Wed, May 11, 2011 - Page 14 News List

French cinema’s new golden couple set for Cannes

Leonardo DiCaprio has described her as ‘one of the greats.’ Now the Oscar-winning Marion Cotillard and her partner Guillaume Canet will be center stage at this week’s film festival, cementing their position as French film royalty

By Vanessa Thorpe  /  The Observer, LONDON

Actors Marion Cotillard, left, and Guillaume Canet pose for photographers at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2009.

Photo: Reuters

A film festival requires its talented “golden couple” almost as much as its long red carpet — and at Cannes, which begins today, the prospect of a pair of glamorous homegrown lovers is especially tantalizing. So whether the sun shines on the Cote d’Azur this week or not, hopes are high for an appearance from the Oscar-winning Marion Cotillard and her partner, the acclaimed writer, director and actor Guillaume Canet.

Cotillard has been invited as one of the stars of the film that will open the festival, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Taking the role of the “muse” in Allen’s celebration of the city and its myths, she will feature alongside France’s first lady, Carla Bruni, and the Hollywood A-listers Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams.

Last month Cotillard, who first came to international attention four years ago as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, sent Batman fans across the world into a spin with the announcement that she is to appear opposite Christian Bale in director Christopher Nolan’s next comic strip outing, The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan, who worked with Cotillard on Inception, claims she will be playing a Bruce Wayne employee called Miranda Tate, but there is a growing suspicion that this might not be the whole truth. “My role is a secret, as is the whole project,” Cotillard has said.

What is clear, however, is that later this year the 35-year-old actor from Orleans will follow up her acclaimed screen performance as a sexually polymorphous tease in Canet’s latest hit, Little White Lies, with an English-language role in Steven Soderbergh’s new thriller Contagion, in which she will star with Kate Winslet and Matt Damon.

Hot duo they may be, but there is a strong chance that Cotillard and Canet’s admirers will be disappointed today when they gather along the Croisette for the Allen premiere, because the couple are involved in another pressing joint production: the arrival of their first child.

Last week, in the pristine pages of Madame Figaro, Cotillard described being pregnant as “perfect happiness.” Even the occasionally maudlin Canet, 38, has admitted that he is “really ready to be a dad.” Apart from his burgeoning reputation as a director and screenwriter, he can be seen in British cinemas this month in Farewell, a cold war thriller based on the true story of a KGB spy who leaked information to the West. Later this spring he is to appear again, this time as the long-lost flame of Keira Knightley in a romantic set piece called Last Night.

As bright young stars, Canet and Cotillard now seem to be shining at full beam. Cotillard is already talked of with awe by the established names of the filmmaking elite. Leonardo DiCaprio, her costar in Inception, has dubbed her “one of the greats,” while Nicole Kidman, a fellow cast member in Rob Marshall’s Fellini update, Nine, has noted her “fairy quality.” For the film writer David Thomson, Cotillard’s eyes, “always on the point of weeping,” suggest that “nearly everything she can think of is tinged with grief or regret.”

Canet, in turn, is now regarded as a great hope for the commercial future of French cinema (Little White Lies sold 5.5 million tickets in France). The director grew up in the countryside beyond Paris and his parents, who were horse breeders, divorced when he was young. As a discontented teenager he went off to join a circus for a year before eventually studying acting in Paris.

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