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Cannes judge wants surprises, views to Asian films positively

LOS ANGELES (AFP) ― Nanni Moretti, head of this year’s Cannes film festival jury, says he looks for movies that “surprise” him ― adding there is no reason a Chinese-language film cannot win the top prize.

The Italian actor and filmmaker stressed that he would not oblige jury members at the festival ― which will run from May 16-27 ― to agree unanimously on any of the prizes bestowed including the coveted Palme d’Or.

“I will not look for a unanimous vote at all costs, because if we search for a unanimous vote we risk choosing a film that isn’t displeasing to anyone and doesn’t disturb anyone but that no one is absolutely enamored with,” he said.

“I will be looking for the kind of films that are still able to surprise me, not the kind of film I’ve already seen 5,000 times,” Moretti told AFP in a telephone interview.

Moretti, the first non-American to lead the jury since 2009, has presented six films at the French showcase festival over the years, including last year’s comedy “Habemus Papam” (“We Have a Pope”), out shortly in the United States.

The 58-year-old’s “Caro Diario” (“Dear Diary”) won best director in 1994, while “La stanza del figlio” (“The Son’s Room”) won the Palme d’Or, the filmfest’s top prize, in 2001.

Asked about the relatively small number of Asian films screened at Cannes and their chances of winning the top prize, Moretti said: “I can’t really say anything about that now, it would seem sort of a declaration beforehand.”

“But I don’t see why ... a Chinese-language film couldn’t win,” he added.

Moretti is sometimes compared with Woody Allen for his wit and self-reflection ― and the Italian acknowledges there are similarities, albeit superficial.

“First of all, I believe that in the time span between me making one movie and the next, he makes five,” he said.

“There are superficial analogies ... But above all, recently it seems to me that lately he’s much more interested in writing, and that’s where he takes his most pleasure. I like to pay attention to every phase of making a movie.”

Reflecting on the difference between the kind of films presented at Cannes and those which are nominated and win Oscars, he noted that black-and-white film “The Artist” won both.

However, he added that “personally, I don’t share the enthusiasm about that film, ‘The Artist.’ I find it to be an ‘easy’ film.”

On the Croisette, the choice of winners depends on the members of the jury, which change every year. And this is not the case with the Oscars, because the members of the Academy are the same each year.

“It’s all very much entrusted to the single taste of the single jury members in festivals. But at any serious film festival the only thing that counts are the films, and the tastes of the jury members.”

“Whereas in the Oscars it seems to me that marketing and also distribution strategies are important.”

The Cannes festival’s general delegate Thierry Fremaux, announcing Moretti’s appointment in January, described the Italian filmmaker as “very high in my personal pantheon” of movie greats.