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Cannes 2015: Becky's blog (part 2)

Posted Wednesday 27 May 2015 by Becky Clarke in Festival Reports, General

Mon Roi5
Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot shine in Maïwenn's Mon Roi

Read part one of Becky's Cannes 2015 coverage here.

Sunday 17th May

Day three of my Cannes festival experience, day five of the actual festival.  I’m hoping to have a full day of film watching today, as it will be my last opportunity. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with the IFP Festival Forum, and attending the European Film Forum on connecting European films to a global audience.

First up is Competition hopeful Mon Roi by Maïwenn. General consensus amid my fellow Cannes colleagues is one of indifference, so I enter the Grand Theatre Lumière with my expectations soundly in check. I’m more than pleasantly surprised. We meet Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) in a rehabilitation centre after a suffering a serious knee injury during a skiing accident, where she’s struggling with her incapacitation. Whilst in rehab, Tony looks back over the tempestuous relationship she has shared with Georgio (Vincent Cassel) for the past ten years. Swept along with Tony through the highs, lows and extreme lows of her passionate relationship, I find myself internally screaming at the screen for her to leave this destructive and suffocating mess, whilst in the next scene being charmed once again by the charismatic and funny Georgio...Je suis Tony! A marvellous portrait of a passion-fuelled relationship that seems inevitable, inescapable and redundant all at the same time. With marvellous performances from Bercot, Cassel and droll script from Maïwenn and Etienne Comar, it’s no surprise that the film has been sold to most territories around the world. Distributed in the UK by StudioCanal, a perfect partner.

Degrade
An alternate take on life in the Gaza Strip: Tarzan and Arab Nasser's Dégradé

I’m really keen to see some films from the Cannes sidebars, Critics' Week and Directors' Fortnight, which is where you can usually find some innovative titles that haven’t been picked up for distribution yet. So my colleague Duncan and I hot foot it to the other end of the Croisette to see if we’re in time to beat the queues. We decide on a divide and conquer strategy, so he takes Director’s Fortnight, and I join the queue for Dégradé, a Palestinian film by Arab and Tarzan Nasser. The directors offer an impassioned introduction to the film, explaining their aim is to portray the day-to-day life of people living in the Gaza Strip, offering an alternate view to the death and destruction that saturates the news coverage.  Set in Christine’s beauty salon, twelve women wait in the baking heat for their turn to be plucked, polished and preened, before the erratic electricity supply runs out. When a gun fight breaks out in the street and the salon is locked down, tensions in the salon reach boiling point. An interesting insight into the lives of twelve very different female characters living in contemporary Palestine, and the daily realities of life in the Gaza strip: a struggling utilities infrastructure, poor access to medical care, and a pervasive threat of violence. The film leaves me with a hunger to find out more about the real-life experiences of women in Gaza.

Coin Locker Girl
An unlikely enforcer in South Korea's Han Jun-hee's Coin Locker Girl

Emerging disorientated from the dark, cool air-conditioned auditorium and life in Gaza, to the blinding sunshine and abundance of the Côte d'Azur, I’m straight back in the queue for the next offering in Critics' Week, Coin Locker Girl. A South Korean film by Han Jun-hee, about a new-born baby, abandoned in a locker in a subway station, found by a homeless man, and then sold by a corrupt police officer to the head of ‘Mom’s’ brutal crime ‘family’ in Chinatown. At the age of four, Il-Young learns that the only way to survive in Mom’s ‘family’ is to become ‘useful’. Having survived practically on her own since birth, Il-Young’s survival skills make her a perfect enforcer for Mom’s illegal debt collection service.  However, when Il Young is sent to collect a debt from a young student, she encounters something she has never come across before: kindness. A fantastic genre piece from Han Jun-hee with magnificent performances from the two female leads, Kim Ko-eun and Kim Hye-soo, exploring the role and identity of women and the notions of family.

Feeling energised from my morning film viewing, and entirely too coddled (I’d never make it as a self-reliant debt enforcer on the streets of South Korean Chinatown), I head to the Palais to try and catch Maryland (Disorder) by Alice Winocour.  There has been lots of buzz about this title, and I’m a big fan of Matthias Schoenaerts’ past portrayals of masculinity (Rust and Bone, Bullhead) so I’m very excited to see this one. 

Disorder

Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), a Special Forces soldier back from Afghanistan, is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Whilst on leave from the army he gets a job working as private security, tasked with protecting Jessie (Diane Kruger), the wife of a rich Lebanese businessman at their luxurious villa ‘Maryland’. Quite experimental in style at the beginning of the film, Winocour uses pervasive sound effects to disorientate the viewer and give a glimpse into the mind of the traumatised Vincent. Slow-paced dream-like scenes, punctured with an invasive techno soundtrack, mirror Vincent’s confusion, so we’re unaware whether he is suffering from paranoid hallucinations or whether there is a real threat to Jessie and her family. As the film unfolds, the pace and tension build to palpable levels and we’re driven from our dreamlike state into thrilling consciousness.

With four films under my belt, and evening well underway, it’s time to head to the Old Town for dinner with the ICO team, and a catch up on the day's film watching.

The High Sun

Monday 18th May

My last day at the festival, and I’ll only be able to fit in one film in this morning, so I go for the Croatian film Zvizdan (The High Sun) by Dalibor Matanic. Having formed a lasting friendship with Motovun Film Festival in Croatia through our partnership on Developing Your Film Festival, I’m really keen to see some Croatian cinema. I’ve only ever seen a couple of Croatian films, and only during my visits to Croatia. In the ten years that I’ve worked for the ICO I can’t think of any Croatian films being released in the UK, so I’m really interested to see or hear some new voices/stories. And I’m not disappointed! Zvizdan is split into three stories, each with the same set of actors, playing different characters over three consecutive decades: 1991, 2001 and 2011. The first story is of Jelena and Ivan, who have grown up as childhood friends in neighbouring villages, but as ethnic tensions between the Croatian Serb and Croat villages intensify, their burgeoning love becomes forbidden. The second story of Natasa and Ante, takes place in the early aftermath of the post-war era, where Croatian Serbs and Croats are returning to their homes to live side-by-side with their once neighbours again, but can love overcome the past ten years of hatred, killing and guilt? Finally, in 2011 with a new generation of Croatians trying to rebuild their country and move on from the tensions of the past, can the love of Marija and Luka finally win out?  A heart-rending depiction of the enduring strength of love, with outstanding tear-inducing performances (again, again and again) from the two lead actors Tihana Lazovic and Goran Markovic. And on that high note my film-watching festival experience comes to an end.

Cannes 2015: Jemma's blog (part 1)

Posted Tuesday 26 May 2015 by Jemma Desai in Festival Reports, General

Tale of Tales2
Matteo Garrone's Tale of Tales, playing in Competition in Cannes 2015

This was Cannes number three for me, and after a couple of years of never knowing which queue to be in, what my pass meant I could and couldn’t do and generally feeling a little lost, I was ready to take on the festival with a semblance of composure. However, while the practicalities no longer hindered me living the Cannes dream (including, for the first time having actual Côte d'Azur weather), there was plenty to confuse in this year’s edition. ‘Heelgate’ in Cannes ‘year of the woman’ (more on this below), baffling film endings (no spoilers I promise!) and an almost universally confusing set of prizes all converged into one of my most puzzling Cannes.

Most confusing of all was the new ticketing system, which I somehow managed to trick into delivering me with more competition tickets than I had ever been granted before, so my first screening ended up being the much vaunted Tale of Tales in the Palais. Matteo Garone (Reality, Gomorrah) did as many others at this year’s festival did – ditched his native tongue to deliver a English-language spectacle with an intriguing premise. A portmanteau film with a mighty cast (Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Toby Jones) the film is ravishing to look at, but opinion is divided as to whether the film is only as substantial as its meatiest scene (Salma Hayek hungrily devouring a sea serpent heart). As Simon has written, Garrone’s take on his dark subject matter is uneven and at times slight, but I found it an audience-friendly piece, not to be taken too seriously. A kind of mash up for Game of Thrones and Wild Tales fans, it could have some good commercial prospects for the right distributor.

Our Little Sister3
Hirokazu Kore-eda's Our Little Sister: another beautifully tender study of family life

Next up was Our Little Sister. Hirokazu Kore-eda's latest was high on a lot of people’s lists and its ‘sororamance’ theme was wonderfully explored. Kore-eda’s portrait of this unconventional family is affirming of the structure of familial bonds rather than overtly questioning and I have heard people say the film is a little too saccharine for their tastes. However, Kore-eda’s faultless ability to evoke the intimacy of domestic relationships and indeed their physical worlds is beyond compare. I could almost smell the cherry blossom and taste the plum wine.

Sicario2
Dennis Villeneuve's Sicario, starring Benecio del Toro, but with giving Emily Blunt plenty to tackle too

Dennis Villeneuve’s Sicario was a very different film that was equally expertly handled. In Prisoners and Enemy, Villeneuve has shown himself able to deftly carry a film with ‘plausibility issues’. Here he takes on the war on drugs in a Mexican cartel, and his skills directing taut performances and pacing a twisty thriller are on display again. Brit Emily Blunt’s performance is intriguing complex. Unlike in many female-fronted thrillers, Blunt’s ability to match her male counterparts is not articulated by her physical prowess, but rather her moral fortitude. I was reminded of films such as The Silence of the Lambs and Zero Dark Thirty and so was surprised to learn that Villeneuve had faced opposition to having a female lead for the role, with the investors preferring a male lead. Her male counterparts are consistently brilliant: Daniel Kaluuya as her partner, and her alpha male colleagues; Josh Brolin as an infuriatingly cynical official; Benicio Del Toro as a dark and mysterious fixer that seems to have a very personal axe to grind – but the film would have been considerably less interesting without the mixture of confusion, vulnerability and haughtiness that Blunt brings to her role.

The Lobster5
Léa Seydoux and one of the animal stars of Yorgos Lanthimos's The Lobster

A hot ticket this year was Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alps) foray into English-language cinema with The Lobster. The synopsis I had read (In a dystopian near future, single people are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days or are transformed into animals and released into the woods) and the few stills I had seen had made me giddy with excitement and I was ready for magnificence as I took my seat in my 8.30AM screening. Fans of satirical British output such as Black Mirror and Brass Eye will find a lot to like here, and Lanthimos’ conceit is not only a side-swipe at heteronormative behaviour, but also subtly refers to his native country Greece’s financial troubles. For me the film falls slightly short of the richness of its original premise (especially the idea of humans turning into animals), but the its cool and cerebral credentials have charmed many critics and almost all the international programmers I met loved it universally, so it's sure to create a stir when Picturehouse eventually releases it.

Irrational Man
Woody Allen teams again with Emma Stone in Irrational Man, which played Out of Competition in Cannes 2015

Next up in the Palais was Woody Allen’s latest Irrational Man. This is minor Woody Allen at best, with him returning to well trod (and previously, much better worn) themes of the fallacy of intellect and the existential ethics of crime, mining Dostoyevsky and Patricia Highsmith for his narrative. I was taken by the chemistry between Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, but the standout performance was definitely Parker Posey who steals the film from right under their noses.

Son of Saul
An impressive debut by László Nemes, the Holocaust drama Son of Saul

At this point in my competition viewing, I felt due a moment of unexpected discovery, and preferably not an English language one. Enter Son of Saul, the feature debut of László Nemes, former assistant to Béla Tarr which went on to pick up the Grand Prix. A grimly impressive feat of filmmaking, it is a film that has stayed with me ever since I viewed it and I am only just processing the enormity of the themes covered. Set in 1944 in Auschwitz, it follows Saul Ausländer is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, a group of Jewish prisoners forced to administer the horrific day-to-day workings of the death camp. One day while working in one of the crematoriums, Saul finds a boy who he takes for his son and vows to save the boy from being burnt, and tries to find a rabbi to offer the boy a proper burial. A gruelling thriller as well as a deeply compassionate and even-handed treatise on one man’s longing for morality in the most amoral of places; this is an astounding piece of cinema that has grown in my estimation ever since I watched it. Artificial Eye have picked up the UK rights and I look forward to sharing the film with our audiences.

Carol
Todd Haynes' much-anticipated Carol lived up to expectations for Jemma

My final bit of Competition viewing was an experience that summed up the very best and worst of Cannes. Having secured a ticket for the gala screening of Carol, my most anticipated film from one of my favourite filmmakers (which had already got universal raves) I walked out into the early evening sunshine in my red carpet best feeling pretty lucky to be in Cannes. Carol the film did not disappoint: it’s a wonderfully nuanced portrait of two women whose different lives see them navigate the treacherous waters of romantic love in very different ways. I had recently read the book, but this is a breathtaking piece of art in its own right. Very much Hayne’s cinematic vision (fans of Mildred Pierce and Far From Heaven will see more references to the photography of Saul Leiter and the paintings of Edward Hopper), it also shows him making quietly subversive points about the personal and public cost of mid-century Sapphic romance. The film could be seen as one of the flashpoints of what Cannes director Thierry Frémaux had dubbed ‘the year of the woman’. Opening his festival with a female-directed film (for only the second time) and programming a series of talks and panels on the subject of female representation, Frémaux seemed to be taking on board the yearly criticisms of his auteur-led programming, which has often ignored female filmmakers' talents.

However, this was the screening where ‘heelgate’ happened, as a group of women got turned away for not wearing heels. This was also the starriest red carpet I had ever witnessed: walking up the steps of the Palais, it was quite unnerving to watch the ferocious photographers snapping away at the A-list arrivals. Some of these A listers (Salma Hayek and Aishwarya Rai amongst them) were in Cannes being pretty vocal about the gender inequality in the film industry. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett were obviously two of the most wanted that night, and, as I continued to watch them on the screen as I took my seat, I saw that all semblance of ease and poise was almost impossible, as they struggled to keep composed in their too-long gowns and under the glare of hundreds of camera lenses. As they stood in front of the cameras and uncomfortably posed for what felt like an eternity, I couldn’t help thinking that the greatest thing that all the women on that red carpet could have done for gender equality was refuse to have their pictures taken and worn something they could actually walk in without assistance.

Cannes 2015: Catharine's blog

Posted Sunday 24 May 2015 by Catharine Des Forges in Festival Reports, General

Embedded image permalinkSunday 17th May

Amazingly there’s no-one I know on the plane.  It might be something to do with the unseasonably early hour of 7AM but it does mean I arrive in Cannes in time to get slightly orientated. I meet my trusty colleague Simon for our annual pan-bagnat lunch stop, a bargain 4 Euros, to catch up. If you are doing Cannes on a budget, it could keep you going for a couple of days. I seem to have one ticket in the new lottery system so things have started well... Today I’m going to the Europa Cinemas network meeting which takes place every year in Cannes. Many of the ICO cinemas are members of Europa Cinemas and we operate a mini-network for some smaller cinemas in the UK who are not big enough to apply on their own. It’s funded by Creative Europe and subsidises the exhibition of European films in cinemas across Europe, as well as delivering a number of training initiatives. Martin Kanzler from the European Audiovisual Observatory presents some statistics from the previous year which make for interesting reading. Last year saw a 33.6% share for European films, an increase on the previous year which was heartening to hear for those in the room. The first UK production to make an appearance in the top 10 was Paddington at no 4. In terms of the network itself, results for 2014 saw members in 30 countries, 530 cities, 868 cinemas, 2061 screens and 35 million admissions for European film which was heartening to hear.

The meeting then went through activities from the past year and plans for the year ahead. Apparently they are still seeking volunteers to go on the Europa jury at Venice which sounds quite a nice thing to do... Abderrahmane Sissako, director of Timbuktu, made a guest appearance. Europa Cinemas have supported his work and in turn, he is a great supporter of them and the work that they do. He spoke of the value of cinema for those without a voice and we also heard from others about a new cinema network emerging in Africa. I’m also able to catch up with friends from the UK and hear everyone’s news.

Journey to the Shore
Journey to the Shore by Kiyoshi Kurasawa

After the meeting, I meet Colin Burch from Verve Pictures for a quick drink and then go to dinner. Instead of meeting our fellow ICO staff after this, Simon persuades me to catch Journey to the Shore, showing in Un Certain Regard and directed by Kiyoshi Kurasawa (no relation). I receive my first introduction this festival to a more extreme shoe policy, when the usher initially refuses me entry objecting to my Birkenstocks (a nice festival pink!). As I’m accompanied by someone wearing jeans and a T-shirt who has no problems getting in, this seems quite strange.

The film itself seems to me initially like a more low-keyTruly, Madly, Deeply: a gentle ghost story which is moderately engaging but not in any way exceptional. After this I’m ready for bed having got up at 4.30AM for my ridiculously early flight.

Monday 18th May

It turns out I have forgotten my phone charger, so spend the morning buying a new one, not being able to get back into the flat to charge it and trawling round the market place trying to find someone kind enough to let me use their plug. I alight on a nice Bulgarian lady who’s biggest hit of this market is a film called Raiders of the Lost Shark. The market is another Cannes entirely, a completely different world operating on another paradigm, which is interesting to visit, although I’m outstaying my welcome when it’s clear I’m unlikely to make a deal for the UK rights to Raiders of the Lost Shark.

Louder than Bombs
Louder than Bombs, directed by Joachim Trier

Luckily for me I have been given a ticket for the competition to Louder Than Bombs, Joachim Trier’s English-language title. It’s got a great cast with Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Byrne and follows a family dealing with their grief in the year after the mother dies in a car crash. Initially it’s quite similar to 1,000 Times Good Night, with Huppert’s character a war photographer torn between her responsibilities to her family and career, but it goes on to focus more keenly on her teenage son and older child who has just become a father himself and their struggles with her loss. I really wanted to like it but it’s quite low-key and emotionally detached where it should be enticing you in, and despite the best efforts of its stellar cast, left me cold. I thought it unlikely to be picked up for UK distribution but I could be wrong...

The Measure of a Man
The Measure of a Man, by Stéphane Brizé

The ticket lottery grants me a special favour and I seem to have acquired another competition ticket so next is Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man. This is accomplished and assured film-making, reminiscent of Laurent Cantet’s Human Resources, and it seems to me the Dardennes brothers film in a competition where they do not feature this year. Vincent Lindon, plays Thierry, made redundant from his factory job. The film follows him through the depressing and sometimes farcical search for work in contemporary France, whilst trying to retain his dignity and humanity. There’s a great scene where he and his wife are learning to rock 'n’ roll which offers some light comic relief, but for the most part, it’s a naturalistic and devastating view of blue collar life in the modern world. This one will definitely be picked up I think. It’s commercial prospects are slim but it deserves to be seen.

Time to get changed, catch up with my colleagues and go to the ICO dinner which celebrates our Film Festival training programmes. This is a lovely evening meeting new people as well as greeting old friends who have spoken on our Motovun course. I seem to end up going home at 4.30AM, but it’s my last night so fair enough I think.

Tuesday 19th May

I manage to get in one last film at the Debussy, Alias Maria showing in Un Certain Regard. It follows a 13-year-old pregnant female guerrilla at war in the forests of Colombia and entrusted with a special mission, in a unit taking the commanders newly-born son to safe haven in a local town. This is well-made committed film-making, focussing on untold stories from a contemporary warzone. There’s forced abortion as a matter of course for the female guerrillas and forced conscription for children who get in the way of the units. It’s a brutal and harsh world as depicted here but the film’s neo-realistic tones somehow render it less than completely engaging. 

Alias Maria
Columbia's Alias Maria, directed by Jose Luis Rugeles

On the way in I’m stopped for a second time apparently due to my offending Birkenstocks. This development this year at Cannes is very interesting. I’ve been coming for nearly 20 years and for most of that time wearing the same kind of shoes (although I hasten to add, not the same pair). I’ve never before experienced this kind of strict shoe code in daytime screenings and it’s interesting to think about the change. In recent years, Cannes has been criticised for its lack of focus on women filmmakers and it seems strange, given that sensitivity, that it should choose to create a dress code which seems to enforce the stereotype that women should wear heels. I wonder if next year you’ll be thrown out if you don’t wear lipstick? We’ll see..

Anyway, time to catch the bus to the airport, this year has been short but thoroughly enjoyable.

Cannes 2015: Becky's blog (pt 1)

Posted Sunday 24 May 2015 by Becky Clarke in Festival Reports


La Croisette
The main strip in Cannes, seen from the exterior of the Salle de Soixantieme

My enthusiasm for Cannes Film Festival hasn’t wavered in the nine years that I’ve been coming (I can’t believe where the time has gone, says the ageing veteran!). Yes there is the ubiquitous hierarchy, the excessive wealth on display, but ultimately it feels like the centre of the cultural film industry, a place to properly engage with like-passion-ed colleagues, away from the daily distraction of emails, and a chance to discover a multitude of films that you’d otherwise not get the chance to see... as long as you’re prepared to put in the time, and be a bit more adventurous and opportunistic than pursuing the Official Competition film fodder. 

Coming with a newbie to Cannes certainly reinvigorates your passion for the festival and reminds you of the amazing opportunity it is to be one of a multitude of film fans that gets to participate in the frenzied hoopla. I’m tasked with being the guide for Duncan, our new Marketing & Comms Manager, to show him around and impart any small nuggets of wisdom that I’ve gleaned along the way (make use of the free coffee and water in the Palais; be strategic in your queuing – go for the bigger auditoriums, don’t bother if you only have 30 minutes 'til the film; and pick up the Le Quotidian daily: it hugely simplifies the endless amount of screenings that are on offer. Not a huge amount to show for nine years, but it gets me through).

Becky Cannes
ICO Head of Operations Becky Clarke showing her Cannes mettle in one moment of many queuing for films

Luckily for us our generous colleague, Simon, has collected our passes and bags, and stocked up the kitchen with essentials: cheese, milk, olives, peanuts, crisps, brioche and rosé wine. All that is left for us to do is go for dinner with Colin Burch from Verve Pictures, Kate Taylor from London Film Festival and Nico Marzano from ICA, and grill them for top film tips so we can get a good start tomorrow.

Mia Madre
John Turturro features in Nanni Moretti's Mia Madre in Cannes 2015

With the implementation of a new ticketing system this year for Competition screenings I’ve managed to accumulate... one... for the entire festival!  This is poor going for me, where in previous years I was averaging about one a day, but I’m wondering if I’m exactly the type of person that the new system is designed to keep out. This is not too much of an issue as in previous years the most enjoyable experiences have been screenings in the surrounding sections and side bars such as Un Certain Regard, Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week, where I’ve known little or nothing about the film beforehand, par example Girlhood, Omar, La jaula de oro (Golden Dream), Ernest et Célestine, Le Père De Mes Enfants (Father of My Children). So I take my one coveted Competition ticket for the 8.30AM screening of Nanni Moretti’s (We Have a Pope, The Caiman) Mia Madre. 

Un Certain Regard screening
Eyes down in at Bazin auditorium for films in Un Certain Regard

A film about making a film is never my favourite topic of exploration, so it takes me a while to connect with the story of Margherita (Margherita Buy), a director shooting a film whose main actor is a famous American star (John Turturro) with a passing knowledge of Italian (the language the film is being made in). As the film develops, it is the interwoven narrative of how Margherita and her brother, Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) deal with the decline of their ailing mother that really brings emotional engagement. Conveyed with understated grace and subtlety, we see Margherita and Giovanni struggling to accept that their mother may not get better, and how although the reality of losing a parent pervades all aspects of life, it also allows for the appreciation of siblings, the chance to learn from our, perhaps wiser elder relatives, and that even during the darkest periods, humour endures. Picked up for UK distribution by Curzon Artificial Eye, it seems like a nice fit for a slow-burning piece of art house cinema.

Sea of Trees
Gus Van Sant's The Sea of Trees with Ken Watanabe, playing in Competition

Fortuitously, my lovely colleague Simon has managed to wangle me a ticket to the next Competition screening of Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees. Now, I know I was regaling the merits of being more adventurous and exploring the side bars of the big Cannes programme, but it is somehow impossible to turn down the certainty of getting into a film, over the uncertain one–two hour queue that is my alternative. Also it’s Gus Van Sant and Matthew McConaughey! A hotly-anticipated title, not only due to the one-two pairing of Van Sant and McConaughey, but also for the intriguing setting in Japan’s Aokigahara forest: quite literally a sea of trees in the shadow of Mount Fuji, where hundreds of people go to commit suicide every year. McConaughey plays Arthur Brennan, a science professor who we see abandoning his car at an American airport, boarding a one-way flight to Japan with no luggage and entering the Aokigahara forest. As he begins his descent into the mass of trees, he’s confronted by numerous signs instilling the value of life, the gift you are to your family and friends, and urging you to call for help. Having found a spot for contemplating his place on this mortal coil he suddenly encounters Takumi Nakamura (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese man who appears to have lost his way. Shot beautifully by Kasper Tuxen (Beginners) the forest becomes a palpable force in the film that undulates and stirs like an ocean, combined with a domineering soundtrack that reflects Arthur’s troubled state of mind. The motivations for Arthur coming to the forest are explored in flashback, where we are voyeurs on the tumultuous relationship he shares with his wife Joan (Naomi Watts). Beginning as an investigation into the motivations and causes of what brings people to consider suicide, and why so many people are attracted to one particular place, sometimes going to great lengths to get there, gives way to a more traditional love, loss and redemption story, that is perhaps disappointing for those that might be wanting a deeper study of above.

Rams2
Iceland's Rams, playing in Un Certain Regard, proved one of Becky's discoveries of Cannes 2015

With only 30 minutes before the next films, I heed my own advice and don’t attempt a queue that will only lead to unsuccessful results, and prepare for the next film slot at 4PM where I will attempt to see Hrútar (Rams) by Grímur Hákonarson. A top tip from Nico from the ICA, an apparent hidden gem of the festival... and he is so right. Set in a remote Icelandic valley, two brothers Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) live on neighbouring sheep farms but haven’t spoken to each other in forty years. As disease looks set to threaten the health and ancient lineage of their beloved rams, the brothers are forced back into communication with each other... although not always verbally! A perfectly-formed piece of world cinema, and a beautiful study of the relationship between two estranged brothers, emotional yet not sentimental with a wonderfully wry wit throughout. Writer and director Grímur Hákonarson puts his documentarian skills to good use, producing a naturalistic portrait of rural farm life and capitalising on the austere yet stunning landscapes. With the success of Of Horses and Men last year, I’m hoping this will usher in a new age of Icelandic cinema in the UK, with a deliciously dark sense of humour. Fingers crossed this title gets picked up.

Buoyed by the experience of Hrútar (Rams) it is time to head for some dinner, picking up the Le Quotidian daily on the way to form my plan of attack for tomorrow. I’d really like to get four of five film titles in tomorrow, so it means being super strategic!

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