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Cannes Film Festival Keeps Kenneth Turan Coming Back


Well, let's go now to that hotbed of cinema and international stars of the big screen: the Cannes Film Festival. Our movie reviewer, Kenneth Turan, has been taking in all the movies and sites from the south of France. He's on the line with us. Hey, Ken.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: How are you doing?

GREENE: Well. How are you doing there?

TURAN: I'm still standing.

GREENE: I guess that's a good sign. The movies are keeping you awake there.

TURAN: Yes. They're bolstering my spirits.

GREENE: I know you're on the French Riviera, but there's some well-known American directors playing quite well there, and the first movie really has an American name. It's called "Nebraska."

TURAN: Yeah. This is a new film by Alexander Payne, you know, best-known for "Sideways." And it's really just a wonderful film. It stars Bruce Dern as an old man with dementia who's convinced he's won one of these magazine sweepstakes and convinces his son to drive him to Nebraska from Montana, where he lives, to collect his million dollars. And they end up - you know, they have adventures along the way. I mean, it's funny. It's poignant. It's really, you know, everything we're kind of looking for in a film.

GREENE: Sounds like a touching road trip story.

TURAN: It really is. It really is.

GREENE: Well, another American movie is from the Coen Brothers, of course, famous for "Fargo," which I loved.

TURAN: Yes. This is called "Inside Llewyn Davis." It's set in Greenwich Village in the late 1950s during the folk music era. This is the era right before Bob Dylan showed up and changed everything. This is not only a funny film, but it's really - they care about this period. They're not making fun of it. This is a sincere film, but very much in the Coen Brothers fashion.

GREENE: And Robert Redford in a leading role in a film there.

TURAN: Yeah. This is a very unusual film altogether. It's called "All Is Lost." It's by JC Chandor, who did "Margin Call." And Redford plays an unnamed sailor who's on a solo voyage and has terrible things happen to him, and he has to try and survive. And he's the whole movie. And he doesn't hardly say a word. You just see him dealing, coping with all these terrible things that happen to him on the high seas, and it's one of the surprises of Cannes, I think.

GREENE: Reminds me of the challenge Tom Hanks had in "Castaway," I mean, just not speaking that much and finding a way to act in that way.

TURAN: Yeah, no, it's a real challenge. I mean, it's even harder here, because he's just got this tiny boat. He doesn't have a big island to kind of wander around on. He's just got the boat.

GREENE: What about foreign films? I gather this is probably not a place for all American movies.

TURAN: No, no, no. I mean, there are movies from all over the world. That's one of the real lures of Cannes. I mean, I think the one - the highest profile one and the one that I've enjoyed most is called "The Past." It's by Asghar Farhadi. His name may not be familiar, but his last film, "A Separation," won the Oscar, and it's quite a strong film.

And this is quite a good film, as well. It stars Berenice Bejo, who was the star of "The Artist." She plays a French woman who's been married to an Iranian man, and he comes back to France at her request to give her a divorce. It is just very intense personally, the way "A Separation" was, and we just don't see a lot of films like this anymore. This is the kind of thing that Hollywood used to make, that it doesn't make anymore. So it's great to see them coming from somewhere.

GREENE: Ken, I can just hear the enthusiasm in your voice about this festival. And you wrote a piece in the L.A. Times admitting quite openly that you first covered the Cannes Film Festival 42 years ago, 1971. I mean, I - what are some of your impressions, you know, being there today?

TURAN: Yeah, well, it's kind of, you know, when I hear that figure, it makes me want to lie down. But, you know, it's kind of amazing that Cannes has retained its position of power here. It's one of the oldest festivals in the world, but it's still probably the most significant. It sets the agenda for the entire year, and it does that, even though it's not necessarily a friendly place.

This is a place where people walk out on films, where people boo films, where people make noises with their seats when they leave films if they're unhappy. So it's not a place that everyone, especially Hollywood, wants to bring their films. But, you know, a film that does well in Cannes, that has an impact worldwide like no other festival, films like "The Artist," films like "Amor" you know, they took off from here to win major Oscars. And everyone's aware of that, so everyone keeps coming back.

GREENE: Well, Ken, enjoy the movies, and thanks so much.

TURAN: Thank you.

GREENE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for us at MORNING EDITION, and also for the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.