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CANNES WATCH: Portman eschews politics, Mara's fashion coup

Created: 05/18/2015 4:54 AM
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CANNES, France (AP) — The first week of the Cannes Film Festival came to an end this weekend with plenty of buzz. Natalie Portman talked about why her new film in Israel is not political, there was an honor for Jane Fonda and a big deal for Tom Ford.

And then there was also Sylvester Stallone, making news outside of the festival.

The Associated Press' journalists were on hand, capturing all the details:

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ROONEY MARA TAKES TOP BILLING ON RED CARPET:

Rooney Mara scored a fashion coup at the "Carol" premiere in a diaphanous white gown that upstaged her more famous co-star Cate Blanchett.

Thirty-year-old Mara plays opposite Blanchett in the captivating lesbian drama and wowed crowds Sunday with her simple, yet elegant silk dress with delicate halter neck and white make up.

Blanchett looked typically ravishing, arm in arm with director Todd Haynes.

But the 46-year-old star's shoulderless bustier dress came over a tad busy with clashing blue prints and huge proportions in the train that ushers needed to help her with.

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PORTMAN STAYS APOLITICAL (IN FILM)

Natalie Portman's directorial debut, "A Tale of Love and Darkness," is set around the time of the formation of Israel, but the Oscar-winning actress says it doesn't have a political agenda.

The film, adapted from an autobiographical novel by Amos Oz, premiered over the weekend at the Cannes Film Festival. It charts the birth of the state and a boy's initiation into the realities of disappointment and death.

"I think the movie is very much about this very particular, specific family story. Of course, it happens at a crazy moment in history, which I think is a big sort of weight on their backs. It's sort of a pressure cooker for the family, but there's not really a political agenda behind it," said Portman in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday.

"(Amos) Oz became one of Israel's leading peace advocates, so it's not the most controversial, I suppose, of political aspects to the film."

The Israeli-born Portman also wrote the screenplay and stars in the Hebrew-language feature as the boy's mother Fania, a cultured and imaginative woman whose dreams can't withstand grinding everyday reality.

For Portman, making the film in Hebrew was imperative.

"The language is so important to the story and such an important character," she said.

"Someone said to me once, 'Americans always want to make foreign movies and have French characters or Spanish characters speak English, but with a French accent or Spanish accent and it's so silly.' Could you imagine making a movie about George Washington in French and having him have an American accent in French?"

Portman's film is playing as a special screening outside of the main competition at Cannes. It's gotten a lukewarm response from critics, but at the premiere, it received a standing ovation.

— By Zara Eldridge, http://www.twitter.com/zara_younis

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LAW GETS RELIGION:

Jude Law is the new pope.

The British actor will play the fictional Pope Pius XIII in "The Young Pope," a miniseries directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino.

The series — a co-production of HBO, Sky and France's Canal Plus — was announced Sunday in Cannes, where Sorrentino's film "Youth" is competing for the Palme d'Or. Filming is due to begin this summer.

Law will play Lenny Belardo, who is thrust into the role of pope and must grapple with his faith and the powerful structures of the church.

Sorrentino, who will co-write the eight-part series, said it would explore "the inner struggle between the huge responsibility of the Head of the Catholic Church and the miseries of the simple man that fate (or the Holy Spirit) chose as pontiff."

—By Jill Lawless, http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

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JANE FONDA BLASTS GENDER GAP:

Jane Fonda is starring in a film at Cannes, but she also came to the film festival to pick up an honor.

Fonda was celebrated by the Cannes Film Festival and luxury goods company Kering for her contribution to cinema Sunday as the first honoree of the "Women in Motion" program. It recognizes the work of women on the big screen.

When asked about the pay divide in Hollywood, Fonda was spirited in her response.

"Of course it upsets me that women are still earning 30 cents per dollar less than a man earns doing exactly the same work," she said in an interview a day prior to her honor. "It's unacceptable and it must change and we talk about it and we must be active in trying to create gender equity in terms of pay."

"The fact is that most film directors are men, white men. Most major roles are male roles and (it's) the reason that I'm excited about this award," she said. "Women have to become part of the very heart of movie making."

Fonda, who is currently starring in Netflix series "Grace and Frankie" opposite Lily Tomlin, is also featured in the "Youth," which is in competition at the festival.

But the Oscar winner — who dazzled on the red carpet at the premiere of Gus Van Sant's "The Sea of Trees" on Saturday night — feels there is too much of it in Hollywood.

"That's another thing that's missing, is older women in the media," she said.

—By Zara Eldridge, http://www.twitter.com/zara_younis

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TOM FORD SCORES BIG:

Tom Ford's second film has been acquired by Focus Features in the biggest sale yet at Cannes.

Focus announced Sunday that it has acquired the worldwide rights to Ford's upcoming thriller "Nocturnal Animals," with Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal to star. The film marks the second film for the fashion designer following the 2009 drama "Single Man," with Colin Firth.

After Ford pitched the film to buyers during the festival, it became one of the hottest properties on the market. It sold for about $20 million, making it easily the festival's biggest purchase.

Ford will write, direct and produce the film, which is based on Austin Wright's novel "Tony and Susan." Focus chief executive Peter Schlessel called it a "romantic tale of revenge and regret." It's about an art gallery owner haunted by her ex-husband's novel.

Production on "Nocturnal Animals" is planned to begin this fall.

— AP Film Writer Jake Coyle, http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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ROLLER-COASTER ROMANCE:

Relationship drama "My King" pairs Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel, two of the busiest people in Cannes.

Bercot stars in the French film as one half of a couple enduring a roller-coaster 10-year romance, and also directed the festival's opener, juvenile-delinquent drama "Standing Tall."

Cassel plays her charming, possessive partner — the king of the partly ironic title. He's also in two other royalty-themed Cannes entries, appearing as a lustful fairy-tale king in Matteo Garrone's "Tale of Tales" and lending his voice to animated "The Little Prince."

Directed by French actress-filmmaker Maiwenn, "My King" is a female take on relationships, in a year when the place of women in the film industry is being hotly debated at Cannes.

"My King" is one of only two female-directed films among 19 competing for the Palme d'Or, and "Standing Tall" — which is not in competition — is the first film by a woman to open the festival since the 1980s.

"People keep referring to women here, women there," Maiwenn said, a touch wearily, at a press conference for "My King" Sunday. "Maybe in a couple of years' time they will start saying there aren't enough Moroccans ... We aren't chosen because of our gender or this or that. We're chosen because of our film."

"My King" is unmistakably the work of a female director, offering an intense and sometimes humorous take on male-female relationships.

Both characters torment one another, but the story unfolds from the point of view of Bercot's Tony, as she falls in and out of love with Cassel's duplicitous Georgio.

"In the script I felt the character was really despicable and I made tremendous efforts ... to save him," said 48-year-old Cassel, who played the mercurial choreographer in Darren Aronofsky's ballet drama "Black Swan."

"I really fought for the status of men. People say it's difficult being a woman, and I've no doubt about that, but it's also difficult being a man — especially in a love story."

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SLY THE ARTISTE:

Last year at the Cannes Film Festival, Sylvester Stallone and his merry band of musclemen were rumbling down the Croisette in tanks to promote their film "The Expendables 3." This year, Stallone is on the French Riviera, but for a completely different, understated reason — his artwork.

While Stallone is best known for his action films, he's also a painter, and he presented his creations at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice on Saturday. The retrospective includes his work from 1975 to this year.

While the show is near Cannes, it wasn't intentional.

"It is a coincidence," he said in an interview Saturday. "I'm here for this, so I'm not here to do anything affiliated with films."

The exhibit includes a piece titled "Finding Rocky," featuring perhaps the most famous character he has ever played. Stallone said "Rocky" was certainly an early inspiration, but now other things spark his interest.

"There is no way you can't be affected by what you see on the television, by what you see on the street and so it definitely sinks into the work too," he said. "I won't say pessimistic but it's questioning you know . What is life, what is all about, is it worth of it."

But Stallone doesn't think too deeply about the message his art is conveying — and doesn't want others to either.

"My art isn't one that educates, you know, it's not making social statements, it's not drawing conclusions, it's not declaring what is right, it is not political," he said. "It's just one man's struggle and success and all emotions you go along in life, ups and downs."

The exhibit runs until May 30th.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — "Cannes Watch" brings you the excitement of the Cannes Film Festival and related events through the reporting of AP journalists on the ground. Follow them on Twitter with the handles listed after each item. Longer versions of most items have also moved.

(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)



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