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cannes 2010

Cannes Report: Iñárritu Talks Up Bardem for Oscar’s First Spanish-Language Best Actor

Bromance: Iñárritu and Bardem.

As yachts bobbed in water glittering with moonlight and paparazzi flashbulbs, hundreds of guests, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Penélope Cruz, and Benicio Del Toro gathered to celebrate the premiere of Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful. Iñárritu himself was riding high, at a packed table filled with his family. "Questions now?" Iñárritu joked. "I don't like to answer questions when I'm drunk!" But he explained that setting the film in Barcelona and returning to his native Spanish language "was a great relief: Being on the set, thinking and expressing myself in Spanish. When I'm talking in English it comes from the brain. When I'm talking in Spanish, it comes from the heart."

The grim, intense film about a Barcelona man (Javier Bardem) who makes his living speaking to the dead and spends his downtime wrestling with a manic-depressive wife and two children, received epically mixed reviews, from rhapsodic raves to dismissive pans — and a lot of skepticism about its commercial potential. Everyone seems to agree that the film's only name star, Bardem, gives an extraordinary performance and that Biutiful's best chance for crossover success is building buzz around it. Asked about Oscar, Iñárritu gave us his best pitch: "Few actors have this quality of physical strength and presence combined with a fragile, spiritual poetic sensitivity," he raved. "That combination makes it a very appealing thing — that contradictory nature. You can't learn that. You either have it or you don't have it." Iñárritu isn't shy: "I think it's one of the best performances ever — a tour de force in which there's not a second that is not honest or true." The director admitted that they had already considered the possibility of an Oscar — and that Bardem could make history with his Spanish-speaking role. "I hope that language will not be in the middle of an award," said Iñárritu. "I think language is just a formality, and should not be considered when you're recognizing the work of somebody. I think it will be exciting to see that because there will be broken barriers. Language is the first one we have to break."

Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images