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‘Taking Woodstock’ and Cannes Hits Its Stride

An early festival favorite strikes a chord with audiences of all shapes and sizes. The same day, a major competition title gets almost universally booed by an audience several hundred strong. By nightfall, stars gather on the beach to the tune of ’60s counterculture, many wearing flowers in their hair.


Now this is the Cannes Film Festival!

After breaking through the first few days of uncertainty, Cannes appears to be gaining momentum. "A Prophet," Jacques Audiard’s two-and-a-half hour opus about a Muslim teenager unfairly jailed in France, received a warm welcome from seemingly everyone at its early morning press screening. By contrast, Brillante Mendoza’s "Kinatay," from the Phillipines, got hit with an immediate wave of angry boos as soon as the credits rolled.


This gruesome story of kidnapping and murder almost seemed like it was begging for the negativity, and audiences responded in turn. I doubt that, unlike "A Prophet," it has any chance at the Palme d’Or, but you never know: Cannes juries are famously arbitrary, although one imagines even the edgiest ones wouldn’t go with this radical of a decision.

At night, I nearly expected to receive boos of my own at the party for Ang Lee’s "Taking Woodstock," which I ripped to pieces in my review on Friday. Happily, the crowd was festive, non-confrontational, and a little bold-faced.


I spotted Tilda Swinton among the attendees, while "Woodstock" star Emile Hirsch — a perennial festival buddy of mine since we bonded two years ago over our mutual love of Werner Herzog’s "Grizzly Man" — emerged from his movie’s official premiere singing the praises of Lee’s accomplishment.


I could have protested, but, hey, a party’s a party.