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Monday, June 11, 2012

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The first screening of the day is Lawless, a gangster movie from the American West, directed by Australian John Hillcoat. The British Tom Hardy, Australian Jason Clarke and American Shia LeBoeuf star as the Bondurant brothers, a trio who successfully ran a bootlegging business in the Prohibition Era in America. From wisecracks to violence, the film, whose cast includes Jessica Chastain, has just about every element one looks for in a good old gangster film of the ilk of Once upon a time in America or Goodfellas.
The press conference that follows the screening has us laughing more often than we’d anticipated. Asked how he prepared for his tough guy role, Hardy replies seriously, “By playing Scrabble. It made me pretty tough because my co-star Jessica Chastain beat me. I also played Battleship.”
Shia LeBoeuf gets asked about his age, as does punk rocker Nick Cave, who helped write the screenplay and composed the music. “My memory’s gone, I have to use the thesaurus a lot, dictionaries a lot, enlarge the type, all that sort of s***. It's awful. I don’t recommend it to anyone.”
Finally, Jason Clarke is asked where he was born, and he replies, “In the outback, mate. Way out.” “Like in a sheep farm?” the journalist persists. “Yeah, that’s absolutely right. My father was a sheep farmer,” Clarke replies. There’s a pause, and the moderator says, “Well, on that strange note, we’ll close the press conference.”
That’s followed by a tete-a-tete with Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, whose 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days previously won the Palme D’Or, and who has now returned with Dupa Dealuri (Beyond the Hills). The film, which tells the story of an attempted exorcism at an orthodox church in Romania, portrays the clergy quite unflatteringly, and some members of the cast don’t seem particularly happy about it.
Dana Tapalaga, who plays the Mother Superior, says it was very difficult for her because she is very religious, and it goes against her beliefs. “I hope that the priests in Romania will still allow me to go into their churches even after having seen this film”, she says, making us wonder whether orthodox priests queue up at the theatres.
Award-winning music composer Alexandre Desplat, a four-time Oscar nominee, holds a masterclass in music that day. Desplat is a busy man at Cannes this year, having composed the score for four of the films in the official selection – Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson,Rust and Bone by Jacques Audiard, Reality by Matteo Garone and Renoir by Gilles Bourdos.
As we’re running about from screen to screen, someone starts the rumour that Omar Sharif and Peter O’ Toole will attend the fiftieth anniversary special screening of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, one of the restored classics scheduled to play at Cannes 2012.
That turns out to be untrue, so I settle for movies from Africa, instead of Arabia – Nabil Ayouch’s Les Chevaux de Dieu (The Horses of God), a contestant in the Un Certain Regard category, tells the story of the 2003 serial bomb blasts in Casablanca, through the lives of two brothers growing up in a shanty in the town of Sidi Moumen in Morocco. Merzak Allouache’s The Repentant is being showcased as part of the Director’s Fortnight section. Shot in twenty days, the film tells the chilling story of a former militant’s return to regular life.
It’s time for the red carpet screening. Among the films lined up for this are LawlessThe Sapphires by Wayne Blair, and Antiviral, a film by Brandon Cronenberg. Incidentally, Cronenberg’s father David has a film in the competition section – Cosmopolis.
It’s the cast of The Sapphires that courts the wrath of the fashion police. Chris O’ Dowd shows up in black-and-yellow striped socks, while Caleb Landry Jones sports sparkly shoes. Jessica Chastain, two of whose films have premiered at Cannes this year looks ethereal in a sequined, gossamer Gucci dress. Naomi Watts, who showed up earlier in a peach dress with feathers seemingly stuck all over it, wears a spangly frock that ends in a stringy skirt. Alexander Fulton wears a translucent black gown that has the photographers going nuts. Among all the muted glamour, a character from the film Tron shows up in costume, complete with neon lighting.
The last film for the day is Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s Jagten (The Hunt), a bold film dealing with child sexual abuse, which was also the theme of an earlier film of his, Festen.


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