Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cannes Film Festival 2014 (Part One)

So we're back in Cannes for another year of obsessing about schedules and trying to expertly judge queue lengths to pack in as many films as humanly possible!

I started my Cannes 2014 trip with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy which tells the story of a happily married couple whose lives are suddenly torn apart by a family tragedy and follows the journey they must take to see if they can rebuild their shattered relationship. 

Jessica Chastain & cast of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

It's hard to say much more without telling the reason for their marital stress (it isn't revealed for quite some time) but it's an enjoyable watch overall, even if some of the impressive supporting cast (Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, Ciaran Hinds and Viola Davis) aren't used to any great value. But, to feel like you were there, I did manage to capture the pre-screening Q&A!

Hot on the heels of the Yves Saint Laurent biopic (of the same name) earlier this year, Cannes unveiled the second study of the fashion designer in Bertrand Bonello's drama playing in the Official Competition which is stylishly shot, with great music and - as you'd expect - fantastic costumes.

Jessica Hausner's Amour Fou played in Un Certain Regard and is beautifully shot with each frame almost resembling a painting resulting in a film that looks like a sequence of beautiful tableaux. It's slow moving but quietly engaging. But perhaps not the 'romantic comedy' that it's being referred to as.

The documentary Red Army follows the Russian ice hockey team during (and briefly after) the Cold War. With Russia currently so present in the news, Red Army is perfectly timed to give a fascinating insight into the world politics behind the sport and the characters who shaped it both on and off the rink. It's well told, humorous in parts, but ultimately chilling.

Watch the film trailer:

The cast and director Jaime Rosales were in attendance for the Un Certain Regard screening of Beautiful Youth. The films presents a bleak view of life for Spain's youth with few opportunities on offer, hence leading the central couple to decide to shoot a porn movie to earn some cash. Its style is refreshing (although I wasn't convinced that the Whatsapp sequences worked to demonstrate the passing of time, and seemed a little gimmicky) but bar that I was sufficiently drawn into the world of the young couple looking for some hope for their future. It was touching to see lead actress Ingrid Garcia-Jonsson so overcome with emotion due to the wonderful reaction of the audience to the screening. 

Cast & crew of Beautiful Youth

Perhaps my favourite film to date was Abderraane Sissako's Timbuktu. This beautiful and delicately told film about religious fundamentalists spreading terror in the region has at it's heart the story of doting father and husband Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed) and the consequences he faces after accidentally killing the fisherman Amadou over a valued cow. The film contains some stunning imagery. The scene of the boys playing imaginary football (with no real ball due to the religious banning of the game) was powerfully simple, as was the memorable image of the soldier sitting on the roof against the moonlight listening to music being played by the people he was about to arrest (music had also been banned). But perhaps the most striking image was the panoramic and lingering shot of Kidane wading though the water to escape the dying Amadou on the opposite bank.

Cast & crew of Timbuktu

David Cronenberg has assembled an impressive cast (Julianne Moore, Mia  Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams) for Maps to the Stars, his cutting look at our celebrity obsessed culture. With two colliding stories (one of a fading actress - Julianne Moore - haunted by her mother as she strives to be cast in the same role that brought her mother fame many years before, and the other of a Hollywood family with secrets aplenty and enough skeletons in the closet to feed The National Enquirer for decades!). Fine performances abound and the film is simply delicious in parts. For me, the first half heavily relied on jokes and references to other celebrities in the public domain, but it got a lot meatier and more engaging as it progressed towards its dramatic, Greek tragedy climax.

Next up in the Official Competition was Foxcatcher starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and an unrecognisable Steve Carell (who may have found a new calling in creepy and sinister roles). Based on a true story of two Olympic gold medallist wrestlers and brothers (Tatum and Ruffalo) who are taken under the wing of businessman and philanthropist John du Pont (Carell) to help bring them sporting glory. It all begins to go horribly wrong when that 'interest' begins to have a more sinister and obsessive side. It's a fascinating story and a treat to see Carell in such a different role.

Gente de Bien is a sweet Colombian film about a young boy, left by his mother to a father he barely knows. Struggling in downtown Bogota, the occasional employer of the boy's father takes pity on their situation and offers to take them on her family vacation over the Christmas break. I wouldn't imagine it'll be picking up any awards, but it was still an enjoyable watch.

And so with the first set of films under my belt, does it make the schedule seem less daunting now? Not a chance! With word of must-sees filtering through and my own selection, I'll still be spotted in queues around town staring at the programme schedule trying to figure out how to bi-locate!

A bientot, 

Ross Keane

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