Sean Penn plays catatonic Goth rocker in Cannes

Fri May 20, 2011 6:44am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES (Reuters) - Sean Penn plays a catatonic Goth rocker in "This Must Be the Place," a strange tale that follows retired pop star Cheyenne from a life of luxury in Ireland to a hunt for a World War Two Nazi camp guard in the United States.

The movie, directed by Italian Paolo Sorrentino, is in competition at the Cannes film festival, which sought to get back to normality Friday after the shock expulsion of Denmark's Lars Von Trier for joking he was a Hitler sympathizer.

Penn's hang-dog face is heavily made up with white foundation, smeared red lipstick and black eyeliner, and, with his frizzed black hair, his character brings to mind The Cure's frontman Robert Smith and Ozzy Osbourne.

Matching the unfamiliar look is Penn's stilted gait and high-pitched, camp voice, with which he delivers short phrases that express disillusionment with the world.

The sense of despair and inertia only lifts as he leaves a quiet domestic life in Dublin with his wife, played by Frances McDormand, and sets out on a quest to avenge the man who had humiliated his Jewish father at a concentration camp.

Penn's appearance in the film was the result of a meeting with Sorrentino three years ago in Cannes, when the double Oscar winner was president of the jury and the director's movie "Il Divo" picked up the jury prize.


Asked why he took on the role of Cheyenne, Penn replied: "There's a certain kind of whimsy (about Sorrentino's movies). There's a sense of the world that feels right but I hadn't seen it articulated in the way he does.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Sean Penn (L) attends a news conference with director Paolo Sorrentino (R) for the film "This Must Be The Place", in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, May 20, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>