Picks and Pans Review: Scouting Report: the Cannes Film Festival

UPDATED 05/31/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/31/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

Fueled with croissants and bottled water, moviegoers at this year's Cannes Film Festival could see flicks from 8:30 a.m. until past midnight for 12 days straight. Here's a sampling of highlights and low points.

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Two movies kept sex and violence to a minimum but still managed—deservedly—to strike a warm chord with audiences: Look at Me, a witty French comedy by director-writer-star Agnés Jaoui (The Taste of Others), and Dear Frankie, a British drama about a woman and her deaf son, which opens next month.

Too Sexy for One Gender?

Mexican actor Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mamá También) wowed Cannes with two star turns. In Bad Education, by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, Bernal sashays about as a transvestite—wags observed that he resembled Julia Roberts. Later he turned up as a dashing young Ché Guevara (below) in The Motorcycle Diaries, a terrific film opening stateside this fall.

More Moore Director Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine) hit the publicity jackpot with Fahrenheit 9/11, his provocative documentary attacking the Bush administration. Funny, one-sided and full of a showboating Moore, it raises questions worth asking.

More Politics Sean Penn, never one to shy away from controversy, gives a sympathetic performance as Sam Bicke in the disquietingly titled The Assassination of Richard Nixon, inspired by a true story. Bicke hijacked a plane in 1974, intending to crash it into the White House.

Must Miss In the scenes-we-could-have-done-without category is one from Old Boy, a Korean drama, in which a man cuts out his own tongue.

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