The word spreads fast here at Cannes on whether a movie is something exceptional and ought to be seen or just ho-hum. Yesterday's two Competition unveilings were in the ho-hum category, so there was no problem getting into their repeat screenings today with neither "The Immigrant" nor "Michael Kohlhaas" filling up. That could not be said of "Blue Is the Warmest Color," which debuted two days ago. Both of its repeat screenings yesterday were packed with the news that this lesbian love story with sizzling sex is the new favorite for the Palm d'Or. I talked to someone who was turned away from both of them.
He and I will have a final chance to see it on Day Twelve when all twenty Competition films receive one last screening. They are spread out in four theaters ranging in size from 300 seats to 1068. Where they are shown is similar to a seeding process. There is only time for three screenings in the large Debussy, with a seating capacity of the three other theaters being used combined, as that is where the Awards Ceremony will be projected for those of us without Invitations and formal attire to watch it in person in the Palais. The three films slated to be shown in the Debussy, earning the top three seedings are "Blue," the Coen brothers' movie and a bit of a surprise, the Japanese film "Like Father, Like Son." The lowest seeds, seven screenings in the smallest Bunuel Theater, films with the least interest in being seen are Borgman, Heli, Candlelabra, A Chateau in Italy, Nebraska, Only God Forgives and Shield of Straw.
I have four films to see tomorrow, but will only be able to see three of them as two are playing at the same time. One of the time slots has only movies I have seen. If Sorrentino's film were playing in that time slot, I'd gladly give it another look, but unfortunately it is playing later up against the Closing Night film "Zulu," starring Forest Whitaker, who was on stage this evening accepting an award for the Un Certain Regard film "Fruitville Station," as one of its producers. Instead I will strongly be tempted to see Roman Polanski's "Venus in Fur" again, even after just seeing it today.
Polanski had me on the edge of my seat almost from the start wondering what was going to happen next in this depiction of the most incredible theater audition ever. Matthieu Amalric is seen in an empty theater on the phone talking to his girl friend ready to go home after a most frustrating day of auditions for a play he has written and will be directing, when one last woman unexpectedly shows up, Emmanuelle Seigner. She is somewhat ditzy and not so professional. Amalric can immediately see she is not right for the part and tries to send her away. She pleads her case too no avail until she breaks into tears and reveals she spent thirty euros on a period dress from the 1800s for the audition. Amalric relents.
The woman proceeds to blow him away, not only with her acting but with her suggestions on how he could improve the play. She shocks him time after time, initially being in possession of the entire script and then having her part in the two-person play down solid. She even knows how to operate the lights in the theater to get the proper effect and brought along a dinner jacket from the 1870s that perfectly fits Amalric for him to wear as he reads the other part of the play. He asks her more than once, "Who are you?," just as anyone watching will be. She is fully channeling her role as a dominatrix. Seigner becomes a strong contender for best actress and the movie for best screen play. It was dazzling from start to finish.
Marion Cotillard might have been considered for the a award for her performance as a woman forced into prostitution in James Gray's "The immigrant," if it weren't for the magnitude of Seigneur's performance. Joaquin Phoenix is fine too as a scoundrel who connives to force her into prostitution when she arrives at Ellis Island in 1920 from Poland. Cotillard is swallowed up into a world of corruption beyond her imagining but remains strong and steadfast trying to earn the money to gain the release of her sister who is being detained for having a potentially contagious disease.
Mads Mikkelsen, last year's best actor winner, is charismatic and also has an air of nobility as a horse merchant in 16th century France in "Michael Kohlhaas." He stands up for an injustice. Despite the beautiful mountain scenery, my minimal sleep caught up with me during this movie and I kept nodding off.
I remained fully tuned in to "Nothing Bad Can Happen," a German movie based on true events of a German family who take in a Jesus Freak, a young man trying to live by the ideals of Jesus, turning his cheek to violence and remaining celibate and helping others without concern for money. The family is at first very nice, but then turns more ugly than one can imagine.
My final film was preceded by a prolonged standing ovation for French icon Alain Delon, on stage to introduce "Plein Soleil," a film from 1959 in which he played a wealthy playboy. After starting out as a romantic romp with Delon seducing women left and right, first in Rome, then at a seaside resort, it turns into a crime caper. It is clear that the crime will be solved. How it is solved is one of the reasons that this film by Rene Clement is considered a classic.
A couple hours earlier that same Debussy staged was graced by the Un Certain Regard jury, headed by Thomas Vinterberg, giving out its awards. Five of the seventeen films in this category won awards, but not the films by Sofia Coppola or Claire Denis. Top prize went to "The Missing Picture," the innovative documentary by Rithy Panh on his survival of the Khmer Rouge revolution in Cambodia. Runner-up was the superb Palestinian film "Omar." Its best director prize went to "Stranger by the Lake," cast award to"La Jaula de Oro" and a special award to "Frutiville Station."
That jury got it right. If Spielberg's does the same, it's seven awards will be split among "The Past," "The Great Beauty," "Like Father, Like Son," "A Touch of Sin," " Venus in Fur" and probably "Blue is the Warmest Color," though I haven't seen it yet. Michael Douglas could well get a best actor award as well. The lead in "The Past" is more deserving, but he may be disqualified if the movie receives a higher award. I'm hoping juror Christian Mungo, director of gritty, dark realism, has a passionate will, and might champion the Mexican film "Heli." It is a jury of many strong voices, so no one is likely to dominate it.