Cannes Diary: View of Nirvana through the rain

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The Independent Culture

An A-grade line-up of cinematic big hitters at this year's festival has done little to lift the gloom of a Cannes cloaked in grey drizzle on this first weekend. The mood was set by the opening film, Lemming, a bizarre thriller by a little-known French director, Dominik Moll. A young couple find their lives falling apart after a visit from the husband's boss and his malevolent wife, played by an unnerving Charlotte Rampling. Lemming plays on too many registers for comfort - surreal one minute, apparently supernatural the next.

An A-grade line-up of cinematic big hitters at this year's festival has done little to lift the gloom of a Cannes cloaked in grey drizzle on this first weekend. The mood was set by the opening film, Lemming, a bizarre thriller by a little-known French director, Dominik Moll. A young couple find their lives falling apart after a visit from the husband's boss and his malevolent wife, played by an unnerving Charlotte Rampling. Lemming plays on too many registers for comfort - surreal one minute, apparently supernatural the next.

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Inspiration has come in the unlikely shape of Kurt Cobain. Last Days, by American director Gus Van Sant, who won the Palme d'Or in Cannes two years ago with his film Elephant, has been the competition highlight so far. Based loosely on the suicide of the Nirvana singer-guitarist in 1994, the film follows an addled rock star around his run-down mansion and the surrounding woods, where he ambles around mumbling to himself, while his equally confused hangers-on ignore his presence.

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Michael Pitt, who plays the Cobain figure, seemed as slurred as his character when he met the world's press. Perhaps it was a dietary problem - the source, as he explained, of his pained performance in the film. "The whole time I was shooting it, my stomach was in pain ... I really just got gas." Too much lettuce, apparently.

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Filmed in Britain and co-financed by the BBC, Woody Allen's Match Point went down well with critics - except the British. The country houses and a baffled Scotland Yard were to be expected, perhaps, as part of the background to the tale of a socially climbing tennis coach. But this "portrait" of English life, showing outside the main competition, was judged annoyingly implausible.

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It is the same every year: an inexplicable buzz about some film that no one's seen but everyone claims to know something about. So this weekend, all eyes will be on Mexican competition entry Battle in Heaven, which by all accounts features death, oral sex and lashings of existential gloom - the sort of things it takes to keep jaded film critics awake. With big names like Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders and David Cronenberg yet to come, there is still much to hope for.

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