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Just before I left New York for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, I had Valerie, the Amy Winehouse track by Mark Ronson stuck in my head. It stayed there throughout my time on the French Riviera thanks to seeing a film that became one of my best at the fest.
The Amy Winehouse documentary, simply titled Amy, earned heaps of praise when it debuted early on in the fest. There’s a quote in it that also stayed with me, uttered by the inimitable Tony Bennett: “Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough.” Words that could probably only be said by someone like him who has been there and done that when it comes to the music industry, and life itself. Mr Bennett is one of the people filmmaker Asif Kapadia interviews in his documentary, giving us a thorough look at how the singer tried to live hers before she died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27.
Just as he did in the excellent Bafta-winning Senna, Kapadia uses these interviews, from her best friends, music producers and her ex-husband (“my Blake incarcerated”), over home video and early gig footage so that the emphasis falls on the words and stories being told about who Amy Winehouse was, beyond the hit singles and headlines. How she – at the very heart of it all – just wanted to be loved. It’s a heartbreaking story, and Kapadia has done an excellent job of showing just how her voice was both her gift and her curse. Oh, but what a voice. Hearing her voice in intimate jazz club settings raises goosebumps.
Paparazzi footage is turned on its head to show just how much the photogs and tabloids intruded in on her life, as her art became her struggle. Even though it was a documentary and not in competition, Amy was made with such style and heart and vision that it deserves to stand alongside any of the other works, fiction or not, offered this year.

Paulo Sorrentino’s second English-language left another quote floating around in my mind, long after I watched it. The film divided the audience I watched it with – it’s quite disappointing to bound out of a theatre, ready to share with great gusto what you loved about the film, only to discover your friends didn’t feel the same way. But others did share my passion for the film, so I found a few kindred spirits to marvel at Sorrentino’s idiosyncrasies.
The thing is, I can’t even really explain all the reasons why I loved the film. Michael Caine is the star of Youth, and he is joined by Harvey Keitel and they play two friends, in the dusk of their lives, on their annual holiday in a Swiss resort, where they have conversations about life, love and everything else. But as it goes with Sorrentino, the film is not just as straight forward as this. “Emotions are over-rated,” Caine’s Fred Ballinger tells Keitel’s Mick Boyle. But it’s through an array of elements – sound, sights, music, details that seem to be out-of-place and then revealed not to be – that the film shows how very not true his words turn out to be. Watching Youth brought me through an assortment of emotions – and I came out the other side feeling the best kind of emotion, deeply and utterly invigorated with life.

Like many other festival-goers, I also thoroughly enjoyed The Lobster and Carol. Even though the latter felt like watching a Vivian Maier photograph take a slow, long brooding time to develop. Director Todd Haynes used the late nanny-turned-photographer’s pics as inspiration for the period piece, set in the ‘50s, about a love story between two women, the older played by Cate Blanchett and the younger by Rooney Mara, who won the Best Actress prize at the end of the fest (shared with Emmanuelle Bercot). Their hair, their outfits, their restrained performances – impeccable.
Add Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out to the list, and my Cannes 2015 is done. Unfortunately, I left early and without seeing the Palme d’Or winning film. Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan scored the top prize, after his previous film, Rust & Bone competed in 2012, and A Prophet picked up the Grand Prix in 2009.

It’s been a major attraction at this year’s festival – the return of Australian director George Miller to the dystopian world he created in Mad Max, one he left behind some 30 years. Seeing the film premiere at Cannes, with whoops and cheers, has been a highlight of the fest so far. Sitting down with Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult, Miller and of course, Charlize Theron, my fellow Benoni-born South African, has been another.

Mad Max: Fury Road is currently on the big screen.

You may be as happy as I was to discover that I didn’t oversleep on Thursday and so made it to the Hotel du Cap in Antibes, about 30 minutes outside of Cannes, to interview Charlize and the Mad Max: Fury Road co. Instead of sleeping too much, I actually didn’t under-slept and got about maybe 20 minutes of full sleep if I was lucky. Ah, jet lag.

Wearing a knockout of an LBD, Charlize Theron was, as always a pleasure to interview. But I did notice that she wasn’t as friendly or as easy to make casual conversation before the interview as she has been in the previous occasions that I have spoken to her. The press promotion for this film has been full-throttle and Cannes is just another stop on the tour to make sure the buzz keeps it going all the way into the box office books.

The film has received such glowing reviews, it’s sure to go exactly where director George Miller hopes. He is a fantastic visionary, and the effects he has created onscreen are a visual treat that will leave you gasping and mouthing the word, ‘wow’ more than a few times. Much has been made of Charlize’s character Furiosa, being the actual star of the film. It may say Max in the title, but it may as well have been Furiosa. As Tom Hardy, who plays Max told me, it does say “Fury Road,” so that’s a clue right there.

I’ve barely managed to get anything more than a 3-mile run in, but I have managed to make a few screenings so far. One of the first things I found out the very first time I covered Cannes was that there is so much going on at this film festival, and so many quick deadlines, that it’s quite difficult to actually watch the films themselves. 19 are in competition this year for the prestigious Palme d’Or. I saw Tale of Tales, with Salma Hayek and Vincent Cassel, which is a weaving of three WTF fairytale stories that are both whimsical and worrying at the same time, while The Lobster gave me a fantastic start to Day 3, with its musings on love as an institution where, if you fail, you are to spend the rest of your life as an animal.

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has Colin Farrell’s character select a lobster, hence the film’s title. I don’t know what I would choose, but I think if I am ever a complete and utter failure at this thing called Love to the extent I give up completely, I should like to be a dog that belongs to a celebrity – then I don’t think I’ll ever have to want for anything. Especially not love.

We interrupt this Cannes coverage for a special sit-down with Rebel Wilson and co-star Adam DeVine as they talk about Pitch Perfect 2 – the follow up to the massively successful 2012 aca-hit film. This time around, the Belles are a little older, but not as much wiser. Rebel and Adam take their relationship to a new level, and I found out, they really can hit a note. Watch the Aussie actress surprise me by singing in Zulu, speaking in Afrikaans and giving a shout-out to the city that rescued her.

 

Pitch Perfect 2 releases this weekend.