Stephen Frears finds middle ground

'Tamara Drewe' eschews English fixation on class system

CANNES -- The English as a rule make movies about the working class or the upper crust, but once in a while they do something daring and focus on, of all things, the middle class. That's what Stephen Frears did with his sprightly Competition entry "Tamara Drewe," which unspooled Monday but whose presser took place Tuesday afternoon.

The director was surrounded by a hefty contingent of his players and collaborators , all of whom -- Bill Camp, Dominic Cooper, Tamsin Green, comic novel writer Posy Simmonds and scripter Moira Buffini -- seemed thoroughly to have enjoyed the experience of playing off of a mock graphic novel which itself was inspired by a Thomas Hardy novel.

Asked why he thought the British have this predilection for issue-oriented, class-focused pics and why his jaunty film is actually more in keeping with Gallic sensibilities, the director quipped: "Well, I'm a member of the middle class -- I know a lot about it. ... Actually though, it's my wife who would know the precise answer to that question. (The wife conveniently nowhere to be found.)

Another questioner had a problem with the messaging of the pic: Was it trying to be truthful or was it playing with lies?

"Ambiguity is what's interesting, isn't it?" he responded. "No," said the journalist.

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"Well, I'll defend ambiguity til I die ... and if I said I were in favor of telling the truth, I'd be lying." And so the bantering went back and forth.

There being mostly British press at the session, the question of the new government just installed in that country naturally came up.

"Are you going to make a movie about the new coalition?"

"It only happened last week. It takes time to make a film. Give us a chance here," Frears returned.

As for what he thinks of the new regime: "I'm quite astonished. It could be the best result we could have expected.

"So where is Martin Sheen when you need him?" called out one reporter.

"Probably crouching somewhere in L.A. He's probably in 'Twilight 4' or something," Frears riffed.
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