"Moonrise Kingdom" was Cannes' opening-night film and Sacha Baron Cohen the festival's class clown, but the real VIPs along the Croisette on Wednesday were the jurors who assembled, posed for photos and talked about the job they've been entrusted with for the next 12 days.
Italian director Nanni Moretti will preside over the group he characterized as "very joyful happy people," and whom he said will meet every other day to discuss the movies they see. (Jurors view two films a day to get through the 22 competitors.)
His jurors are directors Alexander Payne, Andrea Arnold and Raoul Peck, actors Ewan McGregor, Diane Kruger, Emmanuelle Devos and Hiam Abbass and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.
At the press conference, by all reports they talked very vaguely about what they'll be looking for when it comes time to choose the Palme d'Or winner -- as Anne Thompson points out, these are joyful happy people who don't have a whole lot to say at this point, at least not publicly.
(From left: Arnold, McGregor, Abbass, Moretti, Devos, Gaultier, Kruger, Peck and Payne)
Meanwhile, while her husband was cavorting with George Clooney's ex-girlfriend and riding a camel down the street, Isla Fisher did some promotional chores of her own at Cannes, though hers were significantly more sedate than the stunts undertaken by hubby Sacha Baron Cohen.
Fisher was on hand for the Cannes press conference for "Rise of the Guardians," an animated film that will be released by DreamWorks Animation in November. The promo was par for the course for DWA's Jeffrey Katzenberg, who often brings his work to Cannes and who'll premiere "Madagascar 3" there later in the festival.
The company only screened 25 minutes of "Guardians," which is based on a series of books by iconic children's author (and recent Oscar winner) William Joyce. The story concerns a group of legendary folks – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman – who unite to fight off an attack on Earth's children from the Boogey Man.
Fisher, who plays the Tooth Fairy, was on hand along with Chris Pine (Jack Frost) and Alec Baldwin (Santa), the last of whom dubbed the group "the Justice League of childhood." (Wouldn't "The Avengers of childhood" be a timelier comparison, Alec?) At any rate, if the movie lives up to the promise of the first two books in Joyce's series, it could well be several cuts above the usual big-budget animated fare.
(From left: Pine, Fisher and Baldwin)
On the deal front, the Weinstein Company appears to be zeroing in on a deal that could lead to some tricky scheduling and a few hurt feelings. TWC, said the Los Angeles Times' Steven Zeitchik, "has basically closed the rights deal" for "Code Name Geronimo," a John Stockwell-directed film about the killing of Osama bin Laden. The company is reportedly talking about a September or October release date for the movie that is in post-production (it's being shopped at Cannes with a trailer), which would get the jump on the December Sony release "Zero Dark Thirty," a more heralded bin Laden movie from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.
Complicating matters, "Code Name Geronimo" is being made by Voltage Pictures, whose chief Nicholas Chartier won an Oscar as one of the producers of the last Bigelow-Boal movie, "The Hurt Locker," but who wasn't permitted to attend the ceremony because of underhanded campaign tactics. And, Zeitchik points out, "Zero Dark Thirty" is being produced by Megan Ellison, who is also affiliated with "Killing Them Softly," "The Master" and "Lawless," all of which will be released this fall … by Weinstein, who may well have one more film to squeeze into that very crowded slate.
Wednesday at Cannes also saw the first screening of "Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir," a Laurent Bouzereau documentary that consists entirely of the exiled filmmaker talking to old friend Andrew Braunsberg about his life and career. The early verdict: Polanski admirers find it powerful, and people who want him to apologize for the incident that led to his fleeing the United States aren't satisfied by what he says about it.
But most of the critical opinions on the first day centered on Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," which showed once for the press and once for the premiere guests, and also at stateside screenings timed to coincide with Cannes.
TheWrap's Sasha Stone has already weighed in on the film, and most of the first-day reviews agree with her that the film is mannered but magical.
"It may come across as a fluffy little fantasy that is trying too hard to be cute, but it nevertheless succeeds," wrote Jake Howell at Movie City News. "You have to hand it to Anderson, because 'Moonrise Kingdom' is genuinely charming."
For James Rocchi at The Playlist, Anderson's period piece is "a very beautiful and funny movie about grief and sorrow, and the never-was 1965 the film takes place in is both a meticulously-crafted triumph of design and decor and an emotionally rich setting, full of objects you could almost reach out and touch, with feelings and yearnings that reach out to you."
But to prove that Anderson's brand of meticulous whimsy isn't for everyone, Edward Douglas begged to differ. "[T]here's nothing particularly funny or clever or artistic about any of 'Moonrise Kingdom,' and it often comes across as little more than one of those amateurish high school plays from 'Rushmore,'" he wrote. "Sadly, Wes Anderson has turned into one of those infectiously adorable kids who grow up oblivious to the fact that what once was cute has just become obnoxious, yet he keeps trying anyway."
After seeing "Moonrise Kingdom" in Los Angeles on Wednesday, I'd say that it's precious, designed to within an inch of its life, and sometimes infuriatingly fussy. And it's as much a cartoon as Anderson's animated film "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," which I didn't like at all. But it's also utterly charming and frequently delightful, and, by the end, it completely won me over.
Oh, and the film has also caused a real split in viewers, between those who think that its 12-year-old co-star Kara Hayward is the spitting image of a young Emma Watson, and those who think the resemblance is to Jessica Chastain. You can put me firmly in the Watson camp.