Sometimes at Cannes, certain films in competition go almost unnoticed, overshadowed by a festival scandal or lost in the hype surrounding another movie in the line-up.
Such was the fate of Valéria Bruni Tedeschi's Un chateau en Italie (A Castle in Italy), the third French film in the main slate (after Ozon's Jeune et jolie and Desplechin's Jimmy P.) and the only one made by a woman. The movie is fine: an ambitious, capably directed autobiographical chronicle of a wealthy French-Italian family facing financial decline. It's by turns enlivened and bogged down by the kind of furious narcissism that is a trademark of French ensemble/relationship/family dramas.
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Wispy-voiced writer-director Bruni Tedeschi, the sister of former French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, stars in the film alongside her former real-life love, the dashingly spaced-out Louis Garrel, and mother Marisa Bruni Tedeschi. But not even the promise of juicy tidbits from the private life of one of France's most famous families could compete with the prospect of Matt Damon and Michael Douglas locking lips—and horns—in fact-based gay romance Behind the Candelabra, U.S. director Steven Soderbergh's final film (if he sticks to his word about retiring, which I hope he doesn't).
The movie, which screened early Tuesday morning before an enthusiastic press, traces the tumultuous relationship between flamboyant Vegas pianist Liberace (Douglas) and one of his much younger boyfriends, Scott Thorson (Damon). Soderbergh, with his typically seamless camerawork, punchy editing, and pleasure in recreating kitschy 1970s and '80s clothes and décor without ever veering into kitsch himself, frames the material as a sort of same-sex Sunset Boulevard: Douglas plays the vampiric Norma Desmond role to Damon's more vulnerable version of William Holden's Joe Gillis.