We'll be hearing from Diana, our woman on the ground in Cannes, soon for her take on Grace of Monaco. Since I'm starting to feel human again (yay!) I'm back at the computer and hoping to be full speed by Friday. So let's check out the festival's first day.
1. Jane Campion, Gender, and Juries
First a Red Carpet Lineup. Who wins your best dressed vote from the ladies of the jury? (And isn't it special that they all have such different styles?)
Campion, an outspoken feminist and infrequent filmmaker (let's get that new film rolling!) responded to questions about the lack of female films at the festival (which is famously very resistant to new voices, often inviting the same "masters" each time they make a movie... so we're talking lots of old men).
It does feel very undemocratic. We don’t get our share of representation. It always seems to be a surprise for the world when a woman does come out [as a success].”
Thankfully women are well represented on the jury and for the opening film you got two movie goddesses (Grace Kelly & Nicole Kidman) for the price of one... though most critics wanted their money back even though they saw the movie for free.
Nicole Kidman & Amy Adams & Lots of Photos after the jump...
2. Nicole Kidman & The Opening Gala
Nicole towered over her co-stars and director at the photocall and on the red carpet. It's almost like her bones understood how large of a star she would become and just kept trying to help her reach mythic size as she grew up (Kidman is 5'11" and always wears heels). Of course the bigger you are the bigger the target. Critics were out for blood as they usually are for "troubled" pictures that have no sacred cows attached to protect them. Kidman is, of course, no sacred cow and has been a target her whole career from her early infamous star-making marriage to Cruise until all the blah-blah-blah-botox modern fetishistic attention to her forehead. I shan't link to it but I read a whole post on a certain gossip site with dozens of photos of her face from the opening day of Cannes that kept saying "wrinkle free!" and "puffy" and accusing her of plastic surgery when I'm staring at the exact same photos and I see the wrinkles of a 40something woman, albeit a woman who wears a lot of makeup as most movie stars do on red carpets.
Diana has promised me a review of the picture but even if she hates it as many critics have, I will reserve judgment until I see it. Some of the critiques are of the kind that raise "take with grain of salt" alarms. Whenever a critic uses "melodrama" or "old fashioned" as insults, for instance, I know that I can't trust them. Ain't nothing wrong with an old fashioned weepie or a melodrama! Also festivals are insular environments that do tend to increase critical homogeneity. Mob mentality can set in, leading to the binaries of "masterpiece" and "disaster". I've already heard, for example, that Grace is "worse than Diana" referring to Kidman's BFF's Naomi Watts' princess picture. Perhaps there are mob torch hysterics at work in these early reviews since Diana (2013) is one of the worst films I have ever seen. I simply can't believe that this could be worse than that with such a strong cast and a fine cinematographer (Eric Gautier). For one, it looks (at least in clips) much pricier and classier and beauteous so at least you'll be able to ogle it, you know?
Do I sound defensive? Sure. I get it. I do. Kidman is a darling of mine and I feel loyal and protective of my loved ones. Who doesn't (besides soulless people)? Listen, she's not perfect -- no actor is -- and she's given stiff performances before (I don't think highly of her work in Cold Mountain) and I don't think much of Dahan as a filmmaker (I hated La Vie En Rose) so it's possible I won't like this picture at all. But I also know that I've never been able to trust the media when it comes to Kidman. Critics are also, if I may speak in very dangerous generalities, not to be trusted to give a fair shake to movies about the interior lives of women... specifically the sheltered lost girl princess types (see the snark and savagery that Sofia Coppola has to deal with on occasion, even though she's generally well regarded). I've long since come to the conclusion that Kidman must be one of the steeliest female stars of all time. Like Joan Crawford tough deep down.
Consider how routinely she puts herself out there in risky projects and roles with daring chutzpah. What's more she doesn't even wall herself off from emotions, admitting in the press conference that she's "sad" that the Rainier family wish the movie didn't exist. She also revealed again, as she did in our interview here, that career success and personal happiness are rarely completely aligned and she wishes that weren't so. She got philosophical at the press conference when asked about giving up acting for love (as Grace Kelly famously did.)
I’ve lived without that and existed without that in my life, and it’s a very empty life. I’ve always said that when I won the Oscar, I went home and I didn’t have that in my life. And that was the most intensely lonely period of my life. And I’ve also said that, strangely for me, the greatest highs have coincided with the greatest lows … It’s always aggravated me that it’s gone that way. I’m hoping that one day I can have a professional high and a personal high. I don’t know if that’s ever possible.”
3. Amy Adams Commands Top Dollar
While Nicole was working the red carpet, another lauded redhead was the hottest ticket... for 2016? Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi drama The Story of Your Life adapted from Ted Chiang's award-winning short story was sold to Paramount for $20 million in a bidding war before a single frame has been shot. It will star the seemingly unstoppable Amy Adams. She'll play a linguist asked to communicate with alien invaders. I assume the high price tag is due to both Amy's hot streak and Villeneuve's rising star in the director's chair (Prisoners & Enemy both won good reviews and, perhaps more importantly, proved that he's skilled at getting great work from top Hollywood names). The huge grosses for Gravity, essentially a one-woman show, can't have hurt its case either.
But, real talk: audiences have never been averse to women fronting sci-fi films. Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) were massive hits. Contact (1997) was a big hit. It's not audiences that are resistant to women, it's nervous Hollywood executives who have to be reminded over and over again that female driven movies can make money. Flops starring men never have them suddenly worrying about producing the next film starring a man, you know?
In other sales news Sony Pictures Classics picked up Bertrand Bonello's Saint-Laurent, the Yves Saint-Laurent biopic that's playing in competition. Curiously there could be two French-language YSL biopics heading our way this year because The Weinstein Co bought the other one last year and have yet to release it.