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Cannes Film Festival – Of Retired Rockstars and Activist Actors

The Cannes Film Festival is into its home stretch, but there are still some more movies to be seen before the final curtain call on Sunday.

The festival has been a buzz around the news of Lars von Trier’s ban from the event, because of comments he made about being a Nazi and sympathizing with Hitler, but there has been a generally positive mood here, with reports of an increase in interest from buyers and an upping of the star quality and dozens of A-list celebrities filling the red carpet and parties.

Oscar winner Sean Penn has made it just in time for the premiere of the second film he has here in competition this year. Called This Must Be The Place, Penn stars as a retired, somewhat camp-ish rock star who goes on a quest to avenge his father’s killing by an ex-Nazi soldier. It’s directed by Paolo Sorrentino, whom Penn met in 2008 when he was the head of the jury that picks the Palme d’Or. That year Sorrentino had just won the Jury Prize for Il Divo. Penn says: “I said something to him like ‘Whenever you want, wherever you want, whatever the script.’ I got this script a year later. I didn’t hesitate.”

Penn also stars in Terrence Malick’s fifth feature film, titled The Tree of Life, which also has Brad Pitt and up-and-comer Jessica Chastain in it. Penn says he can’t compare the two as they are wholly separate experiences for him, and they were shot at completely different times. He also believes the winning film is subject to the whims of the personalities that make up the collective. The Oscar-winning actor held a dinner last night to raise funds for Haiti and reportedly gathered over 3 million Rand. Nice one!

Penn’s new rumoured co-star in the upcoming Gangster Squad, Ryan Gosling, is also in town. His new film, Drive manages to mash a film noir like-genre style with an action thriller that has a huge amount of violence. Violence permeates through a number of films here this year, whether of an explicit or abusive nature. We Need to Talk About Kevin, a film based on a book about a college killing spree, fast became a serious contender in the Palme d’Or race, even though it screened on the first day of the festival. On the other end of the scale, a heartwarming silent film called The Artist picked up a number of rave reviews and was, for the most part, completely different from the themes of abuse, sexual power and depression that marked so many others.

Still to come Lars Von Trier’s nephew will premiere Oslo, 31 August, his film about a day in the life of a recovering addict. Trier has already garnered a chorus of acclaim for his second film. And then of course, the all important awards ceremony on Sunday evening, when the film judged to be the event’s best will be chosen.

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