Cannes, Day 12: Terrence Malick, Lars von Trier and Other MIA VIPs

A shy director, an actor who won’t talk, two jailed filmmakers and a loudmouth who got banned — Cannes is all about empty spaces

Could the final movie to be screened in the Cannes competition be a real Palme d'Or contender? It doesn’t usually happen that way, but Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" stirred up some talk to that effect when it was unveiled on Saturday, the last day of the competition.

Once Upon a Time in AnatoliaEric Kohn, for instance, called the film "mesmerizing" and said it "plays like 'Zodiac' meets 'Police, Adjective,'" while Jon Frosch said it was "a mournful, magisterially directed slow burn of a police procedural." But Frosch also reported walkouts during the press screening for the two-hour-and-37-minute drama (left), which could mean that the film's slow pace might prove problematic for some members of Robert De Niro's jury.

Still, if the awards were being handed out by a jury of one (him), Frosch says he'd give it the Grand Prize, making it runner-up to his personal pick for the Palme d'Or, "The Tree of Life."

And what if the real jury also picks the Terrence Malick movie for the top prize? Will the reclusive director show up to accept it? He didn't show up at the press conference for his film on Monday, and he slipped into that night's gala premiere unobserved rather than walk the red carpet.

Vanessa Thorpe says the question is "hanging over the jury's last-minute deliberations," and she poses that query in the headline to her story in the Guardian. But I'm afraid she never comes close to answering it. She says, "Although Malick is believed to have been staying at the exclusive Colombe d'Or hotel in neighboring St. Paul de Vence and was at dinner with his stars the night before and after the screening, he has still avoided cameras."

And yes, there will be cameras at the Palme d'Or ceremony. Lots of 'em.

There were also cameras in Iranian director Jafar Panahi's home before he was sentenced to six years in prison and given a 20-year ban from making movies – but they were nothing more sophisticated than a digital video camera and an iPhone, and the footage that resulted is called "This Is Not a Film" ("In Film Nist"), which may or may not mean it's okay with Iranian authorities.

The not-a-film has garnered positive reaction at Cannes, and now a six-and-a-half minute sequence is available via YouTube.

The fact that Panahi can't attend the festival that's showing his work makes him one of several Cannes missing persons – a lineup, says Jay Stone, that means "the 64th Cannes Film Festival is in danger of being remembered for its absences."

Others who are MIA: Panahi's fellow Iranian Mohammad Rasoulof, who is also jailed but whose film "Good Bye" won a special jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section; Malick, for obvious reasons; Mel Gibson, who appeared at the screening of "The Beaver" but skipped that film's press conference; and von Trier, who was banned.

"With the exception of Malick," writes Stone, " … the absences were all connected in some way to freedom of speech."

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