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Cannes: Sleeping Beauty Intros Director Leigh, Keeps Audience at Bay, Bought by Sundance Selects

Cannes: Sleeping Beauty Intros Director Leigh, Keeps Audience at Bay, Bought by Sundance Selects

Walking on the Croisette, I ran into Jane Campion, who was in town to support Australian novelist-turned-director Julia Leigh. Campion said that her “challenging” film Sleeping Beauty would never have gotten made if she hadn’t agreed, when approached by Screen Australia, to “mentor” the project. Campion believes in this brainy writer-director, who came up with a fascinating way to confront moviegoers’ comfort zone around female sexuality and prostitution.

Trouble is, Leigh leaves so many blanks in her narrative, about a young woman (well-played by Sucker Punch star Emily Browning, who can hold the screen) who needs money so badly that she signs up for an escort service that offers wealthy members elaborate dinners served by young babes in revealing cut-out demi-bras. She eventually submits to repeatedly being drugged into sleep, not knowing what the clients do to her when she is down for the count . “No penetration,” warns the Madame.

Reviews of this good-looking film are all over the map as critics project their own interpretations onto Leigh’s scanty, unengaging narrative. Which does lead to enjoyable debates about what it all means. Aaron Hillis insists that this girl is “confident.” I saw her as utterly depressed and lost. Hmmmm. Here’s Telegraph, indieWIRE and The Playlist.

At any rate, Sundance Selects, the sibling division to IFC Films and IFC Midnight, has acquired U.S. rights, which means it will be made available on VOD after the fall fest circuit.

“For the last five days, people throughout Cannes have been discussing Sleeping Beauty,” said Jonathan Sehring, pesident of Sundance Selects. “We are thrilled to introduce Julia Leigh and her arresting debut to American audiences, and to continuing the discussion.”

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