Cannes Film Festival veterans Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are in town this year with two movies in Competition, Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta and recent pick-up Elle by Paul Verhoeven. The Sony Pictures Classics chiefs visited the Deadline Studio this week to chat about both titles and share their views on how the market has changed. We also got in some interesting red carpet anecdotes involving cowboy boots and Mike Tyson. Check out our chat above.
Bernard, who’s here for the 35th time, calls this “a new year because of all the different characters and all the different scenarios you can have with a film.” Barker expects a lot more deals on promo reels and screenplays here given there are not a lot of finished films available. Bernard adds, there is “an insatiable appetite for product right now and there are more companies than there are movies.”
Barker and Bernard have regularly worked with Almodovar, but say Julieta is a revelation. Says Barker, “His artistry just gets better and better as he tries all of these new and different things.” The film is based on three short stories from Alice Munro’s book Runaway and got good reviews out of Spain when it released there in April.
The story centers on the eponymous character who lives in Madrid with her daughter Antía. They both suffer in silence over the loss of Xoan, Antía’s father and Julieta’s husband. But at times grief doesn’t bring people closer, it drives them apart. When Antía turns 18, she abandons her mother, without a word of explanation. Julieta looks for her in every possible way, but all she discovers is how little she knows of her daughter. The film is about a mother’s struggle to survive uncertainty; it’s also about fate, guilt complexes and the unfathomable mystery that leads us to abandon the people we love, erasing them from our lives as if they had never existed. The film screens next week.
Elle is Verhoeven “at his peak,” says Barker. He and Bernard have known the director for decades and previously worked with him on 2006’s Dutch thriller Black Book. Elle stars Isabelle Huppert as Michèle, a seemingly indestructible woman who brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as she does to business. But being attacked in her home by an unknown assailant changes her life forever. When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game that may at any moment spiral out of control.
Also screening next week, this is also a return to Cannes for Verhoeven who is not a name normally associated with the festival. He was, however, in competition back in 1992 with Basic Instinct.