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!








Joe Cunningham’s 11 recommendations for LFF 14

19 Sep, 2014 Posted in: London Film Festival, Opinion

Unfortunately I haven’t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that’s what makes the London Film Festival’s compilation approach to programming all the more exciting – there’s no shortage of films that come highly-recommended that I’m desperate to see, and now they’re here on my doorstep. Already overflowing with recommendations from Michael and Catherine, I delved even deeper into the programme to select an array of films that I haven’t already been assured are all absolutely brilliant, but that look like they just might be.

Mr Turner

Mr Turner

Mr. Turner, dir. Mike Leigh

After Timothy Spall’s Best Actor win in Cannes and hearing all of the positive noises about Mike Leigh’s film as it makes its way around the festival circuit, it’s exciting to think that we’ll soon be able to hear those already infamous grunts first hand and on home soil ahead of its October 31st UK release. (Buy tickets)

The New Girlfriend, dir. Francois Ozon

Francois Ozon returns to the LFF for the third successive year after the excellent In The House and Jeune & Jolie with a film starring Romain Duris that plays in the Official Competition and comes billed as an audacious melodrama with a ravishing twist. What’s not to like? (Buy tickets)

Stray Dog, dir Debra Granik

Debra Granik met the subject of her debut documentary, Ronnie ‘Stray Dog’ Hall while making her Oscar-nominated feature, Winter’s Bone. If she tells the story of this American biker and war vet with the nuance and grace with which she depicted characters like Teardrop and Ree in her narrative feature, this should make for a fascinating watch. (Buy tickets)

The Tribe, dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy

When our very own Catherine Bray saw The Tribe in Cannes she drew parallels to Michael Haneke, calling the Ukrainian film “unusual” and “brilliant.” Featuring a cast of young deaf performers and told entirely through sign language and without subtitles, The Tribe promises to be a completely new cinematic experience. (Buy tickets)

X + Y, dir. Morgan Matthews

Playing in the festival’s ‘Love’ strand, BAFTA-winning documentarian Morgan Matthews’ X + Y has assembled an impressive British cast that includes Rafe Spall, Eddie Marsan and Sally Hawkins for his tale of an autistic teenage maths prodigy (Asa Butterfield) whose talent takes him from the English suburbs to Taipei. (Buy tickets)

Metamorphoses, dir. Christophe Honore

Of the numerous clips and trailers that played at the LFF’s press launch earlier this month, it was the Metamorphoses trailer that proved perhaps the most attention-grabbing. The description of an “erotically upfront re-reading of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, enacted by a fearless cast of young actors in contemporary French settings” does nothing to loosen that grab on my attention. (Buy tickets)

White Bird In A Blizzard, dir. Gregg Araki

I’d been looking forward to Gregg Araki’s first film in four years long before the pleasant surprise of finding it in the ‘Dare’ strand (naturally) of the LFF programme. Again exploring his favourite themes of sex, mortality and adolescence, but this time with two of Hollywood’s most exciting stars in Eva Green and Shailene Woodley, this will hopefully be a return to form for Araki. (Buy tickets)

Night Bus, dir. Simon Baker

I don’t find myself naturally drawn towards the LFF’s ‘Laugh’ strand, but Night Bus immediately struck me as a brilliant idea that I couldn’t believe hadn’t been done before. Written and directed by Simon Baker (no, not that one), the comedy-drama will take us on a journey through London that very isn’t often experienced sober. (Buy tickets)

A Second Chance, dir. Susanne Bier

Susanne Bier, the Oscar-winning director of In A Better World, has two films at this year’s festival, and despite her English-language effort featuring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role, it’s her Danish-Swedish production starring Game Of Thrones’ excellent Nikolaj Coster-Waldau that I’m excited about. (Buy tickets)

Robot Overlords, dir. Jon Wright

I’m a firm believer that in the era of CG-animation, modern mainstream cinema is failing to adequately provide younger audiences with quality, live-action movies. This ambitious, futuristic British sci-fi in the ‘Family’ strand will hopefully buck that trend. Fingers crossed for something positively Spielbergian. (Buy tickets)

Animated Shorts For Younger Audiences, dir. Various

What other section of the programme includes a picked-on pig befriending an artistic fox? That’s the plot of the adorable-looking The Dam Keeper, and there are also shorts featuring elephants,  a ghost, a giant octopus, and a prehistoric fish in this international selection. After a bevy of serious, arthouse cinema, this should be a lovely change of pace. (Buy tickets)


Michael Leader’s 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

19 Sep, 2014 Posted in: London Film Festival, Opinion

One of the best things about the London Film Festival’s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there’s an eclectic collection of exciting films of all shapes and sizes that are finally finding their UK premieres after months of international buzz. So, after Catherine’s round-up, here are my 11 picks from the programme – a mixture of the already-seen and the dying-to-see.

Second Coming

Second Coming

Second Coming

Hot on the heels of its world premiere at TIFF, Debbie Tucker Green’s Film4-backed domestic drama, starring Nadine Marshall and Idris Elba as a couple whose relationship is rocked by a mysterious pregnancy, appears at the LFF in the First Feature Competition. But it’s a London film at heart, shot locally in the South-West of the capital and written with an intimate understanding of the area’s British-West Indian community, so there’s no better place to catch it (especially its Sunday 19th screening at the Ritzy in Brixton). (Buy tickets)

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films

One of my favourites from Toronto this year, Electric Boogaloo is about as fun and informative as a documentary about a film studio could possibly be. Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood) stuffs his latest trawl through movie history with hilarious anecdotes and ludicrous clips, as he delves into the backstory of 80s eccentrics Cannon Films, the production company that brought you the likes of Missing In Action, Death Wish III, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace and Masters Of The Universe. (Buy tickets)

It Follows

The wait has been excruciating, but It Follows has finally made it to UK shores after rave reviews from Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Toronto and various other international film festivals. Our Catherine Bray called David Robert Mitchell’s second feature “the best teen horror pic to emerge since The Faculty” – and, believe me, that’s high praise. Expect to see me cowering in the front row. (Buy tickets)

Catch Me Daddy

One more exciting, Film4-backed debut from the First Feature Competition line-up. Music video director Daniel Wolfe’s gripping tale of two young lovers on the run through the Yorkshire Moors is bold and beautifully shot (by Andrea Arnold’s regular DoP Robbie Ryan). And the critics at Cannes agreed, with Time Out lauding the film as an “unblinking and upsetting debut”, while The Telegraph hailed it as “a terrifically bright start for its director”.  (Buy tickets)

Bjork: Biophilia Live

If Peter Strickland’s S&M-themed drama The Duke Of Burgundy leaves you gagging (!) for more, then don’t forget his second appearance in the LFF programme, a concert film co-directed with BAFTA-winning editor Nick Fenton, documenting the live portion of the ever-inspiring Bjork’s ambitious multimedia project Biophilia. (Buy tickets)

German Concentration Camps Factual Survey

Certainly not the cheeriest of choices from the LFF programme, but this intriguing unfinished project from 1945, completed and restored by the Imperial War Museum, was initially filmed for a single, propagandistic purpose: to confront German citizens with the horrors of Hitler’s regime in order to ‘de-Nazify’ the population after the Second World War ended. From Schindler’s List to Shoah, the question of how best to document the holocaust on film has been a hotly-debated topic for decades, and this is a unique chance to see how such footage could have been used as a socio-cultural weapon. (Buy tickets)

National Gallery

I experienced something of a documentary-related epiphany about halfway into Frederick Wiseman’s patient, observational four-hour long film At Berkeley at Venice last year, and this new observo-doc about one of London’s most august institutions, a relative trifle at just under 180 minutes, should be no less engrossing or enlightening. (Buy tickets)

The Drop 

Tom Hardy cuddles a puppy! If that mental image hasn’t convinced you to see The Drop, there’s plenty to love about Michael R Roskam’s (Bullhead) adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s finely-textured, character-driven crime story, which sees Hardy appear alongside the great James Gandolfini as the bartender and manager of a run-down Brooklyn joint reduced to acting as a ‘drop’ location for the local mafia. (Buy tickets)

Tokyo Tribe

Here’s a gangster rap musical, adapted from a hyper-stylized manga series by maverick Japanese director Sion Sono (Love Exposure, Suicide Club). Need I say more? This follow-up to last year’s madcap gem Why Don’t You Play In Hell is a glorious mash-up of West Side Story and The Warriors, with wall-to-wall rapping and the incessant stylistic bombast that Sono has turned into a personal trademark. (Buy tickets)


Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s segment in horror anthology doc VHS: Viral – featuring skaters stumbling across a freaky demonic ritual in Tijuana – was one of my highlights from FrightFest last month, so Spring, reportedly a romance/horror hybrid that brings together Richard Linklater and HP Lovecraft, is right at the top of my must-see list. (Buy tickets)

The World Of Kanako

Tetsuya Nakashima is one of Japan’s most exciting directors, and his latest finds the candy-coloured pop art of Kamikaze Girls colliding head-first with the foreboding drama of Confessions, with a thread of violent bad-cop thrills tying it all together, as an unpredictable ex-detective tracks his missing daughter through the unseemly criminal world that lies beyond her seemingly perfect high-school life. The World Of Kanako sometimes feels like four films happening at once – and the experience is absolutely exhilarating. (Buy tickets)

Catherine Bray’s 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

19 Sep, 2014 Posted in: London Film Festival, Opinion

Alan Partridge’s favourite Beatles album is The Best of The Beatles. By the same token, one of the world’s best festivals is the LFF. It’s not about screening films first, it’s about putting together the juiciest compilation of the year’s best movies.  That said, they’ve still managed to squeeze in 16 world premieres. The Film4.com team are all picking their personal picks from the fest, and these are mine. It was supposed to be 10, but we just couldn’t bear to cut it down (and have still had to miss out a ton of gems), so we ended up turning it up to 11. Here are my 2014 LFF recommendations – enjoy!


The Possibilities Are Endless, dir. Edward Lovelace and James Hall

I saw this beautiful doc from directors-to-watch Edward Lovelace and James Hall at SXSW and it’s really stayed with me since. Following the process of singer Edwyn Collins piecing his identity back together again after a stroke, it’s such a moving, and brutally beautiful piece of filmmaking, I can’t wait to see it again. (Buy tickets)

’71, dir. Yann Demange

Probably your last chance to catch Jack O’Connell in a film before he becomes a megastar (Vanity Fair agree with us on this), the debut feature from Yann Demange is a Film4-backed firecracker of a thriller about one man trying to survive behind enemy lines. (Buy tickets)

Foxcatcher, dir. Bennett Miller

Alongside Maps to the Stars, this was one of my favourites at Cannes this year – Bennett Miller’s masterful unpicking of masculine bravado has a chilly understated brilliance that ensures the inevitability of its tragic climax connects like a sucker punch to the gut. Not your typical Oscar tearjerker. (Buy tickets)

The Duke Of Burgundy, dir. Peter Strickland

This is a Film4 backed one, but you don’t need to take our word for it that it’s brilliant – following its Toronto premiere, film industry bible Variety picked The Duke of Burgundy as one of the best of the fest, praising “British director Peter Strickland’s straight-faced yet deviously funny homage to ’60s and ’70s Eurotrash erotica [...] for sheer aesthetic overindulgence, nothing else on screens right now can touch it.” (Buy tickets)

The Immortalists, dir. Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado

I often feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day or days in a life, and the idea of extended lifespans is fascinating to me. It’s a big deal for scientists too, so I’m really looking forward to checking out what the boffins have to say about humankind’s quest for immortality in this doc. (Buy tickets)

The Surprise Film, dir. ?

An LFF institution, the surprise film is a blindfold gamble which usually manages to confound the pundits. Personally, I’d love to see Birdman again, which I was blown away by in Venice, or Alex Garland’s extraordinary looking sci-fi Ex Machina. But it’ll probably be something completely off my radar. (Buy tickets)

Whiplash, dir. Damien Chazelle

The main reason to see Whiplash is Miles Teller’s extraordinary performance as Andrew, a driven young drummer pushed to his limits. I saw this at Sundance and was initially lulled into thinking we’re rooting for Andrew. Not really – he’s more a Mark Zuckerberg style protagonist and all the more interesting for it… (Buy tickets)

Rosewater, dir. Jon Stewart

The always annoyingly funny and talented Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) adds another string to his bow here as director of this true story of a journalist detained for 188 days in Iran. I’ve not seen it, but word from Telluride was strong. (Buy tickets)

Altman, dir. Ron Mann

Formally, this doc (which I caught at Venice) about the late, sometimes great Robert Altman isn’t radical, but that’s not the point – this is a headfirst plunge into the career of one of America’s foremost post-war auteurs, laden with detail, charm and emotion. (Buy tickets)

Girlhood, dir. Celine Sciamma

Another favourite from Cannes, Celine Sciamma builds on the momentum she achieved with Water Lillies and Tomboy to deliver her finest work yet – a lively coming of age movie boasting the best use of Rihanna’s Diamonds yet to grace our screens. (Buy tickets)