Cannes Film Festival: Boos, barmaids and Farrell-loving banners

Colin Farrell and his co-star in The Lobster, Rachel Weisz, in Cannes.

The films have been a mixed bag, but Don O’Mahony is enjoying the Cannes Film Festival

TO THE public, the Cannes Film Festival is a byword for glamour, a place where movie stars flock and great films are premiered. But like the proverbial iceberg, there is both the tip and the hulking edifice beneath. The Palais des Festivals, the centre of the film universe for Cannes’s duration, is that tip. Identified by its steep, red-carpeted steps, the Palais building houses a nest of screens, including the 2,300-capacity Grand Theatre Lumiere, where all the main competition films are premiered.

But below the surface is a vast, open-plan space housing film production and distribution companies from every part of the globe. This is the Marché du Film, one of the busiest film markets in the world. Here, every conceivable genre of film is being hawked. One can be tantalised by such delights as Sky Sharks, whose poster features Nazi-uniform-clad marauders standing on the back of sharks with rocket-laden fins. It has become a convention for daily reports of the festival to spotlight the film that has the most absurd or comical poster, just to have a good old chuckle.

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While sitting through Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, I wondered if I should have checked out one of these oddities, instead of plumping for the worthy one that guaranteed the presence of Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts on the red carpet.

Cannes Film Festival: Boos, barmaids and Farrell-loving banners

Above, Cate Blanchett in Cannes. below,

Matthew McConaughey in Sea of Trees.

Cannes Film Festival: Boos, barmaids and Farrell-loving banners

Maybe I should have gone, instead, to The Corpse of Anna Fritz, whose intriguing synopsis told “Anna Fritz — a famous and beautiful actress — just died. Three young guys sneak into the morgue, not only to see her naked body, but…” I fear you may guess the rest, gentle reader. The tagline assures us “the dead sometimes come back to life.”

It’s not that The Sea of Trees is as the bad as the booing after its press screening would lead one to believe. It’s just that it doesn’t belong in competition, and seems more suited to a market berth alongside, for example, the UK documentary Dark Horse (“An inspirational and life-affirming rags-to-riches true story of a barmaid who bred a champion racehorse”).

The Sea of Trees was superior, made-for-TV fodder, full of mawkish plot devices that delighted in revealing its meticulously signposted emotional pay-offs.

It’s a rethread of It’s A Wonderful Life, with Ken Watanabe playing Clarence the angel to Matthew McConaughey’s suicidal scientist. But it still could do alright business in the real world.

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On the other hand, there was a lot of love for The Lobster. Shot in the stately Parknasilla Hotel in Sneem, Co Kerry, by acclaimed Greek director, Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster features Colin Farrell in a Ned Flanders moustache as a man who has 45 days to find a partner or else be turned into an animal. Even more surreal than his previous offerings, Dogtooth and Alps, Lanthimos elicits similarly mannered and blank performances from a cast that also features Rachel Weisz and the great John C Reilly.

It’s an enjoyably perplexing, if uneven, offering, but it feels very much a retread of Lanthimos’s absurdist worldview and doesn’t merit the initial wave of enthusiasm for it. What the forlorn-looking knot of young ladies, who are awaiting a glimpse of their hero on the red carpet and who bear a ‘Colin we freaking love you’ banner on an improvised Irish flag, will make of it would be worth finding out.

The first weekend of the festival also saw the premiere of Asif Kapadia’s Amy, a portrait of the tragic singer, Amy Winehouse. It was executed in similar style to Senna, Kapadia’s documentary on formula one driver, Ayrton Senna.

Winehouse’s life was writ so large upon the tabloids that the story feels familiar. There are desperately sad moments, but great reminders of the bolshie, vivacious singer.

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