Carol continues to be the belle of this cinematic ball as the Cannes Film Festival has reached the halfway point, and the December Oscar-bait Weinstein Company release seems to be the consensus choice for Best of Show so far. It’s no wonder there were happy feelings all around atcannes-badge__130501073231__130518112535 thpete hammond badgeCarol  post-premiere bash Sunday night at Baoli Beach. “It looks like we are in it again,” smiled Cinetic’s John Sloss, who counts Carol director Todd Haynes among his longtime clients and was referring to the nascent 2015 Oscar race after running that gauntlet with Boyhood last yearThat’s an understatement based on the rapturous critical reception this film has received here. It’s hard to find naysayers, particularly for the performances of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in the 1950s-set lesbian romantic drama. They were huddled smack in the middle of the party talking with friends and colleagues.

Blanchett proudly introduced her mother June to me when I caught up with her as she entered the party. “It’s my mother’s birthday today,” she said, and June indicated the whole Cannes hoopla over her two-time Oscar 473793286-winning daughter was a pretty good present. Indeed. At the press conference earlier in the day, Blanchett was asked to elaborate on a Variety profile that pointedly said she had admitted to having her own “relationships” with women in the past. She said it wasn’t accurate. “From memory, the conversation ran, ‘Have you had relationships with women?’ And I said, ‘Yes, many times. If you mean I’ve had sexual relationships with women the answer is no.’ But that (last sentence) didn’t really make it to print,” she said. We spoke about it at the party, and she seemed sanguine about the whole matter at this point, happy to correct the record. But it also generated a lot of free publicity for the movie, something Harvey Weinstein probably won’t complain about. The article’s writer, Ramin Setoodeh, tweeted yesterday, “When I asked Cate Blanchett if she’d had lesbian relationships in real life, she said: ‘Many times.’ She was accurately quoted.” I guess it comes down to use of the word “lesbian”  vs “women.” This is why tape recorders come in so handy. “I don’t really know what happened (with the full quote).  And I liked the writer, ” she told me.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 17:  Cate Blanchett attends the "Carol" Premiere during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 17, 2015 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Venturelli/WireImage)

I told Haynes I couldn’t believe how much Mara resembles a young Audrey Hepburn in his movie. “Yes, and Jean Simmons even more than that,” he said. Absolutely right. I mentioned both names in my capsule review of the film Saturday. The camera clearly loves her as much as Blanchett’s character does. Ed Lachman is receiving wide praise for the cinematography.   "Carol" Party Hosted By Chopard And Grey Goose At Baoli Beach Cannes Film FestivalThis is only Haynes’ second time in the Cannes hoopla. He was here in 1998 with Velvet Goldmine. “That was a pretty wild experience. I remember Elton John and others as we walked the steps. This was a bit different this time, though. I don’t recall coming out afterwards on to the steps like we did tonight,” he said. The wildly enthusiastic standing ovation for the film got clocked at about 10 minutes. That’s a big sport in Cannes, trying to figure out who gets the longest ovations. In my memory it was Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 911 at 25 minutes. It went on to win the Palme d’Or. Could that happen here? You never know. So far there aren’t any 3 1/2-hour Turkish movies standing in its way, but there’s almost a week to go. Haynes told me he hopes expectations don’t run too high after this. It is, after all, a small film and should be discovered on its own. “We need to go in lockdown now,” said a publicist connected with the film. It’s a long seven months before it will open in the thick of awards season. You can bet it is likely to turn up in Telluride and/or Toronto.  “Or we could do the New York Film Festival,” Haynes mentioned.

Producers Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen and Christine Vachon were obviously in high spirits. Woolley shared memories of his first Cannes experience when he had Mona Lisa here in 1986. “Bob Hoskins won Best Actor that year,” he recalled. Multi Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell told me that designing the wardrobe for Blanchett in Cinderella actually helped in doing Carol, which is from a much different era to say the least.

Of course,cannes-cate-rooney_3307347k Weinstein was in the middle of it all too. The other night he told me he has been trying for years to match box office success with critical success for Haynes in various projects, and this time he thinks it has all come together. Looks entirely possible, but there is no question this film likely will be the linchpin of TWC’s Oscar campaign. The Oscar-nominated director behind their 2014 Best Picture nominee (and Adapted Screenplay winner) The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum also was in the house. He has been doing duty on one of the many juries for this festival but told me he already wrapped. He said he is going to start shooting Sony’s Passengers in September starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. It’s a biggie. I asked how he liked working with new Sony honcho Tom Rothman, and so far, so good. Tyldum likes his direct, no-nonsense style.