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.
That’s it. I’m calling it: I hereby declare Asif Kapadia to be this year’s King of #Cannes
— Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) May 16, 2015
Giving Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary the full five stars in The Times. A cinematic song for a lost soul. — Kate Muir (@muirkate) May 16, 2015
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.
Paolo Sorrentino’s English-language Youth a total winner–funny, philosophical and moving, with some terrific shotmaking to boot #cannes
— Steven Zeitchik (@ZeitchikLAT) May 20, 2015