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May 17, the second day of the Cannes Film Festival and the third of my stay, opens with a movie from the poignant-but-funny genre that is such a hit at most film festivals, and especially at Cannes – De rouille et d’os (Rust and Bone) by director Jacques Audiard. A story that is as much about strength as it is about love, the film stars Marion Cotillard and Matthias Shoenaerts.
At the press conference that follows, Shoenaerts makes journalists crack up when he’s asked about offers for Hollywood action movies, with this response: “Actually, it’s funny you should mention that, because I just got a call saying they want me for Rambo 35. And I said yes, but only if they also give me Rambo 36 and 37.”
That was nearly wiped out of my mind by a sighting of Mallika Sherawat. The previous day had belonged to Sacha Baron Cohen, who arrived in his Dictator Aladeen avatar, complete with camels, and Elisabetta Canalis for consort. After some frolicking on a yacht, Aladeen decided Canalis had gone too far when she tugged at his shorts, and dragged her off deck by her feet. He returned with a body bag, which he threw into the sea. Then, he made his red carpet appearance in military uniform on his camel. Mallika Sherawat, who was rumoured to have arrived at Cannes on Monday, didn’t make as flamboyant an appearance, though.
She popped into the Indian Pavilion wearing a khaki-grey dress by Victoria Beckham, whose only touch of chic was a cowl neck. To top it off, well, Sherawat piled her hair on top of her head, quite in the style of the shampoo ads from the 1990s. But here’s the punch – while the likes of Aishwarya Rai, Sonam Kapoor and Freida Pinto are there to represent brands of beauty products, Mallika Sherawat is here for a cause. She’s representing amfAR, The American Foundation for AIDS Research. Who cares if her belly-dancing prowess didn’t win her a place in Aladeen’s harem, when she’s raising her voice against frivolity?
Just beyond the country pavilions is a private beach, where screenings of the James Bond classics are being held every night. Sean Connery is back, forty years younger and larger-than-life in pretty much every sense of the word. Off screen, Jane Fonda causes a flutter when she sashays down the red carpet in a figure-hugging black-and-white silhouetted gown, looking forty years younger, and much tinier, than she really is.
Among the screenings for the day is Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah’s Baad-El-Mawkeaa (After the Battle), a film that traces the Tahrir Square revolution from January to October, 2011. Shot as the events were occurring, the film combines a fictional love story with real political upheaval, and questions how well the revolution has served the people who fought for it.
Chinese director Lou Ye, who was banned from filmmaking for five years as punishment for his representation of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Summer Palace (2006), appears at the premiere of his film Mystery, which opens the Un Certain Regard category of the official selection. Lou did make a film called Spring Fever, in secret, during his ban period. His presentation at Cannes 2012 combines family drama and crime, as wives commiserate over cheating husbands and young bimbo mistresses.
Most Indians present at Cannes, and huge numbers of journalists from other countries, begin to queue up for the night screening of the 1948 film Kalpana, directed by Uday Shankar. The 3-hour long black-and-white feature is one of the digitally restored oldies being shown at the festival – the others include Lawrence of Arabia and Once upon a time in America.
This heavily autobiographical movie about a young male dancer who wants to open a school of his own is the only one Uday Shankar made throughout his career in entertainment, which spanned several decades. Watching the delightful choreography in this film that’s nearly as old as India, one wishes Shankar had left more visual memories of his exceptional talent. Then again, the film leaves you with the warmth of knowing the young dancer did go on to live his dream, dancing his way around the world.
The next day will begin with the world premiere of Madagascar 3, in 3D at the Grand Theatre Lumiére.