The flashbulb magnets have arrived at Cannes, with Brad Pitt walking the red carpet on Tuesday and Kristen Stewart ready to do so on Wednesday.
But in the circles where the currency of the realm is cinema rather than celebrity, the current centerpiece of Cannes isn't a big movie star, but an exceedingly strange movie.
By all reports, "Holy Motors," from French director Leos Carax, drew the wildest, most raucous reaction of any film in the first week of the festival. Variety's Justin Chang called it an "uncategorizable whatsit, a mad, arrestingly wacky mystery tour centered around a man … in a limousine, keeping a series of exceedingly strange appointments."
Chang said the film was met with scattered boos, but also with "the most wildly enthusiastic cheers of the festival," along with laughs and gasps.
"Holy Motors wins Palme d'WTF at #Cannes 2012," tweeted indieWIRE's Eric Kohn. "Life, death, accordions, monkeys. Carax, always a bit nutty, finally flies off the rails."
Added Guy Lodge, "Rejoice! Holy Motors is beautiful, inscrutable, frightening, idiotic, ecstatic … Best in Comp? Oui."
Will it play with the Cannes jury headed by Nanni Moretti? Eugene Hernandez of the Film Society of Lincoln Center wonders if it might have fared better with 2010's Cannes jury: "Holy Motors: imagine what might happen if Tim Burton were head of the jury this year." (When Burton was jury president, the seriously odd "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" won.)
On the more conventional front is "The Angel's Share," a rare comedy from British director Ken Loach, who won the Palme d'Or for his Irish drama "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" in 2006. The film, wrote Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, "is warm, funny and good-natured … In many ways this is his most relaxed and successful screen offering for some time."
But Loach himself wasn't entirely relaxed at a Cannes press conference. According to the Telegraph, he slammed the British Board of Film Classification for requiring him to remove several uses of "the c-word" from his film to receive a 15 certification.
"The British middle class is obsessed with what they call bad language," the director said. "This is a word that goes back to Chaucer's time. I think we should reexamine 'bad language' and have respect for our ancient oaths and swearwords."
For the record, the board did allow Loach to retain "non-aggressive" uses of the word in his film; they just asked him to take out the "aggressive" ones.
Cannes is also the site for thousands of movie-star interviews, most of them singularly unrevealing. But British actor Tom Hardy, one of the stars of "Lawless," is at least an entertaining conversationalist, to judge by the Q&A by Stephen Garrett that just appeared at GQ.
In it we learn: Hardy thinks you need to suffer to be an artist; he thinks grooming and styling turns people into "human poodles"; he can't tie a bow tie; and he won't talk about "The Dark Knight Returns." "I can't tell you anything about Batman," he says. "You know the score, you know the score. Don't fuck with it."
Wednesday will bring Walter Salles' long, long-in-the-works film of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," which has stirred up lots of attention and lots of trepidation. Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times did preview pieces in advance of the premiere – but Jerry Cimino from the Beat Museum in San Francisco got an early look, and delivered a flat-out rave:
"Rest easy, my friends. If you are like me, you are going to absolutely love this movie. These filmmakers got it right. They are kindred spirits in the story of the Beats. Kerouac fans will be proud."