CANNES - With this year's Competition still searching for that unifying critical and audience hit -- though the two biggest hitters thus far, Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" and Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills," have proven excitingly and necessarily divisive -- the longest and loudest rounds of applause appear to have been heard in the sidebars. Two of the four films I saw today elicited that kind of response, with audience members cheering and reprise-clapping at odd points in the closing credits in the manner that comfortably exceeds required festival politeness and firmly establishes that they like you, they really like you.
One of these successes, an Un Certain Regard selection that had already slayed the Sundance crowds a few months back, was to be expected; the other, from the lower-profile Directors' Fortnight selection, was more of a surprise. Chilean director Pablo Larrain hasn't, until now, been the kind of filmmaker to court such all-round approval: his cold-blooded political comedies "Tony Manero" and "Post Mortem" are something of an acquired taste even to those not alienated by their contextually non-transferrable Pinochet-rule milieu. Indeed, following its Venice premiere two years ago, I remember the closing credits of "Post Mortem" being greeted by nothing noisier than the stunned shuffle of footsteps as viewers made a beeline for the nearest stiff drink.