Cannes Report: Dracula 3D Is Ludicrous Fun, The Sapphires A Hidden Gem

Peter Willis writes for Bleeding Cool.

Not many movies shown at Cannes can claim to have as high a walkout rate as Dario Argento achieved at this afternoon’s screening of his Dracula 3D. At one point it actually became a distraction, though it wasn’t a completely unwelcome one. It added to the experience, somewhat, as did the plight of a woman behind me who was seemingly having great difficulty turning off our cuckoo sounding alarm. Quite why she didn’t make for the exit sooner than she did I don’t know.

Perhaps it was part of the show.

The movie, which is screening out of competition at Cannes, follows the tale of Jonathan Harker, a young librarian, who ventures of the village of Passo Borgo in order to work for Count Dracula. Upon his arrival things soon turn sinister as Harker discovers the true nature of the Count.

Argento seems to be quite happy to play to his own parody these days and on this occasion it played out in his favour. The scenery was often ludicrous, the 3D passable at best, the acting questionable at all times and the sound editing abysmal.

But, in a very strange kind of way, it worked. As a complete surprise, I actually found myself enjoying the closing 30 minutes of the movie.

I think the unintentionally hilarious effects probably helped.

Argento said that the 3D technology used in the film would make Dracula “even scarier” as the action would be all the “more convincing”. I actually think it would have worked just as well, if not better, if viewed in a more vivid format, rather than the dark and washed out tones which 3D movies inherit. But I guess now isn’t the time to get back into the 3D debate and certainly not when it’s over a movie such as this one.

Rutger Hauer, playing Van Helsing, brought at least a degree of class to the otherwise almost b-movie quality production, while Miriam Giovanelli, one of Dracula’s brides, seems likely to have a future on a more prominent stage.

But shot on a relative modest budget of €5,000,000 euros, it was never really set for greatness, I guess.

Earlier in the day was the more uplifting reprise screening of The Sapphires. Supposedly based on a true story, it is the tale of a talented group of Australian Aboriginal girls who head off to Vietnam to sing for the US troops, taking along Chris O’Dowd of IT Crowd fame for the ride.

The movie draws on a dark period of Australian history, when Government officials would take Aboriginal children with fair skin away from their homes and families in order to be brought up as “white”. But the story is an uplifting one, which isn’t exactly par for the course at Cannes, and praise must be awarded to the screenwriters who managed to bring humour, in good taste, to the difficult topic.

The Sapphires certainly doesn’t break new ground. The rise of four young singers from obscurity to relative fame, helped along the way by a drunken Irishman, with a love story or three thrown in for good measure. But what it does do, it does remarkably well. Especially for a group who, for the most part, are new to the big screen.

I did, however, feel a little bit let down by the romantic focal point in the movie, struggling to feel empathetic towards O’Dowd’s character’s relationship with one of the singers. Which wouldn’t have been a problem, had it not been so pivotal to becoming emotionally involved in the finale.

And it’s not that I’m a heartless bastard. I almost shed a tear during Beasts of the Southern Wild.

While it won’t gain the same kind of critical support as last year’s The Artist, the nature of the story is such that it seems almost certain to be the movie from Cannes which will be on everyone’s lips later this summer.  It will appeal to people of all ages and even both genders, which makes it a kind of movie that doesn’t come around too often these days, while news crews and radio shows will draw upon the Aboriginal Lost Generation aspect to bring the movie into the limelight.

It has cross-market appeal, something which hadn’t gone unnoticed by Harvey Weinstein, who picked up the US distribution rights for the movie on Wednesday. He will have reveled in the claimed 10 minute standing ovation that it received last night and can probably already start counting the dollars which it seems certain to pull in.

The Sapphires only currently has one release date set, in Australia on August 9th.