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'Amour' Captures Buzz At Cannes Film Festival


Now to the south of France, where the Cannes Film Festival is in full swing. It's the 65th anniversary of the gathering celebrating cinema as high art.

Our movie reviewer Kenneth Turan is on the line from Cannes, to tell us about some of the movies that will be coming our way. Welcome, Ken.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Good to be here, Renee.

MONTAGNE: OK. So what films seem to be getting the most attention? Let's just start with that.

TURAN: Well, there's one film that's on the top of everyone's list - which is unusual in and of itself, that everyone's focused on one. It's a new film by Michael Haneke, who's an Austrian director. He makes, usually, very severe - kind of almost pitiless movies.

But this new one is called "Amour." It stars two French actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. And they play a couple who's been married for decades, a couple in their 80s. The wife has a series of strokes, which really render her almost incapacitated. And this is a really intense look at how their lives devolve once this happens.

The other two buzz films at Cannes are also films from foreign lands. There's another film with French actors, called "Rust and Bone"; French director Jacques Audiard, who did "A Prophet" last year. This one, it's a very unusual love story. It sounds very strange, but it plays out wonderfully on the screen. It stars Marion Cotillard as an orca trainer - a trainer of killer whales - who loses her legs in a killer whale attack. And she meets a - kind of a thuggish kind of security guard played by Matthias Schoenaerts, a wonderful Belgian actor who we're going to be really hearing a lot more about. And this is about the relationship between the two of them.

The third film, it's called "No." It stars Gael Garcia Bernal. It's a Chilean film about the end of the regime of General Pinochet. It's about a TV campaign to kind of convince people to vote against a dictatorship, which was very difficult to do. And it's about an advertising man who decided that the way to get people to vote against it was to sell this anti-dictatorship campaign like it was selling a soft drink. And it's a totally fascinating film.

MONTAGNE: OK. But you wrote in the L.A. Times that American films are in - the way you put it - thick in the main competition this year. Tell us about some of those American films.

TURAN: Well, there are several of them. The one that comes to mind immediately is "On the Road," from the great Jack Kerouac novel. It's directed by the Brazilian director Walter Salles. It's got a very handsome cast, and it really captures the spirit of the Kerouac novel; this sense of the search for experience, for finding yourself. Really well done.

There's a new film by Wes Anderson. It's called "Moonrise Kingdom." It's got a lot of big names: Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray. But the main story is about two 12-year-olds who form a really passionate love for each other. It's as kind of oddly endearing, and endearingly odd, as it sounds.

Another American film stars Brad Pitt. It's called "Killing Them Softly." It's a gangster film. It's very stylish, very violent, a lot of great dialogue - and the kind of thing that really, the French seem to look to Americans for. If there is a violent American film, it'll often find its way into the competition here.

MONTAGNE: Well, another American at Cannes this year with a new documentary is someone we associate more with PBS, and that's Ken Burns.

TURAN: Yes. Ken Burns has a contemporary documentary. He co-directed it with his daughter Sarah and his son-in-law David McMahon. And this is a film called "The Central Park Five." It starts with this 1989 case, the Central Park jogger rape - which probably everyone who was around at that time remembers; a really horrific crime. Five teenagers confessed to the crime, were sentenced to prison, put away; everyone didn't think twice about it. And it turns out, they were all innocent; it's been conclusively proved they were innocent. These confessions were coerced, and this film goes into a lot. It really shows us how that happened; how the whole city kind of willed the fact that these kids must have done it, to kind of get it off their plate.

MONTAGNE: And it's not just new releases coming out of Cannes. The festival is also screening, I gather, restored prints of some classic movies.

TURAN: Yes. One of the biggest crowds I saw here was - it's got - packed room, to show the 1927 Alfred Hitchcock film "The Ring," a restored silent film about boxing. That was one of Hitchcock's early successes; most people have barely heard of it. And it was like, you know, hammer and tongs, people fighting to get in to see it. People really love film at Cannes. They love all aspects of it and that's really, you know, what makes it worth being here.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. And he's speaking to us from the Cannes Film Festival in France. Thanks very much.

TURAN: Thank you, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.