Live From Cannes: The Quietus Film Blog Part 1

Our Quietus correspondent Eftihia Stefanidi gives us the latest from the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival. Stay tuned for regular updates and film picks throughout the week.

Saturday 15.05.2010

Cannes you make it this year?

Some weird energy surrounded the opening of this year’s Cannes film festival. First there was the 32-foot waves that covered the Croisette, causing serious damage to seaside beach bars and shops, and leaving property owners scrambling to restore them before the barbarians arrived. Then the remaining Icelandic ash spread fears of further flight disruptions; followed by British Airways cabin crews’ announcement of new strikes. Even Ridley Scott himself couldn’t make it to the grand opening of his Robin Hood, due to a knee operation.

Has some cinephile god tried to boycott the most uneagerly anticipated opening film in Cannes’ recent history?

Robin Hood: In the Mood for War

But the spirit of Cannes conquered the forces of nature, and eventually all guests – sans Ridley – landed in one piece. And so it was that Robin Hood raised the curtain of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. Alors, a film that premieres in Cannes, but, since it opens a few days later in the rest or Europe, the US and Australia, doesn’t really feel like a treat. Still, it’s not so much about the exclusivity; it’s rather about getting off on the right foot. I guess the festival’s fans longed for something more elegant this year than an overheated Russell Crowe reviving Gladiator in Robin Hood’s tights. (I guess it’s too much to ask for another impeccable Pixar animation like last year’s UP…)

Even if Ridley Scott’s legacy boasts legendary sci-fi adventures such as Alien and Blade Runner – to name but his best work – and his experiments in other genres have often been satisfying (Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down), the press was certainly not impressed with this one. They were, in fact, sceptical from the very first moment of its announcement and their instincts may have proven right. I was not there at the opening, but friends report that the film significantly retouches the original story of the English folklore hero, presenting Sir Robin of Loxley (that’s Russell) in the mood for interminable war, yet lacking his famous altruistic motives. Still, there is swordplay aplenty, and Cate Blanchett is once more a vision to watch – though don’t expect any more magic than that. You have been warned.

What else is on the menu?

Living up to last year’s dream line-up, featuring such gems as The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke), Antichrist (Lars Von Trier), Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino), Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodóvar) and Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold), was without doubt a tough task. However, this year the festival’s programmers seem to have turned their backs on the hefty names, giving voice to the silent, or, let’s say, the less trendy ones. Great Britain, however, has wheeled out its big guns: Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, bringing their newest offerings (Another Year and Route Iris, respectively). Stephen Fears is also around with Tamara Drew, an adaptation of Posy Simmonds’ subtle graphic novel about a once bashful teenage girl returning to her homeland as a femme fatale – a film to be screened Out of Competition. In this stress-free corner, two American veterans hang out as well: Woody Allen with You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (“A little romance, some sex, some treachery and apart from that, a few laughs”); and Oliver Stone, with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, reviving Michael Douglas’s Oscar winning performance from his 1987 film of the same name.

With a full menu for the authentic cinephile appetite, the rest of the Official Selection brings back past Cannes acquaintances, such as Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel) with Biutiful; Iranian new-waver Abbas Kiarostami (Close Up, Taste of Cherry) with The Certified Copy (a film that was banned in Iran); and South Korean Lee Chang-dong (Peppermint Candy, Secret Sunshine) with Poetry. The motto of the festival seems to be “If you’ve been round once, you’re family”, as almost every filmmaker in the race towards the Palm D’Or has history at Cannes. Ethnically, Asia is dominant with five entries, while Ukraine hits the big time with its first film ever to be in the Official Selection. Controversially, all the directors in competition are men. Women are boldly excluded, which has caused some upheaval, with a petition on the web inviting you to protest about it.

There are women around elsewhere though, in the additional selections on offer at this rich festival. You can spot them in them in its not-so-distant cousins, Un Certain Regard and Directors’ Fortnight. Thank God there is a place for us! These parallel strands are famous for championing daring and cutting-edge talent that would normally struggle to find a place in the more complete works which the Official Selection cherishes. (I know what you are thinking now, but Antichrist – daring as it was – was made by an established director, who also happens to belong to the “family”). In addition, Semaine de la Critique, the independent initiative formed in 1962 by the French Union of Film Critics, showcases strictly new blood, discovering those promising first and second features. There are so many films, so little time, and I am on a mission to hit the best of the best. It works if you treat it like gambling: you study the programme meticulously, type up your notes, circle the favorites, make your predictions and then place your bets; some you win, some you lose. The days that you feel like taking a risk (or say you are a bit lost and tired), you jump in a queue that looks auspicious, and enter the theatre with no idea what you’re about to see until the credits roll. Everything is possible. This frenzied, hyped-up feeling is what Cannes is all about, and I’ll keep feeding you updates on where my luck’s taken me.

Needless to say, amid all this intensive film culture, dozens of drinks receptions and parties fizz away in tandem. Time and again, you’ll miss the next screening after stumbling upon a waiter with a platter of mouthwatering edible miniatures and chilled champagne – a combination the French are unbeatable at. But you can’t afford to miss that opportunity, after three consecutive screenings and only a pain au chocolat in between…


Watch this space for more regular updates from Eftihia throughout the festival

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today