Cate Blanchett scotches gay speculation

18 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Butt grab! Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara caught with their hands on their director’s derriere.

In front of banks of photographers shooting photos around the world, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara decided to give the squeeze to their Carol director Todd Haynes. Nonetheless, countless filmgoers have been doing just that over the weekend, all over this sun-kissed Cote d’Azur resort town, which plays host to the Cannes Film Festival every May. No doubt the group was feeling pretty giddy following the absolutely overwhelming response to Carol, which had its gala premiere here on Sunday — right after this photo call and a press conference in which Blanchett got serious about her love life. Nearing its midpoint, with most of the 19 competition titles yet to screen, the 2015 festival has yielded a remarkable feature filmmaking debut from Hungarian writer-director Laszlo Nemes. The film, “Son of Saul,” already has prognosticators talking about its odds, nine months from now, of winning a foreign-language film Oscar, as “Ida” won this year.

Taking place over a day and a half in October 1944, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Nemes’ film keeps the camera unnervingly close to the face, the haunted eyes and the experiences endured by one prisoner, Saul, played by Geza Rohrig as a driven ghost of a man. The Nazis have assigned Saul to the Sonderkommando, made up of Jewish prisoners treated by the Germans as a higher class of the doomed, aiding the Nazis in the death camps. The unspeakable activity of Auschwitz (the ovens, the shoveling of ashes) is never sanitized, yet it remains a deliberate, unsettling blur, just beyond complete visual clarity — much as Auschwitz itself lay just beyond a century’s perceived limits of inhumanity.

It offered readers of the day, used to a pulp fiction diet of ill-fated outsiders, a lesbian love story with that rarest of rarities in the dawning Eisenhower era: a happy ending for its women in love. In screenwriter Phyllis Nagy’s canny script adaptation, Therese (Rooney Mara, creating a fascinating cipher on the verge of self-discovery) is instead a fledgling photographer, learning to trust what she feels as she learns to capture what she sees on film. Haynes’ previous period dramas include the HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce” and, mad for Douglas Sirk melodramas, “Far From Heaven.” With a red gash of lipstick borrowed from Joan Crawford, Blanchett is a formidable screen presence.

That said, Blanchett is so spectacular in a key late scene, set in a lawyer’s office, the performance becomes a different performance, and the film becomes a different, subtler, richer sort of film. It’s the London-based Greek native’s first film in English, and, like his breakthrough head-twister “Dogtooth,” this one’s set in what appears to be the present. Reilly, Ben Whishaw and Rachel Weisz, among others, play unmarried citizens who have 45 days to find a mate and fall in love, or else they’ll be turned into the animal of their choosing. In the appropriately named Grand Theatre Lumiere, an hourlong program of brief, 50-second travelogues and sight gags by French film pioneers Louis and Auguste Lumiere, made between 1895 and 1905, served as a thrilling occasion to honor the birth of the medium. Seated on the Grand Lumiere stage during the screening, festival general director Thierry Fremaux and veteran director Bertrand Tavernier offered lively, witty commentary and context to the turn-of-the-century glimpses of Paris, London, Moscow, Istanbul, Jerusalem … and Chicago.

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