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Cannes, Day 8: Robert De Niro’s Jury Duty

An insider offers info on Robert De Niro’s jury … but what films from the marketplace will win the biggest financial prizes?

Pundits have begun to speculate about which film might win this year's Palme d'Or – but there's always a wild card in this card of Cannes speculation, because the award is chosen by a small group of people whose tastes and working relationships aren't always easy to determine.

That's why a report from Jeff Wells is so fascinating. Wells says he's spoken to "a journalist friend with some inside knowledge of the character of this Cannes jury," and that his pal laid out the dynamic. Jury president Robert De Niro, his source says, is "not likely to try to lobby for personal choices or views" (which presumably means he won't carry the same clout as reportedly assertive past jury presidents like Robert Altman and Roman Polanski).

Cannes juryThe most knowledgeable jury members, according to this report, are "Carlos" director Olivier Assayas and journalist Linn Ullmann, the daughter of Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullman, while the least knowledgeable might be Hong Kong director Johnnie To, who "has a somewhat myopic, know-nothing view of other films or filmmakers."

The other jury members – actors Jude Law, Uma Thurman and Martina Gusman, producer Nansun Shi and director Mahamat Saleh Haroun – are not mentioned in Wells' report. The big questions, of course, are whether this info is accurate – and if it is, whether it tells us anything about what film might win. And the answers might be who knows?and probably not, though it's fun to speculate.

(Ian Gavan/Getty Images photo, left to right: Olivier Assayas, Linn Ullmann, Jude Law, Martina Gusman, Uma Thurman, Robert De Niro, Nansun Shi, Mahamat Saleh Haroun and Johnnie To.)

But what about the other  kind of prize that a film could win coming out of Cannes – the prize of financial success? Scott Roxborough and Stuart Kemp survey that field at the Hollywood Reporter, though their headline ("Will Festival Films Deliver at the Box Office?") is a bit misleading, since the article talks about a bunch of marketplace films, but not a single one that's actually booked in the festival.

That said, their conclusion is that Paul W.S. Anderson's "Pompeii" is the big one, though they don't rule out the possibility that the slate of numerous international buyers might end up burnt by the high prices paid.

Other possible hits are star-driven: Dwayne Johnson in "Snitch," Meryl Streep in "Great Hope Springs."

Speaking of stars, one of the unwritten rules is that they'll show up when their movies debut on the Croisette. But this year,  Anne Thompson has identified a Cannes trend, and she doesn't like it.

On Monday night, she says, Terrence Malick (not a "star" in the narrowest sense, but certainly a Cannes luminary) didn't show up for the press conference for his film "The Tree of Life," then he skipped the red carpet before his gala premiere and slipped into the theater without facing the press, flashbulbs or fans.  And on Tuesday, Mel Gibson was a no-show at the press conference for "The Beaver" – though unlike Malick, he did walk the red carpet for the film's premiere later in the day, but did so without stopping to speak to the press.

Says a disapproving Thompson: "One has to hope that Cannes director Thierry Fremaux nips this trend in the bud."

Finally, if you haven't heard enough about "The Tree of Life," a couple of new musings are worth checking out. Mike D'Angelo's take on the film at the Onion's AV Club wants to be a flat-out rave (an hour in, he says, "I was fully convinced I was bearing world-premiere witness to the equivalent of 'Birth Of A Nation' or 'Citizen Kane' or '2001: A Space Odyssey' — an instant benchmark against which the entire medium would henceforth be measured") but by the end he's forced to admit, "the space I’d cleared for it in my list of the five or ten greatest movies ever made remains empty."

For those who are dismayed that "Tree of Life" was booed at its initial press screening, meanwhile, Landon Palmer offers an instructive list of six other films that were booed at Cannes.

The dishonor roll: Lars von Trier's "Antichrist," Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette," Vincent Gallo's "Brown Bunny," David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," Fellini's "The Voice of the Moon" and Antonioni's "L'Avventura," which Palmer calls "probably the most notorious Cannes booing in the festival's history, primarily because the film has since been placed in a pantheon amongst the best of all time."