There's a new Irish star in town and nine other things we learned in Cannes

Helen Barlow reflects on a festival in which fabulous females, streaming TV shows and Irish actors took centre stage.

There's a new Irish star in town and nine other things we learned in Cannes

1. Colin Farrell — token male?

At the one press conference he attended for Sophia Coppola’s The Beguiled, Colin Farrell was very funny, bristling at the idea of Coppola calling him “the token male” alongside Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning in her film.

Elle Fanning,Kirsten Dunst andColin Farrell posefor photographersat the screening oft their film TheBeguiled.
Elle Fanning,Kirsten Dunst andColin Farrell posefor photographersat the screening oft their film TheBeguiled.

“If I said ‘token female’ then the debate would be on! I grew up with three very strong brilliant and smart women in my life, my mother and two sisters, so for me to be surrounded by all of these incredible women who are amazingly, talented and decent and smart and creative and insightful and curious was just a treat for me. I was very spoiled.”

2. Women can direct movies too — they just often don’t get to do it

The Beguiled was only Farrell’s second time with a woman director (after Liv Illman’s Miss Julie).

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I said a couple of times I think this was my favourite shoot.” Kidman spoke of the dearth of women in filmmaking citing that women directors make only 4.2 per cent of projects.

3. There was a new Irish star in town

Barry Keoghan’s performance in The Kiling of a Sacred Deer has been widely praised by critics.

In his reteaming with his Lobster director, Yorgos Lanthimos, Farrell, way more reserved behind a beard, plays a successful cardiologist married to Kidman’s equally successful ophthalmologist and the story focuses on his friendship with Keoghan’s mysterious older teen. Collider says the 24-year old’s performance is “wonderfully disturbing” in a drama “that can leave you reeling” while the Hollywood Reporter says Keoghan delivers “a performance of chilling effectiveness in a thriller that frequently invites comparison to vintage Polanski”.

4. TV rocks the Croisette

The two Netflix competition films, Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories (with Adam Sandler in semi- serious mode) are both good, while Jane Campion’s six-part series Top of the Lake: China Girl was probably the most gripping drama at the festival. Twin Peaks doesn’t count since it’s already aired on TV and laptops everywhere.

Interestingly the press conference for Okja on the first Friday was really long. It was as if the festival allowed for the streaming giant to stake its claim and explain itself, after jury head Pedro Almodovar dissed the idea of voting for a Netflix movie that would not have a cinema run. Sophia Coppola, a relative young ’un, stood up for the old guard, noting how she had shot on film and wanted her film to screen in cinemas.

5. Big girls are a trend

Gwendoline Christie, the tall imposing Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones (and coming in Star Wars: The Last Jedi) shows her lighter side as Elisabeth Moss’s awkward, hero-worshipping partner in Top of the Lake, while the chubby and ebullient Danielle Macdonald took the house down with her portrayal as a New Jersey rapper in the comedic Patti Cake$, a huge Sundance hit.

Christie, 38, said in interviews how she never thought she’d get far in acting because of her height, but there was no stopping Macdonald, 25, who left her native Australia for Los Angeles at the age of 18 because casting agents were reluctant to give her roles.

6. Rocking those costumes

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is a tour de force for Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell.

The story of Elle Fanning’s visiting alien falling for up-and-coming British actor Alex Sharp amid the 1977 London punk scene, is way more fun than reviews might suggest. It was certainly fun for director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rabbit Hole) as he walked the red carpet with his latex-clad cast of aliens in the scorching heat.

7. Young Women are on the Rise

Elle Fanning, 19, and Alice Englert, 22, had previously appeared and impressed, in Sally Potter’s 2012 film, Ginger and Rosa. Fanning now appears in two Cannes films and is rapidly rising to stardom while Englert delivers one of the best and certainly gritties t performances at the festival in Top of the Lake. The daughter of that show’s director Jane Campion has some of the best lines as Kidman’s 17 year-old rebellious daughter.

8. It’s never too late

Vanessa Redgrave at 80 makes her directing debut with Sea of Sorrow, a documentary about the plight of refugees with a particular emphasis on some of the world’s 65 million displaced children.

The legendary actress and activist also personalises the experience by referencing her own displacement as a youngster during the bombing of London by the Germans during World War Two.

She says she somehow raised the meagre budget with the help of her son, the film’s producer, Carlo Nero, while her like-minded British colleagues including Emma Thompson and Ralph Fiennes and her daughter Joely Richardson appear in front of the camera.

“All these poor darling families and children are dying for want of safe legal passage being granted by Europe, so I felt I had to make a film,” she said.

9. High security is now the norm

Long before the Manchester terror attacks critics were having their perfume and chocolates as well as any food items confiscated at the famous red-stepped Palais, while down the road at the more relaxed Directors Fortnight screenings you were quickly frisked and let in. Go figure. Then a package was left unattended in a Palais theatre and our Saturday night plans for a post-screening dinner were dashed after waiting outside in a crush for an hour. It was hard to enjoy Redoubtable, a satirical film about French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, after that.

10. Terminator under water

Arnold Schwarzenegger may not don the goggles and tank himself in Wonders of the Sea 3D, but his distinctive voice helps us pay attention as we watch some remarkable close-ups of microscopic coral creatures.

“We are back!” he announced as he comes to our Cannes able. “I was very fortunate that my nephew, an entertainment lawyer, told me ‘You’ve got to see this film. It will really blow you away. You’ve never seen footage like this.’ Then I fell in love with it and now I’m on an environmental crusade.

“One thing led to another and they said, ‘We’ve got to go to Cannes. Forty years ago I was here with Pumping Iron and that was very successful so I said, ‘Let’s go back and sell this in Cannes’.”

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