May 20, 2008 at 07:15 PM EDT

Angelina Jolie’s vivid 1920s-style vermillion lipstick never musses even though her chin quivers with maternal strength and her eyes pool with diamond tears in Clint Eastwood’s The Exchange. Based on a real case, Jolie plays a Los Angeles telephone operator whose son goes missing, and who is subjected to bureaucratic (and even psychiatric) torment when she refuses to to accept the boy the cops return to her five months later as her child. In a ballsy attempt on the part of the era’s notoriously corrupt LAPD to generate some good PR, cops had hoped to pass off a substitute kid as proof of a case well solved. Not with AJ, you don’t.

Well, the star looks flawless all right, absorbing all light whenever she’s in a scene and retaining the mother-ambassador-madonna-model role she perfected in A Mighty Heart. And sometimes, truth to tell, that posture can be distancing, you know? But then I ran — ran, as the international gaggle of critics does here in hysterically paced Cannes, as if our identities depended on it — to Delta, a much-anticipated Hungarian film also in competition. This one’s about a nearly mute, possibly saintly, or possibly just simpleton young woman who sets up incestuous house with her equally nearly mute, possibly saintly, or possibly just simpleton half-brother on a remote outpost of a reedy Hungarian waterway. The two stare at the sky, or at a turtle, or at a chunk of bread, until brutish, outraged, drunken locals put an end to the two of them. The end.

Let me tell you, I will be happy never to see another foreign-language silent saintly-simpleton heroine gaze at cloud formations for, oh, at least the next six months. Angelina Jolie has never looked so inspiring.

addCredit(“Angelina Jolie; Tony Rivetti Jr.”)

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