The movie Boulevard de la mort was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, and it's a longer version of a film you may have already seen. Over on this side of the world, it was called Death Proof; Quentin Tarantino's half of Grindhouse, an homage to seventies B-movies, will be released in Europe freed from its zombie twin, Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror.
The new Death Proof has a lot more talk, though unfortunately, no more rock than its original version. The climactic car chase, which lasts about a half-hour, is exactly the same, but more of the scenes of girl talk are included. There's also a raunchy lap-dance sequence, and a new black and white section, set in a convenience-store parking lot. Finally, Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who enjoys crashing into carloads of young women, is now an aspiring filmmaker, who makes videos of his victims.
After the screening, Tarantino and producer Harvey Weinstein met the press, along with cast members Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Rose McGowan, Tracie Thoms and Zoe Bell.
Tarantino was first invited to Cannes with 1992's Reservoir Dogs, but his reputation was launched with Pulp Fiction, which won the 1994 Palme d'Or. The invitation to return with Death Proof in competition was a welcome opportunity to try to pump up interest in the $53-million (U.S.) film, which, since its April 6 opening has earned less than $25-million.
Weinstein said Rodriguez's film will be released separately and may have its debut at the Venice Film Festival in September.
"You're going to see Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino do their thing and it will dwarf Grindhouse, trust me" he boasted.
Asked about the difference between the two films, Tarantino said: "The way the tone changed as far as Stuntman Mike is concerned, to me is the greatest difference between the two movies."
The 44-year-old director of Kill Bill also reminisced about what movies meant to him when he was young, when he would see favourite films four times in a row. And for anyone who wants to understand the Tarantino sensibility, he offered a mixed metaphor that involves religion and electrocution.
"When I was going to the movies, I was going to church as far as I was concerned," he said. "Those movies were so good, it was just like sticking my finger in a light socket."
Martin Scorsese, one of Tarantino's major influences, also had something to say at this year's festival, which may end up as a more enduring legacy than this year's Oscar win for The Departed. Scorsese was on hand, with more than a dozen major international directors, to announce the establishment of the World Cinema Foundation to restore and preserve international cinema.
"In the United States, about 90 per cent of silent films are gone, and we know that all films before 1915 are gone," Scorsese said.
In 1990, Scorsese, along with Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Stanley Kubrick, launched the American Film Foundation, dedicated to restoring lost American films. So far, 495 films have been put together again.
"Since that time I've been thinking about what it would be like to do this for other countries, especially those that don't have the resources to preserve certain films."
Scorsese said the foundation is a natural extension of his belief that the health of cinema depends on preserving its diversity, and allowing different countries to influence each other: "We can create this whole new cinema such as exists here at Cannes. And more importantly, I think we learn and understand about each other, and get over our sense of the strangeness of other cultures.
"As a start, the foundation will support directors who want to restore neglected films from their heritage. I thought it would be useful to get directors to bring with them the kind of dedication and obsession of a filmmaker to this task."
Among the international directors who have lined up to support his cause were Cannes jury president Stephen Frears, Brazil's Walter Salles, Wong Kar-wai and Mexico's Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
The organization, sponsored by Armani and Cartier, will present its first three restored films at this festival: Ahmed Al Maanouni's 1981 Moroccan music film Transes, the Brazilian film Limite, the Romanian film Forest of the Hanged.
As an example of the kind of complex issues that are involved, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai said that, while mainland China had done a good job of preserving cinema before 1949, much of Hong Kong's busy film industry was forgotten.
He knew of an entire warehouse near San Francisco that is full of old Chinese films: "Hong Kong was the centre of entertainment for the Chinese communities living around the world. For the bachelor men who lived in Chinatown in the United States, this was their sole entertainment but we don't even know who the distributors were any more."
Brazil's Walter Salles added that the loss of a cinematic heritage is "like living in a house without mirrors."