Despite reports to the contrary Harvey Weinstein told me he doesn’t believe the Australian musical The Sapphires is going to become another The Artist. Weinstein claims he was taken out of context in a Los Angeles newspaper report after the out-of-competition film premiered to an enthusiastic response and prolonged ovation (they all are in Cannes) at its official premiere Saturday night. He was quoted as saying “Have you seen ‘The Sapphires‘? The Artist just happened again”. At tonight’s party and concert for the film at the JW Marriott that followed a special screening, Weinstein told me he does not think the feel-good movie, a sort of Aboriginal Dreamgirls, is necessarily another Oscar contender for the company. He calls it an entertaining comedy-musical he hopes will draw good word of mouth and turn out to be a sleeper hit. He says the report was misleading and claims to have no Oscar ambitions anywhere near the level of The Artist, which (like Sapphires) was picked up right as Cannes kicked off and went on to win 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor.
Weinstein has been on a roll so far, picking up several titles, although he says some of those deals were done before the fest opened and announced during the Cannes window (other titles revealed on Deadline include Quartet, Haute Cuisine and the Libyan doc, The Oath Of Tobruk). He and Weinstein Co. COO David Glasser told me unequivocally that they are not planning on buying anything else at this year’s Cannes. Weinstein is very excited though about his 2012 and beyond slate, and at a Majestic Hotel cocktail party tomorrow night will unveil first-look footage for the press from some highly anticipated films for which he does have high Oscar (and boxoffice of course) hopes including The Master, The Silver Linings Playbook and the Quentin Tarantino western Django Unchained. The “celebration” for The Sapphires featured live performances from the actual quartet in the film (see clips below) and its star, Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) and managed to pull a lively crowd despite the stormy weather that overtook the town Sunday. The rooftop party had to be moved inside to a narrower space due to the downpour.
Meanwhile this stormy Sunday was a good one for catching up on movies as the lines were long inside the Palais for many competition entries including press screenings for Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone In Love and Hong Sangsoo’s In Another Country as well as tonight’s red carpet premieres of Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt and recent 2009 Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke’s Amour, the latter drawing strong critical response for the story of a French couple now in their 80s facing an end-of-life crisis after the wife suffers a stroke. Can Haneke win a second Palme d’Or this soon? Sony Pictures Classics has the film for domestic release and it is likely to be the Austrian entry for the Foreign Language Film Oscar race – Haneke is Austrian). They would be wise to push it not only in the Foreign category but also Best Actor for veteran star Jean-Louis Trintignant. He has instantly become a frontrunner in the suddenly hot competition for Best Actor at Cannes. The film is emotionally tough going and may find commercial prospects iffy as many people have endured this kind of heartbreak with loved ones and might not want to re-live it at the movies. Still, critics are doing cartwheels and Trintignant’s and Emmanuelle Riva’s performances are awards worthy.
It’s hard to believe looking at the now-81 year old Trintignant that it was 46 years ago he starred in the quintessential French love story, Palme d’Or and Oscar-winning art house hit, A Man And A Woman. Anouk Aimee, his co-star, won a 1966 acting Oscar nomination but Trintignant did not. It would be nice to see him get his first recognition in that regard although he did previously win once before in Cannes for Z in 1969. Watching this couple in Amour it is not a big leap to think they could be that couple in old age from the Claude LeLouche classic, particularly when Riva thumbs through a scrapbook that reveals photos of the younger Trintignant. With Monday’s debut of nearly 90- year-old (his birthday is June 3) legendary director Alain Resnais’ You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet and the fest’s closing night film scheduled to be Therese Desqueyroux, the final movie from the late Claude Miller, this is turning out to be a sentimental Cannes that is celebrating French cinema legends by showcasing their latest, vital works.
And whatever the opinions or merits of the movies in competition, it is very clear this crop has produced already an unusually high number of quality performances. In fact in Sunday’s second premiere The Hunt, Danish star Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Clash Of The Titans) delivers a riveting career-best turn as a teacher unjustly accused by a child of exposing himself in front of her. He too will be in contention for the acting prize as the Festival now hits the halfway point.