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Jury member Andrea Arnold arrives at the opening ceremony of the 65th Cannes Film Festival May 16, 2012. (Reuters)
Jury member Andrea Arnold arrives at the opening ceremony of the 65th Cannes Film Festival May 16, 2012. (Reuters)

Cannes 2012

Cannes Diary: Prizes galore as Palme d'Or ceremony draws near Add to ...

Globe film critic Liam Lacey is at the Cannes Film Festival, where he will be filing regular updates to his Cannes Diary. Check back here daily for more behind-the-scenes reporting from the festival.

Saturday, May 26: A flurry of prizes was handed out Friday and Saturday on the eve of Sunday night’s Palme d’Or ceremonies. Here are the most prominent ones.

More coverage from Cannes

Un Certain Regard Jury: Tim Roth and his jurors picked After Lucia, a Mexican film by Michel Franco about school bullying. as the best film in the 20-film Un certain regard sidebar.

Quebec actress Suzanne Clement won a best actress prize for her performance as a woman who struggles with her male partner’s decision to become a woman in Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways. Tied for the same prize was France’s Emily Dequenne in the domestic drama A Perdre la Raison (Loving without Reason).

A special jury prize was awarded to the comedy Le Grand Soir, directed by by Benoît Delepine and Gustave Kervern, with a special distinction award to Aida Begic’s Children of Sarajevo.

The Directors Fortnight: The top prize went to No, Chilean director Pablo Larrian’s film about a Chilean advertizing executive, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, who organized the opposition vote in the referendum that toppled Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1988. Other prizes in the Directors’ Fortnight section went to Merzak Allouache’s The Repentant and Noemie Lvovsky’s Camille redouble (Camille Rewinds).

FIRPRESCI (International Critics’ Association): The critics group picked a Russian entry, Serge Loznitsa’s Second World War drama In the Fog, as the best competition film, Rachid Diadani’s Hold Back in the Director’s Fortnight and Benh Zeitlin’s Sundance Grand Prize winner, Beasts of the Southern Wild, as best film in the Un certain regard.

The Palm Dog: British journalists covering Cannes handed out their annual prize for the best canine performance of the festival to a terrier named Smurf, who plays a dog named Banjo in the dark British comedy Seeing Eyes. In one scene, Banjo licks his owner in an intimate area while Chris (Steve Oram) is having a romantic moment with his girlfriend.

Director Ben Wheatley, in accepting the prize, said: “We were concerned that Smurf wouldn’t be able to cope with the more outré aspects of the role. But his handlers showed him what to do with liberal application of paté to the area in question. I was delighted with the result.”

Cast members Matthew McConaughey (R) and Reese Witherspoon arrive on the red carpet for the screening of the film



FINAL FILM HAS THE TASTE OF TRUE SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

Saturday, May 26: The American South has risen again in the south of France, with a trio of Southern crime movies in the competition – Virginia-set Lawless, the New Orleans-shot Killing and the Florida-based The Paperboy in the competition. The poetic post-Hurricane Katrina allegory, Beasts of the Southern Wild, sits in the Un certain regard sidebar.

But Saturday brought the final film in the competition, Mud, director Jeff Nichols’s follow-up to last year’s Take Shelter, which starred Michael Shannon as a Ohio construction worker and father who has visions of a terrible impending storm.

The new film is a more conventional coming of age story. Shot in Arkansas, where Nichols was raised, it follows two boys who attempt to assist a fugitive named Mud, played by Matthew McConaughey, who wants to reconcile with the woman he loves.

Unlike the other Southern films here in competition, the cast of Mud is all bona fide Southern: Texan Matthew McConaughey, Tennessee’s Reese Witherspoon, and child actors, Tye Sheridan, from Texas and Jacob Lofland from Arkansas.

If the plot (fugitive, Mississippi, boyhood friendship) appears to echo that of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it’s no accident.

“If you’re going to steal, steal from someone really intelligent,” said Nichols, who said several specific episodes in the movie were taken from Twain’s fiction.

First-time child actor, Jacob Lofland said he was reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in school while the film was being shot.

“There was a lot of stuff that happened to wander into the script,” he said.

Nichols said that part of his mission in the film was to capture a dying culture, at a time when variety of Southern accents are becoming increasingly homogenized and old traditions, such as houseboats on the river, are disappearing.

“When I first read the screenplay, it felt like home” said actress Reese Witherspoon. “And I never get to see home on the big movie screen. There are very few movies about the American South that are accurate and this is one of them.”



Cast members Nicole Kidman (R) and John Cusack pose during a photo call for the film

THE CRAZIES COME OUT AS THE FEST WINDS DOWN

Thursday, May 24: When something seems too crazy to be true, it usually is. But there is another possibility: It might be both crazy and true.

Consider Lee Daniels’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Precious, The Paperboy, which is based on a 1995 Florida-set novel by Pete Dexter ( Paris Trout, Deadwood), a tale of a backwoods murder and journalistic deceit. Pedro Almodovar had once drafted an adaptation but never made the film.

Then it came to Daniels, who has made it over into a wild pot-boiler with Zac Efron starring as a young, would-be writer, Matthew McConaughey as his older brother, a closeted gay journalist, Nicole Kidman as a middle-aging hot tamale who’s obsessed with felons, and John Cusack as a backwoods gator-skinner on death row for gutting the local sheriff.

Daniels has changed a few things from Dexter’s novel to emphasize the racial elements, with singer Macy Gray cast as a maid (Gray said: “I even peed in character”). And McConaughey’s character is given a predilection for rough trade with African-American men.

Early in the film’s press conference here, when moderator Henri Behar asked if Zac Efron, who appears in the film frequently wearing either his underwear and tight shorts, was deliberately “eroticized,” Daniels answered: “Well, he’s very handsome – and I’m gay.”

But the more interesting revelation came near the end of the conference, after the actors had talked at length about their process for finding their characters, when Daniels declared: “Every character here, I know. I know [John Cusack’s]character. I raised my brother’s children since they were two days old. He’s 40-odd-years-old now and he’s in jail for murder. And he has women who write him. So I know this cat.

“I can’t tell you how many men that I’ve been with in the ’80s and ’90s who were white, who I could be intimate with, who would shun me in public. ‘I will not be seen with you, a black man, in public’ And they hated it. And hated themselves. I know that guy.

“The woman who plays Nicole’s best friend is my sister, who wrote many men in prison. She was one of the people who Nicole studied. All these people live in my head and in my world.”

Daniels’s The Paperboy isn’t the only berserk movie being shown as the Cannes festival slips into the homestretch. French filmmaker Leos Carax brought Holy Motors, a lunatic night journey starring Denis Lavant as Monsieur Oscar, who is driven around Paris by an elegant middle-aged woman (Edith Scob) as he disguises himself as various characters: a` knife-wielding assassin, a father picking up his teenaged daughter from a dance, a flower-eating clown named Mr. Merde who kidnaps American star Eva Mendes and licks her armpit, and a partner in a musical number with Kylie Minogue. The movie ends with cars in a parking garage having an argument.

Almost as kooky is Carlos Reygadas’s Post Tenebras Lux, a mysterious tale which begins and ends with a bright red animated devil, looking like he stepped off a chili sauce bottle, walking into a middle-class Mexican family’s home at night, carrying a toolbox. Presumably, he adjusts their plumbing and TV cable connection so that only evil is allowed to flow forth.



Director Walter Salles (second from the right) and cast members (left to right) Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Garret Hedlund pose during a photo call for the film

Cannes Diary: The naked truth about Coppola’s ‘On the Road’

Wednesday, May 23: Viggo Mortensen really doesn’t care who knows how he feels about the Montreal Canadiens. As he did when he was in Toronto promoting A Dangerous Method last fall, Mortensen held up the team’s jersey at the Cannes film festival on Wednesday afternoon – this time, at the press conference for the new Walter Salles movie On the Road, in which he plays a literary figure based on William S. Burroughs.

Though not a destination in Kerouac’s seminal postwar novel, Montreal is a central part of the film’s story. That’s where Salles, the Brazilian director, put his young cast – including Twilight star Kristen Stewart – through their “Beat boot camp,” immersing them in the world of author Jack Kerouac: watching films, listening to music and meeting relatives of the original Beat poets and their friends, who exist in the book in fictionalized form.

The project has been in the hands of executive producer Francis Ford Coppola (his son Roman wrote the screenplay) since 1979, with Salles on for the past eight years. Stewart, now 22, said Salles first spoke to her about her role “when I was 16 or 17, the same year LouAnne [Marylou in the book]started her journey.”

Stewart, who does her first nude scene in the film, mocked the usual starlet’s comments about feeling “so safe” with their directors when doing nudity.

“I love pushing. I love scaring myself,” she said. “To watch genuine experience on screen is just so much more interesting than when you see the tape holding up the pasties. I wanted to just do it. ...

“In this case, I didn’t have a thought in my mind. We really were just going for it. It was always about going forward. As long as you’re being honest there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”



Director Michael Haneke attends a news conference for the film

Cannes Diary: Michael Haneke’s Canadian alibi

Tuesday, May 22: Ah, the trials of a fading memory. Austrian director Michael Haneke's new film, Amour, about an elderly husband struggling with watching his wife suffer after a stroke, is currently considered the favourite for the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes film festival.

But Haneke dropped the film, which he started writing several years ago, because of another film that he felt might be too similar.

I had heard that film was Sarah Polley's 2006 movie, Away from Her, the story of a man who finds himself shut off from his wife when she develops Alzheimer’s disease. The film earned Oscar nominations for best screenplay and best performance by an actress for Julie Christie. A number of reviews of Haneke's film have mentioned similarities between the two movies.

When asked at a round-table interview yesterday afternoon, Haneke nodded agreement, before answering in German. The Canadian translator, Robert Gray, provided his response.

“Yes, it's true... I was about two-thirds of the way through what eventually became Amour, but I was blocked and I couldn't go on. By chance, a colleague of my producer mentioned this film to me and I did see it and it was a good alibi to give up, because of this block that I had. It wasn't so much the film itself, which had a different approach. That film was more of a social drama.

“Interestingly, when I went on to work on a different script, I found a solution that I hadn't found before and later I went back and finished it.”

But that may not be the correct story. After the interview, Gray caught up with me to add some more information. He said that he had heard the film that Haneke had seen was Quebec director Léa Pool's 2010 drama, La dernière fugue (The Last Escape), about a family considering administering euthanasia to their ill father.

So which one was it?

“I asked him and he couldn't remember,” said Gray.



Director Quentin Tarantino (C) poses with (L-R) U.S actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Jamie Foxx and Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, during the launch of their film

Weinstein Company offers sneak peeks for three hot films

Monday, May 21 (evening): The Weinstein Company invited a few dozen journalists to the Majestic Hotel for a sneak preview of three of their films, which happen to be some of the most anticipated films of the year. They include Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and David O. Russell's The Silver Linings Playbook.

After an opening cocktail party, the press were ushered into a small theatre where Harvey Weinstein took the stage. He initially joked that we were going to be treated to an hour of his bar mitzvah footage, before announcing the real movies.

“These are three unique masters of cinema,” he said. “These are some of the best films we've ever been associated with, if not the best.”

First up was footage from Anderson's post-Second World War film, The Master, featuring Joaquin Phoenix as a loose-cannon war veteran brought into a quasi-religious cult called The Cause, run by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Amy Adams stars as the leader's wife and true believer. Early scenes emphasized Hoffman's aphoristic pronouncements, a voiceover personality test and Phoenix's blankly-grinning character, while the others debate whether to keep the man or cut him loose. “If we are not helping him, we are failing him,” declares Hoffman's character. A brief trailer for the film, which opens Oct. 12, also went online Monday.

The Silver Linings Playbook, which opens Nov. 21, is a comedy based on a novel by Matthew Quick. It stars Bradley Cooper as a man struggling with his father (Robert De Niro) and various mental health issues, who meets a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who seems to have similar issues. “You have poor social skills,” he says. “You say more inappropriate than appropriate things,” she counters.

The longest preview, running about ten minutes, was for Quentin Tarantino's Django Unlimited, a spaghetti-western-style revenge story with broad comic strokes set against the background of slavery. Jamie Foxx plays freed slave, Django (“The D is silent”) who joins up with a flamboyant bounty hunter, played by Christoph Waltz. One scene features Waltz arriving at a plantation, overseen by Don Johnson, with Foxx riding next to him as his butler in absurd blue livery. A female slave asks incredulously, “So you really free? You wanna dress like that?”

Other scenes showed Leonardo DiCaprio as a plantation owner with a cigarette-holder between his teeth, and Foxx exacting bloody revenge on a Stacy Keach as a whip-wielding slave overseer.

“I like the way you die, boy,” Django growls.

Weinstein said that the film, which is still being shot, may include some surprise celebrity cameos. Django Unchained will open Christmas Day.





Cast members Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant arrive on the red carpet for the screening of the film Amour at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 20, 2012.





THE MID-POINT SCORE CARD



Monday, May 21: Signs of the mid-point being reached at the Cannes Film Festival; comfortable shoes replacing fashion wear; more bloodshot eyes, from late nights of partying and movie gazing; lineups made dangerous by the mushroom farm of umbrellas to ward off the rain.

Yet with the big invasion of films from the Americas filling out the last five days of the festival, no one's going home yet. And the real business of the festival – separating the good films from the bad – is just gearing up.

As of Monday, 11 of the 22 films have been shown, so it seems a good time for a midterm report card. There’s one absentee here: I haven’t seen Korean director Hong Sangsoo’s In Another Country because of a scheduling conflict.

For comparison, English-language critics in film-industry online magazine Screen International place Michael Haneke's Amour (Love) in the No. 1 spot, tied with Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills. French critics also put Haneke's film first, with Jacques Audiard's Rust and Bone in the second spot.

Here's my scorecard:

The A List:

Amour

Haneke’s drama of aging and death features consummate performances from 81-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva. Like many Haneke films, it's arduous to watch but also uncharacteristically moving.

Beyond the Hills

Mungiu, the Romanian Palme d’or winner for the abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, has brought another tale of two close women friends. Alina (Cristina Flutur) has returned from Germany to visit her friend and former lover, Voichita (Cosmina Stratan), who grew up with her in one of Romania’s notorious Ceausescu-era orphanages and now is a novice in a remote monastery. Based on a tragic real incident in 2005, the film portrays a society where police, hospitals and other social institutions are still damaged by the legacy of the brutal dictatorship.

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Alain Resnais, 89, returns to Cannes competition for the fifth time with this ingenious reworking of Jean Anouilh’s 1941 play Eurydice, a re-telling of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus as a cryptic critique of the German occupation. In this conceptual tour-de-force, some of France’s most famous actors (Mathieu Amalric, Michel Piccoli, Lambert Wilson) play themselves, as a group invited to the reading of a friend’s will. As the group watches a young company’s filmed rehearsal of Eurydice, the actors begin to speak the lines themselves, acting out the roles and creating double and even triple versions of the play.

Rust and Bone

Audiard’s story of a martial-arts fighter (Mattias Schoenaerts) and a whale trainer who loses her legs (Marion Cotillard) has intense performances and a cinematography that more than compensates for the predictable love story.

The B List:

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s twee but heartfelt comedy is set in a doll-house cute New England island community, where two unhappy 12-year-olds decide to run away and find love, while their adult minders (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Ed Norton and Bruce Willis) struggle with disappointment.

Lawless

John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era tale tells the story of three brothers (Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke and Shia LaBeouf) who get into the bootlegging business, a runaway dance-hall gal (Jessica Chastain) and a sadistic lawman (Guy Pearce). A generally entertaining genre film, it’s notably violent and somewhat marred by Pearce’s campy performance.

The Hunt

Thomas Vinterberg’s relative return to form after his brilliant debut film, The Celebration, stars Mads Mikkelsen as a mild-mannered schoolteacher wrongly accused of molesting a child. Like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, updated for the post-McMartin-preschool-trial era, this is well done, if somewhat unsurprising material.

The C-List

Reality

Italian director Matteo Garrone’s comedy-drama about an Italian fish vendor who goes mad while awaiting his chance to appear on the Italian version of Big Brother makes some unsubtle points about the craziness of celebrity worship without feeling particularly insightful.

After the Battle

Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah’s drama about Egypt struggling to build a new society ingeniously mixes real protest footage and a scripted drama about a modern woman drawn to a poor man, but the melodramatic plot and acting ring false.

Paradise: Love

Austria’s Ulrich Seidl’s well-designed static camera style and use of structured improvisation is bold, but this tale of a middle-aged Austrian woman (Margarethe Tiesel) who goes to Kenya for sexual adventures puts us in one degrading scenario after another, to decreasing profit.



Sunday, May 20: Fourteen years ago, Thomas Vinterberg was the breakthrough artist of Cannes. The Danish filmmaker brought the first film produced under the conditions of the Dogme 95 manifesto, created by Vinterberg, Lars von Trier, and other Danish filmmakers, calling for a new stripped “purity” in cinema. Festen, or The Celebration, a blackly comic telling of a horrifying family reunion, won the Grand Jury Prize and was a worldwide art house-hit. Vinterberg, who turned 29 during the festival and looked like a young rock star, had the world at his command.

Since then, he made five more features, but none with close to The Celebration’s level of acclaim. Now he’s back in the competition with The Hunt, a strongly crafted effort starring Danish star Mads Mikkelsen ( Casino Royale) as a mild-mannered kindergarten teacher who is wrongfully accused of child abuse and becomes a pariah.

Vinterberg, who turned 43 on Saturday, admits it hasn’t been easy living up to his early success: “I didn’t go anywhere. You guys went away for a while but I didn’t. I ran into a bit of trouble. Festen was really the end of something, a kind of ultimate film of a certain kind and I couldn’t go any further along that route. I’d picked all the fruit from the tree. But when the smoke cleared, I created other films that I was very proud of. And now, I think, I’m trying to get back to something that I was trying to do before Dogme, before Festen; pure films which I’m very glad to be back making.”

Saturday, May 19: Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce and Shia LaBeouf: not a bad line-up for a blockbuster, never mind a relatively modes-budgeted film such as Lawless, by director John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition), which had its premiere Saturday morning.

A period piece of three Virginia moonshine-running brothers (Hardy, LaBeouf and Aussie actor Jason Clarke) and their battle with crooked lawman (Pearce) is an entertaining genre romp, adapted by Nick Cave from author Matt Bondurant’s 2008 novel, The Wettest County in the World, based on his family’s history. But while breaking the law makes for good entertainment, it’s not something actors like to talk about in real life.

Hillcoat, who was born in Australia and raised in Hamilton, Ont., said he had initially wanted to begin the film with a montage, starting with Mexican drug cartels, rewinding through the decades to Prohibition and the birth of organized crime. Musician and screenplay writer Nick Cave also spoke about prohibition, “which still exists today and still fails epically with the so-called war on drugs.”

When an Italian journalist asked Hardy and LaBeouf’s opinions about the legalization of light drugs, there were a few “whoahs” from the panel, for obvious reasons. Hardy, an English rising-star who plays a villain in the upcoming Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, was a self-described alcoholic and crack addict until 2003; LaBeouf, flipped his pickup truck in a 2008 accident after drinking. He also had a couple of high-profile altercations in bars last year, including one in Vancouver.

“As the professional – in retirement – I’m not sure about the drug and drink status,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to make any political statements.” After saying there were two sides to the question, Hardy finally concluded with an off-hand: “Whatever floats your boat, but just don’t get caught.”

“Next question, next question,” LaBeouf said.



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Friday, May 18: The absence of women directors in the Cannes competition has not gone unnoticed.

“Men are fond of depth in women, but only in their cleavage.”

So went part of a sharp letter to the Cannes organizers, written by the feminist action group La Barbe and published in Le Monde. The group – which includes directors Fanny Cottençon and Virginie Despentes – was directed at the organizers of the Cannes film festival.

A translated version, which went on in a similarly sarcastic vein, appeared in The Guardian.

“With great understanding of the monumental importance of such an event, you were able to dissuade women from aspiring to set foot in this closely guarded world,” it reads. “Above all, never let the girls think they can one day have the presumptuousness to make movies or to climb those famous Festival Palace steps, except when attached to the arm of a prince charming.”

The letter noted that last year’s relatively strong showing of women directors (with four in competition) was “doubltless due to a lack of vigilance.”

Juror Andrea Arnold, whose films Red Road and Fish Tank have been shown at the festival, was also asked about the issue at Tuesday’s Cannes jury press conference. Arnold simply stated that Cannes reflected the general state of women in the film industry, which was “a pity.”

On the other hand, she also noted: “I'd absolutely hate it if my film got selected only because I'm a woman. I would only want my film to be selected for the right reason, not out of charity.”

THE TARDY XAVIER DOLAN

Laurence Anyways, 23-year-old Quebec director Xavier Dolan's third film, screened on Friday afternoon at the Cannes festival. It’s his most ambitious – and, at two hours and 39 minutes, definitely his longest – work to date, filled with montages, slow-motion sequences and magic realist digressions.

French actor Melvil Poupaud stars as the title character, a writer and literature professor who, on his 30th birthday, tells his girlfriend of two years (Suzanne Clément) that he wants to become a woman. The story then follows their fights and reunions over the next decade, and friends and family who are dealing with Laurence's transition.

As with Dolan's previous films, this one is highly design conscious, from the costumes to unconventional camera angles to the throbbing soundtrack of pop and classical selections.

Though Dolan explained in the press notes that the film is not autobiographical, he does appear to share one characteristic in common with the title character: Tardiness.

Following the screening, interviews were scheduled at a nearby hotel for 5:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., the publicist announced: Sorry, Xavier won’t be available for the English-Canadian press – he’s running late.



Robert Altman in 2006.

RON MANN MAKING ROBERT ALTMAN DOC

Thursday, May 17: I ran into Canadian documentary filmmaker Ron Mann the other night. He’s got an announcement here in Cannes for his new documentary. The subject is Robert Altman, the late, great iconoclastic director of M*A*S*H, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville and Gosford Park, among other films.

The documentary will follow Altman from his childhood in Kansas City, Mo., to his 2006 honorary Oscar (he died later that year), and will be co-produced with Altman’s widow, Kathryn Reed. There’s a lot of material to cover. After he returned from the war, where he flew bombing missions in the Pacific, Altman settled into a busy career making industrial films: “More than 60 of them,” said Mann. “And tons of TV work.”

The project was officially announced today in Variety, with Reed issuing a release calling Mann “the perfect choice to examine and celebrate Bob’s monumental life and art. I have no doubt Bob would be happy and may well be smiling right now.”

The television shows Altman made included everything from Alfred Hitchcock Presents to Bonanza and Combat! episodes. In fact, Altman was well into his 40s before he got his big break with the antiwar comedy, M*A*S*H.

One interesting connection between Mann and Altman: Mann made the film Grass, on the history of pot in the United States; and Altman, a board member of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) was an enthusiastic pot advocate.

I met Altman, briefly, 15 years ago when the Cannes festival was celebrating its 50th anniversary and held a dinner for all directors who had been in competition. (Ingmar Bergman, by the way, declined to attend). I was stuck in a corner, far from the action, with some Greek and Italian and American journalists. I recall that one of them decided he was offended by the name Starbucks, reasoning that the coffee chain was trying to appeal to people obsessed with celebrity and money.

It didn’t seem polite to correct him: (“Well, there’s this character in a novel called Moby-Dick …”). Seated next to me was a young woman by the name of Wren Arthur who turned out to be Altman’s assistant. Every half-hour or so, either Altman or Reed kept leaving the famous-directors’ table to come over and check in that she was enjoying herself. And at the end of the evening, they even thanked me for keeping her company. For someone who had a slightly curmudgeonly reputation, Altman certainly seemed to treat the people close to him well.



Nanni Moretti (left), jury president of the 65th Cannes Film Festival and jury member Diane Kruger (R) attend a news conference on the first day of the world's biggest film festival in Cannes May 16, 2012.

THE JURY IS IN(SCRUTABLE)

Wed., May 16: Back in 2001, Terry Gilliam wore a T-shirt to the Cannes jury press conference that read “Can be bribed.” As he sensibly explained, “I think that will knock through all the confusion and angst one suffers when trying to choose the best. I am going to choose the one whose producer pays me the most money.”

For the record, that’s the last time anything interesting happened at a meet-the-jury press conference here. This year’s jury members were so careful to have “no preconceptions” and to be “open-minded” about the films that it seemed they shared the same script.

The jury includes actors (Ewan McGregor, Emmanuelle Devos and Diane Kruger), directors (Alexander Payne, Andrea Arnold and Raoul Peck), a Palestinian actress/director (Hiam Abbass) and a fashion designer (Jean Paul Gaultier). They are led by 58-year-old jury president Nanni Moretti ( The Son’s Room), who has brought six films to Cannes over the years.

These are the ones who will pick the Palme d’Or and other prizes out of 22 films in competition. But Haitian director Raoul Peck, who was briefly his home country’s Minister of Culture in the 1990s, went out of his way to promise he wouldn’t do anything exciting. He had read, he said, a pre-Cannes article that deemed him “to be an activist.”

“I would like to assure everyone that this is not the case.”

Something interesting almost happened when British director Andrea Arnold was asked about the lack of women directors at this year’s festival. She almost took the bait, but backed off. “There are just not many women film directors,” she said. “Cannes is a small pocket that represents how it is out in the world.”

Ewan McGregor added that Cannes was “an amazing platform” and a “huge springboard” for first-time directors, though, as with women, there are no first-time or unknown directors represented in these year’s competition.

Perhaps Moretti doesn't really favour all these displays of transparency. He compared the Cannes jury to the conclave of cardinals who pick the Roman Catholic Pope, the subject of his competition comedy from last year, We Have a Pope, (which opens in Canada on June 2.)

He acknowledged he had trouble adjusting to the recent Cannes practice of having a press conference after the awards, where the jury defends its decisions. A few years ago, he said, “there were two remaining taboos in the world – the silence after the awards and the conclave. Now it's just the conclave.”

Still, Moretti promised to be as open-minded as ever at the final conference. “Perhaps we’ll say something diplomatic and bland,” he said. “Perhaps not.”



People walk past the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, May 15, 2012.

CANNES, BARE

Tue., May 15: One of the best times to see Cannes is before the film festival – and the spectacle – begins, before going into lockdown for screenings in the Palais for 12 days.

First, take in the ocean where the yachts are anchored: About 60 of them converge on the jetty behind the Palais, most rented by financiers, bankers and film commissions for the festival. According to the Hollywood Reporter, prices range from $130,500 to $400,000 a week – which some companies consider a cost saving over renting hotel suites.

Next, see the hotels along the Croisette, where tourists and visitors stop to gaze at the big posters going up. The grandest is the Carlton, at 58 La Croisette, famous for its blue rooftop cupolas, supposedly designed to resemble the breasts of the First World War-era courtesan Caroline Otero. Hitchcock shot To Catch a Thief here, and this is where Prince Rainier of Monaco met that film's star, Grace Kelly. This year, another leader gets pride of place however: Sacha Baron Cohen’s massively bearded poster for The Dictator dominates the main entrance.

Prettier, and almost as grand, is the Hotel Majestic Barrière, which looks like Louis XIV's birthday cake. It's famous from films such as John Frankenheimer’s Ronin and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Army of Shadows, where it stood in for the Gestapo headquarters. This year, the entrance is dominated by an image of the late Austrian-born, German-French star Romy Schneider, the subject of a recent museum show in the French suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt.

Outside the Palais, meanwhile, paparazzi have already staked out their spots on the median of the Croisette, some with chairs or stepladders for the best view. The famous red carpet, at this point, is still brown, under this year’s poster of Marilyn Monroe blowing out the candle on a cake.

Inside, where the press mailboxes are, it feels like any office building after hours. I find my way to my usual box, 1315, which is already stacked with brochures, announcements and book-sized film catalogues. In the era of the paperless office, Cannes is loyal to old media such as film and paper. A press colleague once saved every piece of paper he received during a single festival in his room – it came to more than a metre and a half high.

Now, on to the reading, and the viewing.

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