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Cannes '08: Pete Hammond's Notes on a Season: Lunch with Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz and Rebecca Hall

May 18, 2008 |  7:12 am


"Indiana Jones" isn't the only one taking Cannes by storm.

Lurking in the background at an invite-only lunch for media was none other than writer/director Woody Allen. At a schmoozing event thrown by the by the Weinstein Co. for Allen's latest, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," the film's stars, Penelope Cruz and Rebecca Hall, were the guests of honor at the Palme d'Or restaurant at the Hotel Martinez.

Problem: It was supposed to start at 11:30 a.m., and didn't really get going until about noon. This was bad news for the journalists, who were worried about making it all the way down the Croisette -- at least ten minutes by foot -- to get to the Palais in time for the hotly anticipated 1 p.m. screening of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

To its credit, the Weinstein Co. PR staff had its act together and moved Woody, Penelope and Rebecca individually through the three tables so effectively it felt like "speed dating" (publicist's term). Just as Rebecca -- daughter of British director Peter Hall -- was getting warmed up, she was traded for Cruz, who looked a little perplexed at the whiplash approach to interviewing.

When she got up after her session, she said "OK, now you can go to 'Indiana Jones'!"

However minimal, it time well spent. Woody has been getting the best reviews he's had in many a moon for this smart, sexy comedy set in Barcelona. In fact, the film was such a breath of fresh air that, had it been in competition at Cannes, it might have stood a shot at earning a major prize for either Allen or Cruz.

Everywhere I go in Cannes, this is the film people are talking about as their favorite. When we ran into the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Crash," Bobby Moresco, without any warning he immediately started raving about Cruz, heaping the same praise on her we did upon walking out of the film.

If the buzz at Cannes is correct, Cruz should expect an Oscar nomination for her role as the unstable and combustible ex of Javier Bardem. Cruz, who has played her share of heavily dramatic roles, says she didn't approach the part in a comical way.

"With Maria Elena [Cruz's character in the film] I was doing drama," she said. "I was not thinking at all about doing it as a comedy and I think that's the way to do it."

-- Pete Hammond

Photo: Rebecca Hall and Penelope Cruz, courtesy of Associated Press