Arriving and experiencing Cannes on the second week of the festival has been a very new and really revelatory experience. My Easyjet flight was hardly full to pop; waiting for the bus was a zero bun fight – I think there must have only been 5 people waiting (including me) on benches. After being met by a very Birkin-esque looking ICO-er Sarah Bourne and grabbing some delicious fish for early supper I headed off to begin my festival viewing by watching the 30th anniversary Cannes Classic screening of Wim Wender’s Paris Texas.
Wim introduced the film in perfect French together with Cannes head honcho Thierry Fremaux. He reminded us all that Claire Denis and Agnes Godard (Denis regular DoP) worked on the film and gave a special mention to the films DoP Robby Mueller and Wim’s long-term collaborator. I have never seen the film on the big screen and it was 147 minutes of pure magic. Robby Mueller’s photography looked stunning in the 4K digital restoration and I had forgotten about the very moving father and son storyline.
The next morning I caught Australian agitator Rolf de Heer’s new social drama Charlie’s Country co-written by and starring David Gulpilil (who also starred in de Heer’s film Ten Canoes from 2006). Gulpilil deservedly took away the Best Actor prize in Un Certain Regard. The film is a semi-autobiographical portrait of an older bad-ass Aboriginal man living in north Australia, discontented and out-of-sorts with life. A moving, confrontational, fighting film – still to be bought by a UK distributor.
Next off Jonny and Helen de Witte (BFI/LFF) and I waited together in the sun-drenched line to watch horror trash-maestro Dario Argento’s daughter Asia’s Misunderstood, which I really liked. The story is set in 80’s Italy about a young Fiorucci-dressed tomboy who ducks and dives between her crazy divorced parents. It plays like a punk-filled girls world (reminding me in tone of Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in which Argento also starred in). It’s irreverent, funny and moving with Charlotte Gainsbourg playing the misbehaving mother.
After racing back to the ICO to bash off a few tweets and some instagram’s and changing into my glad rags to do the red carpet with Jemma for Xavier Dolans film Mommy, Jonny and I decided to watch another Cannes Classic – this time Sergei Parajanov’s The Colour of the Pomegranates … well we thought we were going to watch it. Unfortunately two programmers’ brains are worse than no brains as the intros started we quickly realised that we were about to embark on a long portmanteau screening of Les Ponts de Sarajevo to mark the centenary of WW1. Apart from some distinctive films from Jean-Luc Godard, Ursula Meier, Christi Puiu and Angela Schanelec I’m afraid the programme did not leave a lasting impression, and anyway I had to leave early to start queuing with Jemma for the red carpet screening of Mommy.
This screening and film was in my top moments of Cannes this year. Maybe its because Dolan is still so young (25 years old) and maybe because he makes films that personally connect with me but that night was a perfect storm of a brilliant film (about a young kid who suffers from ADHD and his oedipal relationship with his mother) watched collectively with an audience that Dolan had in the palm of his hand, after which there was the standing ovation where everybody was crying Dolan, his cast, crew and most of the audience. We left the screening full of bounce to catch the closing of the Critics Week / Morelia Film Festival party on the beach which was full of fizz and fun; we then dashed to the Mommy party where we snuck in the lift with actress Suzanne Clement (one of Dolan’s regulars) and then blagged our way into the Mommy after-party which was where the night ended. The party was full of chubby film executives and skinny girls taking selfies – it was time to go home.
The following day (feeling a little worse for wear) I tiptoed into watch Olivier Assayas competition film (Something in the Air) The Clouds of Sils Maria which was a delight – mainly to watch the sparring between Juliet Binoche, who plays a theatre diva and her punchy PA brilliantly acted by Kirsten Stewart.
It was a superb mix of All About Eve with bits of Persona. That evening I met up with a journo friend to attend the closing ceremony of the Quinzaine (which was quite long and bizarre imagine, Eric Cantona’s notorious press conference and you can picture the scene). A French relationship drama called Les Combattant’swon everything (nobody in my row seemed to have watched the film) and then we sat back to watch the closing film which was the BFI funded comedyPride directed by Matilda theatre director Matthew Warchus about socialist solidarity between LGBT groups and the miners during the strikes of 1984. The film has been written to play to a broad audience, the comedy is generic – it could even be called Gay in Dagenham. As it’s a Pathe/Fox film lets hope it plays wide into the ‘plexes. At the end of our screening, people were clapping and crying. The film also won the Queer Palme d’Or. We had tickets to the Pride party but it was too full, they were not letting anybody in, so we ended up at the Petit Majestic.
My last full day of the festival started early with a croissant and an 8.30am screening of Austrian Jessica Hausner’s new film Amour Fou which I really liked. Hausner takes on German romantic poet Heinrich von Kleist and the suicide pact he makes with a Berlin housewife. Instead of zero-ing on Kleist (who she manages to satirise more than once throughout the film), Hausner directs our gaze onto Henriette (the housewife). Through the friends discussions about contemporary politics, ethics and philosophy Hausner carefully builds a portrait of 19th century society, the position of women within that society and the notion of free will. There is much visual pleasure to be found (in addition to the bedazzling wallpaper) in her rigorous formalism and I’m happy to report that Arrow has just picked the film up for UK release.
Dashing out of Amour Fou, I luckily slipped in the back row to watch Bruno Dumonts packed out 197 minutes-long scope projected TV movie Petit Quinquin. A police investigation set in northwest France that reminds at times of Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau, with laugh out loud moments Dumont finds the funny in a typical existential manner. Next stop was the Dardenne brothers Competition social realist drama Two Days, One Night.
Marion Coitillard excels as Sandra, a married with children factory worker, who in threat of redundancy has to canvas her co-workers over one weekend to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job. The film missed out on any awards but possibly Coitillard should have been given a nod…. To mark my final night in Cannes, I ended up watching the Awards Ceremony on French telly with Kate Taylor and Michael Blyth (LFF programmers), Michael Pierce from Scalarama and Jemma. We were all very happy to see Mommy jointly winning the Jury Prize and listen to Dolan’s emotional acceptance speech where he personally thanked Jane Campion and her film The Piano for inspiring him to write complex, rich parts for women. Yes! Michael, Kate and I later on ended up watching Purple Rain on the beach in the Cinema de la Plage. The projection and sound was perfect as was hearing the sea lapping, Prince’s ridiculous guitar solos and being able to dig our toes in the sand.
My final film on a blurring Sunday morning was a screening of the Swedish big buzz title Force Majeure (Turist) directed by Ruben Ostlund. The film played in Un Certain Regard where it rightfully took away the Jury Prize. A brilliant script that delivered a bitingly funny satire about a bourgeois family whose cosy facade falls apart during a winter ski holiday in the French Alps. Watch out for the scene stealing moment with the invading toy flying saucer, one of the funniest and surprising moments in cinema I’ve seen for some time…..Signing out.