Standing by the rooftop pool of the Palais Stephanie at about 2 a.m., surrounded by chocolates, sushi, and his producers, Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance told us that part of Harvey Weinstein’s first pitch to his team, after their smash premiere at Sundance, was a promise, now fulfilled, to take the film to Cannes. “He just said that he can get this film seen and that Ryan and Michelle needed to get Oscar attention,” says Cianfrance, who now has an Oscar-season release date of December 31. “He said he’d bring it to Cannes because the stamp of approval is really important.” It just so happened that Cianfrance is benefiting from a relative lack of worldwide celebrities or strong American films — and Valentine may emerge from the festival with stronger buzz than any other film.
“Being one of the few American films and the only independent American feature is just amazing,” said Cianfrance. “I’d love to see Ryan and Michelle get rewarded for going so raw, to the heavens and the basement.” In the film, Gosling and Williams rough up their respective images with downbeat improvisation, rough sex, and screaming matches. But both looked blissed-out on the rooftop: In a fitted tux, Gosling lounged on a sofa, chatting with Harvey Weinstein. “He’s the movie-star version of me,” said Cianfrance. “He even wore my Eagles shirt in the movie. He said, ‘That’s a rad shirt’ — and he put it on.”
Michelle Williams turned heads in a gorgeous beaded gown and bleached-golden short hair. “I’m having a great time — and I’m, like, the most anti-everything person,” she said. “I just told myself there’s so many things to be really unhappy about, so when you have an opportunity to celebrate, I don’t want to pass it by. I mean, if I could go back and tell myself at 15, ‘Honey, you’re gonna make a movie and you might even be a little proud of it and then they’re going to ask you to go to France!” The only problem: She got a (barely noticeable) black eye the night before the premiere. “I wanted my daughter to sleep with me since we’re away from home,” she said. “Then she kicked me in the face.”
But so far, everything else is going according to plan. And Cianfrance couldn’t be happier. “In the twelve years it took to make this film, I would always sit at my desk and write and dream about taking this film to Cannes,” he said, “because I wanted to make the type of movie that could play at the same place that L’Enfant could play.”
The first time Cianfrance was in Cannes, for a short film, it was nothing like this. “I jumped in the Blues Brothers 2000 parade, and I saw this crazy dude in a bunny costume with smoke coming out of his ears, putting his arm around kids and taking pictures, selling them for ten euros. Then he took the head off and I realized where the smoke was coming from: He was smoking cigarettes in there. This place is crazy, man.”