Latest from Catherine Bray

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Top pop moments from Cannes 2015

21 May, 2015 Posted in: Cannes, Cannes, Festivals

Cannes is always a great place to see and hear brilliant pop music, often divorced from its usual context, and 2015 has been no different. Here’s my personal playlist of top pop moments from the Competition and sidebars.

Click here to listen to the following playlist on Spotify

1. ‘Say You, Say Me’
Miguel Gomes’ epic 6hr+ tapestry of tales, Arabian Nights, playing in Directors’ Fortnight, offers  bounty of musical highlights to choose from, but top of the heap has to be the tragicomedy of Lionel Richie’s ‘Say You, Say Me’ on vinyl at a dinner party in the final part of Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One.


2. ‘Sound Of Da Police’
Emmanuelle Bercot’s Opening Night film Standing Tall drew its fair share of complaints that it was a little flat and uncinematic. They’re perhaps not unjustified, but an early scene where juvenile delinquent Malony (Rod Paradot) goes joy-riding is one of the most kinetic in the film and is appropriately soundtracked by KRS-One’s ‘Sound Of Da Police’.

3. ‘You Got The Love’
Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth in the main Competition may have divided critics on the Croisette, but surely no-one could disagree with the joy of the opening scene, where a hotel covers band plays a swooping, swooning version of Candi Stanton’s disco classic ‘You Got The Love’.

4. ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’
And speaking of hotel covers, Britain’s own Olivia Colman scores a spot in the list courtesy of a hilariously straight-faced version of ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’, in Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark Competition comedy The Lobster. Performed in the hotel her character runs to help single people find love, it’s possibly the best deadpan karaoke moment in film since Bill Murray’s ‘More Than This’ in Lost In Translation. It’s also one of two songs with a Nick Cave connection to make an appearance in The Lobster – there’s also room for Cave’s crossover hit ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’, while ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ was of course also covered by Cave & co on Kicking Against The Pricks.


5. ’212′
In Alice Winocour’s Un Certain Regard entry Maryland, sound design is used to help indicate an Afghanistan vet’s post-traumatic stress disorder. It never seems quite so unsettling as when he wanders in a daze through a wealthy mansion party of arms dealers, aristocrats, politicians and other dodgy sorts, all going nuts on the dance floor to Azealia Bank’s breakout hit ’212′.

6. ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’
The political undercurrent of this section of the playlist takes a turn from thriller to horror in Jeremy Saulnier’s brutal, blood-pumping siege nightmare Green Room (Directors’ Fortnight), as punk band the Ain’t Rights go from covering the Dead Kennedys’ minute-long howl of anger to fighting for their lives against far-right white supremacists.

7. ‘Love Is A Losing Game’
From genre horror to the horrors of reality, with a track from Amy Winehouse, whose too-brief life and career is the subject of Asif Kapadia’s hard-to-watch doc. Of the many musical moments in the film, it’s ‘Love Is A Losing Game’ which perhaps even more than the more obviously illuminating ‘Rehab’ gets to the heart of the issue.

8. ‘Love Is A Song’
To end on an uplifting note, closing out Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s meditative Un Certain Regard entry Cemetery Of Splendour is this superbly game and earwormy little pop number that I haven’t been able to get out of my head all week. It’s not on Spotify, so here’s the YouTube embed:


Critics’ Week: Day Seven – Krisha

20 May, 2015 Posted in: Cannes, Cannes, Festivals, Review

Catherine Bray adds to a growing chorus of acclaim for Trey Edward Shults’ Krisha, a feature film backed on Kickstarter to the tune of  $14,260, which went on to win the Grand Jury Award at SXSW…

Krisha (Krisha Fairchild)

Krisha (Krisha Fairchild)

Some films are important because they clearly signal in some way the arrival of an important new talent, without necessarily being a film that works independently of its function as a calling card. Krisha is both calling card and a legitimately accomplished film in its own right.

Multi-talented multi-hyphenate Trey Edward Shults writes, directs and edits his own feature debut, as well as playing a small but key role in the film, and it’s worth learning his name now: he’s scored a two-pic deal with A24 off the back of Krisha’s success and is still only in his mid-twenties. We’ll be hearing from him again.

Director Trey Edward Shults

Director Trey Edward Shults

More importantly, the film itself is a gem. Actually, I say “gem” because it fits neatly with elements of what we understand by the word “gem” (a film reviewer’s word if ever I saw one), in that it’s small but perfectly formed, shot in just nine days on a single location, it’s an indie, it premiered at SXSW, and so on (there is no such thing as an “epic gem”). But actually, “gem” may not be the right word, implying as it sometimes can, a certain kind of twinkling warmth or whimsy, perhaps even twee qualities (Garden State was the prototypical indie gem, back when people still liked that film).

The plot synopsis – estranged aunt Krisha attempts to reconnect at Thanksgiving dinner – does nothing to allay impressions of possible hugging and learning outcomes, Oscar bait style, but the film’s major gambit places it in rather different territory. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Lost Weekend, Krisha locates horror tropes in the nightmare of trying to function in society as an alcoholic. The tension, suspicion, compulsions and treachery that underlie most psychological horror are all present and correct, but transposed cleverly onto a warm and banal family ensemble, and Shults plays on these aspects like a pro. If you’ve ever dealt with any of the issues presented here, be warned it’s a tough watch.

Nor is this a cold technical exercise – there is real feeling here, perhaps partly as a result of the film’s other big gimmick, which is the casting of Shults’ family in fictionalised versions of themselves. This could have been a disaster, but Shults marshals his actors/family effectively and captures dozens of moments where it’s impossible to tell where fiction ends and documentary begins. This is one of my must-sees from Cannes.


Krisha (Krisha Fairchild)

Krisha (Krisha Fairchild)





Crowdfunding at Cannes

20 May, 2015 Posted in: Cannes, Cannes, Festivals

Independent crowdfunding is an increasingly large part of even major festivals like Cannes, with Critics’ Week hit Krisha funded on Kickstarter and around 10% of films at Sundance part-funded via a mixture of different crowd-funded platforms. We asked Miranda Fleming, UK Film & Creative for Indiegogo, formerly head of production at Screen South, about her Cannes experience.

Miranda Fleming

Miranda Fleming

Can you describe a typical day at Cannes for us?

Nights are long in Cannes so meetings tend to start at 10am. It’s sunny this year so a lounge meeting in the terrace is a nice way to start – I often start my day meeting an international producer with a specific film in mind to crowdfund – I help them take a look at the project and start developing a strategy for the campaign.

Then it’s off to the International village – meeting with international festivals to discuss workshops and panels for future events. The UK is my main market, so I pop into a UK specific event like Film London. I’m also interested in European filmmaker networks in the main Cannes festival and join a documentary brunch on one of the Plages restaurants – today it was the Documentary brunch with selected documentary makers from across the world.

The afternoon is full of more meetings with mix of filmmakers/international film festivals and funds. I also attend the Croisette front offices to see a couple of Sales Agents who are internationally selling a film which is crowdfunding or might be launching a campaign for one of their films which they are financing.

The evening is a dinner with US filmmakers from partnerships such as IFC in New York and a great way to introduce and network them to some similar minded UK filmmakers.

What are Indiegogo’s general aims at a festival like Cannes and how do they relate to Indiegogo’s general objectives?

Our objective is to speak with all international filmmakers – UK, US, but particularly from countries where we don’t have offices (yet) like India, Japan and Europe. The latter is key at Cannes as Europe is a fantastic central focus here. European funds are crucial to our work here, as they have direct access to filmmaker networks. I also meet with the European Association of European Regional funds, Cine Regio, whose members accounted for 30% of the films playing at Cannes.

It’s important for us to measure the trends via these networks – they know more than anyone what their film industry is discussing – it’s imperative we join that conversation as crowdfunding takes a hold internationally.

And what do you most enjoy about Cannes?

Filmmaker networks, particularly meeting filmmakers from all corners of the world – having just one fantastic spontaneous introduction each day – be it through a scheduled meeting, an encounter in a queue waiting for a film or taxi, is what makes Cannes such a special festival. The sunshine helps put a spring in everyone’s step – there’s an optimistic feeling of good things to come.

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Hurry up and wait at Cannes

18 May, 2015 Posted in: Cannes, Cannes, Festivals

Catherine Bray gets to grips with the virtues of patience at Cannes, as Hirokazu Koreeda’s Umimachi Diary improves immeasurably on reflection…


“Hurry up and wait” is still pretty much the best description I’ve ever heard of what it’s like to be on a film set. It also applies to film festivals, and most particularly to the world’s biggest and arguably best: Cannes.

If you’re at home viewing the festival through the lens of social media, Cannes probably looks like a bunch of blaggers chugging rosé and managing to embarrass the occasional celebrity into taking a photograph with them.

Of course, those are the snatched moments attendees choose to memorialise: a live feed of two hours in a queue wouldn’t create the requisite #blessed impression for your Instagram followers, and, more charitably, there’s also the feeling that whinging might demonstrate a failure to appreciate their overall good fortune.

But in the spirit of reportage rather than complaint, it’s simply a fact that the majority of a film critic’s time at Cannes is spent either a) queuing to watch films b) watching films c) writing about films, in a non-stop cycle. This can sink you into a strange psychological state: you have to hurry, hurry, hurry to get to the queue in the first place. Then you wait. Then you hurry, hurry, hurry to get a good seat. The film plays. Then you hurry, hurry, hurry to be the first to tweet and/or get your review up. Lather, rinse, repeat.

An eagle-eyed observer will notice that in this rather artificial hurry/wait/hurry/wait pattern, the film itself can become part of the waiting, particularly if it’s long and/or bad. This is of course a terrible state of affairs and you sometimes have to force yourself to remember that this bit, the film itself, is the whole point. Even if it’s long. Even if it’s bad. Even if leaving now would mean you would just have time to dash over to the Debussy for that promising-sounding Korean film in Certain Regard…

It was in this slightly frazzled state of mind that I finally settled in for Hirokazu Koreeda’s Umimachi Diary on Friday 15th, having already queued twice the previous day and been turned away as the screening was full.

Umimachi Diary is a very, very gentle film. When they invented the word “contemplative” it was held in readiness for people to use when films like this come along. The director himself has spoken of a conscious desire to strip away the normal trappings of drama – conflict, incident, and so on – to create a naturalistically unfolding portrait of three sisters who take in a younger half-sister when the father they hold in common dies.

The passage of the seasons is marked by the cherry blossom, which flowers, falls and is blown away. Underlying tensions between the sisters go largely unexpressed. Simple domestic rituals are showcased in loving detail. And as the minutes ticked by and nothing continued to happen, I started to feel twitchy. Don’t get me wrong, I was enjoying the visuals and the peace and quiet and all, but was this the whole story?

Stepping outside the nervy cycle of waiting and hurrying, the film has stuck with me to an extent I could never have predicted. My reaction on leaving the cinema was “well, that was sweet, but I never need to see it again.” A mere three days later and already I’d love to have a second look. I believe it’s a testament to the exquisite humanity Koreeda grants his characters that I don’t even feel like it’s a piece of art I want to scrutinise again, but more a group of people I met and became fond of. I want to know how they’re doing and hang out again. The non-incidents that make up the runtime have taken on the quality of warm personal memories. It’s difficult to make a bicycle ride under cherry blossoms sound as must-see as some of the more lurid set-pieces available elsewhere at Cannes, but I look forward to experiencing it again in the same way as I’d look forward to flipping through an old album of photographs of friends doing nothing in particular. The value doesn’t lie in what happened, it lies in the affection you have for the people involved. To create fictional characters about whom this has come to feel true is an extraordinary feat in a two hour film, and something traditionally only managed in TV series.

I’m pleased I didn’t rush out to write about this film immediately after seeing it. It has improved immeasurably in my estimation largely due to having waited before sharing my impressions. It’s impractical for most critics to hang about before filing their copy – that’s not the world journalism operates in. But if it is ever possible, even occasionally, I’d urge critics to hurry up and wait.




Fairytale and fable: Tales of Tales bows at Cannes

15 May, 2015 Posted in: Cannes, Cannes, Festivals

Catherine Bray is swept up in a world of ogres, sea serpents and sorcerers and asks: why fairytales are so attractive to adults?

The thing about fairytales is they’re supposed to be for children – and yet if you filmed most of them explicitly, you wouldn’t get a rating that would allow kids to see the damn thing.

Hansel and Gretel incinerate an old lady in an act of self-defence against premeditated cannibalism. Little Red Riding Hood, even setting aside certain plausibility issues around being eaten whole only to emerge unscathed, features moderate peril and strong bloody violence against animals. And without getting into it too much, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are all rife with transparent human rights abuses.

But although children adore fairytales, they’re at least as much fun for adults, particularly when you keep the gruesome stuff in and don’t Disnify the ending. Matteo Garrone knows this and has created a tripartite compendium of fairytales for grown ups in his Competition entry Tale of Tales. Events are not unfolding in an arch, Shrekish world of ironic distance, either. Garrone fully commits to his material and performers, whether it’s Salma Hayek as a 17th century Spanish queen ferociously committed to her offspring, Vincent Cassel accidentally lusting after a wily old crone, or Toby Jones giving his only daughter away to be married to an ogre. This summary barely scratches the supernatural surface, but hints at the world Garrone has woven, which is a wild reimagining of some of Italian author Giambattista Basile’s fables.

But what is it about adult fairytales that makes them so very enjoyable? It can’t be purely a nostalgic appeal to childhood and childhood’s notional innocence – they’re replete with monsters, rampant beasts, defenestrations, flayings and other sticking endings. But they’re not cathartic in the way that straight up horror is either: we don’t watch them principally to feel scared. Nor do they bear a particularly close relation of the adrenaline hit of a good action movie or thriller – there may be a few suspenseful set pieces, but again, it’s not exactly why we bought the ticket. Equally, they don’t seem to tickle the same part of the brain that the more austere end of the art house reaches – their excitements are more visceral than cerebral.

Perhaps, then, the attraction lies in something as simple as their form. The outcomes of fairytales can be unpredictable, but we always know that they will follow a certain tried, tested and true form. A character has a problem, an outlandish and often magical solution presents itself, which usually creates a new problem, followed by a satisfyingly definitive ending containing a poetic truth or justice. Fairytales are not the place for the kind of ambiguous, open ended lack of conclusion that life tends to serve up. They have endings. That clean sense of closure is surely part of the joy. That and the fact that you sometimes get to see Salma Hayek chow down on a giant sea serpent’s heart…


by Catherine Bray

Catherine is a film journalist and the Editorial Director of Film4 Online. She is also the producer of teen movie documentary @beyondclueless and forthcoming horror documentary Fear Itself.

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