Cannes 2015 Wrap Up

23 May, 2015 Posted in: Awards, Cannes, Cannes, Festivals, Opinion

I’ve just come out of the press screening of the festival’s Closing Night film – the ecological documentary The Ice and the Sky – and, for me, Cannes is finished for another year. A few great films and a handful of good-to-very good ones doesn’t feel like a terrific return but I missed a lot of what went on in the Directors Fortnight section this year – including the universally well-liked Turkish film Mustang – where the overall quality was reportedly very high (though I couldn’t say that about the Fortnight’s Closing Film, Dope). So, still plenty of Cannes titles to catch up on over the course of the year, and of course some films that I didn’t really enjoy or understand on first viewing here may very well improve on second viewing, in calmer surroundings (as happened with last year’s Palme d’Or winner Winter Sleep).

For now though, I’ll sign off with my personal Cannes top 10 (a clear top 3 and then the rest, all in alphabetical order), and a no-doubt poor attempt at some prize predictions:

Cannes Top 3:

THE ASSASSIN (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, in Competition)

CAROL (Todd Haynes, in Competition)

MY GOLDEN DAYS (Arnaud Desplechin, in Directors Fortnight)

The Rest:

CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, in Competition)

HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (Kent Jones/Serge Toucabia, in Cannes Classics)

THE MEASURE OF A MAN (Stephane Brize, in Competition)

MEDITERRANEA (Jonas Carpignano, in Critics Week)

MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART (Jia Zhang-ke, in Competition)

SON OF SAUL (Laszlo Nemes, in Competition)

THE TREASURE (Corneliu Porumboiu, in Un Certain Regard)

As for predictions, I’d go for Carol to win the Palme d’Or, Hou Hsiao-Hsien to win the Director prize, Zhao Tao to win Best Actress for Mountains May Depart and a toss-up between British actors Michael Caine and Tim Roth for Actor, in Youth and Chronic repsectively. Son of Saul should win the Camera d’Or for Best First Film, but that film – and its director Laszlo Nemes and lead actor Geza Rohrig – could easily win the top prize in any of the above eligible categories.



Cannes 2015: The Festival Finds Its Feet

18 May, 2015 Posted in: Awards, Cannes, Cannes, Festivals, Opinion, Review

Film4 Channel Editor David Cox brings us up to date as the 2015 edition of the Cannes Film Festival moves into its second week…

We’re into the first weekend of this year’s Cannes Film Festival and, after a bumpy beginning, some stronger titles have come along and things are starting to straighten out a bit. I felt like I was clutching at straws for a few days – nothing felt like the real deal, nothing was delivering from start to finish and on all levels. There’d been plenty to enjoy (I’m not seeking perfection and you rarely find much at Cannes that’s actively bad) but it was really just moments from, or aspects of, films that were making an impression.

Amongst the early entries unlikely to be remembered by the end of the festival were Hirokazu Koreeda’s touching but perilously lightweight Our Little Sister (graced by some lovely performances); Radu Muntean’s intriguing but too-ambiguous-by-half One Floor Down; Woody Allen’s campus comedy of morality and murder Irrational Man (scene-by-scene snappy but an overly-familiar dead-end); and Matteo Garrone’s fairytale compendium Tale Of Tales, which filled the screen with lavish design and fabulous creatures but failed to conjure anything approaching a fantastical atmosphere.


More significant, and almost certain to be in the running for a prize, Laszlo Nemes’ Son Of Saul is a Holocaust drama made with the urgent immediacy of a Dardenne film (specifically Rosetta and The Son). This immersive first-person drama – set in Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1944, and focussing almost exclusively on a Hungarian prisoner’s attempt to bury the dead body of a boy he believes to be his son – has a teasing visual scheme (lead Geza Rohrig is front-centre throughout, with death camp horrors glimpsed at the edge of frame or out of focus) and haunting sound design, an infernal, almost industrial clamour that conveys more of what’s going on than the images. It’s as powerful as one might expect and highly accomplished. However, given the subject matter, it also feels too contrived for comfort, with its perfectly constructed clockwork plot that, by being so compelling its own right, somehow reduces the very real historical horror to little more than a backdrop. Furthermore, some of the off-screen dialogue – lines such as ‘To the pits, the ovens must be full’ – are a little more on-the-nose than feels entirely necessary. Still, there’s no doubt that Son Of Saul is an entirely honourable attempt to confront the Shoah and an early festival highlight.


The festival whipping-boy going into the first weekend was poor Gus Van Sant (a former Palme d’Or winner for Elephant) and his spiritual survival-adventure/relationship drama Sea Of Trees. Booed at the first press screening (and maybe at the second too, but surely there can’t be that many idiots at this festival), Sea Of Trees is – simply put – not a film best-served by being in competition at Cannes. It may be ponderous, sentimental and full of trite philosophical musings but I’ve seen plenty of films here over the years that follow the same path, escaping unscathed thanks to a lower profile or a better disguise (another of this year’s competition entrants, Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs, is equally banal yet received warm applause). The nakedly earnest Sea Of Trees never tries to hide its emotions (it almost defiantly overshares in the final third) and one is never in doubt of the sort of grand effect that Van Sant – and Matthew McConaughey – are aiming for. That they end up looking faintly ridiculous is a shame, but critics would be better off trying to figure out why a big-hearted, serious-minded and beautifully-directed film ends up in such a mess rather than taking childish cheap shots.

A stumbling start maybe, but the weekend bought with it a handful of anticipated films that didn’t disappoint – Todd Haynes’ Carol; Asif Kapadia’s documentary Amy; Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre (which I’ve yet to see but which has been well received); Miguel Gomes’s three-part Arabian Nights; and my personal favourite, Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days. There have also been discoveries in the sidebars – Andrew Cividino’s Sleeping Giant; Clement Cogitore’s The Wakhan Front; Han Jun-hee’s Coin Locker Girl; and Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, the director’s bloody follow-up to his popular Blue Ruin. I’ll touch on some of them in my next entry if we haven’t moved on by then – it’s amazing how quickly your new favourite film becomes yesterday’s news at this rapid-fire festival!








Postcard from Sundance

Dark Horse director Louise Osmond on visiting Sundance for the first time, where her film premiered to critical acclaim and won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Dark Horse: winner of the Audience Awards for World Documentary at Sundance

Sundance has such a romance attached to it – the original indie festival – and I’m glad to say it genuinely lives up to its reputation. There is some madness out there – a swanky crowd who gather on the main street of Park City and swarm over celebrities like Chris Pine (we saw the swarm snaking down the road but not the man inside.)

But most of it is people who love film watching everything they can and a very warm atmosphere that gets film teams together in brunches and lunches and events that remind you why you love the job you do.

The producer, Judith Dawson and editor, Joby Gee were out there too and, nervous as cats, we waited for the premiere. Joby had one of his trademark fantastic/horrible shirts on – brown and blue dancing horses in 100% vintage rayon. Laughing at him proved oddly calming.  Coming out here, I’d thought – worried – a lot about whether American audiences would take to the story. In Park City, listening in the dark to every sigh or cough it seemed like they did but at a screening in Salt Lake City the next day it was louder and easier to read. They did seem to take to it and better still what they loved most about our fantastic characters – Jan and Brian, Howard and the others – was their spirit of defiance.

People will sometimes tell you America is a classless society but that news hasn’t reached Utah. Taking on the elite sport of kings with a horse bred on a slagheap allotment seemed to resonate very strongly with them. One man said: ‘Good to see people who aren’t respected getting the respect they deserve.’  Can’t argue with that.

Read more about Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance



Mr. Turner receives 4 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards

16 Jan, 2015 Productions Posted in: Academy Awards, Awards
Mr Turner

Mr Turner

Mike Leigh’s critically acclaimed film Mr. Turner yesterday received Oscar recognition in 4 categories:

Cinematography – Dick Pope

Production Design – Suzie Davies & Charlotte Watts

Costume Design – Jacqueline Durran

Original Score – Gary Yershon

Mr. Turner debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last year where Timothy Spall won the award for Best Actor and Dick Pope, Leigh’s long term collaborator, took home the prestigious Vulcain Prize for his cinematography. The film exceeded box office expectations in the UK, taking over £6m via eOne UK, and continues its global release throughout early 2015.

The film has also garnered 4 BAFTA nominations; Cinematography (Dick Pope), Production Design (Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts), Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran) and Make Up & Hair (Christine Blundell, Lesa Warrener), many of whom have worked on Leigh’s previous award winning titles such as Another Year, Happy Go Lucky and Vera Drake.

Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great of eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies.

Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty.

Film4-backed films take five awards at the 2014 British Independent Film Awards

09 Dec, 2014 Productions Posted in: Awards, BIFA

Five Film4-backed films received awards at the 17th annual BritishIndependent Film Awards which took place last night, including Yann Demange who took home the Best Director Award for ’71 along with Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard who received the Best Debut Director Award for 20,000 Days on Earth.

20'000 Days On Earth

Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, awarded Best British Newcomer at the London Film Festival Awards, was once again recognised for her role in the forthcoming Catch Me Daddy and took home the Most Promising Newcomer Award.


Best Screenplay was awarded to Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan for Frank. Stephen Rennicks took home the Best Technical Achievement Award for his music on the same film.

Jon with Frank and the band

David Kosse, Director of Film4, says, “We are thrilled that our filmmakers, in front of and behind the camera, have been honoured at this year’s British Independent Film Awards. Film4’s work with new talent is hugely important to us, so it’s very exciting that they have been recognised with these awards.”