Emily Browning’s nipples & other ethical dilemmas

Friday May 13th 2011

With my only point of reference being the relatively laissez-faire London Film Festival, I was unprepared for just how strictly hierarchical the accreditation system at Cannes is. I have a yellow press pass, which I’ve quickly come to realise is the journalistic equivalent of a handmade badge with ME IZ FIVE 2DAY written on it. Above it are orange, pink, green, blue, white and of course the special platinum pass which Jason Solomons has stitched into his chest hair.

On Wednesday evening I attended my very first screening at the Cannes Film Festival: Julia Leigh’s directorial debut Sleeping Beauty, which is ‘In Competition’ this year. I arrived about an hour early, unsure of how long I’d be made to wait, and spent the next 59 minutes watching every single other member of press walk straight past me as I stood in the yellow queue on my lonesome.

To make matters worse, the non-yellow press actually seemed to be having fun together: hanging out, reading magazines, excitedly discussing the movie ahead; while the yellow press were all just desperately scrambling to be ONE STEP CLOSER to the front of the queue, and therefore ONE DEGREE MORE IMPORTANT. A bit like being the tallest midget. Or the poorest billionaire. There were two such people just behind me (somehow, they later ended up in front of me) who were definitely ‘In Competition’ for Cunt Of The Festival.

When we finally got in, the film was already underway and every seat was filled, so I sat at the back of the auditorium with a few others and watched from there. Luckily the screen in the Salle Debussy is so massive that it’s clearly visible no matter how far back you are, but the sound was a different matter. Often it was so muffled back there that I resorted to reading the French subtitles and then translating back into English just to get the gist of the dialogue being spoken.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that the screening conditions for my viewing of Sleeping Beauty weren’t necessarily optimum. But nonetheless, I liked it a lot.

It’s familiar territory for Sucker Punch‘s Emily Browning, who once again plays a sort-of-prostitute constantly harassed and degraded by older men. But where Snyder’s film held back on the nudity because of some spurious notion that feminism = keeping your clothes on, Sleeping Beauty shovels it on from the word go. This is obviously good news for fans of Emily Browning’s nipples, but don’t worry arthouse fans: her near-constant exposure also asks a lot of VERY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS about intimacy, cruelty, privacy, etc. etc. etc. It’s all very complex.

Luckily, some brilliantly restrained direction from Leigh and a career-defining performance from Browning (that’s right, even better than Ghost Ship!) keep the audience totally involved throughout – despite some incredibly protracted Hunger-style long takes.

It’s not the easiest watch in the world (spoiler: old man sex) but against all odds, Sleeping Beauty is one of the most bewitching, perplexing and perversely enjoyable films I’ve seen all year. AND it gives me a chance to introduce my patented* Palme-d’Or-o-meter:

*Patent pending.