Provence & Côte d'Azur: Variety is on the agenda for the final days of Cannes Film Festival
Cannes 2013: plunging necklines and lesbian romance
Tongues are wagging about Nicolas Winding Refn's tale of drug-smuggling in Bangkok's feverish underworld, this much is certain. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave Only God Forgives a dazzling five-star review, hailing it as "a glitteringly strange, mesmeric and mad film," but admitting, "It may not win the Palme D'Or, but it could win the Walkout D'Or."
This was definitely the opinion of some audience members at Wednesday's screening, who booed the flick and its arguably tasteless violence, bound to give Quentin Tarantino a run for his money. Ryan Gosling's famed charisma failed to woo many international critics, with Robbie Collin of The Telegraph painting a bloody picture of "ragged hunks of meat" which are "horrible without being interesting."
Meanwhile, Alexandra Payne's Nebraska, a follow-up from The Descendants, emerged as a clear favourite after its screening on Thursday. The movie joins Bruce Dern and Will Forte as a father and son embarking on a trek from Montana. Speaking about the film last year, Payne kept expectations low.
"It's just a little comedy. It's nothing fancy. Nothing too ambitious," dismissed the director. But while the hugely anticipated The Great Gatsby failed to wow the masses, the downplayed Nebraska was a pleasant surprise, winning generally positive reviews across the board. More than an insubstantial comedy, the flick has been hailed for its warmth, pathos and moments of profundity.
Also screened for the first time on Thursday was Daniel Noah's Max Rose, starring the last living Burlesque comedian, Jerry Lewis. For the 87-year-old, the picture marks his first entry into the Cannes Film Festival since 1989, but does it do him justice?
"I thought it was the best script I'd read in 40 years," said The Nutty Professor star in a press conference. "It's an incredible movie that's going to give a lot of people a lot of pleasure. Daniel Noah wrote from his heart and put it on paper."
Lewis plays a recently widowed jazz pianist who fears that his seemingly happy marriage may have been a lie, as he suspects his wife had been in love with another man. For the actor, the flick speaks to the older generation. "It's a wonderful thing to think about people who are ordinarily ignored, and the elderly taught us all, we know everything we know from them."
But The Hollywood Reporter deemed Max Rose as a poor framework for Lewis' comeback. "The Cannes festival has done no favours to Jerry Lewis by choosing this mummified melodrama as a vehicle to honour him," said critic David Rooney, whose scathing review passed off the flick as "a staggeringly artless geriatric soap," overshadowed by the subtle complexities of Nebraska.
However, Lewis stole the show in his press conference. His characteristically absurd expressions, the centrepiece of his black-and-white comedies, shone out from beneath the wrinkles, setting off journalists in stitches. When asked about his "artistic and human relationship" with singer-actor Dean Martin, Lewis reportedly replied with a straight face, "He died you know."
At the other end of the spectrum, Blue is the Warmest Colour, an obscure lesbian love story by Abdellatif Kechiche, has emerged as an unlikely contender for the Palme d'Or. Critic Robbie Collin of the Telegraph handed the flick five stars, writing, "There is a certain look that creeps across a person’s face when you tell them one of your favourite films at Cannes this year has been the sexually explicit drama about young French lesbians."
Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, the three-hour long drama shocked critics and audiences alike with its unashamedly graphic sex scenes, causing it to stand out as one of the most radical entrants for the Palme d'Or. Whether Jury President Steven Spielberg will be able to get past the nudity and hand Kechiche a trophy remains to be seen.
Marion Cotillard made her second red carpet appearance on Friday for James Gray's The Immigrant, an emotionally charged film about a Polish woman's painfully gradual loss of dignity as she fails to 'make it' in New York city. This dark mockery of the American Dream was predicted to be a major contender for an award, but mixed reviews have raised a question mark.
The Hollywood Reporter praised "the splendidly atmospheric recreation of the Lower East Side" before concluding that "Cotillard makes the movie." The critic brushes over Oscar award-winning Joaquin Phoenix who plays the leading man, Bruno Weiss.
The British press were far less forgiving. Peter Bradshaw cast off the flick as "a shapeless, stifling opera of sorrow" which is "gloomy and baffling" as well as "unsatisfying". He paints a picture of a depressing downward spiral that cannot be redeemed by Cotillard's aptitude for emotional intensity - a skill she proved as Edith Piaf in the heart-wrenching La Vie en Rose.
Impossibly youthful Cotillard certainly stole the limelight in her photocall on Friday morning, styled in an ivory panelled Alexander McQueen mini-dress and gold diamante Christian Louboutin pumps. Known for her classic style and elegance, the 37-year-old wore her hair in a voluminous bun.
Flashing flesh on the red carpet
The French beauty's high-necked dress was a welcome break from the flurry of plunging gowns, thigh-high slits and skin-tight tunics that have defined the 66th edition. The trend reached its climax at Thursday night's amfAR Cinema Against Aids gala at the Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc in Antibes - an event which welcomes the global stars of the Cannes red carpet.
Model Irina Shayk opted for a hot pink gown with a cleavage-baring neckline, while 67-year-old Goldie Hawn proved that age was just a number in her bright yellow frock and yet another bold V-neck.
American actress Milla Jockovich may have made an unusual choice with her ivory frills and billowing sleeves, but her neckline, almost reaching her waist, was bang on trend. Kylie Minogue's plunging white gown also seized attention and Paris Hilton's dignity was barely concealed by her sheer dress and pink feathers.
Breaking the mould alongside Marion Cotillard was Aishwarya Rai, who went back to her Asian roots in a gold sari, and model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley who opted for simplicity in a strapless white dress.
52-year-old Kristin Scott Thomas even wore a revealing number as she arrived on the red carpet for the festival’s premiere of her latest movie Only God Forgives. Her slim figure bathed in midnight blue sequins, Kristin turned heads with her low V-neck.
Pseudo Psy and flying to the moon with DiCaprio
There's a fake Psy in Cannes! A double of the Gangnam style singer has been spotted at the festival, having photos taken with celebrities and gaining access into high-profile events.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Korean star's replica had a whale of a time, spending a day at the Martinez beach restaurant and attending a high-profile party at the Carlton hotel. Whether he gave an exclusive rendition of that famous lassoo dance move, we cannot be sure.
However, the unidentified Asian man certainly managed to fool actress Naomie Harris, who Tweeted a picture of herself and 'Psy'. The truth came out when the real singer piped up on the social network, "Seems like there's another ME at Cannes... say Hi to him lol #PSYinSingapore."
In the mean time, a lucky bidder has won an out-of-this-world experience with Romeo + Juliet lead Leonardo DiCaprio. The unnamed winner of the charity auction held at the annual AmFAR Cinema Against Aids gala coughed up a massive 1.2 million euros, buying a ticket into orbit alongside the actor. The winner will board one of Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic fleet of ships for a worthy cause.
A second pair of seats sold for 1.8 million euros, totaling three million euros - a 50 per cent increase on last year's auction profits.
The final fling
The Cannes Film Festival comes to a close this weekend with the premiere of Zulu, the first Anglophone film to be directed by French-born Jérôme Salle. The crime thriller stars teen-heartthrob-turned-serious-actor Orlando Bloom, who rose to fame in Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of Rings, but has been relatively absent from the Hollywood scene since.
Set in Cape Town, South Africa, the action unravels amidst political tension and the all too present ghosts of the apartheid. Bloom plays Ali Neuman, who narrowly dodged murder at the hands of Inkhata, a militant political party in conflict with Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.
The film is possibly one of the most enigmatic entries as few details have been disclosed, but with an African setting, a French director, a Hollywood cast and a random corpse found in a botanical garden, it is set to be an apt end to an exceptionally eclectic festival.