Wednesday 11 May 2011

Cannes 2011: First day of the competition preview

After the entertaining but shallow Midnight in Paris opening the festival, like a light and forgettable aperitif before the main course, the real battle begins tomorrow with a busy day and first day of the competition.

First film of the day, We need to talk about Kevin, by the too rare Lynne Ramsay, with Tilda Swinton. The sole British entry in the main competition, this marks the return tno the screen of an incredibly talented director, after Ratcatcher (1999) and the underrated Morvern Callar (2002). This is the adaptation of the best seller of the same name, and early echoes suggest an Oscar-worthy performance of Tilda Swinton. Being the first film in the competition can be me a mixed blessing. It sometimes sets the bar so high and lingers in jury's memories, that nothing that comes after it can match it. This worked for Secrets and Lies (Palme d'or 1996 and first film showing that year), and for 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (Palme d'or 1997). Or is can just be easily forgotten, 10 days and 22 films later when the prizes are decided.

And then it will be the turn of Sleeping beauty, the Australian surreal, erotic tale by Julia Leigh (2 female directors battling it up on the same day, must be a first), which could turn out to be a worthy successor to the disturbing works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg with a Jane Campion twist, or could end up as titillating as some embarrassing late night cable 90's erotic movie (Wild Orchid with Mickey Rourke and Carre Otis, anybody remembers?).

In the Un certain regard official selection (the "off" selection reserved for more fragile films), Gus Vant Sant latest is opening the proceedings with Restless, the intriguing story of a terminally ill girl, a boy obsessed with funerals and their encounters with the ghost of a Japanese WW2 pilot. For a director who won the Palme d'or in 2003 for Elephant, that might sound like a snub to be relegated to the second division of the official competition, a move perhaps explained by a lighter and quirkier work after his previous films?

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