Tough times for small U.S. films despite bumper Cannes

Sat May 19, 2012 7:40am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - In a bumper year for U.S. productions in Cannes, director John Hillcoat, presenting prohibition-era drama "Lawless" at the film festival on Saturday, said the state of smaller-budget American movies was "distressing".

Lawless is in fact an international production - Hillcoat and two of his leading cast are Australian, as is scriptwriter and musician Nick Cave.

But the 1930s tale of three bootlegging brothers in Virginia also features leading U.S. actors Jessica Chastain and Shia LaBeouf and is backed by the Weinstein Company.

It is one of five U.S. productions in Cannes' main competition of 22 films, an unusually high number, leading some executives on the French Riviera to speak of a boom in medium-budget pictures costing a few tens of millions of dollars.

But Hillcoat, who collaborated with Cave on the acclaimed 2005 Western "The Proposition", was less sanguine.

"The state of things is pretty tough as everyone here knows, particularly in my world which is the kind of medium-budgets," he told reporters after a press screening of Lawless, where there were boos as well as cheers at the closing credits.

"They are films that have character and drama and those are words that you cannot use in the United States at this time. So that I find quite distressing."

He said television had become increasingly important, with U.S. channels like HBO leading the way in developing intelligent, probing dramas.   Continued...