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A Native American tale with international pedigree

  • Actors Mathieu Amalric, left, and Benicio Del Toro pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

    Actors Mathieu Amalric, left, and Benicio Del Toro pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

  • Actors Benicio Del Toro takes his place during a press conference for Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

    Actors Benicio Del Toro takes his place during a press conference for Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

  • Actor Benicio Del Toro poses for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

    Actor Benicio Del Toro poses for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

  • From left, actor Benicio Del Toro, director Arnaud Desplechin and actor Mathieu Amalric pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

    From left, actor Benicio Del Toro, director Arnaud Desplechin and actor Mathieu Amalric pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

  • Actors Mathieu Amalric, left, and Benicio Del Toro pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

    Actors Mathieu Amalric, left, and Benicio Del Toro pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

  • Actors Mathieu Amalric, left, and Benicio Del Toro pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
  • Actors Benicio Del Toro takes his place during a press conference for Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
  • Actor Benicio Del Toro poses for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
  • From left, actor Benicio Del Toro, director Arnaud Desplechin and actor Mathieu Amalric pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
  • Actors Mathieu Amalric, left, and Benicio Del Toro pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Jimmy P. Psychotheraphy of a Plains Indian at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

It took an international production starring a Puerto Rican and a Frenchman to bring the Native American tale Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian to the big screen.

The film, an English-language one from French director Arnaud Desplechin, made its premiere Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival, where it’s among 20 movies competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or.

It’s principally a tete-a-tete between two men: the Blackfoot Indian Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro), who’s suffering from head trauma after serving in World War II; and an eager anthropologist and psychologist from France, George Devereux (Mathieu Amalric), who treats him at a Topeka, Kan., military hospital.

“The film has one foot in Europe and one foot in America,” Desplechin told reporters Saturday. The A Christmas Tale director shot the movie in the Midwest and on a Blackfoot reservation in Montana.

In the genre of psychotherapy films – from Hitchcock’s Spellbound to David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous MethodJimmy P. is particularly faithful to the probing dialogue between patient and analyst. It’s a case study of a film, adapted from Devereux’s 1951 book, Reality and Dream, that includes lengthy transcriptions of sessions. Desplechin said he wanted to grasp “the adventure” between the pair as they become friends while sifting Jimmy’s memories for the roots of his pain.

Much of it rides on the chemistry between Del Toro and Amalric, both widely-respected, shape-shifting international actors. They operate, though, on very different rhythms, with Amalric’s frantic energy contrasting with Del Toro’s weary heaviness.

“I’m very impressed with Benicio as a person,” Amalric said. “I thought: How can I use this, the fact that I’m deeply impressed?”

Del Toro, who said the two first met several years ago in Cannes, said the two actors either connect, or they don’t. He identified with one quality of Jimmy, whose Indian name means “Everybody Talks About Him.”

“Everybody talks about him,” Del Toro said. “Everybody talks about me.”

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