France Touts Cannes Prizes as Vindication for Film Subsidies

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cannes 2015: Audiard’s ‘Dheepan’ wins Palme d’Or in upset Cannes finale.

PARIS (AP) – France’s president says his country’s strong showing at this year’s Cannes film festival is no accident – suggesting it’s partly thanks to government subsidies. The 63-year old director took the runner-up Grand Prix for ‘A Prophet’ five years ago and also competed at the 2012 edition with ‘Rust & Bone’. “For me, this was a risky and dangerous film to make,” Audiard told euronews correspondent Frédéric Ponsard. “I felt that in the way I told the story, and I was very surprised to succeed in making a film that people watched and enjoyed, very surprised.Jacques Audiard has said he hopes the Palme d’Or win at Cannes for his seventh feature, Dheepan, will “help the situation” for migrant workers in Europe.

Jacques Audiard’s new film received mixed reviews at the festival but the jury, which was led by the Joel and Ethan Coen, were impressed by the story of a former Tamil Tiger fighter trying to make a new life in France. Dheepan, which was gripping, subtly detailed and remarkably unpredictable given that it dealt with a subject of daily headlines, was directed by French favourite Jacques Audiard.

The French director, who received critical acclaim for his previous films A Prophet and Rust and Bone, told the BBC: ‘To receive a prize from the Coen brothers is something pretty exceptional. The biggest surprise, however, was the decision to share the award for best actress between Emmanuelle Bercot and Rooney Mara, snubbing crowd-favourite Cate Blanchett. In another surprise, Cate Blanchett, who has won rave reviews for her performance in Todd Haynes’ Carol as a married woman caught up in an affair, was snubbed in the best actress category. Dheepan is about a trio of Sri Lankans who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country and are settled in a violent housing project outside Paris. “This isn’t a jury of film critics,” Joel Coen told reporters after the awards ceremony, alongside fellow jurors such as Guillermo del Toro and Jake Gyllenhaal. “This is a jury of artists who are looking at the work.” The win for Dheepan comes at a time when Europe is particularly attuned to the experience of immigrants, following the recent deaths of hundreds crossing the Mediterranean, seeking Italian shores.

On the rough housing estate on the outskirts of Paris where they settle, Dheepan is forced use his battlefield experience to keep the three of them safe. Carol was the first real festival hit; in a year with an unusually strong showing of female protagonists and great feminine performances, Blanchett was widely expected to scoop the prize. Her co-star Rooney Mara, who plays her young lover, was named joint winner but instead of sharing the prize with Blanchett, it was split with Mon Roi’s Emmanuelle Bercot. Young Hungarian film-maker Laszlo Nemes picked up the Grand Prix, often seen as the festival’s runner-up prize, for his debut feature ‘The Son of Saul’, a harrowing Holocaust drama set in Auschwitz. “I think this is something (the Holocaust) that still haunts the continent, it’s still there, you can feel it, somehow it’s an open wound, (there are) underlying forces that you can feel, and I think that the new generations have to be presented with what happened and talk about it in an open way, and that’s why we made this movie,” Nemes told euronews. Her character, a wealthy wife torn between her real longings and the pretence of respectability she must maintain to keep custody of her daughter in 1950s America, unquestionably drives the drama.

The film follows a member of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners isolated from the camp and forced to assist the Nazis in their mass extermination. When he thinks he recognises his son among the bodies in the gas chamber, Saul decides to give the boy a decent burial, in a final bid to retain his human dignity. Once the competition was under way, however, critical favour started to slip between the Chinese entrants – Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin and Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart – and the more stylistically daring Europeans, Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster and Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth, with Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as two elderly artists facing the gloomy reality of their fading powers. But Spanish actor and fellow juror Rossy de Palma did draw parallels between the film and “the people in the streets you see and wonder where they come from.

Some expected Nemes’ horrifying plunge into the life of an Auschwitz worker to take the top award, but it’s been 26 years since a debut film (Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape) was given the Palme. I am not a famous actress, I am not a young actress, and that’s what makes her so special: she doesn’t care about the norm, she doesn’t care about what’s done or what’s not, when she has an idea, she carries it through whatever. People living in very difficult and precarious circumstances. [Dheepan] is real cinema and we feel deeply concerned by what’s happening in the Mediterranean.” It was a night of considerable surprises, with many favourites thwarted and the jury exhibiting eclectic taste, in part as a result of rules which mean they can only give one prize per film, and split just one award between two recipients. “It was a bit of a chess game,” said Joel, whose 1991 movie Barton Fink took three major Cannes awards. Starring opposite Vincent Cassel, Bercot plays Tony, who, following a bad skiing accident, is forced to spend several weeks in a rehabilitation centre, where she takes time to think back on her passionate and tumultuous relationship with Georgio.

Hou Hsiao-Hsien, the masterful 68-year-old Taiwanese filmmaker, won best director for his first feature in eight years: The Assassin, a lushly painterly martial arts drama. It’s the veteran actor’s first ever award in a career spanning three decades. “Without a director who really appreciates him and wants the best for him, an actor can’t achieve anything,” Lindon told euronews. “So I share this award with Stéphane Brizé. It was given to both Rooney Mara, half of the romantic pair of Todd Haynes’ ‘50s lesbian drama Carol, and Emmanuelle Bercot, the French star of the roller coaster marriage drama My King. (Bercot also directed the festival opener, Standing Tall, about a delinquent teenager.) Any split was presumed to go to Mara and her Carol co-star, Cate Blanchett.

It’s a film where I am on-screen most of the time, so it’s also a prize for best director in a way, and I am overjoyed that he succeeded in taking his lead actor to this place for the first time in his life.” Lindon plays Thierry, a 51-year old former factory worker who, after a year and a half on the dole, takes on a job as a security guard in a supermarket. Then, late in the festival, two more outstanding works meant the cards were once more tossed in the air: Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth and young Mexican film-maker Michel Franco’s Chronic, with Tim Roth as a carer for terminally ill patients who is also nursing some demons of his own.

The jury chose to reward Chinese slow cinema doyen Hou Hsiao-hsien with the best director prize for The Assassins, his visually lush take on a martial arts story. I wanted to leave a lot to the imagination so they could understand something I couldn’t show.” Elsewhere among the prizes, bookies’ favourite The Lobster, in which Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz are among those who play single people who must find a mate in 45 days or be turned into wild animals, went home with the Prix du Jury (third prize).

The visibly moved Lindon won over some big-name competition, including Michael Caine, the star of Paolo Sorrentino’s unrewarded Youth, a wry, melancholy portrait of old age. The Lobster, set in an indeterminate future where anyone uncoupled who fails to find a new partner is turned into an animal by the powers-that-be, won the Jury Prize. Chronic, an understated drama about a home-care nurse (Tim Roth) for the terminally ill, took best screenplay for Mexican writer-director Michel Franco.

Franco and Roth met three years ago when Roth, serving on a Cannes jury, helped award Franco the Un Certain Regard prize. “It’s a Cannes story,” said Franco. French actor Vincent Lindon deservedly won this for his portrayal of a middle-aged skilled tradesman trying to rebuild his life after being retrenchedStephane Brize’s The Measure of a Man. Picking up his first major honour at the age of 55, the actor beat much-fancied contenders Michael Caine (in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth) and Tim Roth, who plays a traumatised palliative care nurse in bleak drama Chronic.

The pair forged a plan to work together at the after-party. “You should always treat festivals as a way of getting employment,” said an ebullient Roth, calling himself Franco’s “Mum, when Mum can’t be around”. Franco used the platform of the press conference to do what he’d forgotten in the ceremony: dedicate the prize to his grandmother, whose suffering after a stroke inspired the movie. The last two Cannes winners have been three-hour art-house epics: the glacial Turkish drama Winter Sleep, chosen last year by Jane Campion’s jury, and Blue is the Warmest Color, as picked by Steven Spielberg’s jury. Juror Jake Gyllenhaal praised the director’s subtlety and bravery in handling “very complicated” subject matter. “The concept of assisted suicide is an interesting one, which should be brought into the conversation.” The Camera d’Or for best first film went to César Augusto Acevedo for Land and Shade. The 38-year-old Nemes’s first feature, this movie was widely acclaimed for taking audiences into a Nazi concentration camp and showing the Holocaust in a different way.

Some of the films that drew the biggest raves (Mad Max: Fury Road, Pixar’s Inside Out) played out of competition, while some in it (like Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees) drew loud boos. The festival was dominated by discussion about gender equality with many — from Blanchett to Jane Fonda — speaking about female opportunity in the movie business. “You hope it’s not just the year,” said Blanchett of the attention to women in film. “It’s not some sort of fashionable moment.” An honorary Palme d’Or was also given to French filmmaker Agnes Varda, the first woman to receive one and only the fourth director after Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood and Bernardo Bertolucci. Best director went to Taiwanese film-maker Hou Hsiao-hsien, whose martial arts epic The Assassin marks his return to cinema after an eight-year absence.

The programme of the artistic director, Thierry Frémaux, was at pains to promote homegrown talent, with nine of the 19 competition films either French productions or co-productions and US and UK directors thin on the ground. The three Italian films in competition – including new movies from Nanni Moretti and Matteo Garrone – all failed to score an award, as did Justin Kurzel’s stylish adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender. Although there has been an absence of high-profile turkeys such as last year’s opener, Grace of Monaco, the number of flat-out classics was also felt to be lower.

Last year’s festival saw the premieres of Leviathan, Winter Sleep, Mr Turner, Jimmy’s Hall, Foxcatcher, Wild Tales, Clouds of Sils Maria, Mommy and Two Days, One Night. Instead, the headlines were dominated by the midnight screening of Gaspar Noé’s 3D sex movie Love and by “flatgate”, which saw the festival under attack after security guards banned a number of women – including an amputee – from premieres for not wearing high heels. Dolan, whose new movie begins shooting in 24 hours, said the process had been unique. “Never have I discussed movies with such generosity and emotion.

I somehow feel like a better person.” Joel Coen echoed the sentiment, saying that “an experience this intense changes your life”, while de Palma expressed her enthusiasm for “making love to cinema all day”.

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