Sunday, 22 May 2016

Cannes 2016: Awards & Comments

By all accounts, this has been the strongest edition of the Cannes Film Festival in well over the decade, the official selection in particular, and there were fears that the jury might not deliver the awards that would do it justice jury members being particularly fickle. Few of us could have imagined how wrong this George Miller led jury was about to be however, crowning of the best edition with some of the most misguided awards in history.

First of all, I must specify that this bitter disappointment is not due to the arrogant belief that only I know which films deserved some awards, my tastes are quite unusual at the best of times, and as much as I loved Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden, my favourite of the festival, I never expected it to win the favours of such a diverse jury (I had wrongly hoped for a directing nod however). Rather I am judging these results within the context of the festival's history, and what constitute some "good", worthy winners. And considering the savage response from critics to these results, I am far from alone.

Cannes 2016 - Awards Predictions

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing those predictions. By all accounts, this Cannes Film Festival edition has been the strongest in many years, with most of the already established directors in competition delivering some of the best work, and a discovery that took the Croisette by storm. Yet, insistent rumours about which directors has been called back for the awards ceremony tonight promise a disastrous list of awards. I will pretend that I have not read those as, after all, every year the wildest rumours fly around, and I will stick with my original predictions.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Cannes 2016 - Loving by Jeff Nichols

Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an American interracial couple in the 50's, at a time when some states still banned mixed races weddings, faced with the prospect of living their marriage away from those they loved and the place they called home.

Loving is a great film as much for what it is as for what it is not. You could be forgiven for approaching the premise with caution. So many mediocre directors hide behind a worthy subject to offer dour, melodramatic films with no personality and not an ounce of cinema. "Important" Award baits are often guilty of that too. Yet director Jeff Nichols has not put a foot wrong so far with his young career, and Loving is no exception. This might sound like a more classical territory for him, but such is the mark of a great director that he makes it completely his own. Talking about the film at the press conference today, he made it clear that he did not want to make a courtroom drama. So do not expect a bombastic soundtrack, big shouty acting, tear-jerking scenes... Instead, the Midnight Special director delivers a film spared down to the absolute minimum, yet such are his confidence and talent that every scene and every meaningful moment count.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Cannes 2016 - Train To Busan by Sang-ho Yeon

In Train To Busan, a busy businessman, Sok-Woo (Yoo Gong), takes an early morning train from Seoul to Busan with his young daughter Soo-Ahn (Kim Soo-ahn), to take her to his estranged wife. As the journey begins, a mysterious virus outbreak spreads through the country, turning its population into mindless, flesh eating monsters, and infecting the passengers too. The survivors have to fight to make it until the train reaches Busan, which has been spared so far.

It is a bit of unfair stereotype among those who do not know much about cinema that the Cannes Film Festival is all about the most boring and/or experimental "foreign" films, but far from it. Genre cinema often finds its place in the line-up, and there is even a Midnight Screening sections for those violent/naughty films that cannot be shown earlier in the day.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Cannes 2016 - Sieranevada by Cristi Puiu

Director Cristi Puiu made an impact on the European arthouse scene ten years ago with The Death of Mr Lazarescu (winning the Un Certain Regard top prize). However some felt that its follow-up, Aurora, was a relative failure. He is back in Cannes this year, having been finally upgraded to the the main competition with Sieranevada. The film is a daunting prospect for your average filmgoer, a near three hours long Romanian film, in which most of the action is set in a flat, and yet, and this is the magic of Cannes, it had the same red carpet treatment with a screening in the main screen today as Jodie Foster's Money Monster starring Julia Roberts, so let it be said that the Cannes Film Festival loves cinema and that's the end of the matter as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Cannes 2016 - Café Society by Woody Allen

In Café Society, Cannes opening film this year, young New-Yorker Ben (Jesse Eisenberg), unwilling to taker over his father's business, comes to Hollywood at the height of its golden age, to work for his agent uncle Phil. Starting at the bottom of the industry and learning the ropes while mingling with the who's who of the film industry, he falls for Phil's assistant, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who is only willing to offer her friendship in return, her heart being already taken.

Period Woody Allen is often him at his most sparkling, with some of his best films such as The Purple Rose of Cairo and Radio Days taking place in the past. But period dramas always run the risk of looking back with rose tinted glasses, a theme that was basically at the heart of Midnight in Paris (another Cannes Film Festival opener, in 2011).

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Departure by Andrew Steggall - Review

Andrew Steggall’s debut feature Departure ambitiously attempts to tell a story of coming of age and sexual awakening within the picturesque setting of the beautiful French countryside. It deals with themes of teenage rebellion, sexual frustration and parental disobedience. The film tells the story of 15 year old Elliot (Alex Lawther) and his mother Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) who arrive in the middle of the night at their holiday home in a small Languedoc village after a long drive from England. We soon realise that this is no ordinary holiday, and that they are in fact here to pack up their beautiful summer home in order to sell it.