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Cannes 2013: 'The Immigrant' Footage Showcases Firecracker Turns From Joaquin Phoenix & Marion Cotillard

by Jessica Kiang
May 17, 2013 5:08 PM
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The Immigrant Marion Cotillard Joaquin Phoenix

A definite highlight of tonight’s Weinstein 2013 slate preview at Cannes, which we ran through in large part here, was a film that has been one of our most anticipated of this whole festival -- James Gray’s “The Immigrant.” With Gray uncharacteristically confident about the film in its unfinished form every time we’ve spoken to him, calling it “the best thing I’ve ever done,” our expectations are high. However one tiny niggling concern this writer has experienced has been about the lack of promotional material around Jeremy Renner, who plays the pivotal role of the magician who, as far as the synopsis tells us, seeks to rescue Cotillard’s Ewa from the clutches of the wicked Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix). Frankly, we’d bet the farm on Cotillard and Phoenix delivering phenomenal performances -- indeed Phoenix already has, three times over, for Gray. Renner however is somewhat more the unknown quantity (he actually features in the brief clip premiered this morning, so Jess can put her fears to rest - ed.), so we were happy to hear Weinstein cue up the showreel by telling us it would be a scene with Cotillard and Renner we’d see.

But he misspoke, or we misheard, because the scene that actually unfolded (a full scene, rather than a chopped-up trailer, quite the treat), was in fact between Phoenix and Cotillard, and if we were disappointed not to catch anything of Renner, that quickly evaporated. The scene is tantalizingly good, teasing a little more of Ewa’s background (her parents, she claims, trembling in a corner by a fireplace, were killed by soldiers, they had their heads cut off and she was forced to watch). But when Bruno, in whom she has been confiding moves in to kiss her and she recoils “Don’t touch me,” his mask slips and a sudden rage (Phoenix is a whiz at sudden rage) descends as he bellows “Shame on you! I don’t need to force myself on you… I should beat you to death.” He then confronts her about stealing something from his wife(?) whom he forces to come in to bear witness to the scene. Ewa is crying and apologizing and returns the stolen item, only to be given a dutiful peck on the cheek by the subservient wife. “You see?”rails Bruno, “that’s what we do, we forgive each other. You’re desperate, we’ve all been only concern is for you.” The scene is played in such a way that Bruno’s “concern” is as frightening as anyone else’s malice.

The scene is mostly Phoenix’s, then, with Cotillard expressive but mute for the large part, but the richness of the characterization and the period detail as far as we could see in this small interior, all look immaculate. So either Renner is being held back because his part isn’t that large after all, or perhaps he’s the ace up Gray’s sleeve performance-wise? It seems inconceivable given what we saw today, but our appetites are whetted enough to believe anything’s possible. At the very, very least, it looks likely to be a great showcase for Cotillard and especially Phoenix, and even if that’s all we get, we’d be happy.

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  • Liam | May 17, 2013 8:39 PMReply

    Great post THEPLAYLIST, it's a great thing to see this many coverage about THE IMMIGRANT and the maestros(s) that are James Gray, Joacquin Phoenix & Marion Cotillard, and hopefully more people will be intrested in this incredible piece of work!

  • RL | May 17, 2013 7:03 PMReply

    How did this deserve a new post...Anyways good to know Phoenix and Cotillard are strong as we expected.Can't wait for your review.

  • Phag | May 17, 2013 8:27 PM

    10 comments, much more than the average story, suggests it does deserve its own post.

  • TheoC | May 17, 2013 6:52 PMReply

    want this to be good, want to love a James Gray film, want James Gray to receive the love.

  • Yelsit | May 17, 2013 5:49 PMReply

    He was neither miscast nor the "weak link". He just wasn't given enough to do.

  • P-DUB | May 18, 2013 11:17 AM

    Not being given enough to do can still make you a weak link. It may be more Gray's fault than Renner's, but that can still be an issue in the film.

    But who knows, so few have seen it, it's hard to take any review super seriously at this point.

  • david | May 17, 2013 5:24 PMReply

    Reports from the early screenings were that Renner was miscast and was the weak link in the movie so my guess is TWC is just hiding him because he's not as strong as Cotillard and Phoenix.

  • Dianna | May 20, 2013 11:44 AM

    David - Actually, only one of the early screening reports outlined that Renner was miscast and the wink link. This was from the same reviewer that said Cotillard and Phoenix was just so-so. The majority of the reviews from the screening indicate Renner's part is very small and not what was expected. Most felt it was well acted, light and fun, but an underused enigma.

  • yer | May 17, 2013 5:18 PMReply

    The video in the previous article you linked was taken down. Also you guys are over doing it with The Immigrant news. Hopefully after the Cannes review comes out you let it rest a little because you're doing more harm than good.

  • d | May 17, 2013 7:24 PM

    @Yer, how are you supposed to know "what it is" before you see it?

    And does that rule apply to literature or music?

  • TheoC | May 17, 2013 6:59 PM

    You can't knock @theplaylist for wanting a James Gray movie to succeed. The man is very honest about making adult films with adult ideals that don't appeal to everybody, he's making movies he wants to see/ be made, if they can be successful all the better for him/us. Don't knock the site for reporting on something positive, knock them for their top 5 lists, or typos.

  • yer | May 17, 2013 6:34 PM

    Watch a film for what it is not because you're a fanboy of an actress/actor/director. Grow up from hero worship.

  • Sara | May 17, 2013 5:55 PM

    Speak for yourself, clown. Go Marion.

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