Girls go wild in Cannes contenders
"Harry Potter" star Emma Watson abandons magic for pole-dancing and cat burglary in Sophia Coppola's latest movie, one of two Cannes contenders Thursday with twists on the girls-gone-wild theme.
"The Bling Ring" is based on true events in fame-fixated Los Angeles where a gang of teenagers in 2009 broke into the mansions of celebrities including Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox.
Bundling up millions of dollars of jewellery and designer frocks, they sought to grab a piece of the A-list lifestyle, becoming minor stars themselves in the process.
The British Watson puts on a Valley Girl accent to play Nicki, the product of New Age home-schooling and flashy consumer culture who links up with a group which learn that globe-trotting stars don't bother much with home security.
Paris Hilton, who leaves her keys under her doormat, is an early victim and Coppola's camera ogles her slinky dresses, hip-hop-calibre baubles and a private nightclub festooned with animal prints.
It is there that Nicki gives Hilton's dance pole a spin, prepping for nights out clubbing when she hopes to get noticed by a producer and be cast in a music video.
And when the ring is finally caught thanks to grainy security video at another star's home and their own selfies (photographs of oneself taken with mobile phones) on Facebook, Nicki proves a master at media spin.
With the aid of an attorney and a publicist, she gives a riotous celebrity interview to Vanity Fair in which she describes her "journey" from crime to redemption by way of the Los Angeles County jail.
Opening the festival's Un Certain Regard sidebar section for edgy new cinema, "The Bling Ring" drew polite applause at a packed press screening ahead of its red-carpet premiere. Hilton, who lent Coppola her home for the filming, told trade journal Variety she planned to attend.
Britain's daily Guardian gave the picture three out of five stars, calling it "an interesting surprise".
"It's a bit self-conscious, but it interestingly collapses the distinction between fact and fiction; it puts you inside the unwholesome opium den of celeb-worship, and when the gang infiltrate Hilton's bizarre home, a Tutankhamun's tomb of kitsch, there is a real frisson," it wrote.
Meanwhile in the main competition, one of France's top directors, Francois Ozon, unveiled "Young and Beautiful" set among Paris' own gilded youth with their own ennui-driven lives on the edge.
Seventeen-year-old Isabelle, played by the stunning Marine Vacth, spends a sun-kissed summer family vacation in a villa in southern France where she loses her virginity to sweet German fellow tourist Felix.
But the experience appears traumatising, as she winces through the encounter and refuses to talk to him afterwards.
Once back to school, Isabelle inexplicably begins turning tricks, promoting herself on a website with racy photos she took in her bedroom at her mother's apartment.
One regular john is a Viagra-popping married man in his 70s. When he has a fatal heart attack during one of their trysts, Isabelle is questioned by the police and her secret double life comes to light.
No one, least of all Isabelle, can articulate why she turned to prostitution but the sly smile that crosses her rosebud lips when clients flood her phone with text messages provides a vague clue.
A final scene with the widow of her weekly date, played by Charlotte Rampling, in the same hotel room where he died is the only moment where Isabelle seems to let her guard down.
"Young and Beautiful" is one of 20 films in competition for the coveted Palme d'Or top prize at Cannes. The 12-day event wraps on May 26.
© 2013 AFP