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cannes 2012

Cannes: Sneak Peeks of Django Unchained, The Master, and Silver Linings Playbook

Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and Django (Jamie Foxx) DJANGO UNCHAINED

The Weinsteins are well represented at Cannes this year, bringing in Shia LaBeouf starrer Lawless and picking up the crowd-pleasing sleeper The Sapphires, but why stop there? Today, select journalists were invited to a private party where the Weinsteins presented footage from their three most anticipated holiday offerings: Quentin Tarantino's slave-era Western Django Unchained; Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master (allegedly patterned after the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard); and David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. So what did we see and how did it play? Read on.

Django Unchained
Of the three films the Weinsteins were touting, Django was the furthest from finished, as it's still shooting. (Hopefully it's at least far enough along to stem the recent tide of cast turnover.) Happily, though, it was the title the Weinsteins showed off the most of.

The big surprise? How funny this potentially controversial Western has turned out to be. In particular, Leonardo DiCaprio seems to be having the time of his life dropping N-bombs and smiling rotted teeth as plantation owner Calvin Candie, whom freed slave Jamie Foxx and bounty hunter Christoph Waltz must defeat in order to save Foxx's wife Kerry Washington. You'll get a periwinkle-suited Foxx shooting lumpy blood chunks out of racist hicks (and an innocent snowman in one scene), and you'll laugh! You'll get Don Johnson dressed as Colonel Sanders! And you'll get an instant catchphrase from a cooly underplaying Foxx, when he's asked his name: "Django. The D is silent."

The Master
Journalists attending Cannes this year had their fingers crossed that Paul Thomas Anderson might grace the Croisette with a print of The Master, but alas, the film wasn't yet ready to play here ... at least, not in total. Spirits brightened yesterday when the Weinsteins invited us to today's fête, though those same media types panicked briefly when 90 seconds of The Master went online today at the film's official site. Sacre bleu! Was our transatlantic preview robbed of its special allure now that mere plebes had gotten to see it?

As it turned out, there was much more to watch at the presentation. While the footage online only features Joaquin Phoenix (unrecognizably sinewy and retro-looking, like a wilded-out Montgomery Clift), the clips we saw also heavily featured Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams as a Hubbard-like religious leader and his determined wife, respectively. As good as they looked, though, the presentation truly appeared to be the Joaquin show, featuring the actor (who plays an aimless sailor given purpose by Hoffman's cult) in a series of hallucinatory, color-saturated sequences while Hoffman and Adams determine how best to save him. There's a lot more PSH to this story than they're showing us, but no matter what, it's exciting stuff.

Silver Linings Playbook
Even before anyone had seen a lick of David O. Russell's follow-up to The Fighter, the chemistry between leads Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence had apparently proved notable enough to lead them to an immediate reteam on Susanne Bier's next film, Serena. The Silver Linings trailer, then, is proof positive that they bring good things out of each other: The actors, who are so charmingly self-deprecating as themselves on talk shows, come at each other with a spiky, loopy heat.

Cooper plays a lower-class loony tune recovering from a breakdown (who freaks out when his therapist plays trigger song "My Cherie Amour"), while J.Law is the feisty woman whom he meets on the outside, an equally screwed-up type who can go toe-to-toe with him when it comes to rattling off the mood-altering drugs they've been prescribed.

Silver Linings isn't geek bait -- the Django reel got more laughs even though Silver Linings is more of an outright comedy -- but it's promising and well cast, with supporting actor Chris Tucker cleaved out of the Rush Hour franchise for the first time in ages and Julia Stiles bringing swollen-faced similarities as J Law's sister. Also, Bradley Cooper's parents are played by Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, and apparently there's some sort of dramatic dance sequence featuring Lawrence and Cooper? Well fine, we're in. Before he pressed play on these cut downs, Harvey Weinstein bragged that the films are "three of the best things we've ever been associated with." He's pulled the same trick before at Cannes with films like Nine and Gangs of New York — so a brief reel shouldn't be taken as any sort of guarantee — but after tonight, our anticipation has only gotten more acute. Forget Cannes ... is it fall yet?

Photo: Andrew Cooper/© 2012 The Weinstein Company