Cannes 2015

BFI 59th London Film Festival – Top Picks for 2015

Next month sees the return of one of the UK’s most prolific film festival, The London Film Festival (LFF). Taking place between 7 and 18 October, the festival will show over 230 films in more than 16 venues over the capital.

‘Amy’: A bleak yet honest documentary by Senna director Kapadia

Even though she had been performing since she was 14, it wasn’t until the release of her second studio album Back to Black in 2008 did Amy Winehouse become a mainstream artist. With that, her personal life became a constant presence in the media. Now, four years after her passing due to accidental poisoning, her life and achievements are celebrated in a new documentary by Senna director Asif Kapadia.

Cannes 2015: ‘Macbeth’ and the reliable charm of Michael Fassbender

The final film in competition, Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth delivers a spectacle of dripping blood, slow-motion battle scenes, sprawling Scottish highlands and Michael Fassbender. Fassbender stars as the Scottish warrior turned regicide and paranoid monarch, who after a particularly bloody battle has a vision of three witches predicting he will be King of Scotland. Macbeth starts out as an honorable soldier loyal to King Duncan (David Thewlis) and decides to only become king the “natural way”. However, after imprudently sharing the witches’ prophecy with his wife, played by Marion Cotillard, Macbeth finds himself constrained by her ambitious power lust.

Cannes 2015: Denis Villeneuve’s narco-thriller ‘Sicario’ has mass appeal

Denis Villeneuve’s narco-thriller Sicario is likely the most mass-appeal film in this year’s competition, a very watchable, schematically Hollywoodian production more at home at the Oscars than at Cannes. It stars, tragically, Emily Blunt as FBI agent Kate Macer and, unsurprisingly, Benicio Del Toro as special drugs advisor Alejandro.

Cannes 2015: “La Loi du Marché” – the most stringently cinéma-vérité film competing for the Palme d’Or

The second of no less than five French competition entries, La Loi du Marché is so far the most stringently cinéma-vérité film competing for the Palme d’Or. It is a fine piece of social drama in the French tradition of cinéma engagé (socially conscious cinema) with prominent touches of Dogme 95-style naturalism. I had seen and loved two of Stéphane Brizé’s previous works, Je ne suis pas là pour être aimé (Not Here to Be Loved, 2005) and Mademoiselle Chambon (2009) but never realised they were directed by the author of La Loi du Marché so I went in slightly irritated with the French press already lionising director Brizé’s favourite lead Vincent Lindon’s performance as “on track for the best actor prize” as I already had my firm favourite in the shape of larger-than-life Géza Röhrig (and it’s still the case because despite Lindon’s exquisitely calibrated, textbook-worthy, perfect but not innovative incarnation, the spell of the sweat and madness of Röhrig’s performance still holds.)

Cannes 2015: ‘Arabian Nights Vol II, The Desolate One’: The inexplicable beguilement of surrealist cinema

Miguel Gomes showed up the Director’s Fortnight screening of the second part of Arabian Nights wearing a t-shirt and Benfica football scarf and started off by rambling about his favourite team’s newly won championship title. Something about Gomes is disarmingly charismatic and sincere – you could tell the rugged look was not an act but rather Gomes was just being himself. And amazingly, despite the thick layers of surrealist imagery and narrative convolutedness, there is a quality in his Arabian Nights enterprise that comes across as unadulteratedly sincere.

Cannes 2015: ‘Mia Madre (My Mother)’ – When cinema is your day job

I went into the Mia Madre screening hoping for a witty, ironic, sensitive and emotionally substantial piece of cinema and came out thinking the Cannes selection does not pretend to be a meritocracy. Nanni Moretti is one of the big Cannes brand names, a few lucky ‘subscribers’ quasi certain of a slot in the festival, the mediocrity of some of their fare notwithstanding.

Cannes 2015: “The Lobster”: comedy of the absurd, short on laughs

The much anticipated fourth film in competition, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster follows in the footsteps of Garrone’s Tale of Tales and Sorrentino’s Youth – Southern European auteurs of noteworthy beginnings migrating to English-language international co-productions and big-name casts. So far the ‘show-me-the-money’ transplant, (Lanthimos stated during the press conference that while funding was easier to assemble internationally, he moved to the UK because he wanted to work in English anyway), has yielded mixed results: it seems that once the big money and names are there, the genuine irreverence and wildness we first loved gives way to forced weirdness overkill and uninspired attempts at outdoing oneself (while probably being intimately aware that casting a pretty Hollywood-approved lead because the budget is there does not guarantee great art). Though to be fair, by day four at Cannes 2015, it seems quite a few films get made because, well, someone secured a budget to make a film (Iceland entry to Un Certain Regard Rams about sheep and grass and sheep and snow, I am thinking of you)…

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