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Vivid Sunday for Argentine cinema in Cannes

Actor Sylvester Stallone and cast members of the film The Expendables 3 pose on the red carpet.

Diego Lerman, Pablo Fendrik, Lisando Alonso premiere latest films on French Riviera

Three Argentine films premiered yesterday in Cannes, one day after the raving reviews and standing ovation for Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales, which critics gave the thumbs up as a serious contender for this year’s Palme d’Or.

As for the newer Argentine entries in the French Riviera film fest, Diego Lerman presented Refugiado in The Directors’ Fortnight, Pablo Fendrik’s El ardor premiered in the official selection Out of Competition, while Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja got a good start in the Un Certain Regard competitive section.

Lerman, focusing on a case of gender violence, follows a woman running away with her little boy, trying to find a refuge from her abusive husband. Starring Julieta Díaz and newcomer Sebastián Molinaro as the runaway family, Lerman’s film enjoyed a warm reception in Cannes yesterday.

“Plangent without being cloying, this is a solid issue-driven drama straight out of the Dardennes Brothers/Ken Loach/Andrea Arnold school of handheld social realism — that’s probably no bad thing for its international distribution prospects. Plus, it’s exactly the sort of gritty issue-anchored movie film festivals love,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Leslie Felperin wrote.

Pablo Fendrik’s El ardor, an Argentine Western starring Gael García Bernal in a store depicting the clash between a group of tobacco growers and a pack of mercenaries working for companies burning down the jungle along the edge of the Rio Parana. Fendrik is in Cannes for a third time, after presenting El Asaltante in 2007 and La sangre brota in 2008.

“While distinguished by its lush settings and mystical-elemental vein, the film is somewhat ponderous and low on narrative muscle. But the smoldering presence of leads Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga should give the handsome production a boost in Latin markets,” The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney wrote yesterday.

Moving on to the attention-grabbing Un Certain Regard section: Lisandro Alonso presented Jauja (Land of Plenty), a period feature starring Viggo Mortensen as a Danish officer searching for his runaway daughter in the wilds of 1880s Argentina.

The fifth opus by Alonso, who has so far managed the rare performance of having all his films featured in Cannes, was praised by the critics, with The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young writing that “cult director Lisandro Alonso widens his scope in a delicate and enigmatic reflection on the legacy of European imperialism. Its reception in Cannes’ Certain Regard was ecstatic, and the long list of co-producing countries guarantees the film will travel.”

Stallone’s ‘arthritic’ action heroes roll their tanks on beachfront

Tanks rolled down the beachfront in Cannes yesterday, as Sylvester Stallone led an invasion of action stars “with arthritis” to publicize The Expendables 3.

Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson waved at fans from three tanks that drove slowly down the main boulevard in the French Riviera town where the international film festival is in its fifth day.

Later, when the cast of the film walked the red carpet at the main festival venue, they held up signs saying “Bring back our girls” in support of the campaign to free the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militants.

The film, which is not in competition, also features Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and Wesley Snipes and the cast was asked by reporters to describe just what makes a good action star.

“You have to be incredibly intelligent, handsome, sexy, good teeth, high IQ, a lot of hair...” Stallone joked. “What makes the audience like a person, it’s not a matter of muscles,” he told a news conference. “There’s something that’s almost intangible and I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s very rare because there have only been about 15 action heroes, real serious ones, in history.”

Stallone acknowledged that he and the rest of the cast belonged to a “different generation,” but still had the energy and drive to make an exciting, contemporary film.

“We’re all like very adult children,” Stallone said. “We are children with arthritis. We are young forever.”

Tommy Lee Jones turns the western on its head

Actor and director Tommy Lee Jones turned the Western on its head at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday with The Homesman, about a perilous journey to escort three women back east after they are driven mad by frontier life. It co-stars Jones and two-time Oscar best-actress winner Hilary Swank.

Based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout, The Homesman includes the usual gunfights and hostile Indians, though at a press conference Jones rejected the idea that the portrayal of native Americans was a “stereotype.”

The people playing the Indians were “all native Americans, they were all of Pueblo descent,” Jones said. Even the costumes they wore were thoroughly researched to help them look like the hostile Pawnees they portray in the movie. “I’m not ashamed of the fact that they were considered by our characters to be potentially homicidal. We were not bending the truth at all or stereotyping anybody,” he said.

What is unusual is the stark portrayal of the extreme hardships faced by young women trying to survive, raise families and cope with extreme weather and disease. One of the madwomen had three babies die of diphtheria.

Nebraska, where the movie is set, was “not a really inviting place for a woman of the Victorian era,” Jones said. “We’re talking about a time that was extreme in every way,” Swank said. “It was a hard, hard time, a hard place to live — the elements, the idea of doing it alone, the idea of wanting a partner to share in it, someone to love, someone to have your back.”

Herald with online media

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