Featured,  Film

The Cannes Diaries: Of Catching Foxes and Dodging Avalanches

Signature_CONF-PRESSEI’ve heard it being said a few times over the past few days, and I’ve felt it myself – this Cannes doesn’t feel as busy as previous years. Also, there doesn’t seem to be the same kind of buzz being generated as in years gone by. But each festival has its own character, and there are still moments of wonder and engagement that are giving this year’s one its own unique feel.

This morning’s screening of  drew high praise from critics here for Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, as well as Mark Ruffalo to a lesser extent, as his part isn’t as big or as revelatory. I hardly recognized Steve, not just because of the prosthetic added to his nose but because his speech and manner was very creepy. Loveable Gru he was not! It’s amazing to see him embody the fear and dark side of wealth and insecurity in this role. In the film, which is based on a true story, Steve plays John DuPont, a wealthy man who bankrolls the US Olympic wrestling team. Channing’s Mark Schultz is part of that team, together with his more charming and affable brother played Mark.

The dynamic that plays out between them over the course of the slow-burning film is superb, and yes, there are already whispers of Oscar nominations. I’m just impressed Carell has that in him. We got glimpses of his not-so charming side in but this take that hint and manifests it completely. At the press conference for the film, Steve said he didn’t find doing a drama that much different to a comedy: “I don’t think characters in film know that they’re in a comedy or a drama; they’re just characters in a film. I don’t approach a drama any differently to a comedy. That’s how it was for this film. It was just a story and a character within that story.” In this story, Channing too, is so great to watch – he is far more than most would give him credit for, and this film will help show that. Maybe even as far as a Best Supporting Actor nod? It might be too early for all that. I’m just trying to enjoy the films for what they are now.

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David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars had its premiere here Monday night, and the stars came out for it. Robert Pattinson is back in Cannes to support the film, after last year’s Cosmopolis, also by Cronenberg. I feel incredibly old when I start to say that I remember meeting him in Cannes before the first Twilight movie came out. He was on the cusp of his stardom and now he seems to be steering his ship in another direction, down indie waters. He also has another film here called The Rover, directed by Animal Kingdom‘s David Michod. Map, starring Julianne Moore (as you’ve honestly never seen her before), John Cusack and Mia Wasikowska, had me a little puzzled as to what it was all about and what I was meant to be left feeling when it ended, so it’s not one of my highlights this year.

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A film I did feel a whole lot more rewarded for watching was the Swedish movie, Force Majeure (Tourist) by filmmaker Ruben Östlund, showing in the Un Certain Regard portion of the festival. A family on vacation in the alps misses being hit by an avalanche, but the impact of that experience and the emotion it draws out of the parents, and those around them, becomes its own emotional avalanche. It’s a somewhat quirky, insightful study into human reaction to fright and disaster. It is darkly humorous at times, the ski scenes swept me up and I connected with the story in many ways. 

In between the fox-catching and slalom-sliding, I managed to see the documentary South African filmmaker Khalo Matabane made about the country’s first democratic president. Called Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me, the film is a personal, sobering look into the many ways Madiba has been canonized and it attempts to draw out the real person from the icon that’s been created through certain stories and repeated legends. It’s a brave piece of work, and that kind of filmmaking should be encouraged.

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