Dark-Horse French Film Bests Hollywood at Cannes

Yachts pull up anchor in southern France as judges in Cannes issue the festival's Palme d'Or to Entre les Murs (The Class), a film about a year in the life of a French school teacher. NPR's Guy Raz talks with Charles Ealy, who is covering Cannes for the Austin American Statesman.

GUY RAZ, host:

The yachts are pulling anchor in the south of France. The judges at the Cannes Film Festival have made up their minds. And to tell us who the winners are, we turn once again to the man in Cannes, Charles Ealy, who's covering the festival for the Austin American Statesman. Charles, welcome.

Mr. CHARLES EALY (Reporter, Austin American Statesman): Thank you.

RAZ: So Charles, you just got back from the awards ceremony. And the big winner is?

Mr. EALY: It's called "The Class." In French it's called "Entre les Murs." And it's about a classroom teacher in a French school.

RAZ: Wait a minute - there were movies by Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh, Charlie Kaufman, the guy who did "Being John Malkovich." The jury gave the big prize, the Palme d'Or, to what?

Mr. EALY: That's right, "Entre les Murs." Believe it or not, it was a very popular selection. It played on Saturday morning, the last film to screen in competition, and it was quite good.

RAZ: What's it about?

Mr. EALY: It's about a teacher who wrote a book about one year in a class in a French school, and it became a very popular hit in France. And the teacher himself is the star of the movie, so it's a pretty good story.

RAZ: So, it's like a docudrama?

Mr. EALY: Essentially, yes.

RAZ: Now, how did some of the big-name Hollywood flicks play out at Cannes? I mean, occasionally some of the big Hollywood films just get trashed.

Mr. EALY: Right.

RAZ: Anything like that happen this time?

Mr. EALY: Yeah, a little bit. "Two Lovers" was not very popular. That's the movie by James Gray starring Joaquin Phoenix.

RAZ: Any hissing in the theater?

Mr. EALY: Not for that one, but there was quite a bit of hissing after the screening of "Frontier of Dawn," a French movie about two lovers who commit suicide.

RAZ: Why the hissing?

Mr. EALY: It was awful.

RAZ: Now, Benicio del Toro won Best Actor for "Che," the biopic. This is a really long movie. It's like five hours or something, right?

Mr. EALY: Yeah. It's over four and a half hours.

RAZ: And it's in Spanish as well?

Mr. EALY: Yes, it is.

RAZ: So, how is that going to play out in the U.S.?

Mr. EALY: Well, I don't think Steven Soderbergh, the director, had much of a choice. I mean, if you're going to make a movie about cultural imperialism and the revolt against it, you're not going to make it in English.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: So, maybe they can split it in two and show it.

Mr. EALY: I think that's what they're going to do. They want to show it as sort of an event movie of five hours in length to begin with for maybe about a week, and then split it in two movies.

RAZ: Charles Ealy, Cannes is, obviously, famous for all the celebrity moments that take place. Is there anything that you saw this past week that, you know, surprised you?

Mr. EALY: The Charlie Kaufman response to questions about his movie, "Schenectady, New York," was the most interesting. There's one part of the movie where Samantha Morton buys a house that's on fire and lives in it for the rest of the movie as it burns. It's very confusing to a lot of people.

And Charlie believes in ambiguity. And so he leaves interpretations of his movie up to viewers. And he refused to answer any questions about it and so, that caused a lot of confusion among some people.

RAZ: He refused to answer any questions about his own film that he was going there to promote?

Mr. EALY: Well, he answered questions, but he would not explain why certain scenes had any significance.

RAZ: People were asking him, you know, what does that mean?

Mr. EALY: Yeah.

RAZ: And he just said…

Mr. EALY: Absolutely nothing. He would not - he said, draw your own conclusions.

RAZ: So you've been there for two weeks now. Are you just getting sick of it? Ready to come home?

Mr. EALY: No, not at all. I could spend two more weeks over here.

RAZ: Charles Ealy, the man in Cannes for the Austin American Statesman, thanks for joining us.

Mr. EALY: Thank you so much.

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