Australian erotic thriller shocks Cannes audiences

SLEEPING BEAUTY, a film billed as an erotic thriller by first-time Australian director Julia Leigh, had audiences squirming at its premiere in competition in Cannes yesterday.

It stars 22-year-old Emily Browning, best known for the lead role in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, as a student who takes a job fulfilling elderly men’s sex fantasies while asleep.

Requiring absolute submission, the job sees her drugged with a tonic that places her in a deep slumber, after which she is placed naked on a bed by her madam in the so-called Sleeping Beauty Chamber of a country mansion.

Cannes critics, generally a hardened bunch, fidgeted in disgust at some scenes. An oddly passive young woman even in her waking hours, Lucy also participates in excruciating medical trials for money.

A few audience members marched out during such scenes, but the hard-hitting experimental film drew a solid round of applause at the end.

New Zealand-born director Jane Campion, who was the first woman to win the coveted Palme d’Or, for The Piano in 1993, said the voyeuristic aspects of the film gave the audience a responsibility to wrestle with its dark themes about the elusive appeal of youth and the fear of death.

“I hope it has a strong impact on the audience one way or another. I also hope the tone or the atmosphere allows the audience to use their imagination and get involved with the film,” she said.

Woody Allen delighted the crowds with Midnight In Paris, in which Owen Wilson travels back in time and meets the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso.

Blockbusters Kung Fu Panda 2 starring Angelina Jolie and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz both launch in Cannes, as studios return en masse after avoiding the notoriously costly trip to France due to the financial crisis over the past couple of years.

The much-anticipated film about Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to power will pull no punches as it strips bare French politics, scriptwriter Patrick Rotman revealed yesterday.

The French president said he will not be seeing La Conquete, directed by Xavier Durringer, which Rotman describes as “the story of a man who conquers power and loses his wife,” Cecilia.

“I did an enormous amount of investigation,” Rotman, better known as a documentary maker, said of the film centred on the 2007 French presidential campaign.


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