AFI FEST Michael Haneke-Jacques Audiard Swap & Pordenone Presents 'The Merry Widow'

The White Ribbon Michael Haneke

AFI FEST 2009 presented by Audi has announced that Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner and Oscar contender The White Ribbon will replace Jacques Audiard's Cannes Grand Prix winner A Prophet in the festival's line-up. Reason for the AFI FEST swap: “a recent change in the release date for A Prophet.” Both films are being distributed in the US by Sony Pictures Classics.

The White Ribbon is set in a German farming village disturbed by inexplicable acts of cruelty just before the start of World War I. The film is due for release in the US on December 30. The film will screen on Sunday, November 1, at 7:00 PM.

Good that The White Ribbon will be screened; bad that A Prophet won't. Both hard-hitting dramas received widespread praise upon their initial release at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and both will quite possibly land Oscar nods – though with the Academy's foreign-language film voters, you never know. They may always opt for a sentimental melo instead.

Other major film festival winners in the AFI FEST 2009 line-up are:

City of Life and Death (2009 San Sebastian Film Festival Golden Seashell)

Precious (Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize and Audience Award, 2009 Toronto Film Festival People's Choice Award)

The Milk of Sorrow (Berlin International Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear)

Free tickets to all Festival screenings are available online at or by phone at 866-AFI-FEST beginning today, at the Mann Chinese 6 Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd.) in the Hollywood and Highland Center beginning October 26, and on the day of scheduled screenings via Rush Lines. Early entry to all screenings can be secured by becoming a patron of the Festival and purchasing an AFI FEST Patron Pass. For more details, visit

Pordenone 2009

At The Bioscope: 2009 Pordenone Film Festival Day I

"The main event, though, is the Erich Von Stroheim version of The Merry Widow (USA 1925), introduced by Leatrice Joy Fountain and featuring a new orchestral score by Maud Nelissen. The film itself is almost a checklist of Von's obsessions; militaria, aristocrats at play, wedding processions, grotesques, fetishes and matters of honour; how close it all is to the source material I'm not qualified to say, but it's a superior piece of froth; the score, using Lehar lightly but effectively matched it to perfection. And every new film I see John Gilbert in, my perception of him changes; not just the star of legend, I'm realising what a really fine actor he was too, and what a waste his loss was to cinema."


Leatrice Joy Fountain is the daughter of John Gilbert and Leatrice Joy, both of whom were big names in the 1920s. Gilbert, in particular, became an MGM superstar in the second half of the decade, thanks in large part to the enormous success of both The Merry Widow and The Big Parade (right). His silent films with Greta Garbo – Flesh and the DevilLoveA Woman of Affairs – didn't hurt, either.

Gilbert's career dwindled away with the coming of sound. (Gene Kelly spoofs him in the "I love you! I love you! I love you!" scene in Singin' in the Rain.) His astronomical salary (which fattened his films' budgets), difficult temper, and ugly rift with MGM head Louis B. Mayer didn't help matters any. John Gilbert died in 1936.

The 2009 Pordenone Film Festival – Le Giornate del Cinema Muto ("The Journey of Silent Cinema") – ran Oct. 3-10.

Pordenone Film Festival website.

AFI FEST Michael Haneke-Jacques Audiard Swap & Pordenone Presents 'The Merry Widow' © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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