Cannes Film Festival Review

France's Cannes Film Festival is under way. Kenneth Turan, who reviews movies for Morning Edition and the Los Angeles Times, says the movies are surprisingly good.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The Cannes Film Festival is underway along the French Rivera, and Kenneth Turan, our film critic, is once again been pressed into service to watch movie after movie after movie. Such a struggle. Ken, of course, writes for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times, and he's on the line from his hotel in France.

Ken, hi.

KEN TURAN: How are you doing, Steve?

INSKEEP: I'm doing fine, thanks very much. How are the movies?

TURAN: The movies are actually surprisingly good. It's been a pretty solid year. It's not a spectacular year, but there are a lot of films that people are happy with.

INSKEEP: Such as?

TURAN: The first one that we saw, the Jane Campion film called "Bright Star," a really beautiful romance about John Keats, the girl next door that John Keats fell in love with at the end of his life.

INSKEEP: The poet John Keats?

TURAN: The poet John Keats, the very same. And it's just a really romantic, tragic, beautifully made film, and it really kind of took my breath away.

INSKEEP: Okay. Well, let's talk about another thing. I understand Quentin Tarantino has a World War II movie out.

TURAN: Yes, he does.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TURAN: It's called "Inglorious Basterds," and it's not your usual World War II movie. It's really best described as a World War II fantasy. It's kind of Quentin's alternate history as to way the World War II might have ended inside his own mind.

INSKEEP: Just so I understand what's happening in the Tarantino film, does this recreate World War II, but with Uma Thurman looking smashing, waving a sword, there's lots of snappy dialogue, some heads explode, and some great old music is played in the backdrop?

TURAN: Well, you've got some of it right. You know, it's said - there's no Uma Thurman, but there is a lot of his trademark violence. There's snappy dialogue. It's about a troop of Jewish-American soldiers who are sent behind the lines to kill Nazis and who end up scalping a lot of their victims. Don't ask me why. It's different than the history books, for sure.

INSKEEP: Of course, this is where people showcase their more arty films, but do you see anything there that seems like it could become a hit when it hits theaters in the United States?

TURAN: Well, there was one film I saw that I really enjoyed. That's - you know, it's a kind of film that sometimes works well in this country. It's a prison drama. It's a very intense film called "A Prophet." It's about six years in the life of a young man who goes into a prison and what happens to him during that time. It's really kind of grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. It's very well acted, very well directed. It's really the film, when they canvas the critics, this is the number one film at the festival so far.

INSKEEP: Say the name of it again.

TURAN: It's called "A Prophet."

INSKEEP: That is prophet, like a religious prophet.

TURAN: Exactly.

INSKEEP: Ken Turan, I want to ask about one other thing. I mean, you're in these theaters that are crowded with Hollywood elite, and I'm just thinking at this moment, what is the tone among the people that you're seeing in the Hollywood - in the movie industry there?

TURAN: Well, you know, what Cannes is is an international festival, and what you're really seeing are the buyers and the sellers from all over the world. The Hollywood elite doesn't come here that much anymore, especially not this year when there's no big Hollywood film in contention.

But what you really feel everywhere, everyone is worried about the economy. That's all everyone's talking about. Everyone's asking each other, is your business affected? Is - you know, are things better, are they worse? Are you glad you're here? Are you leaving early? The economy is very much on everyone's minds, and people just can't how much it's affecting things, but they're worried.

INSKEEP: I'm sure these films were all in production long before the economy got as bad as it has been in the last six or eight months, but is there any scene or film that you've seen that seems to resonate more strongly because of the economic circumstance?

TURAN: There's one film, I mean, you know, one of the things that's interesting, there's a new film here by Ken Loach, who's a British director whose films always have a social consciousness. They're always often about kind of class issues, and he has decided to make of the most lighthearted films of his entire career.

He's made a film called, "Looking for Eric," in which his hero, who is kind of a postman who's really down on his luck, starts to fanaticize about having conversations with Eric Cantona, who was one of the great soccer players of the 1990s. And Eric Cantona appears in the film as kind of this guy's conscience. And it's a very charming film, and for Ken Loach, who ordinarily would be right on top of serious issues, he's decided to step back and make something that's fun.

INSKEEP: Ken Turan is in Cannes. Thanks very much.

TURAN: Thank you, Steve.

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