CANNES, France — On Tuesday, Quentin Tarantino returned with a bang and much critical love to the Cannes Film Festival with “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” his finest in years. A dream of a movie, it follows a handful of Hollywood types living in smoggy, starry Los Angeles in 1969, the year the Manson family went on a frenzied murder spree. Among the victims was the actress Sharon Tate, then married to Roman Polanski. In Tarantino’s Hollywoodland, Tate and Polanski live next door to Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a struggling, self-doubting TV actor. His best friend is Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), a stuntman whose glory days are probably behind him. Rick could be another Clint Eastwood; Cliff should have been another Steve McQueen.
On Wednesday afternoon, I sat down for a brief chat with Pitt and DiCaprio in a suite at the Carlton Hotel, one of the grand hotels overlooking the Mediterranean. The two were in the midst of a massive publicity operation that day, giving interview after interview. Presenting a movie at Cannes can be big business and the army of Sony Pictures employees handling this offensive had the air of people worried about fumbling the most delicate of rarities. Their famous charges, by contrast, seemed wholly relaxed. Each man was affable, direct and seemed happy to talk, but, then, they have been in the business a long time. They know how to do this.