Outside the Cannes Film Festival screening rooms, two French directors in competition, François Ozon and Abdellatif Kechiche, have brought a dash of unexpected drama to the Croisette by landing in the middle of very different controversies. Ozon, whose terrific Jeune et jolie (Young and Pretty) chronicles a year in the life of a teenage girl who becomes a prostitute, drew fire for his comment in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that "it's a fantasy of many women to prostitute themselves." Yikes. Kechiche, for his part, was slammed in the wake of the justifiably rapturous reception given to La vie d'Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Color) for allegedly subjecting the film's crew to excruciating working conditions and failing to pay them for overtime. Ouch.
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Meanwhile, the competition continued Friday morning with the press screening of one of the most anxiously awaited—and divisive—works of this year's edition: U.S. filmmaker James Gray's period piece The Immigrant, starring French actress Marion Cotillard (in her first American lead role), Gray regular Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner.
The 44-year-old, New York-based Gray is a bit of an oddity in U.S. cinema: a writer-director of dark, unironic melodramas and crime films that combine a polished formal classicism with noir-ish flourishes and plots straight out of Shakespeare or Greek tragedy.
His last three films—the very fine The Yards (2000), the less assured We Own the Night (2007), and Two Lovers (2008), his most distinctive, haunting movie to date—were all in competition here, making him a bit of a rock star in Europe even as he's remained on the margins of the American film industry.