Coppola, Cruz Two Highlights from Cannes

Film critic Kenneth Turan talks about what he's seen so far at the Cannes Film Festival. Turan weighs in on French reaction to Sophia Coppola's new film about Marie Antoinette, and says Penelope Cruz gives one of her career-best performances in Pedro Almodova's Volver. He also highlights an unusual sports film about the star of the French soccer team.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Cannes International Film Festival is underway on the French Riviera. Twenty movies are competing this year for the top prize, known as the Golden Palm.

Los Angeles film critic Kenneth Turan is in Cannes and has seen quite a few films at this point. And he's on the line with us.

A lot of films, huh?

Mr. KENNETH TURAN (Film Critic): More than is good for me, Renee.

MONTAGNE: About the only thing I've heard, and it's quite a bit of news that's come out of Cannes, is that Sofia Coppola's film, Marie Antoinette, was booed.

Mr. DURAN: Well, this is the kind of thing that seems overdone in the press. There were a few boos, but really, these are political boos, not aesthetic boos.

The French critics who had seen the film earlier overwhelmingly liked it. There's a feeling in France that they don't want Marie Antoinette portrayed in any kind of favorable light, and they don't want Americans messing with their history. So this is kind of like a political stand, having nothing to do with the quality of the film.

MONTAGNE: It is a revisionist film about this infamous historical figure. Tell us about the film itself.

Mr. DURAN: Yeah, well, it's not so much revisionist as kind of a different point of view. It's really trying to present her kind of as she saw herself, to kind of get into her head.

Sofia Coppola was fascinated by the idea that she was a teenager when she became the queen of France, and her husband was barely 20. And this is like what life was like for them, and it's got a very modern sensibility. There's a lot of very beautiful pastel color schemes. There's a lot of contemporary rock music that really fits very well.

I mean, it just doesn't feel contrived. It's really a charming, very personal slice of history. And I think it came off quite well.

MONTAGNE: So what else have you seen?

Mr. DURAN: Well, the film that I like best is a film by Pedro Almodovar. It's called Vulver. It stars Penelope Cruz, and probably the best performance she's ever given.

It's a warmer film for Almodovar. It's really a kind of a tribute to the women in his life when he was growing up, and it's quite, quite charming.

I also saw a fascinating soccer film called Zidane. Zidane is the top French soccer player. He's the captain, I think, of their World Cup team. And the filmmakers picked a typical game and they hired 17 cameramen and all these 17 cameramen did was focus on Zidane during the game. They didn't watch the goals, they didn't watch anything but him. So it's kind of half a sports film and half kind of a conceptual art piece, two things that usually don't go together.

And there's a third film I really liked, which has been kind of a surprise of the festival. It's called Days of Glory. It's a French film.

It's kind of a French Saving Private Ryan, or actually I should say a North African Saving Private Ryan. It's about all the troops from North Africa who fought on the French side during World War II, and really were treated quite badly. It's still a controversial issue in France. And this is a very strong film, very powerful emotional film, about an unusual political subject.

MONTAGNE: So Ken, do you have a sense yet of what might win the top prize this year, just briefly?

Mr. DURAN: People are talking about two films for the top prize: Volver, you know, as a popular favorite, and the other one is a film called Babel, by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who did 21 Grams. It's a film that stars Brad Pitt, you know, that' the other one that people are talking about as a possible Palme d'Or winner.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan is a film critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times, speaking to us from the Cannes Film Festival. Thanks.

Mr. DURAN: Thank you, Renee.

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