In response to yesterday’s mystifying news about German director Fatih Akin having withdrawn The Cut, which had been submitted to the festival, for vague “personal reasons,” a reputable distribution source offers the following: “This is totally unconfirmed and 200 percent hearsay, but word has it Akin pulled out of Cannes because Thierry Fremaux wouldn’t offer him a definite slot in the competition, but wanted him in Un Certain Regard with a chance of being upgraded to competition if some other title wouldn’t come through. Akin felt shortchanged and didn’t want to go along with that plan.”
The source suggests that Fremaux’s alleged decision to include Christian Petzold‘s Phoenix as a competition title was behind the Cut snub, and therefore a factor in Akin’s withdrawal.
“It is considered a certainty — at least here in the German industry — that Christian Petzold‘s Phoenix, a drama starring Barbara‘s Nina Hoss, will screen in competition — everything else would be a big surprise (which apparently was the reason he didn’t even submit Phoenix to the Berlinale). Petzold (Barbara‘s director) is held in the highest regard among French cinephiles. Given Cannes’ problematic relationship with German cinema in the past, Fremaux probably didn’t want to have two German titles in competition. But that’s total conjecture on my part.”
A 3.7.14 Ioncinema summary of Phoenix reads as follows: “While Barbara was set in the German Democratic Republic of the early 1980s, Phoenix goes back to the post-Second World War era, focusing on a woman who has survived the Holocaust. Presumed dead, she returns home under a new identity to find out if her husband [has] betrayed her.” Wells comment: “Obviously ‘betrayal’ is the wrong term to use in a situation in which a husband hqs reason to believe that his wife is dead.”
Wells comment on Akin hearsay: This, at least, sounds like a semi-plausible scenario that at least MIGHT have happened. At least it has the aroma of a standard Cannes chess move. If (and I say “if“) Akin withdrew The Cut because he felt that Fremaux’s tentative offer of an Un Certain Regard slot was demeaning, I would question the description of Akin’s decision as “personal.” If this speculation is based on truth, Akin’s decision sounds to me like a simple strategic decision on his part — a not-previously-unheard-of response to a perceived political slight within a charged film-festival scenario.
The source replies: “[Assuming this scenario happened], my guess would be that Akin was told he would be in Un Certain Regard with a slight chance of the competition and so he made the choice to retract the film for ‘personal’ reasons so as not to lose face.”