Voices: Cannes, where the world celebrates film

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

After an up-and-down festival where the winners were impossible for even the most sagacious bookie to call, the Cannes Film Festival jury last night gave the coveted Palme D’Or to a closely observed drama about illegal immigrants. 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.Directed by Jacques Audiard, it revolves around Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka’s civil war moving to France, a movie seen as sending a political message. “It’s a film which, for me, is risky and dangerous.

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. Dheepan is a radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head, and takes a faceless immigrant coming from a war barely covered in the media and turns him into a Travis Bickle-type anti-hero. 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. Speaking after the ceremony, Audiard said that it was “important to reflect” on the current situation, although he wrote the script five years ago, “when it wasn’t so critical”. “What interested me was the position of someone different in society.

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. Or, as in this case, he walks down to help Jane Fonda, who appears in the film “Youuth,” navigate the climb. (Photo: Bertrand Langlois, AFP/Getty Images) But the winners, and the celebration, are much more widespread.

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. Cameron Bailey, the black Artistic Director of the Toronto Film Festival, suggested in a tweet that the colour of the protagonist might have been a factor in the failure of many critics to recognise the brilliance of the film. 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. Two of the films which made the biggest noise — Pixar’s Inside Out and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road — were not even eligible for awards due to out-of-competition status. 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. And they will stay for a long time in our memories,” said euronews reporter Frédéric Ponsard, who is in Cannes. “French cinema takes home the three most important prizes. And the reaction of the vocal French audience made clear that Hollywood films do not have to play it safe, or pander to the lowest-common-denominator.

The story sees an immigrant arrive on a false passport, with a woman and a child he barely knows, claiming that they are his wife and daughter, and then slowly overturns our expectations to create an unlikely love story and a violent action film, the process making this immigrant family the heroes. Before the festival began 12 days ago, Audiard was marked as a favourite for the Palme D’or; he had previously won the Grand Prix for his prison drama The Prophet in 2009. 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.

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. Sicario, starring Emily Blunt as an FBI agent pulled into the drug war, left my hands raw from clapping during the ovation it received at its world premiere. Audiard is a master of celebrating the outsider, his heroes are often from the lower depths of society, from the gangster in The Beat That My Heart Skipped, to the Arab who goes to jail and becomes a mafia kingpin in A Prophet, the critically acclaimed film that won a BAFTA for Best Foreign Film in 2010. The idea that women premiere attendees were supposedly stopped from hitting the red carpet because they were not wearing heels, though denied as a policy by the festival, actually spurred on discussion about the role of women in filmmaking and challenged the perception of glamour on the famous red carpet.

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. First-time film-maker Laszlo Nemes from Hungary was also a hitherto unknown but definite contender with Son of Saul, set in a Nazi work camp and shot in a claustrophobic way that made this familiar subject feel like a fresh hell. No matter how much the chattering journalists love to complain about the yearly slate, the schedule is maddeningly full with movies and discussions that are truly rich. 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. 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.

Late at night, I often notice ruefully that crowds are watching festival-sponsored classic films on a giant screen right on the beach, the type of thing that would be a must-do any other time of the year. 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.

He gives a virtuoso performance in which he has to both try and play the romantic lead, as he falls for his fake wife and then be macho enough to take on the roughest elements of the housing estate. 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. A weakness in Audiard’s previous work has been his female characters, but here Indian actress Kalieaswari Srinivasan more than holds her own, as she goes out to work as a housemaid, only to find herself winning the heart of a French gangster. Chronic, an understated drama about a home-care nurse (Tim Roth) for the terminally ill, took best screenplay for Mexican writer-director Michel Franco.

You’re stressed and humbled.” French actor Vincent Lindon also paid tribute to the chairmen, saying that simply knowing they had seen his movie was reward enough – though he added he was “crazy with joy and deeply moved” to win the best actor award (for his role as a security guard in Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man). 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. 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. Both the actor and his director were weeping as he stood to come to the stage and so, too, were many in the audience by the time he had hugged each member of the jury in gratitude. 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.

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.

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