that this year it's getting its own film.

Director James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin have been knocking up and down Cannes' Croisette boulevard filming a documentary on the feverish deal-making that surrounds the festival. While most of the world's attention is trained on a few dozen of the world's most anticipated films, much of the industry is hatching deals in hotel rooms, over drinks at evening parties and aboard yachts moored just off the beach.

Toback, the director of "Fingers" and "Tyson," has teamed with Baldwin to document the process of selling a film at Cannes while simultaneously trying to land financing for a fictional film. They're calling the documentary "Seduced and Abandoned."

"We wanted to do a documentary that kind of took a snap shot of the way the movie business is now," said Baldwin. "These festivals and markets are really cool backdrops for that kind of thing and this is the most famous one of them all."

The Cannes marketplace — le Marche du Film — is the largest in the world, one that pulls together production companies looking to sell prospective or completed films, distributors seeking adventurous projects, and exhibitors looking for films to populate their screens.

"It is this weaving together of these two actually somewhat unique cultures — art and commerce," says Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation. "They're just banging against each other walking down the streets here."

DreamWorks has often used Cannes to promote their blockbusters (this year, "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" and the upcoming holiday film "Rise of the Guardians," for which Baldwin has a voice role). But Katzenberg (who participated in Toback's film) says there's equally important networking. Long an evangelist of 3-D, he says many of the discussions on developing that technology happened at Cannes.

"You hear things that you start to pay attention to," says Katzenberg. "Something that's just starting to get people's attention is this next generation of multidimensional sound ... That's a real thing that's come out of this."

This year, no one's made a bigger impact in the marketplace than Harvey Weinstein, who last year acquired the eventual Oscar-winner "The Artist" just ahead of the festival. Aside from having two films in competition — the Brad Pitt noir "Killing Them Softly" and the Prohibition-era crime film "Lawless" — the Weinstein Co. has picked up "The Sapphires," an Australian musical; "Haute Cuisine," about the private cook of French president Francois Mitterand; "The Oath of Tobruk," a documentary about the uprising in Libya; and "Code Name: Geronimo," which is about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Shortly before the festival, the company also nabbed Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, "Quartet."

"It's a great thing for us because, in one place, we get to show movies, create excitement with the press and we get to sell our movies, meet with our distributors and meet with people around the world," said Weinstein, early on in his buying spree.

Many films that will go to contend for Oscars are found here, and many of next year's (and 2014's) notable releases will be assembled here. Speculation is that "Code Name: Geronimo" could be released ahead of both the November U.S. presidential election (a sure image-booster for President Barack Obama) and Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," which also covers the raid and is expected in December.

There have been countless other deals put together, agreed to on the basis of everything from a few minutes of footage to a script to a package of talent. International distribution deals are a vital component in financing film, particularly now when international box office earnings routinely trump North American receipts.

As Hollywood studios have become increasingly focused on large blockbusters, the Cannes market has become particularly robust for the mid-range budgeted films, which often seek financing abroad.

"In my world, which is the medium-budget world, I'm doing films based in character and drama," said "Lawless" director John Hillcoat in a press conference Saturday. "And those are words that you cannot use in the United States at this time."

In the basement of the Palais, the Marche du Film has a physical presence, full of booths hawking films from around the world. It's a bazaar of cinema, and the movie posters can be their own entertainment. One memorable entry from Japan: "Dead Sushi," with the promise of "Hot wasabi action!"




The AP's Bianca Roach contributed to this report.