Day 5: Festivalgoers who aren't off watching a soccer match wonder if Harvey Weinstein could possibly have landed another "Artist" with "The Sapphires"
Maybe it's a sign that no movie at Cannes has really bowled people over, and no blockbuster deals have happened yet.
Or maybe it's just proof of how soccer-crazy some Europeans can be.
Whatever the reason, a Saturday tweet from British critic Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian spelled it out: "I am pained to say everyone at #Cannes2012 tonight intends to ignore Thomas Vinterberg's new film in favour of 'Chelsea vs Bayern Munich.'"
Chelsea and Bayern Munich are soccer teams, of course, or football teams if you're not American. They were playing in the Champions League final on Saturday night in Munich, opposite a screening of Vinterberg's competition entry "The Hunt," among other films. And according to Bradshaw, at least, the televised match took a fair amount of attention away from the movies.
For the record, Chelsea won on penalty kicks after regulation and overtime ended in a 1-1 tie. Perhaps that means the British director in the competition, Ken Loach, is happy, while the German director, Michael Haneke, is not. Or perhaps it means nothing of the sort.
And by the way, many of the people who ignored the football and saw "The Hunt" loved it. Kate Muir of the Times, Robbie Collin of the Daily Telegraph, David Poland of Movie City News and Dan Mecca of The Film Stage all tweeted that it was their favorite film of the festival so far, and Peter Howell of the Toronto Star called it a potential Palme d'Or winner.
And while we're keeping tabs on Cannes via Twitter, here's an intriguing tweet from the Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik: "Harvey Weinstein just grabbed my arm and said: 'Have you seen The Sapphires? The Artist just happened again."
"The Sapphires" is an Australian film inspired by the true story of a pop group made up of four Aboriginal girls who traveled to Vietnam to entertain the troops in 1968. Directed by Wayne Blair and starring Chris O'Dowd and Deborah Mailman (right), the film was acquired by the Weinstein Company on Tuesday, just before the beginning of the festival.
"The Artist," you might remember, premiered at last year's Cannes just after being acquired by Weinstein, and went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.
Early reaction to the gala midnight screening suggests that Weinstein might be overstating the case a bit, though one should never underestimate Harvey when it comes to awards. (And Forbes reports that the movie did get a 10-minute standing ovation, long even by the generous standards of Cannes premieres, and that Diana Ross may be a special guest at a Sunday screening.)
"Very slight story, but simply fantastic music," wrote BBC Films marketing executive Jacqui Barr. "It's 'The Commitments' for girls."
One Los Angeles-based publicist (who doesn’t work for Weinstein) added, "I loved it!! My mom loved it too!!"
And Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux tweeted this: "Un feel good movie (but good movie)."
An hour after his initial tweet about Harvey Weinstein's boast, Zeitchik added something else: "Sapphires suddenly the hot Cannes topic. The debate: endearing crowdpleaser or overhyped mediocrity?"
Come to think of it, that does sound like a few Oscar winners.
One of the intriguing debuts of the festival, meanwhile, took place in the Un Certain Regard section, where Brandon Cronenberg's "Antiviral" is in competition. The film has gotten a lot of attention due to the director's last name – because Cronenberg's father is David Cronenberg, whose "Cosmopolis" is in the main competition and whose frequently creepy films seem clearly to be an influence on his son's debut.
Or, as Drew McWeeny put it at Hitfix, "the diseased and throbbing apple does not fall far from the penis-shaped flesh tree." The younger Cronenberg, he added, "has inherited his father's knack for making people deeply uncomfortable about topics that are personal to the point of feeling invasive."
That said, the film, which deals with a company that sells "celebrity diseases" to people who want to have ailments in common with their idols, reportedly prompted numerous walkouts and a mixture of admiration, fascination and scorn afterwards.
"Provocative idea about celebrity worship rum amuck," summed up the Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday. "Sterile execution. At once, bloody and bloodless."
But in a climate where reactions are nearly instantaneous and everybody needs to have and share an opinion as soon as they leave the theater, consensus can be an elusive thing. In the Guardian, for instance, Catherine Shoard and Henry Barnes live-blogged Saturday at Cannes, and what emerged in between the minutiae was a study in changing opinion.
At 10:44 a.m., Shoard offered the first take on John Hillcoat's "Lawless," comparing it to his earlier film "The Proposition": "I preferred this one: it's got a sense of humour, it's not quite so eager to be a landmark of rural macho moody cinema."
Nine minutes later, her take was slightly different: "partially inaudible knockabout pulp."
And at 1:56, after Barnes took over the blog (and after Peter Bradshaw trashed the movie on the same website), the verdict was officially negative: "top-to-bottom macho hoo-hah in my opinion."
Looking ahead to the Palme d'Or – which won't be awarded for another week, because that's how long it's going to take for the judges to see all the contenders – Charlotte Higgins decides that the French-born auteur theory may take a hit this year.
The problem with that director-as-single-author theory, as she sees it, is that this year "is a bookwork's Cannes, with directors as likely to have had their noses buried in novels as dreaming up original ideas."
The literary competitors: "On the Road" (Walter Salles doing Jack Kerouac), "Cosmopolis" (David Cronenberg/Don DeLillo), "The Paperboy" (Lee Daniels/Pete Dexter), "Lawless" (John Hillcoat/Matt Bondurant) and "Rust and Bone" (Jacques Audiard/Craig Davidson).
That's five out of 21, which leaves a lot of room for Cannes judges to look elsewhere for their big winner. Higgins' headline – "Coveted Palme d'Or likely to go to a screen adaptation" – may be awfully premature, considering that strong contenders like Michael Haneke's "Amour," Abbas Kiarostami's "Like Someone in Love" and Carlos Reygadas' "Post Tenebras Lux" have yet to screen.
If the award were handed to today, I'm guessing that "Rust and Bone" would have a shot but "Lawless" wouldn't; the other three have yet to be seen. As for what the jury members are thinking, we'll have to settle for an enthusiastic but unrevealing 140 characters or less from juror Ewan McGregor:
"Yes busy day today. The members of the jury are fantastic. I'm inspired by each one. We are in the heart of it now. The festival is amazing.
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