Cannes 2014: Simon's blog (part 1)
With so many films from around the planet playing in the festival and accompanying market, it’s a bewildering smorgasbord of upcoming titles for the year ahead. Many of the giants of cinema are represented here – especially in Competition – Cronenberg, Ceylan, Godard, Wiseman, Hausner and on and on. But so too are a host of discoveries showing promise and, equally often, particularly in the market, drivel.
So, I’m going to go through a few of the highlights and some disappointments I’ve seen so far with an eye on whether they are likely to get UK distribution, and how they might fare critically and financially when they hit UK screens.
White God is an interesting one from Kornl Mundrucz, the Hungarian director of Huckle and Johanna, for those of you who remember them from a decade back. A pet dog is dumped by the roadside as part of the fall-out of a broken marriage. As the dog goes through various trials, it becomes increasingly brutalised; forced to flee the dog catchers from the city pound, it’s trained for dogfighting and eventually leads a canine revolution fighting back against the inhumanity of man. It’s an incredibly striking allegory for the outsider, and deserves an audience in UK cinemas – but some of the dog fighting is pretty strong stuff and may well make it difficult for some audiences to appreciate just how interesting and accomplished this film is. As of yet it hasn’t been picked up for distribution but I hear offers are pending!
Timbuktu was another highlight from the competition. A heartfelt, but never overly earnest account of an African village under the unwelcome heel of Islamic fundamentalism. Lyrical, searing, and impeccably crafted, this turned out to be one of the most engaging and emotionally charged films in the early stages of the Competition. From Abderrahmane Sissako, director of Bamako, this seems sure to get a theatrical release in the UK, and while undeniably its subject matter is tough, it is told with an at times beguiling charm and wit and should see solid if unspectacular returns at the box-office for more adventurous cinemas.
Lost River, the keenly anticipated directorial debut of actor Ryan Gosling, saw some of the longest queues in Cannes. An atmospherically hypnotic blend of Lynch, Argento and Gosling’s Drive mentor and friend Nicholas Winding-Refn, it’s pure eye-candy. Set in a post-apocalyptic feeling Detroit, it concerns a single mothers (Christina Hendricks of Mad Men and Drive) struggle to make ends meet and avoid the repossession of her home, while her sons romance with Saoirose Ronan and his run-in with local psychopath gang leader provide the emotional and narrative engine of the film.