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For most journalists, and the fashion police, May 24 is basically 12 hours to kill before photographing Aishwarya Rai, who’s due to make her red carpet appearance today, complete with mystery attire and baby weight.
I’ve started feeling sorry for her for all the virulent criticism of her figure, and find myself hoping she actually rocks the red carpet, just so people will shut up about the weight. For all the affirmative action to render Size Zero models jobless, the world doesn’t seem ready to forgive a woman for putting on weight during pregnancy, huh?
The day begins with the hard-hitting, grisly The Paperboy, part of Hollywood’s strong presence at Cannes this year. Directed by Lee Daniels, whose Precious received 6 Oscar nominations and 2 golden statuettes, the film stars Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, Zac Efron and Macy Gray. Dealing with race relations, crime, sexuality and fetish in 1960s America, the film has some numbingly violent scenes.
The queue for the press conference is painfully long, and of course, we have a jumper, who’s caught out and sent back.
“This is not a queue for bread, it’s for a press conference!” one of the other journalists calls out, for good measure, “How desperate are you?!”
The jumper’s bewildering response is, “You know, I feel sorry for you because you’ll never be European.”
The other European journalists quickly confirm that jumping queues isn’t a particularly European trait, and life returns to normal as we turn back to the screens that are relaying the photo call that the cast attends before arriving at the press conference.
Most of us are not sure what to make of the film, and can’t even say for sure whether we liked it or not. A lot of the issues crystallise at the press conference, where Lee Daniels speaks of how he grew up in a family of domestic help, who loved their white employers and their children. The director then says the character of Nicole Kidman was based on several women who wrote letters to men in prison, including his own sister. He also speaks of his familiarity with prisoners, through his own brother, who served a sentence for murder.
The talk turns to fetishes, and the “dark side” of some of the characters in the film – Matthew McConaughey plays a closet gay man whose penchant for S & M turns perilous. Nicole Kidman plays trailer-trash obsessed with prisoners, Zac Efron plays a young man who can’t get attracted to girls of his own age since his mother moved away, and John Cusack plays a violent man who is believed to have been wrongly accused of murder.
After the conference, I head off to screenings of Trois Mondes by Catherine Corsini, and Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, both of which are being showcased in the Un Certain Regard section.
Miss Lovely, which deals with the horror-porn industry of the 1980s in India, has a promising start, taking us back to those films where the hero would enter a haunted house, make eye contact with the portrait of a beautiful long-dead woman, and then come face-to-face with her ugly, angry, nasty ghost.
Aishwarya Rai is due to make her appearance at Cannes today. We watch the cast of The Paperboys arrive for the red carpet screening of The Paperboy. Nicole Kidman, who’d attended the press conference in a bright red dress, changes to a backless puce for the evening, and the photographers go nuts. Flanked by Lee Daniels and Zac Efron, she exchanges kisses with husband Keith Urban as she leaves the screening.
But the newsmaker of the day is Aishwarya Rai, who makes no fashion faux pas this time. Wearing an ivory sari with gold embroidery, the former Miss World camouflaged most of her baby weight. She matches the outfit with a tailored jacket with Chinese collar. Her hair is piled high on her head, and her eyes are highlighted with heavy kajal. She’s due to make a second appearance tomorrow, so let’s hope the luck – and fashion sense – last!