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Dogville director, Nicole rule at Cannes
- Bald & beautiful sparkle at fest

They’re probably one of the odder couples ever seen at Cannes’ 56-year-old film festival. Yesterday, they owned it.

Nicole Kidman — hair high, neckline low — and her director — T-shirted, shaved-headed and slightly gnomish Lars von Trier — appeared before the media, sharing an affectionate sense of ease as well as the movie of the festival: Dogville, a three-hour parable of power filmed on an “Our Town”-style stage set, had got the thus-far-moribund Cannes Film Festival talking, and about many things. Among them: the film’s unmistakable animosity toward America, the unglamorous but striking performance by Kidman, von Trier’s general audacity and whether any real people would want to see the film.

It will be rugged going for general audiences, and is certainly alien territory for Kidman. The story involves the mysterious Grace (Kidman), who appears in the dire, dirty and aptly named Dogville seeking refuge from a carload of gangsters. In a synthesis of Thornton Wilder, High Noon, The Crucible and the classic porn novel The Story of , Grace is accepted reluctantly into the town, put to work, exploited, enslaved and betrayed. That the closing credits are accompanied by David Bowie singing Young Americans while photos of various global miseries click by seemed to make von Trier’s political sentiments, already fairly obvious, simply unmistakable.

But no, he insisted, as if already weary of the questions that are bound to plague the picture. “This is only America as it exists in my head. I think if there is a moral, it’s that good and evil exist in everybody and that circumstances can bring it out.”

Speculation was already afoot that Dogville would win the festival’s top prize, the Palme D’Or, which von Trier won two years ago for Dancer in the Dark. He is a favourite of the festival and, it seems, of Kidman’s as well: She spoke with obvious affection for him as a director, even when he put her on the spot.

Dogville is the first in a trilogy, and von Trier said Kidman had already committed to playing Grace in the sequels. The actress and now producer (of the upcoming In the Cut) has many other projects in the pipeline, including a remake of The Stepford Wives. Is she planning to maintain her current breakneck pace' “When I fall in love,” she said, nipping many a question in the bud. “I’ll stop doing so much of this.”

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