Benicio Del Toro, Steven Soderbergh
Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

As I sit here in my hotel room, listening to the clang-clank-clatter from the street below, where recycling trucks are picking up load after load of glass bottles from last night’s revelry, I realize that it’s Cannes Day 9 and this will likely be my last missive from the Croisette. Every year, the fest just whizzes by. And while I’m happy to get home to my family, friends, and felines, I always feel a bit of sadness when the circus is over and it’s time to pack up the trunks.

The buzz around town the last few days has been a mixture of: on-going concern that no U.S. distributors have made a single acquisition of any official Cannes films; that the movies have been noticeably weaker than in years past; and that we Yanks all feel like we’re breaking the bank every time we buy so much as a sandwich. Add to that the threat of pickpocketing — I know two people who have suffered from slippery-handed street bandits this year — and you can understand why Cannes 2008 has felt like something of an off year.

But not totally underwhelming, of course. Since my last PopWatch check-in, Dave and I made that 8:30 a.m. screening of Clint Eastwood’s The Exchange, which, as some of you brought up in response to Lisa Schwarzbaum’s lovely musings on the film, is undergoing a confusing bit of name-change. The catalog calls it The Changeling, the press notes call it The Exchange, and the French call it L’Echange — the latter the only title to appear in the opening credits. At Tuesday’s press conference, producer Brian Grazer explained that the current, if not final, name is indeed The Exchange, so I’m going with that. Whatever Clint and the gang end up calling the movie, it seems to have a bright future ahead of it, at least according to some trade critics who rewarded it with glowing reviews. The audience at the screening Dave and I attended seemed to agree. That seemed to please Monsieur Cleeeeeent, who appears to have enjoyed himself here, laughing and smiling during TV interviews and lavishing praise on his leading lady, Angelina Jolie.

addCredit(“Benicio Del Toro and Steven Soderbergh: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images”)

On Tuesday evening, Dave and I also hit a lively cocktail party for Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,Marina Zenovich’s terrific documentary that HBO will premiere on June9. There was some hopeful chatter that the film’s controversial,Oscar-winning subject would make an appearance on the Croisette. But inthe end, he did not. Can’t say I blame him, really. While the moviedoes ultimately reflect rather positively on Polanski, he himself didnot participate in its making.

Dave and I kicked off Wednesday morning with a packed screening of Surveillance,Jennifer’s Lynch’s twisted, gruesome serial-killer thriller starringBill Pullman and Julia Ormond. This is a flick whose opening sequencewas so brutal and Texas Chainsaw-ish that I had to cover my eyes. (Still, it didn’t traumatize me quite as much as Funny Games did at Sundance. Ooof.) It’s Lynch fille‘s first film since 1993’s Boxing Helena.Fifteen years later, she’s still every bit as fascinated by the morbid,black-comedy side of humanity. Makes you wonder what kind ofdiscussions she and papa Lynch — i.e. Blue Velvet/Wild at Heart/Twin Peaks mastermind David — had over their morning cornflakes when she was growing up.

Last night was the much-anticipated premiere of Steven Soderbergh’s four-and-a-half hour Benicio Del Toro starrer, Che.Getting into the theater was the usual fight-to-the-death scramble in acountry that proudly eschews organized queuing. (Ask my husband — whois French. He’ll back me up.) The sprawling, Spanish-language biopic isessentially two movies, shown in succession here with one 15-minuteintermission. (During which the audience was treated to complimentarybrown-bag dinners of sandwiches, agua, and Kit Kats. Verythoughtful indeed.) The first part chronicles the Argentine-bornguerrilla leader’s role in Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution. The secondhalf deals with his failed attempt to bring Marxism to Bolivia, wherehe was killed in 1967. As I sat in my seat, watching what has to beSoderbergh’s most ambitious passion project yet, I was amazed at howuncannily Del Toro (left) captured a physical likeness of the iconicrevolutionary. And there’s no question that Soderbergh (right) knows how tomake a movie look spectacular. But as the minutes ticked by — and Idon’t need to remind you that there were 268 of them — I kept waitingfor the emotion to kick in — some sort of dramatic rendering of whoErnesto Guevara was and why he devoted his life to this particularcause. I’ll leave it to my colleague Lisa to give her official critic’stake, and will simply conclude with this: Where’s the heart, Stevie?(Oh, and one other thing: Germany’s Run Lola Run star Franke Potente is in it. Does she speak Spanish or was she dubbed?)

So it’s time now for me to pack up my stuff and get ready for my final screening tonight, the gala premiere of Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, starring Scott Speedman. I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on Soderbergh’s Che: Is this movie on your radar? If it’s released Lawrence of Arabia-style,in one fell swoop with an intermission, do you see yourself sittingthrough nearly five hours of jungle and mountain warfare? Also, itappears that the movie is filled with a mish-mash of Spanish accents,from various Caribbean to Mexican and Colombian, when in fact most ofthe characters should be speaking with either specifically Cuban orBolivian inflections. Does this kind of thing bother you? And finally,it just so happens that Julia Ormond appears in Che as well as Surveillance. What’s your take on the once-expected-to-be-a-megastar Ormond? Are you happy that she is (or may be) back?

Sur ce, je vous dis adieu, mes chers PopWatchers. Thanks for reading. Catch you next time back in the States.