Cannes 2012: Shame, Money and Long Movies

Day 4 roundup: Sean Penn raises big money for Haiti, and Megan Ellison doesn't want to talk about being a Cannes power player

A few hours after berating the world for abandoning Haiti, Sean Penn put some other people's money where his mouth is at Cannes. He, director Paul Haggis, model Petra Nemcova and designer Giorgio Armani hosted a black-tie fundraiser for Haiti, raising more than $1 million by auctioning off everything from tickets to the Golden Globes to a guitar autographed by Bono.

The dinner was a rare Cannes charity event not tied to a film in the festival. The AP's Jake Coyle reports that Penn, who managed to make black tie look casual, greeted his guests by explaining why he was hosting the event: "Because once upon a time I was ashamed of myself, more than I am today – as I think you should be."

Getty ImagesGuests included Robert De Niro, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Lyle Lovett, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Gerard Butler and the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain and Diane Kruger.

Also readSean Penn Explodes in Cannes: 'The Whole F—ing World Abandoned Haiti'

And many of the bids climbed into the six figures (in Euros), including 100,000 Euros for the Golden Globes tickets, which Haggis "tried to sweeten … by throwing in a date with Butler."

If producer Megan Ellison has been hitting the parties at Cannes, she's kept a typically low profile. Ellison, who recently made TheWrap's list of producers who are changing Hollywood and who has two films in competition, gets the profile treatment in the Los Angeles Times. Ben Fritz and Steven Zeitchik call her "a 26-year-old former party girl with social anxiety issues" and "a motorcycle-riding iconoclast who dropped out of USC and attends meetings in Led Zeppelin t-shirts."

Also read10 Producers Who Will Change Hollywood: 2012 Edition

Of course, Ellison being Ellison, the writers never got an interview with the press-shy producer – her only quotes come from Twitter, where she's said things like "The question isn't who's going to let me. It's who's going to stop me."

Laurence AnywaysAs for the other folks who talk about Ellison, opinion ranges from "Megan is like a patron of the arts" to "I think she has the potential to be the next Harvey Weinstein."

Another youngster  making waves at Cannes is 23-year-old French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan. His new film, "Lawrence Anyways," which is screening in Un Certain Regard, runs two hours and 41 minutes. According to Jeff Wells, that running time had led to new rule-of-thumb jokingly making the rounds at Cannes: The ratio of a film's length and its director's age should be no more than 5/1.

Which is to say, a 23-year-old director like Dolan shouldn't make a movie any longer than 115 minutes, a number he overshot by 46 minutes.

That doesn't necessarily mean "Laurence Anyways" is bad (Wells opted not to see it, while Stephen Dalton approvingly called it a "sprawling exercise in high camp") – but when folks start grumbling about the length of a film, that's never a good sign. "'Laurence Anyways'," added Dalton, "commits the rudimentary error of mistaking bigness for greatness."

Speaking of long films, the restored and lengthened cut of Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America" screened on Friday night at Cannes, all four-hours-plus of it. (Leone was 55 when he made the panoramic look at turn-of-the-century gangs in New York, so he was actually obeying the age-times-five rule.)

"The new footage that debuted [Friday] is every bit as essential as one could hope," wrote Simon Abrams in a review. " … [T]he new cut is revelatory. Its restoration has only served to make this masterpiece that much more fulfilling."

While much of the attention at Cannes has gone to films in the main competition, In Contention's Guy Lodge has been nosing around the sidebars – which, he says, is where he found the best movie of the festival so far. It's "No," a satire of Pinochet-era Chile from director Pablo Larrain, which is screening in the Directors Fortnight program.

The film stars Gael Garcia Bernal and deals with the 1988 referendum that overthrew the Chilean dictator (the "no" votes won, hence the title); it is, writes Lodge, Larrain's "most narratively robust and emotionally rousing film to date, a hearty celebration of hard-earned democracy spiked with just enough of the director's acidly crooked humor to remind us whose house we're in."