Published May 18, 2007
Louis Malle’s famous film, "Murmur of the Heart," caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971 when it depicted a mother and son having sexual relations.
The producers of "Savage Grace" can only hope for such publicity nowadays. The film screened Friday at the Directors’ Fortnight section of the festival, with Julianne Moore playing real-life crazy and eventually murdered mother Barbara Daly Baekeland, wife of the grandson of the creator of Bakelite.
Bakelite, of course, is the hard plastic-like material that became a craze in the 1930s in jewelry, dinnerware and even telephones. But its success brought the third generation of the Baekeland family nothing but misery, as the great-grandson Tony infamously murdered his own mother in cold blood.
In this beautifully stylized version of the story, Moore — in a heartbreaking, harrowing performance — portrays Barbara Daly Baekeland as a chilly, suicidal, confused, smothering mother who abuses her son one too many times.
Let it be said that the burbling sexual tensions of the movie got even the Cannes press audience to exclaim a few gasps at the screening. It’s nice to see that not everyone is jaded. What the commercial prospects are for "Savage Grace," I’m not sure, but without a doubt it’s a film that will be much talked about. Presented properly, Moore is likely to get a lot of award attention. So, too, is Stephan Dillane as her hopeless husband, heir to the Bakelite fortune.
Among the many “shocks” that should cause some controversy: a kind of ménage a trois among Moore, her lover (played by Hugh Dancy) who is gay and her teenage son (Eddie Redmayne, the kid who played Matt Damon’s improbably grown kid in “The Good Shepherd”). Now at least you know why the producers debuted this film in France.
“Savage Grace” is based on a book by two very good writers, Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson. I have no idea how true it is, but whatever Baekelands are left can’t be too happy about it.
Bakelite is now very collectable, in museums and galleries, etc. It’s important to note, however, that no Bakelite is shown in the film until the very end when a cream colored phone is panned over.
Moore is the film’s greatest asset; that much cannot be disputed. She’s made a career now playing fragile women from the '50s and '60s. They are each different, yet of one piece. It’s funny, too, because if you’ve met or interviewed her, no one could be more contemporary. While “Savage Grace” is a terrific addition to her resume, I hope Moore gets to move into the '90s or maybe even the '00s.
More on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie” presentation, more that is besides the whole stunt on the beach yesterday.
As for that stunt — Jerry, dressed in a bee costume, propelled along a cable from the top of the Carlton Hotel to the end of the beach pier in front of it. I watched the whole thing with Jerry’s wife Jessica, who’d flown over for a couple of days but was eager to get home to their three small kids. Their eldest daughter, Sasha, 6, broke her leg recently after breaking an arm.
“People are going to wonder what’s going on,” Jessica quipped. But little Sasha is a cherub who likes to bounce and dance, as I’ve witnessed at a couple of public events. She’s got the clown gene.
But wasn’t Jessica worried about Jerry’s stunt?
“If you lived in my house, it’s just part of our normal life,” she laughed. She had not watched Jerry’s 4 a.m. rehearsal of the bee buzz, so the two round trips yesterday morning were just as new to her. Frankly, I think when Jessica — who runs a successful charity called Baby Buggy —saw the stunt in action, she turned a little pale.
By the way, Seinfeld was not the only one to try the cable stunt on a harness. At that 4 a.m. ride, Dreamworks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg tried it too — albeit not in the bee suit. “It was awesome,” he said. I’m sure his wife was thrilled by this, too.
Just before the whole stunt biz, we did get to see about a half-hour of “Bee Movie” clips in various states of animation readiness. We also got a bit of Seinfeld stand-up, and saw two of about 20 clips that Seinfeld has prepared for NBC to air this fall as teasers.
Why did NBC accept the teasers, which are about two minutes long each? “Frankly,” he said, “they were looking for stuff.”
Seinfeld says “Bee Movie” came about during a dinner he had in the Hamptons with Steven Spielberg. Making small talk during a lull in the conversation, Seinfeld jokingly suggested a “B movie with bees.” Spielberg liked the idea so much he called Katzenberg from the table. To hear Seinfeld tell it, he was shocked. “I had no intention of making any movie,” he said.
And yet “Bee Movie” looks to be hilarious. Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, Rip Torn, Chris Rock and Patrick Warburton (Puddy, from the "Seinfeld" show) are featured. Jerry plays Barry, a bee that wants to get out on his own from the hive. The bees, you see, live in New Hive Park. They watch “Hive at Five” on TV.
In a funny send up of “The Graduate,” Kathy Bates and director Barry Levinson voice his parents. Several of Jerry’s stand-up comedy buddies have small speaking parts as various insects. Sting makes a very funny appearance when he’s forced to explain his name to a cross-examining bee in court. And apropos of nothing, Ray Liotta becomes a running joke in the film, and is featured. Oprah Winfrey and Larry King also have cameos.
“Bee Movie” looks and feels like a mega hit. And for Cannes, it was just the needed shot of adrenalin on an otherwise lackluster second day. Everyone here is still wondering how David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” a movie already come and gone in America, was selected as the main feature on Thursday night. It was, to use a phrase bees might like, a buzz kill.
Jude Law has been making the rounds since “My Blueberry Nights” opened the festival on Wednesday night. He’s been in close talks with the folks at Sony Pictures Classics about his remake of “Sleuth” co-starring Michael Caine.
The film gets released in November, and Law and Caine are already said to be exceptional in it. But now for the tweaking. As Law is also executive producer, he’s taking notes from studio execs and earning high marks for his understanding of film. Bravo. …
The hottest film right now on the Croisette: “Control,” directed by Anton Corbijn. It’s about Ian Curtis, the 23-year-old leader of the early '80s punk rock band Joy Division. Curtis committed suicide, and the band became New Order. Once the subject of “24 Hour Party People,” Curtis and his musician friends from Manchester are so deftly portrayed in “Control” that the movie has taken off. Everyone wants to see it or release it. I’ve already downloaded “She’s Lost Control” and “Transmission” from Rhapsody.
More reports from Cannes on Saturday and Sunday…