Watching films at Cannes is a little like dipping into Forest Gump's box of chocolates -- you never know what you’re going to get.
Robin Hood turned out to be unlike any other Robin Hood we’ve seen. It junks all that we know and love about Robin Hood. Here Robin and the Merry Men come together only at the end. And they aren’t merry to begin with, in fact, Russell Crowe barely cracks a smile. And the robbing-from-the-rich-to-give-to-the-poor business isn’t quite in place. The critics weren’t in raptures either, though they didn’t trash the film like they did producer Brian Grazer’s last Cannes offering, Da Vinci Code. The trade predicts that the film will make more money overseas than domestically. I enjoyed the film. The first hour is joyless and dreary but eventually it all comes together nicely. And Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett have crackling chemistry.
Reams of flesh
Mathieu Amalric’s On Tour wasn’t brilliant though. Amalric directs and stars in this story about a TV producer who now runs a burlesque show. He travels from port to port in France with a troupe of curvaceous showgirls who perform risqué tricks with balloons and feathers. It’s a strange, surreal life, filled with hedonism, laughter and despair. On Tour has long portions that are dramatically inert but Amalric pulls off some wonderfully candid scenes of bonding and longing. The acting is terrific. He also manages to show us reams of flesh without seeming voyeuristic. Still, I’d hoped for a more cracking film.
Maid to order
The best film I’ve seen at Cannes so far is IM Sang-Soo’s The Housemaid. The acclaimed Korean director has reworked a 1960 film about a maid who has an affair with the master of the house into a delicate, poetic and haunting story. The film could have easily veered into melodrama-- there is even a nasty mother-in-law who seems to echo Lalita Pawar--but Sang-Soo keeps a tight rein on his narrative. And The Housemaid doesn’t hit a single false note. I hope it finds a distributor in India. If not, be sure to catch it on DVD.
Outside the darkened auditoriums of the Palais, there was plenty of Indian action as The India Pavilion was inaugurated by I & B secretary, Raghu Menon, and actress Mallika Sherawat who is in Cannes to promote her forthcoming film Hissss. Buzz is that the Hissss event on Sunday will feature a live snake.
Deepika Padukone hit town as the Chivas ambassador and Aishwariya Rai walked the red carpet again. When asked what designers she is wearing this year, she said that she was spoilt for choice!
Cannes is a cinema buff’s paradise. Screenings are a good half-hour before the film is supposed to start. And it is not unusual to find a hundred-odd people standing queuing up. And God forbid if you should forget to put your phone in silent mode because if it rings, you can feel the dirty looks even in the darkness.
But for every serious film viewer, you have a star-struck fan. Hundreds crowd the gates of the hotels where stars are staying or conducting press conferences. Guards keep a tight check on who is allowed entry. It is like ‘darshan’ time at Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan's house on a Sunday evening, only these are white fans hoping for a dekko.
This year, for the first time, I saw beggars at Cannes. A few roamed the Croisette, begging for alms. It was ironical because they were standing outside designer stores where a dress sold for thousands of Euros. But that’s Cannes!
The writer hosts Picture This on NDTV 24X7.