Cannes Film Festival 2011: Senn Penn is a knockout at Cannes

May 21, 2011

This Must Be the Place, a very offbeat film by the talented Italian director Paolo Sorrentino (Il Divo) premiered here at Cannes on Friday.

It features a knockout performance by Sean Penn as Cheyenne, an aging rock star. He lives in a castle in Ireland and has not performed in decades. Although he has not spoken with his father in over 30 years, his father’s death brings him to America and onto a cross-country journey.

With a wonderful cast which also includes Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton and David Byrne (as himself), it’s Penn’s performance as the vulnerable, high-pitch-voiced, long-haired Goth-looking rock idol which makes the film funny, touching and memorable.

But the high point of the last two days was a screening of the Iranian film by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, titled This Is Not a Film.

Panahi, whose 6-year jail sentence and 20-year ban from filmmaking, travel or giving interviews, is the oblique subject of this film which is more like an essay, or letter, with Panahi sitting at home, talking of his situation, and daringly reading parts of a script which was forbidden by the Iranian censor.

The film itself, made unofficially and without permission, was smuggled out of Iran to the Cannes Film Festival. It is moving, courageous, funny – a 75-minute reflection of the brilliance of Iranian cinema, now suffering under severe censorship and being pressured into silence.