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The Cannes Diaries: Of Auteurs and Action Heroes

Signature_CONF-PRESSE Cannes has a reputation for being prestigious, glamorous, high-end, in many regards. It’s as if the beautiful old picturesque town requires it. There are gowns, there are airs and graces, and there are yachts whose worth I don’t even want to know. As far as the films go, you’ll find the work of auteurs from all over the world being shown here, and names that have been built over years of acclaim, that lend themselves to others seeking credibility.

But Cannes also has a fun, sometimes gaudy side to it too.

One moment you can go from Tommy Lee Jones’ period drama The Homesman, to a press conference with the all-star, and I really do mean all-star, cast of The Expendables 3. And along the way, you’ll have to dodge tanks rolling along the Croisette as a publicity stunt for the film. Actually, it’s more important to keep an eye on the fans who’re trying to get close to Stallone and co than it is to worry about the tanks. Crazed fans see no problem in mowing down anything – and any one – in the way of a photo snap.  

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Such was the frenzy on Sunday morning, as Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer and Antonio Banderas stopped traffic in their tanks, while taking their own pics of the crowd’s excitement at seeing the spectacle.

Moments later, the cast regaled journalists with stories about how they used to compete against each other in the old days of the ’80s, when, as Stallone put it, he’d keep score with Schwarzenegger of who killed more people in their respective movies. The star power inside the Carlton was magnetic, and I felt myself getting a little swept up in it all too. Listening to the stories, watching a bit of the banter between them, and wondering about superstar heroines.

It’s a pity we couldn’t put an all-star kick-ass cast of women together like that. Maybe with Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider, Sigourney Weaver, Jodie Foster, Halle Berry and Charlie’s Angels? Or just an all-star female cast coming together for some incredible story – Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Angela Bassett, Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank, that kind of thing. If the gimmick can work for the guys…?

Streep and Swank are both in Tommy Lee Jones’ movie The Homesman, his fourth directorial offering and second film in the Cannes selection. It’s based on a novel, set in the American West circa the 1800s. I liked Swank’s hardy character, but found the change of tone within the film unsatisfying. As with many films here, dissenting voices are par for the course, but there have been lots of positive reviews for it, with Jones being applauded for looking at the time period in his ‘uncustomary angle’, as The Hollywood Reporter puts it.

Cannes, it’s all about auteurs and action heroes.

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