'Sleeping Beauty' Sex Scenes Stir Up Cannes Controversy + Tilda Swinton Praise

Emily Browning Sleeping Beauty
Emily Browning, Sleeping Beauty.

Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty divided critics at the Cannes Film Festival – while reminding some of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Presented by Jane Campion, Sleeping Beauty is the story of a young woman (Sucker Punch's and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events' Emily Browning) whose sex-escort job entails taking drugs, passing out, and having wealthy older men do “things” to her body while she sleeps.

Emily Browning has received praise for her performance as the sleeping sex worker, but whether that'll translate into critics' awards later this year and early next year is debatable. Film critics' groups might go for that sort of daring performance, but at the more conservative, more populist Oscars her chances seem pretty slim at this stage. In any case, Sleeping Beauty doesn't have a set US release date as yet.

It is technically elegant, with vehemence and control, though often preposterous, with the imagined classiness of high-end prostitution and art-porn cliches of secret sexiness in grand chateaux: shades of Eyes Wide Shut. … Leigh aims for the occult ritual of Buñuel and the formal exactitude of Haneke: rigorously framed and composed shots. (Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian.)

More tiresome than anything, Australian novelist Julia Leigh's debut feature, Sleeping Beauty, concerns a self-abasing college student who doesn't distinguish among her various dead-end jobs, one of which involves being drugged into a near-coma and manhandled by strangers. Leigh's arty (not to be confused with artistic) treatment of such provocative subject matter derives from her own 2008 Black List-blessed screenplay, though the film's frustratingly elliptical style and lack of character insight give it a distinctly first-draft feel. (Peter Debruge, Variety.)

The word 'erotic' has been placed quite irresponsibly in the byline; this isn't a film trying to promote an erotic agenda, instead director Julia Leigh turns the camera into a lingering voyeur, making the near constant nudity unsettling – at times quietly so, and at times thoroughly disturbing. Browning's performance is at once commanding, assured and fragile. … [Browning is] a performer who should rightly be in contention for Best Actress come the end of the festival. (Dan Goodswen, Total Film.)

Photo: Cannes Film Festival

Gus Van Sant's 'Restless' gets unenthusiastic Reviews: Cannes

Gus Van Sant's Restless, about the love affair between an orphaned teenager (Dennis Hopper's son, Henry Hopper) and a cancer-stricken young woman (Mia Wasikowska), has received a number of unenthusiastic reviews. Some, in fact, have been downright negative. Van Sant won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for Elephant back in 2003.

Bryce Dallas Howard (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) is one of Restless' producers. The screenplay, which has been compared to Erich Segal's Love Story, was written by Jason Lew. Not much of a chance for this Van Sant effort come Oscar time.

“Seen any good funerals lately?” asks one funeral junky to another in Restless, a terminally cloying and mushy-headed romance between a cancer-stricken young woman and an orphaned teenager whose closest confidant is the ghost of a kamikazi pilot. The most banal and indulgent of Gus Van Sant's periodic studies of troubled kids, this agonizingly treacly tale comes off like an indie version of Love Story except with worse music. Gullible teen girls represent the target audience for this Sony Pictures Classics release, as most people of voting age will blanch at such a cutesy depiction of adolescent angst. (Restless. Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter.)

A flimsy teenage romance with dashes of bittersweet inspiration, Gus Van Sant's Restless is little more than a whimsical exercise. Neither unwatchable nor particularly memorable, it mainly succeeds as a showcase for Van Sant's younger collaborators. … Its two leads, Henry Hopper and Mia Wasikowska—both in their early twenties—give the movie its defining traits more than Van Sant, whose main role involves keeping this slight effort intact. (Erik Kohn, indieWIRE.)

Hopper and Wasikowska (the latter seen recently in Cary Joji Fukunaga's fine adaptation of Jane Eyre) are sweet together, and emerge relatively unscathed from the heartfelt absurdity of the movie around them. They sure don't make ‘em like they used to. Which is why, every once in a while, it's nice to see someone try. (Stephanie Zacharek, Movie Line.)

Photo: Cannes Film Festival

Tilda Swinton Kudos: 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' in Cannes

In Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin, a middle-aged woman (Tilda Swinton) has a difficult, distant relationship with her son (City Island's Ezra Miller), who, it turns out went on a killing spree at his high school. Dealing with her grief, she tries to contact her estranged husband (John C. Reilly). Based on Lionel Shriver's book.

Tilda Swinton seems to be a strong contender for the Best Actress Award at Cannes. Depending on the critical reception of We Need to Talk About Kevin in the United States, she may have a chance at critics' awards later in the year, and, if so, at an Oscar nomination. That all depends, of course, on when the film will be released in the US.

Voguish novels all too rarely translate into worthwhile movies. The urge to stay faithful to the beloved text often hampers creativity. Enthusiastic hosannas should, thus, be put the way of Lynne Ramsay, Scottish director of austere gems such as Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar, for making such an imaginative, misanthropic, gut-wrenching film out of Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin. The first film to screen in the official Cannes competition, this unsettling puzzle-picture sets the festival rolling with a roar of anguish. (Donald Clarke, The Irish Times.)

We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of the best examples of a film marrying provocative subject matter with an exquisitely refined and ultimately very simple aesthetic approach to astounding effect. It isn't just that Ramsay and her production team have paid due attention to the delicate needs of the story, it is in the stylistic approach to building atmosphere and crucially enticing audience reaction that they must gain the most plaudits. (We Need to Talk About Kevin. Simon Gallagher at Film School Rejects.)

In many ways, in fact, the film is almost as non-verbal as the newly restored version of Georges Méliès' 1902 A Trip to the Moon, shown here at Cannes earlier this week. Kevin is about one character yet takes place entirely in the mind and world of another. Seldom has a son and a mother been more unknown to each other than in this drama, which is as perplexing as it is intriguing. (Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter.)

Photo: Cannes Film Festival

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher Film Acquired

Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher drama The Iron Lady has been acquired for U.S. distribution by The Weinstein Company (TWC).

Directed by Mamma Mia!'s Phyllida Lloyd, and featuring Jim Broadbent as Thatcher's husband, Denis, The Iron Lady is expected to hit U.S. theaters some time in 2011. That, of course, means the 17th Oscar nomination for Meryl Streep, and quite possibly a nod (whether as lead or supporting actor) for Jim Broadbent as well. Remember, TWC was the company behind the multi-Oscared The King's Speech.

Written by Abi Morgan, The Iron Lady is described thus in the TWC press release:

… a surprising and intimate portrait of Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), the first and only female Prime Minister of The United Kingdom. One of the 20th century's most famous and influential women, Thatcher came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male dominated world.

In other words, expect something along the lines of The Queen and The King's Speech, instead of a hard-hitting look at the woman who did her best to destroy Britain's welfare state.

TWC acquired The Iron Lady in partnership with Ron Burkle. It's their third joint acquisition of 2011, following those of two Elizabeth Banks vehicles: Jesse Peretz's Our Idiot Brother, also featuring Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel, and Jacob Aaron Estes' The Details, with Tobey Maguire and Laura Linney.

Photo: Pathe UK / TWC

Los Angeles Film Festival Gala Screenings: Ryan Reynolds + Ryan Gosling

Also at the Los Angeles Film Festival 2011: the world premiere of Chris Weitz's A Better Life and the North American premiere of Nicolas Winding Refn's Palme d'Or competitor Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.

Best known at this stage for handling a vampire (Robert Pattinson), a werewolf (Taylor Lautner), and the woman between (Kristen Stewart) in The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Chris Weitz has now tackled a low-budget, socially conscious drama featuring plain old human beings.

The LAFF's press release describes A Better Life as “the poignant, suspenseful tale of an illegal immigrant in LA struggling to build a better life for his beloved son.”

Written by Eric Eason from a story by Roger L. Simon, A Better Life stars Demián Bichir, José Julián, Dolores Heredia, Joaquín Cosío and Carlos Linares.

A former child actor, Ryan Gosling – Drive's mob-connected, unnamed Driver – has evolved into a well-regarded adult performer in independent and mainstream productions such as Nick Cassavetes' sleeper hit The Notebook (2004); Ryan Fleck's Half Nelson, for which Gosling received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination; Craig Gillespie's Lars and the Real Girl (2006), which earned Gosling a Golden Globe nomination; and Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine (2010), which earned him his second Golden Globe nod. Besides Drive, this year Ryan Gosling was seen in George Clooney's The Ides of March, and in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's Crazy Stupid Love.

Summit Entertainment will have a limited release of the film on June 24.

Winding Refn's Drive is described as a “precision-crafted crime caper” in which Ryan Gosling plays “a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for criminal operations by night.”

Written by Hossein Amini from a book by James Sallis, Drive also features Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Ron Perlman and Christina Hendricks,

FilmDistrict will release Drive on Sept. 16.

Photo via totalfilm.com.

'Green Lantern' at the Los Angeles Film Festival

Martin Campbell's Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds, will have a special screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 16 at 10:30 p.m.

Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg, Green Lantern also features Blake Lively, Peter SarsgaardMark StrongAngela Bassett and Tim Robbins.

Though dedicated to the promotion of independent films, whether American or international, the LA Film Festival invariably promotes itself by screening a high-profile Hollywood production. Last year, it was the Robert Pattinson-Kristen Stewart-Taylor Lautner romantic triangle in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

The synopsis below is from the LA Film Festival's press release:

In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, an elite, powerful force has existed for centuries–protectors of peace and justice, they are called the Green Lantern Corps. When a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe, their fate and the fate of the Earth lie in the hands of their newest recruit, the first human ever selected: Hal Jordan.

Warner Bros. will release Green Lantern on June 17.

James Franco & Julie Taymor: Los Angeles Film Festival

James Franco and Julie Taymor will be on hand at the Los Angeles Film Festival to present films/clips and to take part onstage “conversations.”

Franco will present the world premiere of The Broken Tower, which he wrote, directed and stars in. The film depicts the “brief, burning life of the gay, visionary American poet Hart Crane.” Last year, the Academy Award-nominated Franco (127 Hours) played another gay visionary American poet, Allen Ginsberg, in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Howl. And yesterday it was announced that Franco has cast Val Lauren as Sal Mineo in Sal, Franco's planned biopic of the Rebel Without a Cause actor.

Julie Taymor, the director of Titus, Frida, Across the Universe, and The Tempest, will share behind-the-scenes clips “in a conversation about taking material from different sources and translating them to the stage and the screen.”

The Los Angeles Film Festival runs June 16-26.

Photo: Milk (Focus Features)

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  1. Lara Finde says:

    Just read that "A Better Life" is being screen by President at White House on June 1st — wow! Congrats Weitz!!!!! Can't wait to see this.