10 things to know ahead of the Cannes Film Festival

After packing his mankini for his trip to the famed film festival, Don O’Mahony selects some of the things to watch out for at this year’s event.

10 things to know ahead of the Cannes Film Festival

1. What’s the big talking point of this year’s festival?

There’s already been much discussion about the amount of auteurs who have made films in what is not their first language, namely English. Among them is is Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone, whose Tale of Tales stars Salma Hayek and Vincent Cassel.

Compatriot and fellow Cannes regular Paolo Sorrentino has been there before with This Must Be the Place. It was an uneven piece of work for the normally sure-footed Italian, but his latest, Youth, has the tantalising prospect of Michael Caine, Jane Fonda, and Harvey Keitel. Should these films not hit the right notes, it will be interesting to see how much criticism will be levelled at the choice of language.

2. Can the new Mad Max live up to previous films?

In the 30 years since the last outing for the moody writer, director, and producer, George Miller has become better known for such family pleasing fare as the Babe and Happy Feet franchises, so it’s something of a surprise the 70-year-old has returned to his post-apocalyptic anti-hero.

Tom Hardy has the onerous task of playing the moody leather-clad lawman, a role Mel Gibson made his own in the first three films.

The plot appears to be a reprise of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior — a gang of lunatic marauders terrorise a beleaguered community for their precious supplies of oil and water. It all sounds a bit familiar, but that might be no bad thing.

3. Is this the year where Colin Farrell gets his mojo back?

With strong advance word on his performance in the new series of True Detective, this could be Colin Farrell’s year. A strong turn leading an idiosyncratic arthouse offering would surely give him an extra lift.

The last time Farrell ventured down to Ireland’s southern coastline, he found himself falling for a selkie in Neil Jordan’s Ondine, but the Co Kerry-shot The Lobster exposes him to whole new levels of weird.

Best known for his unsettling 2009 Cannes prize-winner Dogtooth, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster presents a dystopian future world where single people are forced to mate within 45 days or face being transformed into animals. Having once enjoyed a reputation of being something of a wild child, Farrell recently revealed he hasn’t dated in years. Now that’s preparation! Daniel Day Lewis, take note.

4. Any other Irish?

Farrell isn’t the only Irish interest in Cannes. Those who have seen previews of Michael Fassbender’s turn as the treacherous thane in Australian director Justin Kurzel’s take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth have quietly spoken of him as an Oscar contender. Fresh from his success with Glassland, Jack Reynor stars opposite the Killarney native as Malcolm, son of the murdered King Duncan.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Byrne plays a central role alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Isabelle Huppert in Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s family drama Louder Than Bombs.

5. Who will bring the controversy?

This year’s festival brings the usual mixture of psychosexual and incest dramas but the presence of Gaspar Noé brings an extra frisson. It seems the words ‘enfant terrible’ and Gaspar Noé go hand in hand and since winning the Critic’s Week Award at the 1998 Cannes festival Noé has proved an often bracing and uncompromising voice, never more so than in the visceral 2002 thriller Irréversible. His latest is simply called Love and features a character with the Beckettian name of Murphy. The atmosphere at its midnight screening should be electric.

6. Where are the female directors?

British director Andrea Arnold put the proverbial cat among the pigeons during the 2012 festival when, as a member of the Palme D’Or jury, she voiced her disappointment at the lack of female directors in competition that year. The festival has come on since then — last year saw two in competition and this year also has two: Valerie Donzelli’s Marguerite and Julien and the single-named Maïwenn with Mon Roi.

Although not in competition, Emmanuelle Bercot’s Standing Tall, which stars Catherine Deneuve, will open the festival. It is unfair to blame Cannes for this situation but it is symptomatic of a wider trend.

7. Can actors make good directors?

Both Donzelli and Maïwenn started out as actors but they have gone on to prove themselves behind the camera also, the latter having won the Jury Prize at Cannes for her 2011 film Polisse.

This year sees Natalie Portman make her directorial debut with A Tale of Love and Darkness, her adaptation of the Amos Oz memoir. From precocious beginnings in front of the camera, Portman has proved herself a thoughtful and self-possessed character. However, Ryan Gosling’s infuriating debut from last year, Lost River, should remind us to temper expectations.

8. Why are Amy Winehouse’s family concerned about the documentary on the late singer?

While his previous documentary on the late Formula One champion, Ayrton Senna, won near universal praise, Asif Kapadia’s portrait of Amy Winehouse has already sparked controversy.

The late singer’s father, Mitch, believes the film distorts their relationship by painting him as an absent father in her final years. The filmmakers insist they approached the project with total objectivity.

As much as it is a celebration of a too short-lived talent, it is also an examination of how fame and intense tabloid attention contributed to her addictive behaviour.

9. Who will take home the prizes?

There are three main prizes on offer, the Palme d’Or, the Grand Prix, and the Jury Prize, and this year’s main competition line-up features a number of previous winners. Nanni Moretti, Gus Van Sant, Matteo Garrone, and Jacques Audiard carry serious pedigree into this year’s competition.

As the sole American representatives, Todd Haynes and Van Sant may find favour with Jury presidents and fellow indie icons Joel and Ethan Coen.

However, the brothers’ eclectic tastes in film doesn’t make this a foregone conclusion. Only as the festival progresses will a clearer picture emerge.

10. What’s all this we hear about a ban on selfies?

Yes indeed. As the legions of stars roll up to the Palais des Festivals for each premiere, the debonair festival director Thierry Fremaux is there to greet them at the top of the iconic steps. But this year he will be keeping a particularly beady eye from his lofty perch as the celebrities work the red carpet. Fremaux has declared war on the modern phenomenon of the selfie, branding it “ridiculous and grotesque”.

The festival begins tomorrow

DISCOVER MORE CONTENT LIKE THIS

More in this section

#ChoosetoChallenge

Join us for our International Women’s Day virtual lunchtime celebration on Monday, March 8 from 1pm

Home Delivery
logo-ie

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.