The second film to screen on the opening day, Sleeping Beauty couldn't have been more different from the first - Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris .
Described in the notes as a 'dark, erotic fairytale', the film sees Emily Browning's struggling student being paid to sleep while rich men have their way with her.
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You could pitch it as a cross between Somersault (Abbie Cornish's breakout) and Belle Du Jour; or, given the numerous scenes of a sexual nature, Sucker Punch: The Unrated Cut . Although in many ways it's less exploitative than Zach Snyder's often hopeless opus.
Leigh strikes so many inscrutable and ambiguous notes that the film is occasionally in danger of disappearing in a cloud of its own mystique (or up its own whatsit, given all the emphasis on orifices), yet her cool, restrained handling casts an absorbing spell.
The director demands a great deal from Browning, but she doesn't flinch - after this she'll be a go-to actress for many an edgy auteur.
The word 'erotic' has been placed quite irresponsibly in the byline; this isn't a film trying to promote an erotic agenda, instead director Julia Leigh turns the camera into a lingering voyeur, making the near constant nudity unsettling - at times quietly so, and at times thoroughly disturbing.
Browning's performance is at once commanding, assured and fragile. Shedding more than just her clothes, this isn't the Emily Browning of Sucker Punch or The Uninvited , but a performer who should rightly be in contention for Best Actress come the end of the festival.
A brave and highly confident debut from director Julia Leigh (herself competing in the Camera D'or competition for best first time filmmaker), Sleeping Beauty is worth a watch, and will pay off for those who stick with it.
Those who tune in expecting gratuitous erotica will likely turn off in disappointment; there are no cheap thrills here.
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