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Cannes #8: Sex, awards & film

Guillermo del Toro, whose "Pan's Labyrinth" closed the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. He is one of the masters of horror and the macabre.

CANNES, France – It probably won’t happen this way, but wouldn’t everyone be pleased if Gerard Depardieu won the best actor award at Cannes this year. The festival’s awards are given out Sunday night (12:30 p.m. CDT), and Depardieu received a tumultuous ovation Friday as the star of “Quand j’etais Chanteur,” or “The Singer.” Depardieu’s character reminded many audience members of the actor himself: A beefy middle-aged artist still slugging away at a job he loves, smoking too much, adamantly on the wagon, given new hope by his feelings for a much younger woman (Cecile De France). “I’ve been written off a lot of times,” he tells her, “but I always bounce back.”

The film, directed by Xavier Giannoli, is sentimental but not soppy, showing the singer as a specialist in romantic ballads at mixers for middle-aged single people “afraid of discos.” Depardieu does all his own singing, most memorably “Save the Last Dance for Me” sung directly to De France as she dances with his rival. It’s not a great movie but it’s such a quintessential Depardieu performance that, who knows, the jury might lean that way.

You hear a lot of predictions about this year’s winners, many of them, like my mention of Depardieu, based more on hope than reality. The jury is headed by the Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai, himself a specialist in unrequited love, and its best-known members (to North Americans) are Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham-Carter and Ziyi Zhang.

Speculation is that the Palme d’Or for best film could go to Pedro Almodovar's “Volver,” with Penelope Cruz playing a character inspired by his mother; it played early in the festival and has been a favorite ever since. Or perhaps to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's “Babel,” three interlocking stories of lives disrupted by borders. Or to Rachid Bouchareb's “Days of Glory,” about the North African French colonials who fought and died for the “homeland” in World War Two and were ill-treated for their sacrifices. Or, more and more on the last day, Sofia Coppola "Marie Antoinette" was mentioned.

Best actress could be Cruz, or Kirsten Dunst for Coppola's “Marie Antoinette,” or possibly Adriana Barraza, who plays a Mexican nanny in “Babel.” Best actor might go to one of the Algerian actors in “Days of Glory,” or Giacomo Rizzo, who plays a sour-tempered skinflint money-lender in Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Family Friend.” Stock in Coppola’s film has gone up since exaggerated early reports that it was booed at the festival, and it will probably win a major award; if not actress, then director, or perhaps a special prize for its decor and costumes.

A few films in the competition are still to play, notably “Pan's Labyrinth,” a Spanish film by the popular Guillermo Del Toro, whose Hollywood work includes "Blade II" and "Hellboy." It was del Toro, at an official festival dinner Thursday night, who defined the film festival awards as “like getting laid after a disco night -- there’s a flurry of passion, not always in the right order.”

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A Chicagoan, Jim Stern, is a prominent player at Cannes this year; his Endgame Entertainment is one of the investors in Todd Haynes' “I'm Not There,” a biopic about Bob Dylan that will film this summer. The film has received a lot of attention because of the actors who will portray Dylan in various incarnations. They include Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Ben Wishaw and Cate Blanchett. Yes, Cate Blanchett.

Stern’s participation got front-page notice in the British trade paper Screen International, which said his company is drawing on “an equity base of $100 million.”

A former Chicagoan also got a lot of publicity at week’s end: Hugh Hefner was here to celebrate his 80th birthday on board a yacht in the harbor. He visited the American Pavilion to cut his birthday cake, accompanied by more girlfriends than any one man probably requires but a good many men probably envy.

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No, the Cannes awards will not be seen on American TV this year. IFC, which carried them live, and Bravo, which repeated them in the evening, have dropped their coverage. That means you will not be able to hear my commentary with its spectacular mispronunciations, and the patient Annette Insdorf correcting me in six languages.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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