Cannes, Day 3: Weinstein Spends, But Are Bernard & Barker the Kings?

A couple of new movies divide critics, while a couple of companies — TWC and SPC — take center stage

If we're rounding up what happened at Cannes in the last day or so, we need to talk about "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Tilda Swinton and John C. ReillyLynne Ramsay's film screened on Thursday and, from the evidence, did a pretty good job of dividing the audience. Sasha Stone loved it at TheWrap, and Guy Lodge from In Contention agreed wholeheartedly, awarding four stars to this "largely tacit, imagistic memory collage that substitutes sound and vision for dialogue as extensively as possible." Variety's Leslie Felperin called it "exquisitely realized" and then slipped into tradespeak to praise the "immaculate package that will rep catnip for crix and get auds talking, but may be too bleak for the mainstream."

But the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt was less enthusiastic: "It's a film to think about and debate over but not one to embrace." And Jeff Wells started by calling it "a beautifully painted, radiantly colored, anti-verbal horror film," but a few hundred words later he concludes, "Ramsay clearly had a ball shooting and cutting this thing, but her lack of interest in making the characters seem even half-recognizable as (I don't mean to introduce a sore subject) human beings with the ability to think, observe and comprehend is nothing short of breathtaking."

Also read: Cannes: 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' Explores Blame, Guilt, Motherhood

Tom Bernard, Gus Van Sant and Michael BarkerGus Van Sant's "Restless" was another film that drew mixed reviews, though everybody – including TheWrap's Sharon Waxman– agreed that Dennis Hopper's son Henry is a real find. As for the film itself, Eric Kohn called it "a flimsy teenage romance with dashes of bittersweet inspiration," while Jeff Wells said the film is "a bit too gentle and alpha for its own good."

But Anne Thompson dubbed the film "a heartfelt romance" and said, "Only Van Sant could have pulled off this Portland-based love story on such a small, delicate scale, without manipulating madly. His touch is sure."

She did so as part of an interview with Sony Pictures Classics co-chiefs Tom Bernard and Michael Barker (above, flanking Van Sant at a Cannes dinner for "Restless"). She calls them "Kings of the Croisette" because of their sure touch at picking foreign Cannes entries ("A Prophet," "White Ribbon," "Waltz With Bashir"), and because SPC has four well-regarded entries in this year's fest, including Cannes' opening-night attraction, Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," and the Un Certain Regard opener "Restless."

(The other SPC films are Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In" and the Sundance fave "Take Shelter.")

Bernard and Barker tell Thompson that they feel under no pressure to acquire any more films this year. She doesn’t believe them. Neither, perhaps, do most other people who've followed their track record over the years.

Who else is buying at Cannes? Harvey Weinstein, that's who. According to Brooks Barnes, the Weinstein Company is planning a Friday event at the Hotel Martinez in which the company will announce "a flurry of deals," beginning with the martial arts film "Dragon" ("Wu Xia") and the Michel Hazanavicus comedy "The Artist," which Barnes says "has Oscar potential written all over it." (Really? It's a black-and-white, silent, period comedy from a director with no awards history.)

In the wake of Oscar winner "The King's Speech," writes Barnes, TWC "is trying to use Cannes to send a message that it has not only turned a corner but is sprinting ahead."

Barnes' New York Times colleague Manohla Dargis, meanwhile, also does Cannes – though she has a little trouble at times, as when she finds out that those stuffy French fashionistas won't let you into a black-tie event wearing red sneakers. But no worries: she listens to Woody Allen talk about "Midnight in Paris," finds "Sleeping Beauty" an "accomplished debut" for Julia Leigh, thinks "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is "immaculately produced, claustrophobic and unpersuasive," and looks forward to Malick, Almodovar, von Trier, the Dardenne brothers, and maybe even Johnny Depp.

Finally, the subject line on a mass email from Fandango.com was intriguing: "Five Cannes Films to Keep An Eye On." Most people don't think of Fandango and, say, Apichatpong Weerasthekul as belonging in the same sentence, and the five movie posters featured at the top of the email kind of reinforced the gulf between the movie-ticket service's bread-and-butter and the more esoteric Cannes fare: "Priest 3D," "Bridesmaids," "Thor" and two different "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (which, to be fair, is screening out-of-competition at Cannes.

But when you follow the link, it does lead to a Derrick Deane Cannes roundup that singles out five movies: Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life," Lars von Trier's "Melancholia," Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In," Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" and Takashi Miike's 3D "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai." It's kind of an obvious list, to be sure, but you have to give them credit for wading into those waters at all.

(SPC/Gus Van Sant photo by Michael Bucker/Getty Images)