goes dark, Western goes east at Cannes
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[May 19, 2014]
By Michael Roddy
CANNES France (Reuters)
— Canadian David Cronenberg
presented a director's take on a Hollywood infected by taboo sex and
backstabbing, plus a few ghosts, while Tommy Lee Jones turned the
Western around for a perilous eastward trek with madwomen at Cannes
Jones's "The Homesman" and Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars"
screened the same day that Sylvester Stallone, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and other cast members
from "The Expendables 3" rode in tanks in the Mediterranean
seaside town, lending star power to the festival.
"Crash" and "The Fly" director Cronenberg's look behind the
tinsel of Hollywood was the second competition film shown on the
fifth day of the 12-day festival, giving it a heavily North
One critic for a major trade publication, who did not want to be
quoted by name before a review appeared in print, said
Cronenberg's film was "very disappointing and very uneven". It
stars "Twilight" idol Robert Pattinson as a Hollywood wannabe
working as a chauffeur and Mia Wasikowska as a schizophrenic.
The Hollywood Reporter trade publication called Jones's film "an
absorbing, melancholy look at the hard lot of women in the Old
West". It co-stars Jones and two-time Oscar best-actress winner
Hilary Swank as a team escorting the madwomen.
The Cannes awards, including the top Palme d'Or prize for best
picture at the world's most prestigious film festival, will be
given on May 24.
Of the main competition films shown since the festival opened on
Wednesday, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Winter Sleep"
and British director Mike Leigh's "Mr Turner" are tied with the
highest rankings in a compilation of opinions of international
critics by Screen International magazine. Both get ratings of
3.6 stars out of a possible 4.
DARK SIDE OF HOLLYWOOD
"Maps to the Stars", with a screenplay by Los Angeles writer and
actor Bruce Wagner, features a cast of twisted characters. They
include a child actor recovering from a drug habit, his
schizophrenic sister, their ambitious parents who have a dark
secret, and a has-been actress who is desperate to re-create a
role played by her mother, who died in a fire.
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Ghosts of the actress's mother, a drowned child and a girl who died
in hospital shortly after a visit from the child actor give the film
a supernatural patina, suggesting that Hollywood is not just a city
of dreams but of nightmares.
Little more can be revealed that would not be a spoiler.
Based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout, "The Homesman" includes the
usual gunfights and hostile Indians, though at a press conference
Jones rejected the idea that the portrayal of native Americans was a
The people playing the Indians were "all native Americans, they were
all of Pueblo descent", Jones said. Even the costumes they wore were
thoroughly researched to help them look like the hostile Pawnees
they portray in the movie.
"I'm not ashamed of the fact that they were considered by our
characters to be potentially homicidal. We were not bending the
truth at all or stereotyping anybody," he said.
What is unusual is the stark portrayal of the extreme hardships
faced by young women trying to survive, raise families and cope with
extreme weather and disease. One of the madwomen had three babies
die of diphtheria.
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